So, last week, I signed up for physiotherapy classes with my neighbor. Apart from the usual bone massages, which are quite heavenly, the physiotherapist also educates us on the various parts of the bones and their functions. Yesterday, she spoke to us about how important the spine is to our general well-being and health plus the best ways to take care of the spine. Seeing that little or no emphasis is laid on the spine during usual health talks, I have decided to let you in on some of the things we discussed including the great things the spine does for you, which you most likely have no idea about. Let’s get talking!
Ever Heard of the Spine?
Let’s start from here. Your 7th-grade biology teacher may have told you about this string of tiny bones that are highly important to your locomotive ability. Well, what s/he was talking about is your spine. Let’s re-emphasize some points s/he must have made.
The spine is a string of tiny, curve-like looking bones called the vertebrae which extend from the brain to the end of your back. Try running your hands down your neck; you should notice these curve-like bony structures that extend way down to the small of your back; unless you are an alien. *smiles* The whole of that is your spine and you could also refer to it as your backbone.
How Many of these “tiny bones” Make up my Spine?
So, you are running your hands down your back and wondering just how many of these bones make up your spine. Well, I used to wonder like that until I asked my physiotherapist and she told me that there are 33 of them. What’s more? They are classified into different categories based on the functions they perform. Talk about specialization! The cervical vertebrae are 7 in number. Next is the thoracic which is 12 in number. Then, we have the lumbar which is 5 in number. After the lumbar, come the sacral vertebrae which are also 5 in number. The last set of vertebrae is the coccyx which is found at the tail end of the spine and is four in number. Pretty cool, right?
Spine or Spinal Cord?
This sure caused a lot of argument with the physiotherapist. Apparently, my friend and I believed that the spine and the spinal cord were the same. Well, now we know better. I am sure you are wondering what the big difference is. I’ll tell you in a bit.
Within the spine, is a connection of nerves. This collection of nerves is actually the spinal cord and it is the spine’s job to protect it. In other words, the spine encloses the spinal cord. So, while the spine is a collection of bones; the spinal cord is a collection of nerves. In essence, they run together but they are completely different. Now, we are clear.
What’s with the Spine and the Letter ‘S’?
This is really interesting. The spine is actually shaped like the letter S. This true for adults especially. The cervical and the lumbar regions of the spine actually have a slight concave curve while the thoracic and sacral parts of the spine have a subtle convex shape. You may not notice the snake-like shape of the spine until you actually examine a skeletal framework. This is because all the flesh, fat and blood in your body will most likely hide the ‘S’ from you so that you feel that your spine is straight. Try visiting the physiotherapy department of a health care center close to you. They would definitely have a skeletal prototype which you can examine. You could also search for prototype images on the internet.
Now, you know what the spine is. Let’s move on to discussing some of the things your spine does for you that enable you to carry on with your daily activities. I’ll tell you five of them.
Your Spine Is a Superhero!
Talk about strength and support — your spine has it all. The spine is the most supportive part of your body. This is because it provides strength and support for the other parts of your body especially the skull. You may not know this, but your skull actually contains really heavy bones and it`s your spine’s job to support them.
The thoracic vertebrae of the spine are actually in charge of providing strength and support to your body. The lumbar region is the part that carries most of your body’s weight. Specifically, the spine has the ability to distribute your body’s weight evenly. In addition, it can adapt to the changes in your body such as weight gain and pregnancy. That is some real superhero skills.
It helps you Move!
So you signed up for Salsa classes and your coach says you are really flexible. Well, you have your spine to thank for that. It`s your spine that helps you move in different directions. Specifically, it helps you bend, stretch and rotate. In addition, your cervical region helps you move and rotate your head and neck.
The Guardian of your Spinal Cord!
I mentioned earlier that the spine encloses your spinal cord. Well, it does not only enclose the spinal cord; it also protects the spinal cord. This is because your spinal cord is a delicate mass of nerves that is exceptionally important for the continuity of your everyday activities. A tiny damage to your spinal cord could leave you bed-ridden or affect other life functions. This is why your spine is arranged in a way that it provides a protection network for your spinal cord.
Something about Blood Supply?
Apparently, yes! You know that blood is the most important fluid in your body. Thus, it is important that you have enough blood in circulation. This is where your spine comes in. Within each vertebra of your spine is a hollow chamber that is filled with a substance known as the bone marrow. This is where the blood cells are produced and since there is a lot of bone in the spine, it surely follows that it produces a lot of blood for you.
The Shock Absorber
The bones of the spine contain fluids that act as shock absorbers and prevent intense impact from getting transferred to the next.
We have talked about some things that your spine does for you. Now, considering the enormity of your spine’s job, it is important that you keep your spine happy. Here are five things you can do to put a smile on your spine’s face:
- Adopt a good position while you sleep. This will enable your spine rest and keep it comfortable.
- Exercise Regularly. Sit-ups and stretches are some exercises that are great for your spine.
- Get the right shoes. Your shoes help to support your lower back and put less pressure on your spine.
- Spoil yourself with some quality massage once in a while.
- Learn to walk often. Don’t be a bench warmer. Walk down to the office; climb the stairs instead of taking the lift. If you must sit, ensure you use a comfortable chair and practice good posture.
Knowing what your spine does is essential because it will help you appreciate it more. Ensure that you adopt behaviors that will help your spine stay healthy and happy. You will be glad you did! Meanwhile, it’s time for more physiotherapy.