Spine. Spine Facts
There are five sections in the lumbar spinal column. Lumbar vertebrae anatomy is generally classified by dividing the lumbar spine into five distinct sections. These sections are labeled as the L1-L5 vertebrae. These vertebrae are located near the base of the spine and naturally form a slight outward curve in the back, just below the inward curve of the thoracic spine. The lumbar vertebrae function to contain and protect the end of the spinal cord, as well as support the weight of the torso.Show Less
As a fetus, vertebral segments directly relate to spinal cord segments. As an adult, the spinal column grows longer than the spinal cord, and they no longer relate to one another. The spinal cord ends around the L1 or L2 vertebrae in adults, forming the conus medullaris. The horsetail-shaped area, which extends past the conus medullaris, is called the cauda equina.Show Less
Whether the spinal cord can be considered an organ is still a subject of debate within the medical community. While the spinal cord plays a vital role in the body, some argue that the spinal cord is strictly a bundle of nerves that the brain uses to communicate information to the rest of the body. The fact that many of the body’s organs can still run without a functioning spinal cord helps to support this argument.
However, many other medical professionals are beginning to support the ideology that the spinal cord is, in fact, an organ because it consists of common tissue and acts as a single function unit, receiving and sending signals from and to the brain and the rest of the body.Show Less
The most severe types of spinal cord injuries (SCI) are those that affect the cervical spine because they often can result in quadriplegia, or paralysis of the body below the injury site. As a result, the SCI survivor has little to no mobility, which can lead to a number of increased health risks. A respiratory impairment that results from high cervical spine injuries is characterized by low lung volumes and weakness in respiratory muscles and decreased ability to cough.
Depending on the severity of the injury and location of its damage in the spinal cord, respiratory functions can be impacted to the point that a person’s ability to breathe, cough, or swallow on their own is impeded, and the use of a ventilator may be required. Additionally, SCI survivors are more prone to developing respiratory infections, which can have severe complications.Show Less
Although it is relatively rare to have an extra bone, such as a sixth lumbar vertebra (known as a transitional vertebra), it is not actually that extraordinary. It is estimated that about 10% of adults have some form of spinal abnormality, which can include an extra vertebra.
While having an extra bone typically does not serve any function, it also typically results in no symptoms for most people. However, if a bone should fuse with another bone, it can cause back pain or lead to bulging or herniated discs. For individuals with spinal cord injuries, it is particularly important to let your doctor know if you have an extra vertebra to ensure there is no miscounting during assessments and treatments.Show Less
Most spinal cord injuries are preventable, so knowing their causes can help you avoid becoming injured.
The National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center at the University of Alabama-Birmingham conducts annual spinal cord injury research, including an assortment of statistics on SCI injuries. It's interesting to note that, in almost all categories of injuries, men are more likely to be injured than women.
In 2014, the most recent year for which statistics are available, the 10 leading causes of spinal cord injuries, and their percentage of the total number of injuries, were as follows:
Auto Accidents: Nationwide, car accidents claim more than 32,000 lives annually. Moreover, car accidents are the leading cause of spinal cord injuries, accounting for 7,205 (29.3%) male injuries and 2,402 (48.3%) female injuries in 2014.
Falls: Falls were the second-leading cause of SCI in 2014, accounting for 5,406 (22%) of male injuries and 1,262 (21.5%) of female injuries.
Gunshot Wounds: Gun-related injuries accounted for 4,163 (16.9%) of male SCIs in 2014, and 572 (9.1%) of female injuries.
Diving Injuries: Propelling head first into the water is an inherently dangerous activity. 1,718 (7%) men suffered spinal cord injuries due to diving accidents in 2014, with 122 (2.1%) female divers experiencing an SCI.
Motorcycle Accidents: The lack of external protection means that even minor motorcycle collisions can be deadly. In 2014, 1,695 (6.9%) men suffered spinal cord injuries while on motorcycles, with a mere 145 (2.5%) women experiencing such injuries.
Falling Objects: Those who work in industries where falling objects are common are especially vulnerable. 822 men (3.3%) and 37 women (.6%) experienced spinal cord injuries due to falling objects in 2014.
Medical and Surgical Complications: Choosing the right doctor, and carefully monitoring any unusual symptoms, can help you avoid a medically induced SCI. 537 (2.2%) men suffered spinal cord injuries due to medical complications in 2014.
Pedestrian Injuries: Ample research suggests that pedestrians are often distracted by phones and other devices. In 2014, 357 (1.5%) men suffered pedestrian-related spinal cord injuries, with 131 women (2.2%) meeting a similar fate.
Bicycle Accidents: Helmets save lives. Over time, fatal bicycle accidents have generally declined, suggesting that helmet laws are working to keep cyclists safe. Nevertheless, 409 men (1.7%) and 49 women (.8%) suffered bicycling-related spinal cord injuries in 2014.
