The Structure of the Spine and the Muscles That Protect It [Video]

Ask the Expert | Spine

Video Transcription:

As far as structures of the body, the spine is a very complex structure. There are seven cervical vertebrae, there’re 12 thoracic vertebrae and five lumbar vertebrae, all above the sacral. And they all represent a unique structural component of the spine. Now, that’s just referring to the bony anatomy in the front. There’s also intervertebral discs, which are a shock-absorbing component of the spine. And then in the back or the posterior aspect of the spine, there’s also facet joints, the spinous process, and the transverse processes, which all have their own unique anatomical functions. These bony structures actually end up surrounding the spinal cord and later the spinal nerve roots as they travel down the length of the spine, and they offer a form of protection to the nerve roots. But they also offer a unique motion in conjunction with the muscles. We have moving segments on the cervical spine and then moving segments on the lower back. The thoracic spine is quite stable and stiff due to our rib cage, which protects our internal organs. So usually, when we have neck pain and back pain, it’s on that mobile segments of the spine. On each level of the vertebras, we have nerve roots exiting, which conduct pain and sensory information to our extremities. So that is the reason why sometimes we have arm pain, and it’s actually coming from our neck, and it’s not intrinsic to the hand.

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  • Trevor Wahlquist MD

    Trevor Wahlquist, M.D.

    “Ensuring people are living healthy and active lifestyles is important to me. I strive to work together with patients to find non-operative and operative solutions for their pain, getting them back to the activities and the people that matter most to them.”

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  • Roman G. Guerrero, M.D.

    “Pain arising from the spine can have a wide presentation, sometimes is back or neck pain and on occasions it exhibits as referred pain to the arms and legs.  I believe in treating a patient and not its symptoms; individual circumstances needs empathetic, evidence based specialized care.”

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