The spine is made up of 24 bones called vertebrae. Between each of these bones is a gel-like cushion called a disc that absorbs pressure and keeps the bones from rubbing together. Each vertebra is held together by groups of ligaments, and tendons connect muscles to the bones.
The spinal column has joints – much like your elbow or knee – called facet joints. These facet joints link the vertebrae together and give them the flexibility to move. Each vertebra has a hole in the center that the spine cord runs through. When stacked on top of each other, the vertebrae form a protective column around the spinal cord, holding it in place.
The spine is divided into three main segments: cervical, thoracic and lumbar. The cervical spine is the upper part that makes up your neck. It consists of seven small vertebrae starting at the base of your skull. The thoracic spine contains 12 larger vertebrae that make up the middle part of your back. The lumbar spine, or low back, generally contains five vertebrae. Some people have six lumbar vertebrae; however, this does not seem to cause a problem. Another segment, called the sacral area, is a collection of specialized vertebrae that are naturally fused together and connect the spine to the pelvis.
The normal spine is “S” shaped when viewed from the side and straight when viewed from the front or back. This allows for an even distribution of weight and gives your body the ability to withstand stress.
For more information about the spine or to make an appointment with a spine specialist, call (502) 629-1234.