About the Spine

The spine, also known as the spinal column, vertebral column or back bone, is a column of bones that runs from the base of the skull to the bottom of the back.
In the spine of an adult there are 26 bones, comprising of 24 separate vertebrae interspaced with cartilage, the sacrum (base bone) and the coccyx (tail bone). This differs in those who are pre-adolescent. Prior to adolescence the spine is made up of 33 bones, this is because the sacrum’s five bones and the coccyx’s four bones do not fuse together until adolescence.
The vertebrae are named by the first letter of their region, which can be cervical, thoracic or lumbar. They are then given a number which indicates their position along the spine, for example the fifth lumbar vertebrae would be identified as L5.

They are separated by thin layers of cartilage, known as intervertebral discs.
The vertebrae align so that the vertebral canals form a hollow, bony tube through which the spinal cord runs. This protects the spinal cord from external damage and infection.

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  • The Five Spine Regions
  • What is the spinal cord?
  • Facts & Figures about Spinal Injury
  • The Five Spine Regions

    There are five main regions to the spine;

    1. Cervical – the seven vertebrae in the neck make up the cervical region of the spine. This is the thinnest and most delicate part of the spine but allows great flexibility to the neck. The C1 vertebra supports the skull, it is named the “atlas”. When moving up and down the skull pivots on the atlas. The C2 vertebra, also known as the “axis” allows the skull and atlas to rotate to the left and right.

    2. Thoracic – refers to the twelve vertebrae in the chest region. They are larger and stronger than the cervical vertebrae, and are a lot less flexible. Each thoracic vertebrae form joints with a pair of ribs to form the rib cage, protecting the organs in the chest.

    3. Lumbar – defines the five vertebrae in the lower back. These vertebrae are larger and stronger than the thoracic vertebrae, however, because they are not joined to the ribs they are a lot more flexible. The entire upper body bears down on the lumbar region which in turn leads to many back problems.

    4. Sacral – this region contains the sacrum, a single bone in the adult skeleton that is formed by the fusion of five smaller vertebrae during adolescence. It is a flat, triangular shaped bone situated in the lower back, wedged between the two hip bones.

    5. Coccygeal – the coccygeal region contains the coccyx, a single bone in the adult skeleton, formed by the fusion of four small bones during adolescence. It is often referred to as the tail bone. When a person sits down it is the coccyx that bears the weight. The coccyx also provides attachment points for muscles of the pelvic and gluteal regions. Whilst most people’s coccyx is made up of four fused vertebrae others may be made up of as little as three or as many as five. This does not affect the way in which the body functions.

  • What is the spinal cord?

    The spinal cord is a long bundle of nerves that connects the brain to the rest of the body. It is approximately 18 inches long, extending from the brain to the lower back.

    Information from the senses travels through the nerves to the spinal cord and then to the brain for processing and commands travel from the brain through the nerves to different parts of the body.

    In essence the spinal cord is like the M1 motorway, everything is connected to it. The A roads are akin to the central nervous system while the B roads that connect to the A roads are the peripheral nervous system. All nerves lead back to the spinal cord, as all roads lead back to the M1.

  • Facts & Figures about Spinal Injury

    • Each day in the UK 2-3 people become paralysed as a result of spinal cord injury
    • There are an estimated 40,000 people in the UK living with a spinal cord injury
    • Approximately 80% of those living with a SCI are male
    • Highest rate of injury occurs in those aged between 15 – 38
    • The most common causes of spinal cord injuries are;spinal-graph1
    • Types of injury sustained as a result of a spinal cord injury;