Patient Education: Spine
The spine has three major components:
- Spinal column (bones, discs)
- Neural elements (spinal cord, nerve roots)
- Supporting structures (muscles, ligaments)
The spinal column is made up of twenty four bones called vertebrae. The spinal column supports the body and gives it form. These vertebrae are connected in the front of the spine by intervertebral discs (durable tissue filled with a gel) that help support the spine and also allow it to move. Ligaments and muscles are attached to the back of the spine and provide power for movement.
The neural elements consist of the spinal cord and nerve roots. The spinal cord is surrounded by spinal fluid and runs from the base of the brain down through the cervical and thoracic spine (about two thirds of the way down your back).
At each vertebral level of the spine there is a pair of nerve roots which supply particular parts of the body with electrical pulses.
The supporting structures of the spine consist of muscles and ligaments. The spinal ligaments and muscles connect the vertebrae and keep the spine stable. They allow the spine to function in an upright position, and the trunk to form various positions.
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