Spine Anatomy

Hi, I'm Doctor Jo, a Physical Therapist and Doctor of Physical Therapy. I hope you enjoy my video demos of stretches & exercises for common injuries and syndromes. Be safe. Have fun. And I hope you feel better soon.

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This spine anatomy video will show you what your spine looks like on the inside and how it can degenerate over time.. The spine is divided into the cervical, thoracic, lumbar, sacrum, and coccyx region. There are 33 bones that interlock together to make the spinal column. Most back pain comes from the lumbar region.

To start off with, I will show you what a healthy segment looks like.

Each vertebra has a main body and processes coming from it. The discs in between act like a cushion to protect our spine and prevent the bones from rubbing together. The center of the disc is called the nucleus pulposus (NP), and it is a gel-filled like fluid. This area can become herniated, and start pressing on the nerves. The main bone in the back is called the spinous process. The spinal cord comes down the middle and is protected by the vertebra. The peripheral nerves go out the sides into your limbs. The little bumps on the nerves are called the nerve roots. When the spine is healthy, the bone is smooth, and there is a lot of space for the nerves to pass through without being pressed on.

As we age, our spine starts to slowly degenerate. You can see there are some changes where there is a herniation. It is just a bulge at this point, and most of the time doesn’t cause constant symptoms. Sometimes if you bend over, or twist the right way, you might get a grabbing kind of pain. The bone becomes less smooth and the discs spaces are getting smaller.

Then as the spine degenerates more, or maybe we have a significant injury, the NP ruptures out into the spinal canal. This is when you start feeling numbness, tingling, pins and needles, or the feeling like your leg or arm is falling asleep. The reason this is something to be concerned about is because when the nerve is getting pressed on, the signal from your brain to your limb is not as strong. So when your brain tells you to lift up your toes when you walk, it is a delayed message, and sometimes this is when people trip, stumble, or even fall. You can also see that some bone spurs are starting to form, and the spaces are getting narrower. This can cause spinal stenosis and pinched nerves.

The final stage is severe degeneration, or osteoporosis. There is no more NP because it has herniated all the way out, or dried up, and is no longer making a good cushion for the spine. There are bone spurs all over, and the bone is uneven. The spaces are very narrow because there is barely any space left. Then there are a whole lot of issues because the nerves become very compromised.

The good news is you don’t have to just sit down and give up. Talking with your doctor or physical therapist is important because there are ways to help slow this process and get you feeling better.

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