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Your Spine

Spinal Column and Nervous System

The Nervous System

Our brain is like a fantastic computer. It takes millions of bits of information about how our body is working and what is going on all around us and processes all this information, sending out millions of commands, such as how fast our heart should beat, how our blood chemistry should balance, how to throw a football, how to bake a cake and which coat to wear today. It remembers millions of memories and is capable of expressing the gamut of human feelings, moods and emotions.

skeleton Your SpineHow do we know?

How do we know in our head that a mosquito is on our ankle? What is the connection between the ankle and the brain? Between the brain in our head and the rest of the body lies the most advanced communication system in the universe. It is made up of billions of nerve “wires” that send information to our brain and transmit information from the brain.

This communication system is called the nervous system.

Most of the “wires” that make up the nervous system are contained in the spinal cord.

The spinal cord is a collection of billions of nerves that starts in our brain, goes down our backs and then branches out to all parts of our body. It is like a thick cable packed tightly with nerves.

Central Nervous System

The brain and spinal chord make up the central nervous system. Coming out of the spinal cord (and even some parts of the brain) are millions of nerve fibers that travel all over our bodies.

Damage to the brain or spinal chord could last forever. For example, a baby born brain damaged does not heal, he becomes a brain damaged adult. A stroke victim who has suffered brain damage is often permanently disabled. If some healing does occur, it is not the growing of new nerve cells, but old nerve cells learning to take over the functions of the damaged ones.

In order to protect the delicate brain and spinal chord, nature wrapped them in bone.

skull Your SpineThe brain is completely surrounded by solid bone in the skull and the spinal chord is surrounded by 33 rings of bone called the vertebrae. These bones are stacked up, one on the other, like a pile of doughnuts with the holes in the middle all lined up. This stack of bones is called the spinal column. The spinal column is divided into sections:- cervical, thoracic, lumbar, sacral and coccyx.

Cervical spine (Neck)

All mammals have seven neck bones, also referred to as cervical vertebrae.

The first cervical vertebrae is directly beneath the skull; it is called the atlas because it supports the globe of the skull just as the mythical god Atlas held up the globe of the Earth.

spine02 Your SpineThe second cervical vertebrae is also given a special name, the axis; that is because it permits the head to turn and tilt. The seven cervical vertebrae also have numeric names: the atlas is C1, the axis is C2 , then C3, C4, C5, C6 and C7 is the one that sticks out at the bottom of the neck.
Thoracic spine (Chest)

The thoracic vertebrae are twelve in number and they are named T1, T2 and so on to T12.

The ribs are connected to them; if you follow the path of your ribs around from your front or sides to the back, you can feel where they attach to the thoracic vertebrae in the back.

They also attach in front to your sternum or breastbone.
Lumbar spine (Lower Back)

There are five lumbar vertebrae. They are the biggest, thickest and most massive of all the vertebrae because, being at the bottom of the spine, they have the most weight to bear. It is because of this great weight bearing that the low back is susceptible to injury causing millions of episodes of low back pain every year.

Under the lumbar vertebrae, we find the sacrum, a triangular shaped bone made up of five fused vertebrae. The sacrum connects to the hips on either side. And on the bottom of the sacrum we find the coccyx.
Coccyx (Tailbone)

The final part of the spinal column is a little piece of bone made up of four tiny fused vertebrae. It is called the coccyx. In reality, it is what is left of the human tailbone.

The human spine has four main functions:-

  • To protect the brain and spinal cord.
  • To support the pelvic and pectoral girdles.
  • To provide attachments for muscles and permit us to stand and move.
  • To support the head and ribs.

When the spinal column loses its natural balance and alignment it may put stress on the spinal cord, brain and spinal nerves and cause disease or loss of health. This loss of alignment is called a subluxation and is the focus of chiropractic care.