Spinal Anatomy 101

Ah yes, the Spine. The epicenter of the human body, life’s shield of armor and the crux of chiropractic care. For such an important body part, what do you really know about the spine? Perhaps you don’t care to know, but just in case here are some facts. The spine is composed of 33 bones, called vertebrae, in 4 different regions. The cervical region, or more commonly called the neck, is composed of 7 bones. The top two bones which allow you to turn your head are referred to as the atlas and axis. Atlas, after the mythological figure who held up the world. Much like him, the Atlas is responsible for holding up your head. If you reach around your back, at the base of your neck you will feel a protruding bone. That is C-7 or the Vertebral prominens, well for most people anyway. For about 30% of people, the Vertebral Prominens is C-6 or T1. Anyway its a landmark your doctor will use when taking x-rays or to help count vertebrae. The Thoracic region is composed of 12 bones starting at the base of your neck and heading to about mid back. Your ribs are attached to your thoracic vertebrae. Then comes the lumbar region or low back. The lumbar region absorbs a lot of the stress of daily activities and thus low back pain is a common complaint among patients. Last but not least is the Sacral region made up of the sacrum and coccyx. At one point in your life, these were separate bones however over time the pressure from standing, walking, and other life activities caused the bones to fuse together. Don’t worry, its a good thing! The spine has natural curves which are emphasized through daily life. Your cervical spine and lumbar spine have lordotic curves and the thoracic region has a kyphotic curve. This allows you to hold up your head, balance, and absorb the stress of movement properly. Too much or too little of a curve can result in pain and major health issues like a hunch back. Scoliosis results when the spine curves sideways. Between each vertebra is a disc which acts as a shock absorber.

So there you have it, that is the Spine in a nutshell. Maybe more than you wanted to know but at least when your doctor refers to certain things you will know exactly what he/she is talking about! Stay tuned for the pop quiz!