The spinal column provides the skeletal and neural foundation for all physical activity. It is a complex arrangement of bones, nerves, muscles, fluid, ligaments, cartilage, blood vessels, and other tissue that runs from the base of the skull along the length of the entire back.
The strength of the spinal column is derived from its 33 vertebrae, which provide skeletal support and protect the spinal cord. The spine’s flexibility comes in part from the intervertebral discs, which are circular wedges of cartilage that cushion and separate the bony vertebrae. This combination of strength and flexibility within the spinal column is engaged in nearly every movement performed by the human body, including:
- Walking or running
- Twisting or bending
- Squatting or jumping
- Sitting or standing
- Lying down or rolling over
In addition to physical support and range of motion, the structure of the spinal column allows the central nervous system to do its work. The stacked vertebrae contain central openings, or foramina, which create the spinal canal. The spinal cord runs from the brain through the spinal canal, and nerve roots branch off from there, carrying messages to different parts of the body.
When the spinal column is healthy, nerves are free to operate. In an injured spine, however, nerve roots and the spinal cord can be at risk of excess pressure, and this pressure can cause pain and discomfort.
A common cause of discomfort in the spinal column is disc degeneration, which can be brought on by spinal conditions such as osteoarthritis and spinal stenosis. These conditions often lead to nerve root compression or irritation and can trigger chronic neck or back pain. Spinal column conditions are most common in the neck (or cervical spine), and in the lower back (or lumbar spine).
The award-winning surgeons at Laser Spine Institute (LSI) are here to help you rediscover a life without pain. Contact LSI for a free review of your MRI or CT scan, and to learn about our minimally invasive, outpatient procedures.