Our spine is made up of 32 vertebrae; some are fused together making the spinal column of only 26 separate bones. The spinal column is divided into five different sections: these are 7 cervical bones, 12 thoracic, 5 lumbar; 5 fused sacral and 4 fused coccygeal bones. Knowing how the spine works helps you keep it healthy, flexible, strong and in good working order.
The vertebrae are connected by two facet joints and an intervertebral joint. The surfaces of the small joints are covered with cartilage and synovial fluid within the joint capsule. The Synovial fluid allows the joints to move over each other without causing friction. Exercise helps to keep these joints lubricated and functioning well. The intervertebral joint is made up of vertebral material and an intervertebral disk. The disk is a pad which acts like a shock absorber, allowing the spine to move, lengthen and shorten by molding itself into the required shapes. Inside the spinal cord is a gooey substance which is 85 percent water. The hard outside of the spine is composed of rings of tough cartilage. These disks lose some of their fluid during our daily activities, bed rest helps to allow for recovery at night.
The Spinal Cord and it’s Nerve Roots
Our spinal cord is a sensory information system, which sends pain messages from the body to our brain, then it sends orders back to the muscles to react. Our spinal cord is a part of the central nervous system. The spinal cord runs from the base of the brain down the neural canal in the spine, to the lumbar vertebrae. There two nerves branch off the spinal cord between each vertebra, with one on each side. Most of our back pain is due to the compression of our vertebrae on the nerves.
Our spine is supported by a network of muscles. These muscles consist of three layers which connect the whole spine together from top to bottom. Our muscles work in pairs so for every muscle that contracts there is an equal and opposite muscle which relaxes. Our abdominal muscles affect our back strength and support. Lack of exercise can cause back pain and discomfort. Without exercise of our back and stomach muscles we experience an imbalance and muscle weakness, which can lead to back pain.
The ligaments are broad bands of tough tissue which bind the vertebrae together, they allow the spine to move as one piece. Along the length of the spine there are two long ligaments at the front and back of the vertebrae. Small ligaments bind the vertebrae together. Because our ligaments have a poor blood supply they do not heal easily when injury occurs.
Our back is a remarkable structure, keeping our spine healthy, flexible, and strong is important to keep it pain free, free of injury and able to perform our activities without strain or tears. Exercise, good posture and healthy living will keep our back healthy throughout our lifetime.