Our spinal column is the most important bony structure responsible for keeping the body upright. Its two main functions are flexibility and antigravitational support. Its flexibility is allowed by numerous joints between vertebrae.
In between each segment of the spine (vertebrae), there is an elastic disc which serves as a shock absorber and prevents bone damage while we move around. These discs are called intervertebral discs, they are elastic, meaning they can expand and contract and help your spine deal with the pressure of holding the body upright.
This “pressure of bipedalism” (walking upright on two legs) is mostly responsible for the unique features of our spine, which were developed over the long course of evolution – curves. There are four curves in total and those are:
- Cervical lordosis(inward curvature)
- Thoracic kyphosis(outward curvature)
- Lumbar lordosis and
- Sacral kyphosis
The Anatomy Of The Cervical Spine
Cervical spine is the most mobile section of your spine and its main role is making sure that our head and neck is in the right position. It is important to point out that cervical spine is also the weakest section of the spine.
In order to achieve that mobility and flexibility, cervical vertebrae are the smallest ones, by comparison, so they can be damaged relatively easily. Also, the neck is a very complicated structure, riddled with the most important blood vessels and neural fibers, which is why daily micro-trauma (sitting at your desk/PC, watching TV or lying in an awkward position) may cause serious problems.
The most common causes of pathological changes in cervical spine area are degenerative processes. According to some research, up to 90% of all neck spine problems are degenerative in nature. These changes can affect one or more vertebrae and will often attack joints within the spine.
In more severe cases of degenerative changes, people may even experience narrowing of the spinal canal and/or intervertebral space, resulting in pain, tingling (if a nerve is pinched), muscle spasms and limited movement.
In addition to these changes on the bones, there are some conditions which may cause muscular weakness and imbalance in the neck region. And since this area is so sensitive, even the slightest changes can disrupt its balance and cause pain, headaches, loss of concentration, stress, mood changes etc.
Neck pain is generally fairly common among adults and according to the statistics, one in every three adults is suffering from neck pain.
Thoracic section of spine makes up the posterior wall of the rib cage. It`s curved outward slightly, notice the word “slightly” since an increased thoracic curve can indicate problems with the surrounding muscle and soft tissues, along with the degeneration of the bones themselves.
This section is made up of 12 vertebrae, which are slightly larger that cervical ones, resulting in reduced mobility. Bud these vertebrae have another important role, besides supporting the body, which is protecting the delicate structures and organs found within the rib cage.
The main role of lumbar spine is support for the structures located above, which is why these vertebrae are so massive and the less mobile than thoracic and cervical spine.
Since they are bearing so much weight (basically our entire upper body), they are under an incredible amount of stress each and every day, so it is not unusual that the degeneration starts here, in the lower sections of the lumbar spine.
In addition to these degenerative processes often occurring in the lower regions of the lumbar spine, pain may be caused by:
- Muscle problems – often caused by an injury, heavy lifting and sudden movement
- Herniated disc
- Problems with the sacroiliac joint – this is the joint between the sacrum and pelvis
If you want to protect your spine, you should exercise regularly and make sure you maintain a proper posture. You can learn more about good posture here: Good Posture Can Change Your Life