The spine is composed of 33 individual vertebrae that interlock to form a column. The spineconsists of seven cervical, twelve thoracic, and five lumbar vertebrae, in addition to five fused vertebrae of the sacral region and four fused vertebrae forming the coccyx. Vertebrae are interconnected by joints for motion in the spine and discs separate them to provide for weight bearing and torsion. The entire length of the spinal column has a large central canal through which the spinal cord descends. The spine is designed to be incredibly strong, supporting the structures of the body and protecting the highly sensitive nerve roots of the spinal cord. The spineis also highly flexible, providing for mobility on different planes.
1. There Are Three Main Parts of the Spine
2. Five Bones of the Spine Fuse Together to Form the Tailbone
Between the ages of 18 and 30, the five bones at the base of the spine fuse together to form the sacrum, a triangular bone in the lower back. This area is known as the coccygeal vertebrae, or the tailbone.
3. The Brain Connects to the Spine to Control Most of the Body’s Basic Functions
The brain stem connects with the upper spine to control thirst, hunger, temperature, breathing, and other essential functions.
4. Humans and Giraffes Have the Same Number of Neck Bones
While it may not seem possible, long-necked giraffes and humans both have seven cervical spine vertebrae.
5. The First Vertebra of the Spine Is Named After a Greek God
The very first cervical vertebra is referred to as the Atlas, also the name of the mythological figure known for carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders. This bone is so-named because it supports the weight of the skull.
6. Over a Hundred Joints Allow the Spine to Be Flexible
You have a pair of these small joints, known as facet joints, at each level of your spine.
7. Most Spinal Cord Injuries Are Caused by Car Accidents
The human spine is extremely durable and flexible. In fact, you would be able to form two-thirds of a circle if you tried to bend your spine into a circle. It’s also not easy to completely sever a spinal cord. According to one study, it would take a force equal to a 500-pound car smashing into a wall at 30 mph to sever the spinal cord.
8. Most of the Population Will Experience Back Pain at One Time or Another
According to most estimates, 80 to 90 percent of the population will experience back pain at some point. Back pain is also the leading cause of worldwide disability, the most common reason people file for workers’ compensation in the United States, and the main reason people visit their doctor.
9. The Spine Has a “Memory”
Following an injury, neurons in your spine can carry pain signals more easily to your brain. Consequently, you are more sensitive to pain, which is why discomfort from spine-related injuries sometimes lingers. This is also why it’s important to take good care of your spine to minimize injuries to tissues, bones, discs, joints, and nerves.
10. Most of the Spine’s Length Comes from Cartilage
This rubbery substance that separates vertebral discs accounts for more than a fourth of the spine’slength. The cartilage’s ability to expand and contract is what causes astronauts returning from space to grow up to 3 percent taller. It’s also why people lose some height as they age.
The human spine is fairly durable and flexible. However, there are times when it demands attention. Fortunately, most spine-related pain is a temporary inconvenience. Should you experience any persistent or worsening discomfort, it’s time to get some input from doctor.