AQ Physio Clinic


Spine Structure and Function

What is the spine?

An important part of the central nervous system is the spinal cord. From the medulla oblongata, which is a part of the brain made up of nerve fibers, it develops into a long pipe-like structure running through the vertebral column of the backbone. It consists of a pair of segments (dorsal and ventral roots) of nerve fibers that join together to form the spinal cord.

What are the parts of the spine?

On average, adults’ spinal cords are 40cm long and 2cm wide. Spinal cords connect the brain to the body.

  • Vertebrae. There are 33 stacks of spine vertebrae that make up the spinal canal. As the spinal cord and nerves are contained within the spinal canal, they are protected from injury. There is a range of motion between most vertebrae. The bottom vertebrae (coccyx and sacrum) are fused and can’t move. From top to bottom, an adult has 33 vertebrae:
    1. 7 cervical vertebrae
    2. 12 thoracic vertebrae
    3. 5 lumbar vertebrae
    4. Sacrum formed by 5 vertebrae
    5. 4 coccygeal vertebrae (which make up the tailbone, or coccyx)
  • Facet joints. The vertebrae slide against each other thanks to the cartilage (a slippery connective tissue) at the spinal joints. Joints in the facet provide flexibility and stability, as well as the ability to twist and turn. Joints in the facet can develop arthritis, resulting in back and neck pains.
  • Intervertebral disks. As the spine’s shock absorbers, these round, flat cushions sit between vertebrae. An annulus (the flexible outer layer surrounding the nucleus pulposus) surrounds each disk, which has a soft, gel-like center. There is constant pressure on the intervertebral disks. The nucleus’ gel substance may leak from a herniated disk when it tears. Disk herniation can result in a great deal of pain (also known as bulging, slipped, or ruptured disks).
  • Spinal cord and nerves. Through the spinal canal, the spinal cord travels along a column of nerves. This cord continues to the tailbone. The neural foramen (vertebral openings) contain 31 pairs of nerves. Muscles and the brain communicate through these nerves

Every segment of the spinal cord has several spinal nerves. A total of 8 cervical, 5 lumbar, 12 thoracics, 5 sacral, and one coccygeal spinal nerve pair are present in the body

1.Cervical Nerves

The neck is a cervical region. The cervical spine has 8 contiguous nerves (C1-C8).

2. Thoracic Nerves

The chest is referred to as the thoracic region. The thoracic spine contains 12 thoracic nerves (T1-T12).

3. Lumbar Nerves

The lower back region is known as the Lumbar. The lumbar spine comprises 5 nerves (L1-L5).

4. Sacral Nerves

Sacral means of the sacrum. At the base of the vertebral column sits the sacrum, a bony plate.

5 sacral nerves emerge from the sacral bone (S1-S5).

5. Coccygeal Nerves

Coccygeal refers to the tailbone. Coccygeal bone has only 1 nerve.

6. Soft tissues. Vertebral ligaments attach the vertebrae to hold the spine in place. Muscles maintain your posture and help you move. Tendons help muscles to connect to bones and help you move.

Function Of Spinal Cord:

The spinal cord performs the following functions:

  • The PNS and the brain are connected through the spinal cord.
  • Builds a good posture and provides structural support
  • Ensures flexible movement
  • Electrical insulation is provided by the myelin present in the white matter
  • A brain cell that communicates messages to other parts of the body
  • Synchronizes reflexes
  • Sensory information is received from receptors and processed by the brain.

Common Spine problems:

