The spine is the literal “backbone” of our human anatomy. We all know how important it is, but perhaps are not aware of the details. Fear not! You don’t need a medical degree to understand the spine, but there are a few basic things worth learning about your body’s central support structure.
The Spine’s Job
The spine – quite literally – holds us up! It connects the different parts of our skeleton to each other, from our head to our chest, pelvis, shoulders, arms and legs. It has three main functions:
- To enable flexible motion
- To protect the spinal cord, nerve roots & several of the body’s internal organs
- To provide structural balance and support to maintain upright posture
What Makes Up The Spine?
The spine is often divided into five sections to help us better understand its complexity. Each section is made up of individual bones called vertebrae.
- The top 7 vertebrae are referred to as the Cervical Spine.
- The middle 12 vertebrae are referred to as the Thoracic Spine.
- The bottom 5 vertebrae are called the Lumbar Spine.
- The Sacrum consist of 5 fused vertebrae and connects the spine to the pelvis
- The tailbone, or the Coccyx, is a group of 4 vertebrae serving as the attachment for muscles, tendons, and ligaments. This is what helps support the body in a seated position
Each vertebra is joined by interlocking facet joints to provide stability and flexibility. In between each vertebra are intervertebral discs, which act as cushions for the bones. Discs are made up of two parts – the tough, hard outer layer called the annulus, and a softer, inner layer called the nucleus. Nerves exit the sides of the spine bones.
Ever hear the term “slipped disc” or “herniated disc”? That’s when that inner nucleus protrudes through a tear in the outer annulus and compresses a nerve. This can result in intense pain and potential surgery. All back pain is different. A skilled surgeon can consult you on the necessity of this given your individual situation.
Tips For Managing Back Pain
Back pain can be debilitating and interrupt your daily activities. It’s important to consult a professional spine doctor in this situation, but there are a few things you can do yourself to manage your pain.
1. Take an active role in your care
Listen to your doctor’s recommendations. Surgery isn’t always the answer, but your doctor can begin with medications, physical therapy, and other complementary treatments. Keep your appointments, take medications as directed, and don’t be afraid to make a change if your care plan isn’t working!
2. Take care of your body
Staying healthy and active is just as important as a healthy diet and plenty of sleep! Don’t smoke. If you’re overweight or obese, losing those extra pounds can really help relieve low back pain.
3. Proper posture Focus on your posture
Your doctor can advise you on how to stand and sit in ways that don’t stress your back. Many people find things like footstools, armrests, and lower back supports helpful for low back pain. Avoid heavy lifting.
Our spine is not only fascinating, it’s important – we need to take good care of it! Learn more about the spine in this informational video: