A good place to start is your vertebrae, the bones of your spine. From head down you have:
- 7 bones in your neck also called the cervical section. The bones are named C1-C7 for identification. The top two vertebrae C1 and C2 are also called the atlas and axis and are shaped unlike any of the other vertebrae. The unique shape means they can provide a much greater range of movement
- 12 bones in your upper back or your thoracic section (T1-T12) Each rib attaches to the twelve vertebrae of the middle back. The thoracic spine and rib cage offer bony protection for the heart and lungs
- 5 bones in your lower back or lumbar region (L1-L5), These are the five largest bones of the spinal column as they are most responsible for bearing and transferring weight through the spine into the legs
- 5 bones in your sacrum (S1-S5) which are fused together in an upside down triangle shape. It is part of the spine but also part of the pelvis
- and finally your coccyx which can be 3-5 bones that are fused
Between your vertebrae are discs that act like suspension and stop the bones rubbing on
each other. These discs have a fibrous outer layer and an inner section of gel. Hydration is really important for your discs, if you are dehydrated over a very long period of time your discs can become less ‘squidgy’ and therefore not do their job as well.
In the middle of your spine is your spinal cord. Nerves branch off of this central cord at each intersection between your vertebrae to supply different areas of your body with feeling and movement.
Around your spine are lots of ligaments and muscles creating the tension and structure that allows us to move but also can limit the range of movement to help prevent injury and over stretching.
There are lots of other structures in the body that are attached to the spine either directly or indirectly though your connective tissue. Your neck and head which has a big role in stabilizing the spine. If you have a lack of movement here you will compensate in the spine, for example when turning to look behind you, if your neck hurts you will twist your body.
The muscles of the pelvis and hips attach to the lower spine, sacrum and coccyx directly but the relationship of these muscles to the spine is effected by the condition of the muscles down the front and back of the legs.
Amazingly your tongue and throat are connected to your spine too along with your diaphragm. This obviously has an impact on your breathing but also your digestive system. Everything is connected to everything some how!
The relationship your spine has with the rest of your body is amazing, so it is so important to look after your spine. Make sure you drink enough to keep everything hydrated and create regular movement to keep everything ticking over as it should. If you have a restriction of movement or pain somewhere your back, it is best to get it seen to and resolved as quickly as possible before your body starts compensating and other things start being effected too.
If you look after your spine you will be looking after your body, something we should all do as we only have one.