Protecting the Spine

Protecting the Spine | Dr. Ali Ghahary

Since 2012, World Spine Day has been recognized on every continent in the month of October and has become a major focus in helping raise awareness surrounding back pain and a wide variety of other spinal-related issues with the help of healthcare professionals, exercise and rehabilitation experts, public health advocates, schoolchildren, as well as patients. For many spinal-related problems, prevention is key, which is why a day like World Spine Day is so important.

The spine consists of 33 bones that are stacked on top of the other, along with the spinal column which is what provides your body with support and allows you to do things like stand, bend and twist, in addition to protecting your spinal cord form injury. The spinal column is divided into five separate regions consisting of the following: cervical, thoracic, lumbar, sacrum, and coccyx.

Each of these aforementioned regions have their own special functions that help your back function – for example, the main function of the cervical spine (also known as the nick) is to support the weight of your head. The first vertebra (known as C1) is what connects directly to the skull and allows for motion of the head (such as nodding), while the second vertebra (known as C2) is what allows you to move your head in a side-to-side or “no”-like motion. The thoracic spine (mid back) is made up of twelve vertebrae numbered from T1 to T12. Its main function is to hold the rib cage as well as keep your heart and lungs protected. The lumbar spine (lower back) consists of vertebrae numbered from L1 to L5, with its main function being to bear the weight of your body and absorb the stress your spine might be under from lifting or carrying objects that are heavy. The sacrum is fused together with five sacral vertebrae, forming a ring known as the pelvic girdle; its main function is to connect your spine to your hip bones. Lastly, the coccyx region, which consists of four fused bones also known as the tailbone, providing attachment for different ligaments as well as pelvic floor muscles. There are also many other parts to the spine, including intervertebral discs, spinal nerves, and more. You can learn more about the anatomy of the spine by clicking here.

The most common type of back problem that people complain of is pain, which can come in many forms including shooting or stabbing pain, muscle aches, pain that radiates down the leg, pain that worsens with activities like bending, lifting, standing and walking, as well as pain that happens to improve when in a reclined position. Among the most common conditions linked to back pain are things like osteoarthritis and osteoporosis, scoliosis, bulging or ruptured discs, as well as the very common muscle or ligament strains. One way you can help manage things like back and neck pain is with things like movement and exercise, which is why this year’s them for World Spine Day is called Get Spine Active. Whether you go swimming, walking, jogging, or to the gym, physical activity is a great way to not only relieve back and neck pain, but can also help maintain your overall health and wellbeing and give you a much better quality of life.

It is important to note that when dealing with someone who may have suffered a spinal injury, that you not only get them immediate medical help but also keep them still to prevent further injury from occurring. Signs that someone may have a serious spinal injury include loss of sensation or abnormal sensation such as tingling in the hands and/or feet, as well as impaired movement or loss of movement.