The spinal column — why do spine conditions occur?

The spinal column runs vertically along the center of the back, from the base of the skull to the pelvis. The primary role of the spine is to support the weight of the upper body while protecting the spinal cord. Many disorders of the spine result because these two roles can work against each other, with pressure-related breakdown of spinal components causing painful compression of the nerves running through the spine.

If you are dealing with neck or back pain related to a spine disorder, learning more about the structure of the spinal column and how to treat common conditions can be an important step in getting the treatment you deserve. This knowledge can help you take a more active role in your treatment, giving you the best chance of returning to normal, comfortable activity.

Anatomy of the spinal column

The spinal column is an intricately constructed arrangement of parts, all of which play a role in supporting the upper body and protecting the spinal cord, while still allowing for movement. Here is an overview of the main components of the spine:

  • Vertebrae. The main structural parts of the spine are 33 bones: seven cervical, 12 thoracic, five lumbar, nine fused sacral and coccygeal.
  • Facet joints. These joints are flat hinges where vertebrae meet and articulate.
  • Spinal discs. The discs are rubbery cushions between the vertebrae that absorb shock and allow smooth movement.
  • Ligaments and tendons. These are the connective tissues that link the vertebrae.
  • Spinal cord. The spinal cord is a tubular bundle of nerve tissue that serves as the main pathway for motor and sensory messages that travel to and from the brain.
  • Nerve roots. These are bundles of nerve fibers that exit the spinal cord in 31 pairs along the length of the spine. The nerve roots are conduits for sensory and motor messages between the central nervous system and the peripheral nervous system.

Treating conditions of the spinal column

The parts of the spine are vulnerable to potential injury or to degenerative conditions associated with the aging process. Wearing out of the moving parts of the spine can lead to conditions like herniated discs and spinal arthritis that can cause displacement of the spinal anatomy and compression of the nerves. While many patients are able to find lasting relief from spine conditions through conservative treatments such as physical therapy, medication and rest, surgery may be considered if weeks or months of nonsurgical treatment doesn’t bring relief.

If surgery ever becomes a serious consideration for the treatment of a spine condition, contact Laser Spine Institute. Our minimally invasive spine surgery is an alternative to traditional open spine procedures, which typically include the risk of complication and long recovery time. Our board-certified surgeons+ use a less than 1-inch incision to access the spine, sparing muscles and leading to less risk of complication.

For a no-cost MRI review* to determine if you may be a candidate for one of our outpatient procedures, reach out to our dedicated team of Patient Empowerment Consultants today.