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SPINAL ANATOMY

The spinal column is one of the most vital parts of the human body, supporting our trunks and making all of our movements possible. When the spine is injured and its function is impaired the consequences can be painful and even disabling.

The spine has three major components:
• The spinal column (i.e., bones and discs)
• Neural elements (i.e., the spinal cord and nerve roots)
• Supporting structures (e.g., muscles and ligaments)

 The spinal column consists of:
• Seven cervical vertebrae (C1–C7) i.e. neck
• Twelve thoracic vertebrae (T1–T12) i.e. upper back
• Five lumbar vertebrae (L1–L5) i.e. lower back
• Five bones (that are joined or "fused," together in adults) to form the bony sacrum
• And three to five bones fused together to form the coccyx or tailbone.

The lumbar vertebrae, L1-L5, are most frequently involved in back pain because these vertebrae carry the most amount of body weight and are subject to the largest forces and stresses along the spine. The true spinal cord ends at approximately the L1 level, where it divides into many different nerve roots that travel to the lower body and legs-- called the "cauda equina.”
The anatomy of the spinal column is extremely well designed to serve many functions. All of the elements of the spinal column and vertebrae serve the purpose of protecting the spinal cord, which provides communication to the brain, mobility and sensation in the body through the complex interaction of bones, ligaments and muscle structures of the back and the nerves that surround it. The back is also the powerhouse for the entire body, supporting our trunks and making all of the movements of our head, arms, and legs possible

Intervertebral Discs
Lumbar Discs are the structures, which serve as shock absorbers between the vertebrae of the spinal column. The center of the disc, called the nucleus is soft and springy and accepts the shock of standing, walking, running, etc. The outer part, called the annulus, provides structure and strength to the disc.

The discs receive their blood supply through movement as they soak up nutrients. The discs expand while at rest allowing them to soak up nutrient rich fluid. When this process is inhibited through repetitive movement, injury or poor posture, the discs become thinner and more prone to injury. This may be a cause of the gradual degeneration of the structure and function of the disc over time.

Facet Joints
Joints between the bones in our spine are what allow us to bend backward and forward and twist and turn. Each vertebra has facet joints that connect it with the vertebrae above and the vertebrae below. The surfaces of the facet joints are covered with smooth cartilage that help these parts of the vertebral bodies glide smoothly on each other.

Spinal Cord
The spinal cord is part of the central nervous system of the human body. It is a vital pathway that conducts electrical signals from the brain to the rest of the body through individual nerve fibers.

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