The Normal SpineThe spinal column extends from the skull to the pelvis. There are thirty-three individual spinal vertebrae which are stacked in a column separated by the intervertebral discs which act as shock absorbers. The vertebrae are also linked posteriorly (at the back) by facet joints and strong ligaments. The muscles which attach to the spine do so in the front and back and provide flexibility and movement to the spine.
The spinal cord and nerves allow the passage of messages from the brain to areas of the body including the muscles and skin of the arms and legs as well as trunk and control bladder and bowel function.
At the back of the vertebral body there is a hole called the spinal canal where the spinal cord and nerves travel which is then protected by a further layer of bone at the back called the lamina.
In the frontal plain the spine is straight but on side profile there are four gentle curves, namely in the cervical (neck), thoracic (chest), lumbar (lower back) and the pelvis including the coccyx. These curves are harmonious and can vary in different individuals but if the spine is balanced then the head sits above the pelvis.
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