The spine is made up of a series of vertebral bones, and it provides the supportive framework for the human body.
Main Parts of the Spine
Generally, discussion of the spine is divided into the three major areas: lumbar (5 bones), thoracic (12 bones), and cervical (7 bones). Below those regions, in the pelvic area, is the sacrum. The individual bones of this framework are called vertebrae. Each body of vertebra is separated by discs, which act as cushions, 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 “interlock with the adjacent vertebrae” so that the series of vertebral bones is stable.1 There are 24 vertebrae of the back bone which articulate, and there are vertebrae in the sacrum (5 bones) and coccyx/tailbone (4 bones) which are fused.2 The cervical vertebrae are just below the skull, and they are the smallest of the vertebrae. They are numbered C1-C7. The atlas, or C1, is the top cervical bone, and it works with C2, or axis, to connect the spine and skull. The thoracic vertebrae (T1-T12) carry ribs and lie below the cervical vertebrae. Lower in the back, there are no ribs attached.3
Purpose of the Spine
The spine is meant to provide support in the human body. It can hold the weight of the head, arms, legs, and trunk. It helps posture, and it provides protection to the spinal cord. Intervertebral discs, and the primary and secondary curves of the spine, “provide shock absorption”. Movement in the body is controlled, or restricted, by the spine via the facets, ligaments, muscle attachments, and intervertebral discs. The last function of this supportive framework is to store calcium and other minerals.4
Chiropractors and the Spine
Chiropractors are experts trained in musculoskeletal therapy. At times, the spine can be out of alignment, causing back pain. While patients may try medications, such as NSAIDS or acetaminophen, for temporary pain management, ultimately they may opt for professional care. Recently, the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) has recommended that treatment for back pain should start with chiropractic care, before patients even consider invasive surgery. In Spine, a medical journal, there was a study of patients with lower back pain, where half of the participants received standard medical care (SMC) alone and half utilized SMC with chiropractic treatments. 73% of chiropractic/SMC group reported “their pain was completely gone or much better after treatment” versus only 17% finding relief from SMC-only group. Chiropractic care can help people recover from spinal pain, but it can also assist patients with prevention of future spinal problems.5