The Spine

The spine encompasses more than the spinal column.  Running the length of your spinal column are ligaments, muscles, bones, joints, nerves, discs and a spinal cord.  Collectively, they are called the spine.

 

Spinal Column

The spinal column is different than an arm or leg bone.  In fact, the spinal column isn't one bone, but many small bones intricately interlocked together to form a flexible, strong, and yet fragile column that runs between the base of the base of the skull to the sacrum.  The small bones that form the spinal column are called vertebrae.  Vertebrae are not static, but move as you move.

 

Discs & Facet Joints

Vertebrae are connected by a disc and two small joints called facet joints.  Facet joints permit the back to bend and twist.  Discs, which are cartilage pads, act as a spongy cushions between vertebrae to keep them from rubbing against one another.
 
Discs are comprised of a hard outer core and soft inner core.  When we are young discs are composed mostly of water and are of a soft cosistency.  As we age these discs lose hydration (water) and progressively become more brittle.  Discs don't have a blood supply.  Instead, they get their nutrients and hydration in a fashion similar to a sponge, via a process called diffusion.  Movement, especially as people age, is necessary to aid diffusion.  It is also worth noting that since discs don't have a blood supply or an extensive nerve structure, they have a poor capacity for repair when damaged.
 
When vertebrae are thrown out of alignment, a condition called Subluxation, discs can be injured and/or their positions shifted.  Either scenario can result in pain.

 

The Three Major Sections of the Spine:


  • The Cervical Spine (neck)

The cervical spine is located between the brainstem and the thoracic spine and has seven vertebrae.  The vertebrae of the cervical spine are the smallest of the spine, and the most flexible.  Unlike other vertebrae, the cervical vertebrae do not require discs.
 
Located next to the brainstem, the upper cervical spine consists of two of the seven cervical vertebrae, the Atlas and the Axis.  The Atlas and Axis protect the brainstem, which is responsible for much of the body's involuntary centers, and regulates such things as heartbeat, breathing and circulation.  The upper cervical spine is the most flexible area of the spine.

 

  • The Thoracic Spine (upper back)

The thoracic spine is located in the chest area and has twelve vertebrae.  The ribs connect to the thoracic spine and within this area are many vital organs.  

 

  • The Lumbar Spine (lower back)

The lumbar spine is below the thoracic spine and has five vertebrae - although some people have six.  The lumbar vertebrae are the largest of the spine's vertebrae and carry the most body weight.
 
At the base of the lumbar spine and above the coccyx (tailbone) is the sacrum, a triangular bone composed of five fused sections called S1, S2, S3, S4 and S5.  Sacroiliac joints connect the sacrum to two small bones in the pelvis.

 

The Spinal Cord

The core of the nervous system, the spinal cord is a flexible pathway through which the brain communicates with the rest of the body.  The spinal cord threads its way down the spine through openings in the vertebrae called vertebrae foramen.  The spinal cord runs approximately eighteen inches from the base of the brain down.  The spinal cord is made up of 31 segments: 8 cervical, 12 thoracic, 5 lumbar, 5 sacral and 1 coccygeal. Two nerve roots exit from each of the 31 segments of the spinal cord.  These nerves roots branch out to form the Peripheral Nervous System, which is responsible for transmitting nerve impulse between the farthest regions of the body and the brain.

 

Ligaments

Ligaments connects bones to one another.  In the spine, ligaments connect vertebrae to one another.  There are two types of ligament systems in the spine.

 

  • The Intrasegmental System

The intrasegmental system connects one vertebrae to another.

 

  • The Intersegmental System

The intrasegmental system connects many vertebrae.

Ligaments are fibrous tissue with limited blood supply.  Because their blood supply is limited, they require extended periods of time for healing.

 

Muscles & Tendons

Just as ligaments connect bone to bone, tendons connect bone to muscle.  In the spine, tendons connect vertebrae to the muscles which support the spine.
 
Most of the soft tissue that surrounds the spine is muscle and is called paraspinal muscle.  The paraspinal muscles run the length of the spine and assist the spine in rotating, bending and maintaining the proper curve of the spine.  The erector spinae is the largest of the paraspinal muscles, and extends from the skull to the sacrum.  As the name implies, this muscle mass is responsible for maintaining an erect posture.

Abdominal muscles support the spine further by providing a counterbalance to the paraspinal muscles.  Psoas muscles are also located within the abdomen, and are responsible for hip flexion when walking or climbing stairs.  Along with the abdominal muscles, psoas muscles help maintain proper posture when sitting and standing.  

 

Spinal Alignment

Like the organs of the human body, the spine is made up of many elements that must work properly and in unison with each other.  When the individual elements that comprise the spine are not functioning properly as a unit, pain, disease, and other anomalies can result.  In fact, when the spine isn’t working as it should, little else in the body can work properly, either.  Spinal health is the key to overall physical health.  
 
One of the most common problems that occurs in the spine is Subluxation.  Subluxation is a big word that simply means that the vertebrae are misaligned.  Chiropractic specializes in re-aligning misaligned vertebrae.  When vertebrae alignment is corrected, pain and disease are often permanently relieved.

 

What is Spinal Manipulation?

Spinal Manipulation is the careful manipulation of the vertebrae and joints to achieve the proper alignment of the spine.  Proper spinal alignment relieves pressure on the nerves within and near the spine which permits the body to communicate with itself better, and which facilitates the body’s natural healing ability.
 
For more information on the treatments Chiropractic care offers, contact us for a free consultation.  

 

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