What is the spine?
The spine is the backbone of the human body, both literally and figuratively. It is the central point from which the rest of your skeletal structure extends. It holds you upright, supports much of your body weight and allows you to move freely and flexibly.
Your spine is made of small bones known as vertebrae. These are linked by facet joints that provide us with the ability to bend forwards and backwards and twist. Discs, which sit between each vertebra, also help our spines move and absorb shock too.
Vertebrae, facet joints and spinal discs form what we call the spinal column, which is divided into five areas. From top to bottom, they are the:
- cervical spine (seven vertebrae)
- thoracic spine (12 vertebrae)
- lumbar spine (five vertebrae)
- sacral spine (five vertebrae, which form the sacrum)
- coccygeal vertebrae (four vertebrae that make up the tailbone)
The spine also protects your spinal cord. The spinal cord is a bundle of nerves that enables your brain to communicate with the rest of your body, and the rest of your body to communicate with your brain. These incoming and outgoing messages are vital to your survival. They power your breath, your heart beat and your movement.
What conditions affect the spine?
Sometimes you may experience back or neck pain, which may indicate you have a medical condition that affects your spine and the surrounding area. We can be born with these conditions or develop them because of an inherent structural disorder. We may also acquire them through movement, excessive load, unhealthy weight, infection, disease, cancer or traumatic injury. However, many times spine conditions occur as we age.
Some conditions that affect your spine include:
If you experience back or neck pain, it is important to consult with your GP. They may conduct medical tests and investigations or request that you obtain medical imaging – such as an x-ray or scan – of your affected area. They may refer you to a neurosurgeon or other medical professionals for a specialised diagnosis and treatment. It is important that you bring your test results and imaging with you to your consultation.
If you would like to see Dr Raj Reddy, make sure you get a referral from your GP before you book an appointment.
Image by Injury Map under a Creative Commons license.