What’s my favorite part of the human body? I’ll give you one guess. Okay, you got me — it’s the spine. I guess you could say that’s one of the reasons I’m in this business. After all, the spine is pretty amazing. It supports the entire body and makes simple actions like standing up straight, bending and twisting look like child’s play. It also protects the spinal cord – that great connector between the brain and the rest of the body. Think you know a lot about the spine? Check out these fun facts:
- The spine has over 120 muscles, 220 ligaments, and 100 joints.
- The spine gets its strength primarily from two minerals — calcium and phosphate. These minerals become depleted individuals who lead an inactive lifestyle. Weight-bearing activities, like strength training, keep these bones strong.
- We are born with 33 vertebrae: seven in the neck (cervical vertebrae), 12 in the rib cage (thoracic vertebrae), five in the lower back (lumbar vertebrae), five in the sacrum and 4 in the tailbone (coccygeal vertebrae).
- As we age, the five vertebrae of the sacrum become one bone, and the four coccygeal vertebrae fuse together to form the tailbone.
- The first vertebra in the cervical spine, which makes up the neck, is called the atlas, for the Greek god who was condemned to hold up the sky for all eternity. However, Atlas (the god) is often depicted holding up a sphere or globe on his shoulders. The atlas vertebra also holds a sphere on its shoulders, if you consider that globe on top of your head.
- It would take a force greater than 3,000 newtons to fracture the cervical spine. That’s equivalent to the impact created by a 500-pound car crashing into a wall at 30 miles per hour.
- Looking down at your smartphone can put up to 60 pounds of pressure on your spine, depending on the angle, according to a 2014 study. 60 pounds is roughly the weight of an eight-year-old child.
- As humans get older, gravity tends to have its way with us. Our spine becomes more compressed over time, making us shorter. However, astronauts who spend extended periods of time in space (in zero gravity), actually become slightly taller.
- Each section of bone that makes up the spine has a passage that forms a tunnel for the spinal cord. These bones, and the disks between them, are the spinal cord’s first line of defense.
- Humans and giraffes have the name number of cervical vertebrae in the neck – seven. Unlike humans, the giraffe’s cervical vertebrae are joined together by ball-and-socket joints – this gives the giraffe greater range of motion.
- Between each vertebra in the spine is an intervertebral disk. These disks give the neck more flexibility, acting like cushions between the bones and absorbing most of the shock while we walk, run, or sit.
- Strengthening the muscles that support your spine can help relieve chronic stiffness and back pain.
- The average spinal cord weighs 35 grams. The average length of a woman’s spinal cord is 43 centimeters — the average for men is 45 centimeters.
Now that you know more about the spine, I would challenge you to get to know yours a little better. To pay attention to the things that can do it harm – car accidents, sports injuries, and yes – birthdays. As we age and continue to go about our daily activities, disks can slip, and vertebrae can become misaligned — and these can lead to everyone’s worst enemy – pain. So, eat healthy, exercise, and see your chiropractor — together we can ensure that your spine will give you the support you need for years to come.
About The Author
Dr. Marc Browner is the founder of iChiropractic and Wellness in Naples, Florida. A graduate of the University of Florida in 1991, he earned his Doctor of Chiropractic degree from Life Chiropractic in 1995. In private practice since 1998, Dr. Browner is a member of the Florida Chiropractic Society, the Florida Chiropractic Association, and he attends continuing education seminars, classes, and workshops to remain abreast of the most current treatment methods and technological advances in the field.