The Spine

Your Spine

Why do you have a Spine?

You have a spine to connect the upper and lower portions of your body together.  Through your spine runs your spinal cord which is the major thoroughfare between your brain and the rest of your body.  Your spine is one of the most important aspects of your whole body.

What does your spine look like?

Your spine is made up of three main curves and the sacrum.  There are twenty four vertebrae; 7 cervical, 12 thoracic, and 5 lumbar.  The cervical are curved in a what is called a lordotic curve, the thoracic are curved the opposite direction or, kyphotic, and the lumbar are curved like the cervical, in a lordotic curve.  A kyphotic curve is the primary curve and the lordotic curve is a secondary, or functional curve.  A functional curve is one that does not show up until movement occurs.

The curves of your spine not only act as shock absorbers between your head and tail, but allow the head to be over your pelvis.  Your spine allows you to stand upright and see the horizon!  The curves of your spine also allow areas for your organs to be placed and supported by the body while maintaining its central axis.

Vertebrae and Discs

     You have 24 vertebrae and 23 discs in between each vertebrae.  There is no disc between the  first and second cervical vertebrae.  There are 7 cervical vertebrae, 12 thoracic vertebrae, and 5 lumbar vertebrae.  The vertebrae are smaller at the top of the spine and larger as you move toward the lumbar spine.  It looks like and egyptian oblisque.

Each vertebrae has a body, spinous process, transverse process and facet joints.  The body is the round part of the vertebrae that stack with the discs in between.  The spinous process is the part of the spine that you can feel in the back.  The transverse process are t-shaped on each side of the vertebrae.  The facet joints are how each of the vertebrae articulate with each other.  Take a look at the length of the spine and the way the facet joints face.  Due to their shape, can you tell which parts of the spine are prone to rotation and which ones more adept at side bending?  Between the body of the vertebrae and the processes is the vertebral canal that maintains the spinal cord inside a sheath called a dura mater.

The discs live between each vertebrae except between the first and second vertebrae.  The discs are made of an outer fibrous material that criss cross for strength called the anulus fibrosus.  The inside of the disc is made of a gelatenous material called the nucleus pulposus.  The criss crossing of the fiberous material creates the strength to keep the nucleus pulposus in place.  There is no vascular system in the discs.  The only way the disc get nutrients from blood is through movement.  Simple compression and decompression of discs in all directions is what keeps them healthy and happy.  So make sure you flex, extend, rotate and side bend your spine everyday.    

Muscles of the Spine

     There are multiple layers of spinal muscles that run along the spine.  Close to 11 layers of spinal muscles including a few superficial layers, it is like filo dough in there.  The more superficial the muscles  the further away they are from the spine.  The more superficial muscles are longer, they cross more vertebrae.  The closer the muscles are to the spine, the deeper the muscles.  They cross less vertebrae and are shorter muscles.  The direction that these muscles run dictate their job.  For example, the rotatores connect from the transverse process to the spinous process, therefore, they rotate the spine.

To take the discussion of the attachments of the muscles a little further, the muscles that attach to form a V shape, are ipsolateral or same side flexors of the spine.  The erector spinae is an example of this group of muscles.  The muscles that run in an upside down V shape are contralateral or opposite side flexors of the spine.  An example of this muscle group is the transverseospinalis.  Figuring out if you recruit mainly from one of these groups or the other can tell you how deeply you initiate your spinal muscles.

Spine Release

As we discussed in your organ workshop, it is important to allow the posterior portion of your spine stay relaxed and lowered, and the anterior portion of your spine lifting upward.  You know now, that the spinous processes need to release downward to keep the spinal cord relaxed.  The anterior aspect of the vertebral bodies can be thought of as being held upward in a majestic kind of way.

     In summary, you spine is an incredibly important part of your body.  It runs through the center of your body and is therefore effected by everything in the system.  Without your spine designed the way it is, you would not walk upright with your eyes looking at the horizon.  There is also an emotional aspect to our spine.  We tend to posture our spine in relation to whatever cultural social status we are trying to achieve.  We also have more of a hysteria around something being wrong in our spine rather than something being right.  So, give yourself a nice pat on the back and think happy thoughts about your spine today.

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