“You only worry about your head or spinal column. Everything else, some way or another, will repair in time.” Tony McCoy
Our spinal column is a very important part of our body which needs our attention and care, but unfortunately, it’s the most ignored. The spineless way we sit, the way we get up, the way we carry the weight all are indications of our carelessness about the health of our spine.
We have never realised the importance of the spine for our health perspective. We worry about diabetes, heart problem and blood pressure, but spine is never on our agenda for a healthy body. Our many of the health problems can be averted if we know more about our body parts and its functions.
The spine is made of 33 individual bones stacked one on top of the other. It’s a complicated structure, with many interconnected and interdependent components. This spinal column provides the main support for your body, allowing you to stand upright, bend, and twist while protecting the spinal cord from injury.
Vertebrae are the 33 individual bones that interlock with each other to form the spinal column. The vertebrae are numbered and divided into regions: cervical, thoracic, lumbar, sacrum, and coccyx. Only the top 24 bones are moveable; the vertebrae of the sacrum and coccyx are fused. Our spine provides structural support for our bodies, protection for our central nerves, and facilitates locomotion i.e. movement.
The spinal cord is about 18 inches long and is the thickness of your thumb. It runs within the protective spinal canal from the brainstem to the 1st lumbar vertebra down through the spinal canal to your tailbone before branching off to your legs and feet. The spinal cord serves as an information super-highway, relaying messages between the brain and the body. The brain sends motor messages to the limbs and body through the spinal cord allowing for movement. The limbs and body send sensory messages to the brain through the spinal cord about what we feel and touch. Our spinal cord is a part of our central nervous system along with the brain.
Any damage to the spinal cord can result in a loss of sensory and motor function below the level of injury. For example, an injury to the thoracic or lumbar area may cause motor and sensory loss of the legs and trunk. An injury to the cervical (neck) area may cause sensory and motor loss of the arms and legs. Severe damage can cause paralysis.
Functions of vertebrae and cord both do indicate how important they are for the health of a human being.
Why a healthy spine?
Any change in the structure or function of the spine may adversely affect human movement. We all know about immobility associated with back pain due to an unhealthy spine.
Support for the head is paramount because the neck is involved in quick coordinating movements for survival and protection and in general daily activities. The shoulder and pelvic girdles are also attached and supported. All these structures are related to the spine.
Protection of the central nervous system allows it to function optimally via the spinal cord, housed within the spine, which controls the function of every single cell, tissue, and organ in the body.
Therefore a healthy spine, coupled with a healthy nervous system, is crucial in terms of maintaining whole body health. Any alteration of spinal structure or function may cause irritation of the central nervous system or the outer spinal nerves that are protected as they travel to organs or muscles.
Fatigue can occur via repeated physical stresses or instantly in a physical accident, but often it is brought on by too much psychological stress or lifestyle factors like inadequate nutrition or exercise.
Eventually, effects may be varied – from tight or weak muscle groups, degeneration of spinal discs and general neck and back aches and pains – to common ailments such as headaches, jaw pain, rib (chest) pain, poor concentration, sleep disorders and even knee and foot problems.
Perhaps the Spinal column is the most important part of the body. Knowing about its functions and how to keep it healthy can save us from many aggravated disorders.
Next time we will see how to keep the spinal column healthy. Till then, have a healthy and happy lifestyle choice.