• Anatomy & Function of the Spine

  • The spine, or the spinal column, is the central pathway for the spinal cord. The spine serves as a mechanical connection between the arms and legs. Muscles are attached to all levels of the spine. These muscles help maintain proper posture and spinal alignment.Spine Anatomy

    The spinal cord extends from the brain and extends to the bottom of the spinal canal. At each level of the spine, individual nerves branch off from the spinal cord. These nerves provide the brain with information about the body, and allow the brain to control the movement and function of the body. The spine is divided into four main sections:

    • The cervical spine, or neck, is composed of seven vertebrae. Nerves in this area generally control the arms and hands.
    • The thoracic spine, or middle back, is composed of twelve vertebrae. Nerves in this area generally control the region of the chest and abdomen. This region isn’t injured very often because it is protected by the rib cage.
    • The lumbar spine, or lower back, is composed of five vertebrae. Nerves in this region generally control the legs and feet.
    • The sacrum, or tail bone, is the lowest part of the spine. The sacrum serves as a connection between the spine and the pelvis, and is composed of five “fused” vertebrae. Nerves in this area generally control the bowel and bladder.

    The spine is composed of bones called vertebrae and cartilage segments called discs. Each vertebra is made up of several elements:

    • The vertebral body is the round core of the spinal column.
    • The lamina is the posterior (back) covering of the spine.
    • The transverse processes are the wings on the sides of the spine where the spinous processes are the bumps that you can feel along your back.
    • The facet joints are the joints along the posterior (back) of the spine.

    Between each pair of vertebrae is a shock-absorbing disc made of cartilage. Each disc has a spongy central core surrounded by a tough outer ring.  With time or trauma, the spine can become injured. Degeneration of the spine is usually related to damage to the disc. This puts pressure on the spinal nerves, which in turn causes pain or weakness in the arm, legs, or spine.

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