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How Does My Spine Work?


Your spinal column consists of series of 33 bones called vertebra.  These bones cover the delicate spinal cord while simultaneously protecting the nervous system and allowing for movement of the trunk through the 24 moveable segments.  Muscles, ligaments and tendons attach to the spine and the spine to the extremities which allows for dynamic movement of the entire body

There are 5 different sections; cervical, thoracic, lumbar, sacrum and coccyx.  When viewed from the side, an adult spine has a natural S-shaped curve. The neck (cervical) and low back (lumbar) regions have a slight concave curve, and the thoracic and sacral regions have a gentle convex curve  The curves work like a coiled spring to absorb shock, maintain balance, and allow range of motion throughout the spinal column.

Each vertebra in your spine is separated and cushioned by an intervertebral disc, keeping the bones from rubbing together. The discs have two distinct parts; a strong fibrous outer ring called and annulus and a soft, gelatinous center called the nucleus. The nucleus acts like a ball-bearing when you move, allowing the vertebral bodies to roll over the incompressible gel. The gel-filled nucleus is composed mostly of fluid. This fluid absorbed during the night as you lie down and is pushed out during the day as you move upright.

Between the moveable bony segments and intervertebral discs, spinal nerves exit the spinal cord to innervate the entire body.  This allows the brain to send messages via the spinal cord and spinal nerves to every cell, tissue, organ and muscle of the body and for the body to send information back to the brain.

The entire system works quite well and provides us with mobility, stability, strength and nerve function.  However, problems arise when the segments of the spine become stuck or immovable. When this occurs the system works poorly and decreased mobility, pain or lack of coordination occurs. 

For more information on spinal health and wellness call Northwest Wellness in Federal Way, WA at 2539270660