Know Your Spine

Know Your Spine

The spine is one of the most important parts of your body. Without it , you could not keep yourself upright or even stand up . It gives your body structure and support . It allows you to move freely (bend or extend). Vertebral column contains spinal cord in the centre which connects brain with the body, allowing you to control your movements. Without a spinal cord you could not move any part of your body, and your organs could not function. This is why keeping your spine healthy is vital if you want to live an active life.

The spine or vertebral column consists of a series of bones . They are divided into 5 parts : 7 cervical vertebrae , 12 thoracic vertebrae , 5 lumbar vertebrae followed by sacrum and coccyx bones.

The entire spinal vertebrae column is protected by strong ligaments and muscles.

Strong muscles and bones , healthy invertebral discs , flexible tendons and ligaments , and sensitive nerves contribute to a healthy spine. Yet, any of these structures affected by strain, injury or disease can cause pain.

Muscles, tendons and ligaments supports the spine, hold it upright and control movement during rest and activity. Several layers of fibrous connective tissue called Fascia covers the spinal muscles.

Ligaments and tendons are fibrous band of connective tissue that attach to bone. Ligaments connect two or more bones together and help stabilize joints.tendons attach muscle to bone.

The ligaments combined with the tendons and muscles, provides a natural brace to help protect the spine from injury. 70% of your body weight is carried by spinal muscles while bones contribute only 30% weight bearing. This is designed to reduce the stress and damages on the vertebral bones, intervertebral disc and cartilages.

Damage in any of these three will cause disruption in the spinal function and causes pain. The strength of the spinal muscles play a key role in the spinal wellness.

The vertebral disc in the spine is an interesting and unique structure . The discs throughout the spine have three primary functions:

  1. They act as a shock absorbers in the spine, positioned between each bony vertebra.
  2. They act as tough ligaments that holds the vertebra of the spine together.
  3. They are cartilaginous joints that allow for slight mobility in the spine.

The disc consists of Annulus Fibrosus and Nucleus Pulposus. The annulus fibrosus is a strong radial tire-like structure made up of lamellae; concentric sheets of collagen fibers connected to the vertebral end plates. Although both the annulus fibrosus and nucleus pulposus are composed of water , collagen and proteoglycans(PGs), the amount of fluid (water and PGs) is greatest in the nucleus pulposus . PG molecules are important because they attract and retain water. The nucleus pulposus contains a hydrate gel-like matter that resists compression. The amount of water in the nucleus varies throughout the day depending on activity.

The spinal discs requires water, oxygen and minerals to survive . When the water retention or blood supply is disturbed , it makes the annulus to dehydrate and make it fragile for wear and tear . Disc health is the root cause of degenerative disc problems and herniated disc.