The Spine


Essential Health Integrated Medicine has provide a detail understand of what the spine is and what rolls it plays in the body. We hope you find this article interesting and informative, if you have any questions be sure to leave a comment below.

The nervous system of the human body is divided into two main categories; the central nervous system and the peripheral nervous. When I was in high school this always seemed so confusing to me. The truth is that the concept is simple but I just never took the time to actually think about it. In the human body we refer to things of the periphery as being away from the core or central part of the body. So, our arms and legs, for instance, would be considered peripheral. Things related to our torso would be considered more core or central. In fact, the central nervous system is comprised of only the brain and spinal cord. They pretty much exist on a “central” core y-axis that goes from our low back to the top of our head. The nerves that leave the spinal cord and go out into the body ( into the arms, legs, organs, etc. ) are all peripheral nerves. Similarly, any nerves that originate in the arms and legs and go back toward the spinal cord are peripheral nerves as well. For instance, if you touch the end of your index finger against a straight pin, a pain receptor is activated. The information from the receptor follows a pathway from the finger, up through the hand, up the arm, along the shoulder, and toward the neck; one long nerve. It enters the spinal canal through a small neural canal. This long nerve communicates with another nerve at the location of a synapse. It is at this point that the interface between peripheral nerve system and central nerve system exists.

The central nervous system ( brain and spinal cord ) is so important, so critical, and so vital, that it’s entirety is encased in a boney system; the skull and vertebral column. The skull is obviously a complete boney vault, for the most part, whereas, the vertebral column is a series of stacked bones that provide ample hard protection but also serve to provide sufficient openings for the flow of information to and from the rest of the body to the brain. The spinal cord and vertebral column are together referred to as the spinal column. The brain, obviously, is the “command and control” center for the rest of the body. Interestingly, the human brain, on average, comprises 2% of the total body weight, but uses 25% of the body’s consumption of oxygen and burns 70% of the body’s use of glucose.

The brain receives input from the rest of the body through the peripheral nervous system as we mentioned before. Sometimes the information that the peripheral system conveys to the brain originates from outside the body; such as temperature and touch. Sometimes the peripheral nervous system conveys information to the brain from within the body itself; such as muscle pain. The endocrine system also communicates information to the brain. The hypothalamus is the link between the endocrine system and brain to allow the us maintain homeostasis in the body. Cranial nerves for sight, sound, smell, and taste also link our brain to the outside environment. It is from all of the sources of input that the brain processes the need to make voluntary and involuntary reactions for body survival, pleasure, comfort, etc.

The spine consists of 24 separate, moveable bones called vertebrae. It is divided into three main regions; cervical region ( neck ), thoracic region ( mid back), and lumbar region ( low back).

There are seven bones in the neck. The top vertebrae in the neck is named the Atlas in reference to the Greek mythology Titan, Atlas, holding a celestial sphere. The second vertebrae is called the Axis. The second vertebrae, the Axis, is actually characterized by a small axis that extends upward. The ring shape of the top vertebrae sits around the axis. This allows for large amount of upper neck and head rotation to the left and right as the Atlas rotates around this part of the Axis.

Mid Back
The mid back consists of 12 vertebrae. Each vertebrae of the mid back has a pair of ribs attached. The ribs extend around from the back to front on both sides and provide a boney protective structure for the heart and lungs. Due to the structural stabilizing nature of the ribcage, the thoracic spine is somewhat less mobile than the neck region above and low back region below. There is also less incidence of disc bulges or herniations in the thoracic spine compared to the neck and low back.

Low Back
The low back consists of 5 vertebrae. They are the largest vertebrae of the spine; and they need to be large because they are bearing the weight of all of the rest of the body that exists above them. The primary movement provided in the low back is the ability to bend forward or flex forward. There is no intervertebral disc between the first and second cervical ( neck ) vertebrae. But an intervertebral disc does exist between every other pair of vertebrae down through the spine and also between the fifth lumbar vertebrae and the sacrum.