The Role of Each Part of Your Spine
What are parts of the spine?
Your spine, otherwise known as your vertebral or spinal column, acts as a central axis for your body’s skeleton. Starting from your skull and extending all the way down to your hip bones, your spine supports your entire body, protects your spinal cord from external trauma, and allows you to twist, bend, and stand upright as you please.
Powerful muscles and ligaments attach all along your spine are important in the maintenance of posture and facilitating the movement of the body.
Regions of the Spine
Your spine makes up about two-fifths of your total body height, and is formed by a vertical chain of 33 interlocked bones called vertebrae.
These vertebrae make up 5 different regions in your spine. From top down:
1. Your cervical spine (neck) has 7 separate moveable vertebrae
2. Your thoracic spine (mid back) has 12 separate moveable vertebrae
3. Your lumbar spine (lower back) has 5 separate moveable vertebrae
4. Your sacrum has 5 fused immovable vertebrae, and
5. Your coccyx has 4 fused immovable vertebrae
Functions of Spine Regions
These regions have their own unique features and vertebrae that help perform different functions.
The main function of your cervical spine is to support the weight of your head (~10 pounds). Your cervical spine has the most range of motion out of all of your spinal regions.
Functionally, your thoracic spine mainly protects your heart and lungs by making up your thoracic cage with the help of your rib cage.
Your lumbar spine bears your body’s weight as its vertebrae are much larger and help absorb stress when lifting and carrying heavy objects.
Your Sacrum primarily connects your spine to your hip bones and helps form your pelvis.
Your Coccyx or tailbone acts as an attachment site for muscles and ligaments in and around your pelvic floor.
The Curves of the Spine
Your spine has a natural s-shaped curve made up of smaller curves your different spinal regions have. These curves allow for more range of motion throughout your spine, help you maintain your balance, and absorb shock by acting like a coiled spring.
Spinal Curvature Disorders occur when the spine of an individual does not maintain the natural S – Shape Curve. Sometimes the curves in sections of the spine can become excessively exaggerated or pronounced. The amount of excessive curvature can range in severity.
Kyphosis: too much curve in the thoracic spine (upper back )
Lordosis: too much curve in the lumbar spine (lower back)
Scoliosis: too much lateral (side to side) curve of the spine
This image shows different curves of the spine.
What Causes Spinal Curve Disorders?
Changes in the shape of the spinal curve can be from a variety of factors, both changes to the bones of the spinal cord itself or changes in the muscles surrounding the spinal cord.
Spinal curve disorders can be caused by many different factors, diseases or spinal cord injury. Repetitive poor postures and muscle weakness can lead to the development of spinal curve disorders. Exercise and postural awareness can help correct or improve spinal curve disorders. Working with a physiotherapist can help improve your posture and use exercise to help reduce pain caused by spinal cord disorders. Visit Westcoast SCI to meet with one of our physiotherapists.
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