The Nervous System
Your brain takes in millions of bits of information about what is going on around you every moment. It processes this information and sends out millions of commands, such as how fast your heart should beat, how your blood chemistry should balance, what your blood pressure should be, how to throw a football, how to back cookies and what kind of coat to wear. It is because of your brain that you can remember millions of memories and can express feelings, moods, emotions and inspirations.
Your spinal cord emerges from your brain like a cable made up of billions of nerve “wires” that run down your back. Originating from the spinal cord and some parts of the brain are millions of nerve fibers spread throughout your body. They are so numerous that if all your skin, bones, muscles, blood vessels and organs were to vanish with only the nerves remaining your shape would still be recognizable!
Damage to the brain or spinal cord could last forever. For example, if a baby is born with brain damage it doesn’t heal as they become an adult. A stroke victim who suffers brain damage may never recover some abilities. If some healing does occur, it is not from the growing of new nerves, but from old nerves learning to take over the functions of the damaged nerves.
To protect the delicate brain and spinal cord, nature covers them in bone. Your brain is completely surrounded by your skull and your spinal cord is surrounded by 33 bones called vertebrae (your spinal column). Through the middle of the vertebrae is an open canal containing the spinal cord.
Your Spinal Column
The ancient Greeks noticed ‘bumps’ down the center of the back and thought they resembled thorns. The name “spina” was given to these bumps; Greek for thorn. The vertebrae are named from the Latin word “vertere” meaning to turn. Your vertebral column (spinal column) is the term used to describe your entire “back bone”.
Your spinal column is divided into 5 seconds of vertebrae:
Cervical Spine (Neck)
Directly beneath your skull is your first cervical vertebra or the atlas becomes it holds the globe of the skull just as the mythological god Atlas held up the globe of the Earth. The second cervical vertebra is called the axis because it permits the head turning, especially tilting. The seven cervical vertebrae also have numerical names: the atlas is C-1, the axis is C-2, and the rest C-3 to C-7.
Thoracic Spine (Chest)
The 12 thoracic vertebrae are named T-1 to T-12. The ribs are connected to these vertebrae in the back and attach in the front to the sternum or breastbone.
The Lumbar Spine (Lower back)
The 5 lumbar vertebrae L-1 to L-5 are the biggest, thickest and most massive of all the vertebrae as, being at the bottom of the spine, they have the most weight to hold. This is one reason why lower back pain is very common.
Under the lumbar vertebrae is the sacrum, a triangular-shaped bone made up of five fused vertebrae. The sacrum connects to the hips on either side.
The Coccyx (Tailbone)
The end of the spin is a small bone made of four fused vertebrae. The name is derived from the Greek word “kokkyx” (cuckoo) because early anatomists thought is resembled the beak of a cuckoo. In reality it is what is left of the human tailbone.
Between most of your vertebrae are pads called discs that act as cushions or shock absorbers so your vertebrae won’t hit each other while you walk, bend and run.
Your spinal column has four main functions:
- To protect your brain and spinal cord.
- To support your hips, legs, shoulders and arms.
- To serve as attachments to muscles and permit us to stand and move.
- To support your head and ribs.
Occasionally your spinal column becomes unbalanced. When this occurs it may put stress on your bones, spinal cord, brain and other nerves causing pain, fatigue, weakness and dis-ease. Your Chiropractor is able to locate this unbalance (called vertebral subluxation complex) and will gently realign your spinal column to remove stress from your nerves and bones, thus helping to restore health and wholeness to your body.
See your Chiropractor regularly to have your spinal balance checked. Your body will thank you for it.