Get to Know the Anatomy of Your Spine

Most people don’t think about their spines until something goes wrong with them and they find themselves facing spine surgery . Understanding the anatomy of your spine may help you better protect it from injury. Your spine surgeon serving Los Angeles can be a great source of information about your spine health, so ask him or her to explain where your spine issue originates and how it impacts the rest of your spinal structure. Here’s an overview of your spine to help you understand how it functions:

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Spinal Column
The spinal column is what most people picture when they think of the spine. It is a long, bony structure that protects the spinal cord. The spinal cord is a collection of nerves that runs from your brain, down your back, and out into your body. There are 34 bones in total in the spinal column, but when your spine surgeon talks about your spine to you, he or she will usually be referring to the 24 vertebrae. Together, the vertebrae run down the center of the back and form a double-S shape.

Vertebral Bones and Discs
Your vertebral bones have cylindrically shaped heads and an arch. They are different shapes and sizes, with larger vertebrae positioned at the bottom of the spine. The spinal cord runs between the head and the arch. Spine surgery is sometimes needed when the area between the head and arch narrows, squeezing the cord. The vertebrae are separated by spongy discs that act as cushions. Sometimes, the discs protrude from their location and push against nerves in the spine. This is called a herniated disc and can be corrected with spine surgery.

Spine Sections
The part of the spine that runs through your neck is called the cervical spine. From there, the spine curves inward through the upper portion of the back—called the thoracic spine—and then curves outward again in the lower back, or the lumbar spine. Injuries are rare in the thoracic spine. Most spine surgeries are focused on the cervical or lumbar regions.