Spinal column

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 primary role of the spinal column is to protect the spinal cord as it travels from the brain to the rest of the body, enabling movement and sensation. However, the spinal column can also be a source of neck or back pain because it is subject to so much pressure from everyday movement. If you or someone close to you is being affected by pain, learning more about the overall structure can be an important step in the treatment process.

Structure and role of the spinal column

The strength of the spinal column is derived from the vertebrae, which provide skeletal support and protect the spinal cord. The spine’s flexibility comes in part from the spinal discs, which are made of cartilage and act as shock absorbers for the spine. 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 function properly. The stacked vertebrae create a large central openings opening, called the spinal canal. The spinal cord runs from the brain through the spinal canal, and nerve roots branch off from small openings between the vertebrae, carrying signals to different parts of the body.

When the spinal column is healthy, nerves are free to operate. In an injured spine, however, the nerve roots and the spinal cord can be at risk of excess pressure causing pain and discomfort.

Treating conditions of the spinal column

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, as well as radiating symptoms to other parts of the body. Spinal column conditions are most common in the cervical (upper) and lumbar (lower) spine because these are the areas which must support the most weight and movement.

Surgery to treat these conditions is usually considered once more conservative options have been exhausted due to the invasive nature of traditional procedures.

Reach out to Laser Spine Institute if you are considering neck or back surgery but are concerned about the long recovery time and hospitalization that can come with traditional open spine procedures. Our minimally invasive spine surgery uses state-of-the-art technology to access the spine with a muscle-sparing, less than 1-inch incision. This leads to a shorter recovery time^ for our patients and less risk of complication like scarring.

Contact Laser Spine Institute for a no-cost MRI review* to see if you may be a candidate for one of our procedures.