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Quick Spinal Anatomy Lesson

Foundation #2 is all about the spine and nervous system movement. If you do not have proper function of the spine, then you will have dysfunction. Here is a short anatomy lesson on the spine.

Bones, Ligaments and Joints

The spinal column is an intricate organization of bones, ligaments, joints, intervertebral discs, muscles, and the spinal cord. Together, all of these parts form much of what the brain uses to send and receive vital information to the body. When all of these structures are working together in harmony, they provide stability to the body. The nervous system cannot function properly if these structures are not maintained.

Spinal Vertebrae

The spinal cord is protected by 24 bones called vertebrae. The vertebrae sit on top of each other with the bones at the top being smaller; they gradually get larger as you go down the column. Generally, there are seven vertebrae in the neck, called the cervical region. The next section down is the thoracic area, consisting of 12 vertebrae. The thoracic vertebrae are medium sized when compared to the cervical and lumbar spine. The lumbar spine consists of five large vertebrae in the low back area. Underneath the lumbar spine is the sacrum, consisting of five fused bones. The coccyx is the end of the spinal column, consisting of four fused bones.Ligaments are tough but flexible connective tissue that connects with the vertebrae to play a role in stabilizing the spinal column. The ligaments prevent injury by not allowing the spine to move too far into flexion or extension.Between each vertebra are joints that provide stabilization. These joints also enable movement to the spine in the directions of bending forward and backward as well as side to side and twisting. The intervertebral discs are between each vertebra. They function to absorb shock while performing activities. The nerves are able to exit the spinal cord and go to their respective bodily structures because of the proper spacing of the discs between vertebrae. The canals on either side of the vertebrae collapse if a disc is unhealthy.The spinal cord is a vital link between the brain and body. It is roughly 18 inches long (40 to 50 cm) and just under one inch in thickness (1-.5 cm in diameter). Nerve roots exit the spine in pairs at each vertebra. There are 31 pairs of spinal nerves exiting the spinal column that branch into thousands of connections to the body. The nerves are responsible for carrying sensory and motor control to and from the body.The curves of the spinal column are important for the proper function of the nervous system. There are two lordotic curves in the spinal column; one in the cervical area and one in the lumbar area. If I look at you with X-ray vision from the side, then I should see a C-shaped curvature in your neck and low back. The thoracic spine should look like a backward C from the side, also known as a kyphotic curve. These curves are what allow humans to put the bulk of their weight over the pelvis. This curvature is one of the differentiations with primates that allows us to have a more efficient walking gait. Primate spines are not as flexible, causing them to move in a forward-leaning gait. Friends and Family Health Centers offer spinal manipulation with chiropractic care at our Birmingham, Alabama, center. Our board-certified doctors can analyze your gait and posture. Click here to make an appointment now!

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