Other SCI Injury Causes:
· Unclassified, which includes injuries that don't fit into a single category, or for which adequate data is not available;
· Penetrating wounds, such as an object entering the brain or spinal cord;
· All-terrain vehicle (ATV) accidents;
· Accidents in other vehicles, such as jet skis and boats;
· Snow skiing;
· Winter sports such as snowboarding;
· Horseback riding;
· Surfing, including body surfing;
· Other sports-related injuries.Show Less
The 33 vertebrae make up five distinct spine segments. Starting at the neck and going down toward your buttocks (rear end), these segments include:
• Cervical (neck): The top part of the spine has seven vertebrae (C1 to C7). These neck vertebrae allow you to turn, tilt and nod your head. The cervical spine makes an inward C-shape called a lordotic curve.
• Thoracic (middle back): The chest or thoracic part of the spine has 12 vertebrae (T1 to T12). The ribs attach to the thoracic spine. This section of the spine bends out slightly to make a backward C-shape called the kyphotic curve.
• Lumbar (lower back): Five vertebrae (L1 to L5) make up the lower part of the spine. Your lumbar spine supports the upper parts of the spine. It connects to the pelvis and bears most of your body’s weight, as well as the stress of lifting and carrying items. Many back problems occur in the lumbar spine. The lumbar spine bends inward to create a C-shaped lordotic curve.
• Sacrum: This triangle-shaped bone connects to the hips. The five sacral vertebrae (S1 to S5) fuse as a baby develops in the womb, which means they don’t move. The sacrum and hip bones form a ring called the pelvic girdle.
• Coccyx (tailbone): Four fused vertebrae make up this small piece of bone found at the bottom of the spine. Pelvic floor muscles and ligaments attach to the coccyx.Show Less
A healthy spine has three natural curves that make an S-shape. These curves absorb shocks to your body and protect your spine from injury.
The pine consists of:
• Vertebrae: The spine has 33 stacked vertebrae (small bones) that form the spinal canal. The spinal canal is a tunnel that houses the spinal cord and nerves, protecting them from injury. Most vertebrae move to allow for a range of motion. The lowest vertebrae (sacrum and coccyx) are fused together and don’t move.
• Facet joints: These spinal joints have cartilage (a slippery connective tissue) that allows vertebrae to slide against each other. Facet joints let you twist and turn, and they provide flexibility and stability. These joints can develop arthritis and cause back pain or neck pain.
• Intervertebral disks: These flat, round cushions sit between the vertebrae and act as the spine’s shock absorbers. Each disk has a soft, gel-like center (the nucleus pulposus) surrounded by a flexible outer ring (the annulus). Intervertebral disks are under constant pressure. A herniated disk can tear, allowing some nucleus gel-like substance to leak out. Herniated disks (also called bulging, slipped, or ruptured disks) can be painful.
• Spinal cord and nerves: The spinal cord is a column of nerves that travels through the spinal canal. The cord extends from the skull to the lower back. Thirty-one pairs of nerves branch out through vertebral openings (the neural foramen). These nerves carry messages between the brain and muscles.
• Soft tissues: Ligaments connect the vertebrae to hold the spine in position. Muscles support the back and help you move. Tendons connect muscles to bone and aid movement.Show Less
The spine, or backbone, is the body's central support structure. It connects different parts of the musculoskeletal system. The spine helps you sit, stand, walk, twist and bend. Back injuries, spinal cord conditions, and other problems can damage the spine and cause back pain. The spine is a complex structure of small bones (vertebrae), cushioning disks, nerves, joints, ligaments, and muscles. This part of your anatomy is susceptible to injury, arthritis, herniated disks, pinched nerves, and other issues. Back pain can affect your ability to enjoy life. Your healthcare provider can help ease back pain and offer suggestions to strengthen the muscles that support your back and prevent back injuries.Show Less
Lifting and bending are often major culprits when it comes to the onset of back pain. Using proper lifting and bending techniques will help reduce stress on the lower spine and help eliminate injuries.
Follow these tips:
When bending and lifting, make sure to bend your knees so that your legs help distribute the weight more evenly. Squat with your chest sticking out forward and your
buttocks protruding out backward. This position keeps your lower back in a neutral, safer position.
Keep the weight close. When you lift and carry a heavy object, keep the weight as close to your body as possible.
Balance your load. Two smaller objects (one in either hand) are easier to carry than one large one, and it also reduces the stress on one side of the body.
Avoid twisting. Twisting when lifting an object can harm your back because it puts too much pressure on the structures of the lower back.
Push instead of pull. Pushing is much easier on your back than pulling. Use your arms and legs to start the push. If you must move a heavy item, don’t do it alone—get someone to help you.Show Less