Chances are you’ve never stopped to think about how amazing your spine is. It’s easy to take it for granted, until something goes wrong and you suffer back pain.
The spine has three important functions:
To support the weight of your body
To provide flexibility for movement,
And to protect nerve roots and fibres and form a protective surrounding for the spinal cord.
We believe the spine is a fascinating and very complex structure and one that deserves celebrating. In this week’s blog post we’ve gathered together 10 fascinating spine facts in celebration of our brilliant back bones:
At birth the spine is made up of 33 bones called vertebrae. In a newborn baby the vertebrae begin as cartilage, and usually only become fully made up of bone (a process called ‘ossification’) by the time we’re around 25 years old?! It’s also normal for adults to have only 26 vertebrae since some fuse together as we grow.
The spine usually consists of seven bones in the neck, 12 in the upper back and five in the lower back, and the sacral and coccygeal bones beneath. Each and every bone is unique.
Humans and giraffes have exactly the same number of bones in the neck – seven. Bet you thought a giraffe would have more! This demonstrates the flexibility and versatility of a giraffe’s spinal structure.
The spine contains over 120 muscles, around 220 individual ligaments and 100 joints.
The spinal cord weighs around 35 grams.
The length of the spinal column in the average man is 70cm, and in the average woman it’s 60cm.
The spinal cord is part of the central nervous system and is contained inside the spine. The rope-like cord ends two thirds of the way down the back. Below that it is medically known as the ‘cauda equina’ which means ‘horse’s tail’, so named because the strands of nerves inside the spine look like… you guessed it: a horse’s tail!
The highest bone in the neck is the ‘atlas’ and is named after the Titan god Atlas. He was charged with holding up the sky – our humble neck bone was thought to hold up our whole head, and so aptly named.
Cartilage is capable of expanding and contracting. In zero gravity environments, for example in space, astronauts can return to earth taller than when they left due to the expansion effect. Oppositely, gravity’s pull on our bodies over the years shrinks our cartilage, causing us to decrease in height as we age.
Your spine carries more than a million electrical nerve messages between your brain and your body every single day.
Now you’ve got a better appreciation of how complex and wonderful your spine is, how about taking care of it better?