Your spine affects your life in more ways than you may think. Because your spine is interconnected with other body systems, it is important that you protect your spine and prevent spinal injury. To help you best maintain proper spinal care, this guide utilizes knowledge from experienced spine surgeons to break down the spinal anatomy and potential complications.
There are three major components of the spinal column: the cervical spine, the thoracic spine, and the lumbar spine. Each level of your spine has different issues.
Beginning at the base of the skull, through the neck, to the upper back, the cervical spine is comprised of seven vertebrae. Oftentimes, acute neck pain is caused by a strain to muscles or ligaments in the neck. With time, these injuries heal. Nonsurgical treatments such as applying heat and ice or medication can relieve pain.
However, if you experience neck pain that persists beyond two weeks or develop feelings of numbness or tingling in your arms (known as radiating pain), there may be a spinal issue. Common problems include a herniated disc, degenerative disc disease, and osteoarthritis.
The thoracic spine is comprised of twelve vertebrae in the upper and middle back. At each level of the thoracic spine, there is an attachment to the rib cage providing stability and structural support. Because there is limited mobility, thoracic spine injuries are uncommon.
Nonetheless, muscle inflammation and joint dysfunction in the middle back area can be very uncomfortable.
Between the rib cage and the pelvis, there are five vertebrae that make up the lumbar spine. Because the lower back carries the greatest load and has the least structural support, it is the site of most spinal injuries. Muscle strain in the lower back is not a serious injury, but the pain can be excruciating. Lower back problems such as a herniated disc can result in sciatica (radiating pain into the leg). If lower back pain persists for several weeks or you experience radiating symptoms, there may be a spinal injury.