Spinal Care, Neurology, Spinal Medical Advice and Information.
The spine is one of the most crucial parts of the human body – it not only connects the upper body with the lower body, it also protects the spinal cord, which is a complex column of nervous tissues and support cells that extends from the brain. Together, the spinal cord and brain make up the Central Nervous System. Without it, you would not be able to control your movements and your organs could not function.
The spine allows mobility and flexibility - it enables you to bend, rotate and walk. Furthermore it functions to store minerals and produce red blood cells. As the spine plays various roles in supporting the human body, it is important to develop spinal strength. It encourages good internal health as well as good posture to live an active life. Pilates and yoga are recommended to benefit the spine and your overall wellbeing.
The human spine has three major components – the spinal column (bones, discs), the neural elements (spinal cord, nerve roots) and the supporting structures (muscles, ligaments). The spine runs from the base of the skull to the pelvis with the vertebrae piled on top of each other, protecting the spinal cord in its spinal canal. The spinal column has 33 individual bony masses, with 24 of those bones consisting of articulating vertebrae. The other 9 are fused vertebrae located in the sacrum and the coccyx.
The spinal column is further labelled in three components – the cervical spine, which is also known as the neck (consisting of 7 vertebrae), the thoracic spine (which is the upper back and made up of 12 vertebrae) and the lumbar spine (the lower back and is made up of 5 vertebrae). Further down the spinal column is the sacrum and coccyx.
When viewed from the side, a normal spine has an “S”-like curve, to distribute the weight evenly and provide architectural strength. The cervical and lumbar spine curve slightly inward, and the thoracic spine curve slightly outward.
The sacrum is a bony plate composed of 5 fused vertebrae at the base of the spine, forming the back part of the pelvis. At the bottom of the sacrum is the coccyx, otherwise known as the tailbone, which is made up of 4 partly fused vertebrae.
As with all bones, vertebrae have an outer shell, which is known as the cortical bone. This bone is solid and encases a spongy, soft bone inside known as the cancellous bone. The vertebrae are stacked on top of another, creating a hollow tunnel to house the spinal cord.
The spine is supported and protected because the vertebrae at the front of the spine is connected to intervetebral discs, which are strong tissues filled with gel, allowing flexibility and strength support. These intervetebral discs act as shock absorbers and prevent the bones rubbing against each other. The back of the spine has several ligaments and muscles attached permitting movement as well as strength.
Extending from the base of the brain through the cervical and thoracic spine, the spinal cord is the pathway for information between the brain and the peripheral nervous system. With an elliptical shape, the spinal cord is approximately 45cm long in men and 43cm in women. It’s primary functions are to channel motor information (which passes down the spinal cord), sensory information (which passes up the spinal cord) and as a hub for coordinating certain reflexes.
For the spine to remain in an upright position and to be mobile is the combined effort of the muscles and ligaments. Ligaments are the soft tissue that connects bones together. The longitudinal ligament is located at posterior (back) of the spine running from the skull to the sacrum. Another important ligament is the longitudinal ligament.
The majority of the muscles are attached to the posterior of the spine and are called paraspinal muscles. They provide support and movement of the spine, allowing you to stand and lift objects. Flexor muscles, which are at the front and include the abdominal muscles, allow the human body to bend forward and stabilizing the arch in the lower back. People who are overweight can cause spine misalignment as their weight puts strain on the spine.
How The Spine Can Cause Back Pain
The spinal anatomy is the epitome of the complex human body – it encompasses a juxtaposition of muscles, ligaments, tendons, nerves and bones. We easily take our backs for granted until it causes pain. If the pain is extreme it can greatly affect your life. There are many reasons why your back is in pain – a possible muscle strain, a neck injury or injured ligaments or joints. Pain relief medications are often the choice of first resort for habitual sufferers, when they should really focus on spinal maintenance techniques such as yoga which will be more beneficial in the long run. Nerves could be irritated. A bone could be dislocated. With endless reasons, it only empathises the importance of taking care of the spine.
How To Take Care of Your Spine
To prevent poor spine health, it is vital you have a balanced diet and incorporate an exercise regime into your life. The safest program you can choose is yoga, which is all about poses. In fact, the poses are called ‘’postures” which encourage strength in core muscles. Stretching relieves cramped muscles, releases tension and enables you to relax. The outcome is a balance between flexibility and strength. Choosing the right postures is crucial to ensure a safe, fun and productive experience. With the combined knowledge of your spine and the art of yoga, you will begin to understand the right techniques to take care of yourself.