Understanding the anatomy of the spine can be helpful in determining the possible source of your symptoms and educating yourself so that you can have more informed conversations with your doctors.
The human spine is divided into 4 distinct sections of bones known as “vertebrae”. At the top of the spinal column,
the cervical spine (or neck) is made up of 7 vertebrae. Just below with 12 vertebrae, the
thoracic spine comprises the mid-torso section of the human body. Below that is the lumbar spine with 5 vertebrae.
Finally, at the very bottom of the spinal column—in the area of the hips—is the sacrum, the triangular-shaped portion made up of 5 fused bones.
All voluntary movement in your body is controlled by the brain, whose main communication pathway to the muscles is a large bundle of nerves collectively known as the spinal cord. Protection for this critical pathway is provided by the bones of the spinal column.
These bones, or vertebral bodies, have a number of important functions—one is to encircle and guard the spinal cord against trauma and another is to provide the skeletal support we need to walk upright.
Between each pair of vertebrae is a spinal disc that acts like a shock absorber and provides flexibility during your daily activities.
The combination of the spinal disc and the attached vertebral bodies is called a spinal segment or level. At each spinal segment, nerves branch from the spinal cord and pass through openings between the vertebrae called foramen. These nerves travel to the arms and legs to control movement and relay sensation back to the brain.
Your spinal discs act as a cushion to absorb shock between the vertebrae during movement. As a result of aging or injury,
sometimes the spinal disc loses its cushioning effect which may result in a loss of disc height. This loss of disc height
reduces the distance between the vertebral bodies and may cause irritation or pinching of the nerves. The spinal disc may also bulge
or herniate, where the disc material contained within the intervertebral disc is pushed into the spinal canal.
This may cause inflammation and pressure on the local nerve.
The loss of disc height and / or bulge of the disc may result in the following symptoms.
Spondylolisthesis is a condition usually caused by a sports related injury.
Genetics may play a role in the likelihood of a spondy occurring in a person that plays football, gymnastics, or a similar sport.
A spondy usually occurs in the lumbar spine or low back and is described as one bone or vertebra slipping or sliding forward over the vertebra below it.
This forward or anterior position may lead to the spinal cord or a nerve being compressed or squeezed.
Sometimes when a vertebra slips out of place, there maybe no symptoms or a delay in the onset of symptoms. Patients with a spondy may experience the following symptoms:
The human spine normally curves to aid in stability or balance and to assist in absorbing shock during movement.
These gentle curves can be seen from the side or lateral view of the spine. When viewed from the back, the spine should
run straight down the middle of the back.
When there are abnormalities or changes in the natural spinal curvature, these abnormalities are named with the following conditions and include the following symptoms.
Spinal instability is described as the abnormal sliding or hypermobility of the bones or vertebrae of the spine.
This sliding may occur during flexion (bending forward), lifting or extension (bending backward). When a disc is injured or
degenerates it may lose tension or its tight grip on the vertebrae above and below it. This loss of tension allows the bones
to shift or slide in abnormal directions which may irritate or pinch a nerve.
Spinal instability may not immediately cause symptoms or the onset of symptoms may occur over time. Spinal instability may be associated with the following symptoms.
The good news is there are several treatment options available to you. Click the button below to find out.
These individuals can inspire your journey to healing and living free from spine-induced pain and discomfort.
With the total disc replacement, it’s like I’ve never had a neck problem!
I feel like my activity level is now a 10 out of 10! My recovery after prodisc was amazing.
Being a patient myself, I understand... the journey. [prodisc] allows my patients to return to their lives.
I probably feel better today than when I was 30 years old!
prodisc [gives] my patients the option to thrive and maintain the highest quality active lifestyle.
To Find the Right Surgeon for You, Use our Surgeon Locator