The spinal cord and vertebrae: overview of conditions affecting the spinal column

The spinal cord is protected by vertebrae which are cushioned by discs and linked by joints that allow the spine to bend and flex. Over time, degenerative conditions can develop in the spinal column due to the amount of stress placed on this part of the body that can affect the spinal cord and lead to painful, debilitating symptoms.

If you are dealing with neck or back pain related to a spine condition, learning more about the vertebrae can help you better understand your symptoms and how they develop. This guide to the role of the vertebrae and treatment options for common conditions affecting the spinal cord can help you become a more educated patient as you seek relief.

What other functions do the vertebrae serve?

In addition to protecting the spinal cord, the vertebrae and the other parts that make up the spinal cord serve many important functional roles. These include:

  • Supporting the head, neck, shoulders and chest. The thoracic (middle) vertebrae also create the rear base for the rib cage.
  • Connecting the upper and lower body. The lumbar spine (lower back) is particularly susceptible to damage because it is responsible for the balance and stability of much of the body’s weight.
  • Facilitating a variety of complex and simple movements, like forward bending, backward bending, side-to-side bending and left and right rotation.

These functions put a lot of stress on the discs, joints and vertebrae in the spinal column leading them to degenerate over time, especially in combination with natural aging. This breakdown can lead to conditions like osteoarthritis, degenerative disc disease and spondylolisthesis (slippage of the vertebrae) that can narrow the nerve passages in the spine and put pressure on the spinal cord and nerve roots that exit the spinal column.

Treating conditions affecting the spinal cord and nerve roots

Upon diagnosis of a spine condition, many patients are able to develop an effective plan of conservative treatment by working with their doctor. However spine surgery can become an option if symptoms do not improve or worsen and nonsurgical therapies have been exhausted. If you are exploring the possibility of surgery, contact Laser Spine Institute.

Our minimally invasive decompression and minimally invasive stabilization procedures offer a lower risk of complication and a shorter recovery^ compared to traditional open spine surgery.

Reach out to our dedicated team today for a no-cost MRI review* to determine if you are a potential candidate for one of our outpatient procedures.