We like to think of the spinal cord as the central nervous system’s main highway. Vertebrae provide the structure and protection, while nerves carry messages between the brain and the rest of the body. If you’ve ever been to a chiropractor’s office, you’ve probably seen an anatomical reproduction of the spine. Each section is color coded and labeled. But did you know each of these sections serve different areas of the body? Let’s discuss.
What is Subluxation?
The term subluxation refers to the altered position of the vertebra and the functional loss that follows. If we go back to our highway analogy, subluxation is like a traffic jam. Travel from point A to point B is slow and sometimes impossible. When subluxation happens, signals between the brain and various parts of the body are weak, reduced or non-existent. Where the subluxation occurs, often determines its effect on the body, as you’ll soon discover.
The Upper Cervical Spine (Top of the Neck)
What it is: The upper cervical spine includes the first two vertebrae, otherwise known as C1 and C2. We put them in a separate category because they are quite different from the rest of the cervical vertebrae.
What it does: The upper cervical spine supports the area where the head attaches to the neck. C1 is known as the atlas vertebra because it holds the weight of the world (or in this case, the skull) like the god Atlas. C2, the vertebra just below it, is called axis because enables the head to turn.
As small as this area is, many nerves pass through this vital area. And because it is one of the most moveable parts of the spine, subluxations are a common occurrence.
What can happen: Since this area is so close to the brain, head and face, subluxations can result in reduced function, leading to headaches, nervousness, sinus trouble, facial palsy, pain around the eyes, crossed eyes, allergies, fatigue, dizziness and other conditions.
The Lower Cervical Spine (Lower Neck)
What it is: The lower cervical spine includes five vertebrae in the neck – from C3 all the way down to C7. These vertebrae all have a vertebral arch that protects the spinal cord; and a ventral body that provides protection, strength, and mobility to the spinal column and the body as a whole.
What it does: The vertebrae provide vital support and protection for the spinal cord and the rest of the body — and the nerves control much of the functions of the upper body.
What can happen: Because the nerves passing through this area support much of the body’s functions, subluxations can cause many issues, including neck pain, arm pain, numbness, stiffness, and bursitis. The throat, sinuses, thyroid, lymph nodes, diaphragm, as well as other organs and systems can also be affected.
Your Thoracic Spine (Middle Back)
What it is: The thoracic spine is the longest part of your back. It includes 12 vertebrae, from T1 to T12. Each of these vertebrae is attached to your ribs.
What it does: The vertebrae in this area protect the spinal cord and support the rib cage. The nerves that exit this area go to the muscles and many internal organs.
What can happen: Misalignments in the thoracic spine often cause symptoms that can be identified and treated right away. However in some cases, these misalignments are causing damage to internal organs, causing health problems that often go unnoticed.
Conditions include those related to parts of the arm, hands and fingers, as well as muscles in the middle back, chest muscles and muscles of the rib cage. Many patients experience pain or numbness in these areas. However, more worrisome, are the effects subluxations have on the internal organs supplied by the nerves of the thoracic spine: the lungs, heart, gallbladder, bronchial tubes, liver, pancreas, stomach, spleen, adrenal glands, kidneys, and small intestines. When signals to these vital organs are weakened or reduced, it can result in asthma, certain heart conditions, bronchitis, high blood pressure, ulcers, allergies, kidney issues, digestive problems and more.
Your Lumbar Spine (Lower Back)
What it is: The lumbar spine is the strongest portion of the spinal cord. It consists of five large vertebrae, from L1 to L5, which get support from some of the body’s biggest muscles.
What it does: This area of the spine supports large muscle groups and joints in the lower extremities. Nerves exiting this area control the appendix, intestines, reproductive organs, bladder, prostate and more.
What can happen: Subluxations in this area cause lower back pain of course, but they are also responsible for sciatic nerve pain, muscle spasms, and weakness, numbness in the back and legs, scoliosis, joint problems, constipation, cramps, menstrual problems, infertility, urination problems, bladder problems and more.
Your Sacrum and Coccyx (Tailbone)
What it is: The sacrum and coccyx make up the tailbone. A child’s sacrum consists of five bones, and the coccyx is made up of three to five. When we become adults, these smaller bones fuse together, creating two solid bones: one sacrum and one coccyx.
What it does: The nerves from these areas supply muscles of the hip, buttocks, leg and thigh, as well as the rectum and certain pelvic tissues. Additionally, the sacrum forms joints with the pelvis and helps stabilize the pelvic girdle.
What can happen: Subluxations that occur near the sacrum and coccyx can cause sacroiliac instability, scoliosis, hemorrhoids, and pain while sitting.
After reading these, we hope you’ll walk away with a better understanding of why we are so focused on the spine. It provides support for the body and connects to vital nerves that send information to and from the brain. When subluxations disrupt this passage of information, certain conditions can occur. However, when chiropractors align your spine through chiropractic adjustments, your health often improves. We hope you take this information to heart, and as always, if you have any questions or if you’d like to schedule a consultation, we’re here to help.
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.