Main Parts of the Spine
The spine, a central part of the inner and outer workings of the body, is made up of a series of vertebral bones. It provides the supportive framework for the bodies of humans and many other species. Generally, discussion of the spine is divided into three major areas: lumbar, which is made up of 5 bones, thoracic, which consists of 12 bones, and cervical, in which 7 bones reside. Below these aforementioned regions, in the pelvic area, is the sacrum.
The individual bones of this framework are called vertebrae. Discs, which act as cushions, separate each body of vertebra. And each vertebra also is associated with four facet joints (two of which face upward, and two of which face downward). The purpose of the facet joints is to create an interlocking system of each vertebra with the adjacent vertebrae so that the series of vertebral bones maintains its stability.1 There are 24 vertebrae of the backbone which are able to function in an articulate manner, and there are vertebrae in the sacrum (5 bones) and coccyx/tailbone (4 bones) which are fused and unable to move independently.2
The cervical vertebrae are located just below the base of the skull. They are also the smallest of the vertebrae. They are numbered C1-C7. The atlas, or C1, is the very top cervical bone. It works with C2, or axis, to connect the spine and skull. The thoracic vertebrae, which are numbered as T1-T12, carry the ribs and lie below the cervical vertebrae. Lower in the back, there are no ribs attached to the lumbar vertebrae.3
Purpose of the Spine
The spine provides support in the human body. It can hold the weight of important structures in the body like the head, arms, legs, and trunk. It helps people maintain posture, and it provides important protection to the spinal cord, which is itself another vital part of the body and its continuing proper functionality. Intervertebral discs, and the primary and secondary curves of the spine, provide a sort of shock absorption. The spine, via the facets, ligaments, muscle attachments, and intervertebral discs, controls, or restricts, movement in the body.
While many patients may become more flexible, and there are many interesting cases of people with far above average flexibility, there is still a finite extent in which the spine is able to bend and contort before damage is suffered. The last function of this supportive framework is to store calcium and other minerals. The spine is one of the most important parts of the body, which is why injury or even improper posture could affect the patient so strongly.4
Chiropractors and the Spine
Chiropractors are considered to be experts in this field as they are very well trained in musculoskeletal therapy. At times, the spine can become out of alignment due to a variety of factors, including improper posture or injury. It is this misalignment in the spine that could be one cause of back pain. Even pain in other areas of the body could be part of the radiating influence of spinal injury.
While patients may try a number of medications, such as NSAIDs or acetaminophen, for temporary pain relief and management, ultimately, they may opt for professional care. Pain relief is often only temporary. It does not address and manage the source of the pain. And patients who rely on medications to reduce their pain will not find satisfaction in the long run. Additionally, the underlying problem and cause of the pain that is then left to be untreated and allowed to become worse over time.
Scientific Support for Chiropractic
Recently, the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) has recommended that treatment for back pain should start with chiropractic care. It is suggested that patients pursue this alternative treatment option long before even considering invasive surgery. Invasive surgery is potentially a much more permanent solution. However, it also comes with a high number of risks which could lead to it being ineffective or worsen the patient’s condition. Surgery is also often expensive and its recovery unnecessarily time-consuming if patients have not already exhausted other, safer treatment options.
In Spine, a medical journal, there was a study of patients with lower back pain. Half of the participants received standard medical care (SMC) alone and half utilized SMC with chiropractic treatments. 73% of chiropractic/SMC group reported that their pain was either completely gone or found to be much better after treatment versus only 17% finding relief from SMC-only group. Chiropractic care can not only help people recover from spinal pain and its source, but it can also assist patients with prevention of future spinal problems through regular treatment, adjustments, and prescribed exercises and natural solutions to curbing future recurrences or new injuries.5
Learn more about what the vertebrae do for our bodies.