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The Lumbar Region: The Base of the Back
In ergonomics, “lumbar support” has become a veritable industry all its own. Read on to learn more about what this lower-back region is and why it needs our support.
Given its location, it’s easy to see why the lumbar region can be such a back-pain culprit. Specifically, the term refers to the five vertebrae between the pelvis and the rib cage. Its primary purpose is to support the torso, acting as both a sort of bodily hinge and support beam, crucial in twisting, bending, and lifting while also bearing much of the upper body’s structural heft. Naturally, the vertebrae become larger as they descend the spinal column, and the two lowest vertebrae are the most vulnerable to back pain, as the weight of the torso can wear out the cushiony discs that act as shock absorbers between vertebrae. The bottommost lumbar vertebra is also precarious in that it must connect to the top of the tailbone at the lumbosacral joint, an area that must be able to bend and twist in order to facilitate the swiveling of the hips and pelvis while running or attempting an extreme hokey pokey. Naturally, supporting the lumbar can help alleviate some of this enormous, constant stress, leading to less pain and a lower risk of injury.
The lumbar takes its name from the Latin word lumbus, meaning “lion”—an appropriate comparison given the lumbar’s design for power and flexibility. As opposed to its neighbor to the north, the thoracic region, the lumbar region is not connected to any ribs, and it doesn’t help protect the spinal cord, which terminates just above the top lumbar vertebrae and branches out to form many nerves that extend all the way down to the feet. As a result, lumbar issues are seldom associated with any actual damage to the spinal cord, but they can stem from the irritation of this intersecting bundle of nerves.