What Stands Us Up

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So on yesterday’s Anatomy Quiz I asked you to tell me how many bones are in your spine. Perhaps more importantly, I asked you to take  some time through out your day to notice your spine:  how it moves, how it feels, any discomfort, what it looks like…  I’d really like to hear your observations.  Seriously.  Please.

So the question was a bit of a tricky one, mainly because I didn’t specify an age.  A-ha!

Are you intrigued even the slightest now?  Well, in case you actually are, I’m going to tell you that when you were born you had 32-34 vertebrae (bones) in your spine.  As an adult you have 26.  Does that sound odd?  I imagine so.  Let me back up a bit.  We were all born with 7 cervical (neck) vertebrae.  You may have heard of them referred to as C1-7.  You have 12 thoracic (chest) vertebrae:  T1-12, and 5 lumbar (lower back) vertebrae: L1-5.  These numbers are set.  The 7 cervicals connect your torso to your cranium, the 12 thoracics each articulate with a rib (or at least the cartilage  which attaches to a rib) and literally form the backbone of the structure that houses and protects your heart and lungs, and the 5 sturdy lumbar vertebrae form the foundational base of your spine.  All those vertebrae are stacked on top of each other, curving their way up the back of your torso, with a nice disc between each one for cushioning.  Your spinal cord runs from your amazing brain and down through the center of this curvy stack of strength, and your peripheral nervous system passes through these bones and feed their way to every aspect of your body, making everything you do in life possible.

But I haven’t mentioned all the vertebrae yet.  Here are the tricky two.  I mean 10.  I mean

8…  Your sacrum and your coccyx.  When you were born, your sacrum consisted of 5 bones.   Your sacrum is that inverted triangle that articulates with your lowest lumbar vertebra (L5) and your pelvis.  You may have heard of your sacroiliac joint?  Bingo.  That’s the place where your sacrum and ilium (the upper portion of your pelvis) meet.  Sometime between age 7 and puberty these 5 lumbar vertebrae fused into one.  Same thing happened with your coccyx, also frequently referred to as your “tail bone”.  This skinny little guy started out as 3, 4, or 5 separate bones.  The number differs from person to person, though 5 is the most common number.  Like the coccyx, it fused into one as your body matured.

So as an adult, you have a curvy stack of 26 bones forming your spine.  Because of the way it’s positioned with your pelvis and your cranium, it’s what keeps you upright.  Well, that and a great number of muscles all working together.  Taking care of your spine and your back is crucial to your healthy longevity.  So please, drink plenty of water.  Why?  Because your spinal discs (those cushions between each vertebra) actually absorb water each night while you rest, and that’s really important.  Good sleep and rest each night is also important, of course.  So is getting healthy nutrients from the food you eat.  Try counting nutrients, not calories and fat in the food you eat.  Stretching is also vitally healthy for your spine.  Stretching eases and prevents tension in the musculature that supports your spine.  Range of motion is key in your spine and in all the joints of your body.  So go ahead and sign up for that yoga class.  And GO to it too.  Please.  Chiropractic care and acupuncture are healthy interventions to keep your body and your back strong and healthy.  And of course my personal favorite, (drum roll please) Massage Therapy. It’s not a luxury, it’s good health care.

Your spine is a wonderful apparatus.  At least I think so.  Maybe you know a little more about it now.  Please, take good care of it.

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