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Know Your Spine
The human spine consists of 24 movable bones called vertebrae. The three main regions of the spine include the 7 cervical (neck) vertebrae, 12 thoracic (midback) vertebrae, and 5 lumbar (lowback) vertebrae. Muscles, ligaments, tendons, and joints of the ribcage give the spine its structural support. Between each vertebral pair are shock-absorbing spinal discs. The spinal discs help in normal movement of the spine, and provide cushioning support during regular weight-bearing. The spinal discs are also are sensitive to excessive loads, repetitive stresses and abnormal movement of the spine.
What Makes up the Human Spine?
The nervous system consists of the brain, spinal cord and nerves. The spinal cord, housed within the vertebral column, sends messages from the brain to the rest of the body through peripheral nerves. These nerves exit the the spine through small openings between vertebrae. Nerve signals travel very quickly, (at a rate of 240 mph!) sending and receiving information. The diagram to the right is a representation of the "wiring" of part of the nervous system, and demonstrates how different spinal cord regions control function of the body's various organs.
The Nervous System
The spinal discs are a common site of degenerative change commonly seen with increasing age and excessive "wear and tear" forces. The schematic to the right shows the process of disc degeneration in which the center ("jelly-like") portion of the disc escapes or "bulges" through the outer portion of the disc. This is analogous to toothpaste being squeezing through a crack in the tube of toothpaste. This becomes problematic due to the close proximity of the spinal cord and spinal nerves. A bulging or herniated disc can be a significant source of pain and compromise to the nervous system. With time, the body responds to the trauma by forming bony osteophytes or "spurs" that appear as sharp projections on the edges of vertebrae. Very important to maintaining the integrity of spinal anatomy, is understanding and correcting its movement.
Lack of coherent, synergistic movement in the spine and related joints allows for the onset of disrepair. This "less than ideal" state of function stresses the body's resiliency and can result in joint "wear and tear". The term "subluxation" is utilized to describe this lack of proper joint postion and impaired movement.
This lack of proper movement also negatively affects the nervous system. A study performed in the 1970's at the University of Colorado revealed that it takes the pressure 10 mm of mercury (equal to the weight of a feather falling in your hand) to decrease the transmission of nerve impulses by 50 percent! In other words, this study is one early example that minimal pressure on spinal nerves can have significant physiologic impact. Many current studies show a link between
the integrity of the nervous system, and the health of the organ systems of the body.
Research has shown that 10 mm of mercury of pressure (equal to a feather falling in your hand) on a spinal nerve will decrease the transmission of nerve impulses by 50% !