Skip to Main Content

Spine Education

Of the many types of specialists who treat spine problems, each has specific skills and plays an important role in patient care. Some spine specialists are physicians and some are non-physicians. The right specialist(s) to treat your condition depends on the type and severity of the problem. Spine problems can arise from soft tissues (muscles, tendons, ligaments), nerves, or bone. The Iowa Clinic Spine Center is a team of specialists who come together to determine a coordinated plan and manage treatment options for those with chronic back pain.

Anatomy of the Spine

The spine is made of 33 individual bones stacked one on top of the other. Ligaments and muscles connect the bones together and keep them aligned. The spinal column provides the main support for your body, allowing you to stand upright, bend, and twist. Protected deep inside the bones, the spinal cord connects your body to the brain, allowing movement of your arms and legs. Strong muscles and bones, flexible tendons and ligaments, and sensitive nerves contribute to a healthy spine. Learn more about the anatomy of the spine.

Back, Neck, and Leg Pain

  • Back pain results when the spine is stressed by injury, disease, wear and tear, or poor body mechanics. Acute low back pain is abrupt, intense pain that subsides after a period of days or weeks. It typically resolves with rest, physical therapy, and other self-care measures. You play an important role in the prevention, treatment, and recovery of back pain. Chronic pain that persists may need further evaluation.
  • Neck pain results when the spine is stressed by injury, disease, wear and tear, or poor body mechanics. Acute neck pain is abrupt, intense pain that can radiate to the head, shoulders, arms, or hands. It typically subsides with rest, physical therapy, and self-care measures. You play an important role in the prevention, treatment and recovery of neck pain. Chronic pain that persists may need further evaluation.
  • Leg pain, also known as sciatica, is a term that describes leg pain that radiates from your back into your buttock, and down the back of your leg. It is a general term used to describe symptoms rather than an actual physical condition. Typically the pain is caused by pressure on the nerve roots in your lower back. Doctors often call it lumbar radiculopathy, meaning that the pain begins in the spinal nerve roots and "radiates" to your leg. Depending on the cause, acute sciatica typically resolves with rest, exercise, and other self-care measures. Some people suffer from chronic pain that continues despite treatment.

Spine & Back Health

  • Self-care for neck & back pain: Eight out of 10 people will suffer from back or neck pain at some point in their life. Acute pain is abrupt, intense pain that subsides after a period of days or weeks. However, some people continue to suffer from pain that continues despite nonsurgical or surgical treatment methods. This long-term pain is called chronic pain.

  • Posture for a Healthy Back: Good posture involves training your body to stand, walk, sit, and lie in positions where the least strain is placed on supporting muscles and ligaments during movement or weight-bearing activities. The spine's curves work like a coiled spring to absorb shock, maintain balance, and to facilitate the full range of motion throughout the spinal column.

  • Exercise, Core exercises to strengthen the spine: Your core muscles support your spine. The muscles in your abdomen and back - which we call the "core" - are central to your everyday spine health. They are at the heart of any fitness plan to strengthen a healthy or ailing back. Just as you protect your heart through cardiovascular exercises, you will benefit from strengthening your back through core exercises.

Back to top