The centrum is another name for the vertebral body, the largest part of a vertebra. It forms the front of the vertebra and is shaped like an oval cylinder. The vertebral body is a weight-bearing structure and functions as a base for the pedicles, which are bony protrusions that extend off the centrum to form walls around an opening that surrounds the spinal cord. Facet joints also are present on the vertebral body to help connect one vertebra to another. Intervertebral discs fit snugly on the top and bottom of the stacked vertebral bodies and provide “shock absorption” and flexibility.
Of the two dozen or so vertebrae in the cervical (neck), thoracic (middle), and lumbar (lower) spine, the only one without a centrum (or vertebral body) is the topmost – the first cervical vertebra, called the atlas (C1). The atlas (C1) is a ring-shaped vertebra that is located directly beneath the skull and supports the head. The other vertebral bodies vary in size and shape, depending on location along the spine. The bodies of the vertebrae at the bottom of the spine in the sacrum are fused.
Because the centrum and the intervertebral discs between them bear much of the body’s weight, especially within the lumbar spine, they are subject to several disorders that can lead to back or neck pain. These disorders include:
- Compression fracture
- Degenerative disc disease
- Herniated disc
- Bulging disc
When these conditions are present, displacement of the centrum can lead to compression or irritation of nerve roots or the spinal cord. This can cause symptoms that include chronic neck or back pain. Typically, these symptoms can be managed conservatively, using treatments such as physical therapy, exercise, pain medications, or massage therapy. If debilitating symptoms persist after weeks or months of conservative treatment, a doctor might suggest surgery as an option to deal with a problem affecting the centrum or the spinal structures around the centrum.
Laser Spine Institute (LSI) offers an alternative to traditional open back surgery. The award-winning surgeons at LSI use gentle, endoscopic techniques to perform minimally invasive, outpatient procedures that can help you rediscover a life without pain. Contact LSI to learn more or for a free review of your MRI or CT scan.