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How Does the Human Spine Work?
The spine is our body’s central support structure. It keeps us upright and connects our skeleton: our head, chest, pelvis, shoulders, arms, and legs. Although the spine is made up of a chain of bones, it is flexible due to elastic ligaments and spinal disks. How does the spine function?
This blog will explain the critical parts of your spine, its structure and functions and how the spine works.
What is the spine?
The bones, muscles, tendons, and other tissues reach from the base of the skull to the tailbone. The spine encloses the spinal cord and the fluid surrounding the spinal cord, also called the backbone, spinal column, and vertebral column.
Your spine, or backbone, is your body's central support structure. It connects different parts of your musculoskeletal system. Back injuries, spinal cord conditions, and other problems can damage the spine.
What are the parts of the spine?
A healthy spine has three natural curves that make an S-shape. These curves absorb shocks to your body and protect your spine from injury. Many different parts make up your spine:
- Vertebrae - The spine has 33 stacked vertebrae (small bones) that form the spinal canal. The spinal canal is a tunnel that houses the spinal cord and nerves, protecting them from injury.
- Facet joints - These spinal joints have cartilage (a slippery connective tissue) that allows vertebrae to slide against each other. Facet joints let you twist and turn, providing flexibility and stability. These joints can develop arthritis and cause back pain or neck pain.
- Intervertebral disks - These flat, round cushions sit between the vertebrae and act as the spine’s shock absorbers.
- Spinal cord and nerves - The spinal cord is a column of nerves that travels through the spinal canal. The cord extends from the skull to the lower back.
- Soft tissues - Ligaments connect the vertebrae to hold the spine in position. Muscles support the back and help you move.
How does the spine work?
Your spine has many functions. Some sections of the spine are more flexible than others. The cervical spine (neck area) is the most flexible. The bones that make the spine protect the spinal cord, which runs through the spinal canal.
The S-shaped curvature makes the spine stable. It helps you keep your balance when you are positioned upright, acts as a shock absorber when you walk and protects the individual bones in the spine (the vertebrae) from fractures. Adults usually have 33 vertebrae, from top to bottom, which include:
- 7 cervical vertebrae
- 12 thoracic vertebrae
- 5 lumbar vertebrae
- 5 sacral vertebrae (fused to form the sacrum)
- 4 coccygeal vertebrae (fused to form the tailbone, also known as the coccyx)
The lower the vertebrae are in the spine, the more weight they carry. For that reason, the lower movable vertebrae are larger and more stable than the top vertebrae.
What conditions and disorders affect the spine?
Vertebrae and disks can wear down with age, causing pain. Other conditions that affect spine health include:
- Arthritic conditions, such as ankylosing spondylitis (AS)
- Back strains and sprains
- Birth defects such as spina bifida
- Bone spurs (jagged edges on vertebrae that put pressure on the spinal cord and nerves)
- Curvatures of the spine (scoliosis and kyphosis)
- Neuromuscular diseases, such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)
- Nerve injuries, including spinal stenosis, sciatica and pinched nerves
- Osteoporosis (weak bones)
- Spinal cord injuries, including spinal fractures, herniated disks and paralysis
- Spine tumours and cancer
- Spine infections like meningitis and osteomyelitis.
How can I keep my spine healthy?
Strong back muscles can protect your spine and prevent back problems. Try to do back-strengthening and stretching exercises at least twice a week. Exercises like planks strengthen the core (abdominal, side and back muscles) to give your spine more support.
Other protective measures include:
- Bend your knees and keep your back straight when lifting items
- Lose weight, if needed (excess weight strains your back)
- Maintain good posture.
Your spine is a complex structure of small bones (vertebrae), cushioning disks, nerves, joints, ligaments and muscles. This part of your anatomy is susceptible to injury, arthritis, herniated disks, pinched nerves and other problems. Back pain can affect your ability to enjoy life. Your healthcare provider can help ease back pain and offer suggestions to strengthen the muscles supporting your back and prevent back injuries.
Where can I find online training courses about how human spine work?
The Mandatory Training Group is the leading UK provider of accredited online human spine training courses for all sectors, including health and social care, education, local government, private companies, charitable and third sector organisations.Alternatively, you can contact our helpful Support Team byclicking hereto tell us more about human spine awareness training courses.
Online training courses for human spine awareness
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Frequently asked questions and answers about human spine awareness
Here at The Mandatory Training Group, we receive many questions about human spine. We have selected a few of these questions and answered them below.
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