Our very own Leaning Tower of Pisa!

Here you have your very own well designed, well-engineered and well constructed piece of architectural history. At first glance it looks perfect in every sense. Some might say “it’s a contoured shape that gleams of balance and sophistication far beyond the reach of architectural genius”… but yet it’s fundamentally flawed, almost like the Tower of Pisa.

Now this might seem like a very strange comparison but let me explain my analogy a bit further. You see, like the Tower (or any structure and building for that matter), we have our own set of bricks and concrete slabs, mixed with cement and binding agents and sometimes ropes, pulleys and other fabrics and materials to keep it all together.

So let’s look at our tower:
Vertebrae 33 (Bricks/Concrete)

  • Cervical/Neck 7
  • Thoracic/Torso 12
  • Lumbar/Low Back 5
  • Sacrum 5
  • Coccyx 4

Discs (Cement)
In between the vertebrae of the Neck, Torso and Low Back. The Sacrum and Coccyx vertebrae are “fused” together. (I will discuss the discs in a future post)

Ligaments (Binding Agents)
These are the deepest layers of connection between each brick. They provide the foundation of stability for each layer of brick. There are a few ligaments that connect each vertebrae to another on top and below and other structures attaching to the spine.

Muscles (Ropes)
There are way too many to mention here but I will briefly mention the ones of note for the lower back. The “Core” muscles, the spine erectors,the “sixpack” abs or Rectus Abdominus, and the Obliques.

Tendons (Pulley systems)
The tendons attach our “ropes” to the bricks. Without the ropes and pulleys we wouldn’t be able to move our tower.

Fascia (Fabrics and Material)
Think of this like a covering layer of cloth wrapped over all the other layers to protect them and keep it together (almost like the plaster on a wall).

Skin (The coat of paint to make it look pretty)

Now that we now what our tower is made of, why do I say it’s flawed like the Tower of Pisa? Simple. As with the Tower of Pisa, the effect of GRAVITY has an extremely negative effect on keeping our spines erect. In order for us to stay upright, we constantly have to counteract this pulling down effect by using our muscles (or “ropes”).

If you also think of pitching a tent. You would attach ropes to the centre pole and anchor them in opposite directions to apply a force to keep the pole from collapsing. The same with our spine. Our muscles constantly pull in different directions with varying force in an attempt to keep our spine from collapsing. But unfortunately, like the Tower of Pisa, some muscles, joints, ligaments and other structures have to work a lot harder to achieve this. This then in turn also causes a great deal of strain and pressure on the muscles, joints, ligaments and other soft tissue.

The next time you hear someone complain about their back pain. Think of their leaning Tower architecture.

Be sure to check out my eBook How to… Prevent Back Pain in 1 Minute on how you can help protect your spine.

Back Anatomy 101
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