Spine: Anatomy, Common Disorders, Symptoms and Recommendations

Also called spine is composed of 33 interlaced bones called vertebrae.

These vertebrae are separated by soft and compressible discs, supported by many different ligaments and muscles.

Anatomy of the spine

It is divided into five segments: cervical (neck), thoracic (upper and middle part of the back), lumbar (lower part of the back), sacrum (pelvis) and coccyx (coccyx). In each segment, the vertebrae are numbered from top to bottom.

For example, a C3 is the third vertebra in the neck area, while a T6 is the sixth vertebra in the thoracic area.

The vertebrae in the column usually form three curves. These curves allow the column to absorb the impacts while you move.

The spinal cord and spine are divided into 4 regions from top to bottom: cervical, thoracic, lumbar and sacral. Damage to the nerves in the spinal cord can cause many health conditions, depending on the affected region.

The spinal cord is part of the central nervous system. It transmits sensations to the brain and allows the brain to control the movements and function of internal organs. The spinal cord is composed of bundles of nerves and nerve cells. The spinal cord carries signals from your body to your brain, and vice versa.

The spinal cord is tube-shaped and extends from the brain to the upper part of the lumbar spine, or the lower region of the spine. The branching of the spinal cord are small nerves called nerve roots.

These roots leave small spaces between the bones (vertebrae) that surround the spinal cord and run to different parts of the body.

The entire spinal cord is surrounded by a fluid called cerebrospinal fluid or CSF. CSF protects the spinal cord from injury. The spinal cord is also protected by 3 layers of covers called meninges: the dura mater, the arachnoid and the pia mater.

Cervical region

This portion of the spinal cord contains nerve roots that connect to the upper body, arms and hands. Between the vertebrae in the spine there are spongy cushions called intervertebral discs.

If the discs collapse, they can squeeze (pinch) the nerves of the cervical spine. This can lead to a condition called cervical radiculopathy. This condition can cause pain, weakness or numbness in the arms.

If the cervical region is severely injured, most of the body can be paralyzed (tetraplegia). Serious injuries can occur due to a fall or certain health conditions.

These conditions include a herniated disc . This is when the spongy cushion slides, pressing against the nearby nerves. Another condition is spinal stenosis, where the spinal canal narrows and tightens the nerves.

Thoracic region

The nerve roots in the thoracic spinal cord go to the chest and stomach and control movement in those parts of the body. Severe injuries to the thoracic region of the spinal cord can cause paraplegia. This is paralysis of the lower part of the body.

Lumbar region

The lumbar spinal cord is the lower area of ​​the back. The nerve roots that come from the spinal cord in the lumbar spine control the legs.

The lumbar region is where the spinal cord ends (the spinal cord is shorter than the spinal cord). The lumbar spinal cord continues as a bundle of nerve roots in the lower back.

An intervertebral disc in the lumbar spine can herniate or move within the space containing a nerve root. This can cause low back pain or pain in the lower extremities (lumbar radiculopathy).

In severe cases, it can cause horsetail syndrome. This is a serious condition that compresses sacral nerve roots. This causes inability to empty the bladder (urinary retention), constipation, loss of sensation in the groin and weakness or paralysis of the legs or feet.

Sacred region

The lowest part of the spinal cord contains 5 pairs of nerves. These control the thighs, the lower part of the legs and the genital and anal areas.

The sacral nerve injury can occur from the upper part of the lumbar spine to the sacrum. This can cause low back pain, urinary incontinence or retention, loss of sensation in the foot and even sexual dysfunction .

Common disorders of the spine

There are many conditions that affect the spine that require clinical attention from a doctor or other health professional. Listed in the directory below are some, for which we have provided a brief description.

  • Arthritis .
  • Ankylosing spondylitis.
  • Necrosis avascular.
  • Bursitis.
  • Hip problems
  • Hip replacement surgery.
  • Cifosis.
  • Low back pain
  • Neck problems
  • Stiff neck.
  • Whiplash injury.
  • Osteoporosis.
  • Pelvic problems
  • Sciatica.
  • Scoliosis.
  • Shoulder problems

General description of associated shoulder problems:

  • Dislocation of the shoulder.
  • Shoulder tendinitis.
  • Rotator cuff injury.
  • Soft tissue injuries.

Typical anatomical problems that cause back pain

Many of the intricate structures of the spine can cause pain and pain can be concentrated in the neck or back and / or radiating to the extremities or to other parts of the body. For example:

  • Large nerve roots that go to the legs and arms can become irritated or pinched.
  • Smaller nerves that innervate the spine may be irritated due to inflammation or degeneration.
  • The large pairs of muscles of the back (erector of the spine) may be tense due to overuse or injury.
  • Bones, ligaments or joints may be injured.
  • The disc space between the vertebrae can become painful.
  • Any of the various joint complexes in the spine can degenerate and cause pain.

What is the compression of the spinal cord ?

The compression of the spinal cord is caused by any condition that puts pressure on your spinal cord. Your spinal cord is the set of nerves that carries messages from your brain to your muscles and other soft tissues.

As your spinal cord travels down your back, it is protected by a pile of vertebral structures called vertebrae. They also keep your body upright. The nerves of your spinal cord pass through the openings between the vertebrae and into your muscles.

Causes of compression of the spinal cord

One of the most common causes of spinal cord compression is gradual wear of the bones of the spine, known as osteoarthritis . People who develop spinal cord compression for this reason are usually more than 50 years old.

Other conditions that can cause compression of the spinal cord can develop more quickly, even very suddenly, and can occur at any age:

  • Abnormal alignment of the spine (scoliosis).
  • Injury to the spine.
  • Spinal tumor
  • Certain bone diseases
  • Rheumatoid arthritis .
  • Infection.

What are the symptoms of spinal cord compression?

Symptoms of spinal cord compression may develop rapidly or slowly, depending on the cause. Injuries can cause immediate symptoms. Tumors or infections can cause symptoms that develop over days or weeks. The wear and tear of the spine can take years to cause symptoms.

These are common symptoms:

  • Pain and stiffness in the neck, back or lower back.
  • Burning pain that extends to the arms, buttocks or legs (sciatica).
  • Numbness, cramping or weakness in the arms, hands or legs.
  • Loss of sensation in the feet.
  • Problems with hand coordination.
  • “Foot drop”, weakness in a foot that causes lameness.
  • Loss of sexual capacity.

Pressure on the nerves in the lower back (lumbar area) can also cause more severe symptoms, known as horsetail syndrome. If you have any of these symptoms, you should get medical attention immediately, usually in the emergency room:

  • Loss of control of the bowel or bladder.
  • Severe or growing numbness between the legs, the inner part of the thighs and the back of the legs.
  • Severe pain and weakness that extends to one or both legs, which makes it difficult to walk or get out of a chair.

Keep your column healthy

Some spinal cord injuries can not always be avoided, such as those caused by car accidents. But you can take many steps to preserve the health of your spine and the nerves of the spinal cord within it.

Injuries from automobile accidents can be reduced by properly using safety belts and airbags.

It is suggested to maintain or reach a healthy weight because excess weight can generate unnecessary stress on the back. It is also important to maintain a good posture, stretch and participate in physical activities that strengthen the muscles of the back.

To strengthen the bones of your spine and protect your spinal cord, a diet rich in vitamin D is also essential. Finally, know your limits and avoid picking up items that are too heavy to lift safely.