  • Slipped Disk: You have a cushion between each of your vertebrae called a disk, which prevents them from rubbing against one another. Discs become dry as we age. A ruptured or broken disk can occur if you put too much stress on your back. This is called herniation of the disk. It may not be noticeable to you. But you might feel numb or tingly in your arms or legs. Painkillers and exercise usually help.
  • Cervical Spondylosis: The neck gradually degenerates as you age, resulting in the condition. The vertebra can sprout extra bone called spurs to boost strength. Stiff ligaments can be caused when the vertebrae are twisted together during motion. If your neck hurts or is difficult to move, whatever the cause may be. The nerves and nerve roots may be permanently damaged if the disks or vertebrae squeeze them too much.
  • Osteoarthritis: There is smooth tissue on the ends of your vertebrae that lets your back move without friction. Your back becomes painful or stiff if that cartilage starts to wear down or becomes rough. Osteoarthritis in the back affects more women than men, and it tends to worsen over time. There is no cure. You can relieve your symptoms with painkillers, therapy, and exercise.
  • Spinal Stenosis: The spinal cord and its branches are located in your spine. When bones shrink, nerves can be pinched. Nerve problems might not make much sense to you, but pain, numbness, or even weakness are all signs that something is wrong with your nerves. In severe cases, a surgeon has to open the nerves wider.
  • Sciatica: Your sciatic nerve may be the cause of pain that travels from your lower back, down your bottom, to your leg. Several issues with the spine can cause pressure on it, including herniated disks and bone spurs. This is called sciatica. Sciatica is normally localized to one side of the body. Cold packs, hot packs, stretching, and painkillers may help you feel better, but a doctor can also fix the problem.
  • Tumor: A cancerous growth can initially develop in your spine and spread to other parts of your body. A spine tumor can also be caused by non-cancer conditions. The pain in your back may spread through your body. You might feel numb or weak in your arms and legs. You might even feel paralyzed in some parts of your body. Surgical or radiation procedures may be recommended.
  • Scoliosis (Curvatures of the spine): Your spine can be twisted out of shape by scoliosis. It’s possible that your child’s shoulders are uneven or one shoulder blade sticks out more than the other when they have scoliosis. The cause of this is unknown. A brace can prevent scoliosis from getting worse and requiring surgery in the future.
  • Kyphosis (Curvatures of the spine): Your spine bends forward due to this condition. Vertebrae usually crack or mash together. People in their 50s and 60s are more likely to get it, but children whose spines develop incorrectly can also get it. This condition may cause pain and other problems, and in severe cases, it may result in a bent, out-of-shape body. Treatment may include painkillers, exercise, or surgery, depending on how curved your spine is.
  • Ankylosing Spondylitis: Frequently, arthritis of this type causes stiffness and pain in the low back and hips, especially in the morning. As it grows, your spine as well as other joints and organs might be affected. You may become hunched over if your vertebrae and ribs fuse. Young men tend to get it more often than women, and families are more likely to have it. Prevention via exercise and medication helps slow its progress.
  • Spinal Cord Injury: Most injuries are caused by accidents (such as falls, car crashes, or sports mishaps) or by gunshots. It typically bruises or loses part of its blood supply when the spinal cord is injured. As a result, you may not be able to control certain parts of your body, which can be very harmful. As your spine gets higher, more of your body is affected. As your injury gets worse, your chances of recovery decrease.
  • Broken Neck or Back: Bones can also be broken by accidents and injuries. The top seven vertebrae of your neck or back that suffer this damage are known as broken necks and broken backs. As you age, your bones may weaken, and you may get a weakness that eventually results in a break to help Broken vertebrae could also hurt your spinal cord.
  • Spondylolisthesis: A vertebra may slip sideways so it doesn’t line up with the one above or below. Low back pain is caused by spondylolisthesis. Typically, this occurs with aging, but younger athletes can also suffer from it if they are involved in sports that put stress on their lower back, such as football, gymnastics, and weightlifting. The best remedy is rest.
  • Cauda Equina Syndrome: Your brain controls your legs and pelvic organs through the nerves that run from your spine to your lower back. Cauda equina syndrome can be caused by herniated disks, fractures, or other injuries that pressure this group of nerves. The damage to your bladder and bowels can be corrected immediately with surgery.
  • Syringomyelia: Your spinal cord can develop a cyst, which is a fluid-filled sac. A brain injury or tumor may cause brain tissue to push down on your spinal cord. Syringomyelia itself may not cause any problems. A cyst that keeps growing is more likely to harm your spinal cord, so you may need surgery.

How to keep your spine healthy?

Let your spine rest while sleeping-

Your spine has been hard at work all day, and lying down allows them to recharge. The most comfortable way to sleep at night is on a mattress and pillow that support your spine comfortably.

  • Some tips to consider when sleeping include:
    • Use a firm or medium-firm mattress.
    • Keep your spine naturally aligned
To strengthen your back and abs, exercise your core.

To support your spine and relieve pressure from your lower back, your core muscles — found in your lower back and abdomen — need to be strong and flexible.

Your shoes need to support your spine.

The shoes you wear play a crucial role in supporting your lower back regardless of whether you walk for exercise or just for transportation. As a result of good shoes, the spine and body are kept in alignment.

Enjoy the benefits of massage.

There are several therapeutic benefits to receiving a back massage, including boosting blood flow, loosening tight muscles and connecting tissues, and boosting relaxation.

Maintain good sitting ergonomics.

Since your lower spine discs are loaded more when you sit than when you stand, a long period of sitting can cause or aggravate a back condition. The further stress we place on our lumbar discs when sitting at a computer or a desk comes from slouching and leaning forward.


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