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 let you bend forwards and backwards and twist. Discs, which sit between each vertebra, also help your spine to move and absorb shock.
Vertebrae, facet joints and spinal discs form the spinal column. This 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 let your brain to communicate with the rest of your body and let the rest of your body 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 a person has back or neck pain. This can mean they have a spinal condition. A person can be born with a spinal condition or develop one because of an inherent structural disorder. A person may also get a spinal condition through movement, excessive load, unhealthy weight, infection, disease, cancer or traumatic injury. However, many times spinal conditions occur as people age.
Some conditions that affect the spine include:
If you have back or neck pain, it’s best to see your general practitioner (GP). Your GP may do medical tests and investigations. They may also send you for medical imaging, such as an X-ray or scan.
They may refer you to a neurosurgeon or another medical professional for a specialised diagnosis and treatment. Make sure you bring your test results and imaging to your neurosurgical appointment.
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.