The spinal column is a complex structure that serves many purposes. Along with providing a supportive framework for the body, it encases the main components of the delicate nervous system and is key for allowing fluid movement and flexibility. The vertebral column is separated into three sections that include the cervical, or neck, portion, the thoracic spine in the middle, and the lumbar segment that rests in the lower back. Each section is delineated by a recognizable curve. If you’ve been experiencing back or neck pain, having a basic understanding of these sections can help you have a more productive conversation with a spine surgeon in Beverly Hills.
Comprised of seven vertebrae, the cervical spine is the uppermost portion of the vertebral column. The first vertebra serves as a support for the skull, and the lower portions contribute to movement and stability. The ribs are attached to the 12 vertebrae of the thoracic region that begins at the base of the cervical spine and extends approximately five inches below the level of the shoulder blades. The last five vertebrae make up the lumbar spine that ends in the sacrum and coccyx, or tailbone.
Each vertebra is comprised of a rounded portion, the vertebral body, that forms the largest part of the structure. The outer section, that can be felt along a person’s back, is made up of bony prominences that fit together like a puzzle. Along the sides, pairs of facet joints between the vertebrae contribute to the stability of the column. The vertebral bodies of each vertebra are kept from touching each other by intervertebral discs. The discs are spongy, gelatinous cushions that protect the vertebrae and help keep maintain proper alignment.
The Spinal Cord and Nerves
The spinal cord is connected to the base of the brain and runs through the center of the spinal column between the vertebral bodies and the bony processes. The cord is protected by three dense, fibrous coverings known as the meninges. Throughout the length of the cord, 31 pairs of spinal nerves travel out of the sides of the vertebrae through specialized openings called foramen. Each pair of nerves acts as a control center for a specific part of a person’s body.
If back pain is affecting your quality of life, reach out to The Spine Institute Center for Spinal Restoration. As a leader in spinal fusion and motion-preserving spine surgery, we can pinpoint the cause of your pain and help you choose the treatment option best for your lifestyle.