Basic anatomy of the spinal ligaments

Spinal ligaments are bands of tough connective tissue that connect spinal bones together. These pliable bands of tissue permit and limit flexion, extension and motion in the neck and back.

Comprised of mostly collagen, ligaments are found throughout the body and are the main connective tissue for bones and joints. As such, ligaments provide stability between bones, preventing joints from excessive movement, or hyper-flexion. For example, ligaments help prevent knees and elbows from bending backwards.

Function of ligaments in the spinal column

In the spine, ligaments hold the vertebrae together and they also connect one vertebra to another along the spinal column. Tendons are similar in structure to spinal ligaments, but tendons connect spinal bones to spinal muscles.

The spinal column has a complex system of ligaments that provide the following functions:

  • Connect vertebrae and hold them together
  • Provide a protective layer of tissue for the facet joints
  • Work in conjunction with back and neck muscles to support the spine and hold it upright

Spinal ligament disorders

A torn spinal ligament, also known as a sprained spinal ligament, occurs when a ligament is torn from its attachments. Symptoms of a torn or sprained spinal ligament include pain that can last for weeks, as well as muscle spasms in some instances. Due to their limited blood supply, ligaments can take a long time to heal.

Most spinal ligament injuries occur in the lumbar (lower) region of the spinal column. That’s because we use our lower backs for so many activities and movements, including lifting, standing, running and sitting, among other activities. As a matter of fact, ligament sprains are one of the most common causes of lower back pain. Another common issue affecting the spinal ligaments is ligament hypertrophy, which is an age-related condition often associated with spinal osteoarthritis. These enlarged ligaments can put pressure on spinal nerves and lead to painful symptoms.

Typically, spinal ligament conditions can be managed with the aid of basic treatments such as rest, medications, physical therapy and wearing a neck or back brace. If your neck or back pain persists and it is related to a spine condition, surgery can become an option if conservative treatments are exhausted. Patients considering their surgical options can contact Laser Spine Institute to learn more about the benefits of minimally invasive outpatient spine surgery.

Our dedicated team will help you receive your no-cost MRI review* to determine if you may be a candidate for one of our procedures.