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A Patient’s Guide to Anatomy of the Spine

The best way to reduce or prevent back pain is to better understand the anatomy of your spine and how it functions. The spine is one of the most important parts of your body, without which, you wouldn’t be able to stand up. Your spine is one of the integral parts of providing structure and support as well as protecting your spinal cord. Your spinal cord is also important to your movement as it connects your brain with the rest of your body, allowing you to control your movements.


But let’s dive deeper into the anatomy of this important body part.



Anatomy of the spine

The spinal column

Your spine is comprised of 24 small bones stacked on top of each other creating the spinal column. A soft cushion sits between each vertebra helping to absorb pressure and prevent the bones from rubbing against each other, these are called discs.


Spinal joints

Each vertebra is held together by groups of ligaments, and tendons connect muscles to the vertebrae. The spinal column has joints just like your knees and elbows and these are called facet joints. The facet joints link the vertebrae together and allow them the flexibility to move against each other.

The spinal cord

The spinal cord sits inside the spinal column and is protected by the stacked vertebrae. Each vertebra has a hole in the centre which creates a hollow tube when stacked on top of each other. The spinal cord is a large collection of nerve tissue that carries messages from your brain to the rest of the body. The spinal cord is imperative to the function of our body and your nerves branch out through spaces in between each vertebra.

The three sections of your spine

Your spine is comprised of three segments, these are the cervical spine, the thoracic spine and the lumbar spine. The cervical is the upper part of the spine made up of seven vertebrae. The thoracic is the middle portion, consisting of 12 vertebrae and the lower part of the spine is called the lumbar, usually made up of 5 vertebrae. Below the lumbar is the sacrum, a group of specialised vertebrae that connect the spine to the pelvis.



The curvature of the spine

Spines are supposed to have a natural S-like curve when you at them from the side, aiding the even distribution of weight and withstanding different types of stress. The cervical spine curves inward, the thoracic curves outward and the lumbar curves inward. Each section plays a role in distributing weight and providing strength.

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