The Spine Can't Live without It

Editor's Note: When you see these three dots surrounded by a gray rectangle — 1 — you can click on it to get further information about the topic. Click a second time, and the message goes away.

This article was edited and updated on December 2, 2015.

The Spine

There are 33 vertebrae in the spine, divided into five sections.

The spine (or vertebral column) extends from the skull to the pelvis. It has two very important jobs: to support the weight of the body and to protect the spinal cord and nerves.

The spine is formed by thirty-three individual vertebrae and is divided into five sections:

The vertebrae of the sacrum and coccyx fuse in adulthood.

The total length of the spinal column in an adult is approximately 70-72 cm.

Injury and Treatment Options to the Bones of the Spine

The vertebrae can break, just like any other bone.

Fractures are usually due to specific health conditions such as osteoporosis (a condition which weakens the bones) — or from injury (a hard fall, for instance, or excessive pressure placed on the spine.)

When a bone in the spine collapses, it is called a vertebral compression fracture.

Treatment will vary, depending on the condition that caused the problem in the first place and the severity of the injury. Some possible treatments may include:

Most compression fractures due to injury heal in 8 to 10 weeks with proper rest, wearing of a brace, and/or the use of pain medicines. However, recovery can take much longer if surgery was done.

Having good posture will help your spine.

As we age, back problems can become very real and very serious — even incapacitating. When you are young, you don't think about what might happen to your back. But taking care of it when you're young will help avoid some problems later.

There are some simple things you can do to help your spine stay healthy:

Spinal Cord Injuries and Treatments

Spinal cord injuries occur usually from physical trauma — anything from car accidents to a fall or sports injuries. However, some people don't realize that it can also result from infection, insuffucient blood flow, or pressure from a tumor.

As a result of the injury, normal function of the spine is usually impaired, either temporarily or permanently. These injuries are described at various levels of disability — from incomplete to a total loss of sensation and function.

Most people know immediately after a fall or accident that they have hurt their spine, although symptoms vary. The prognosis depends on the location and severity of the damage along the spinal cord. Full recovery can occur, but it can lead to permanent quadriplegia in injuries at the level of the neck, and paraplegia in lower injuries.

Treatment begins with stabilizing the spine and controlling inflammation to prevent further damage. Other treatments can include:

Sometimes bed rest is the best cure.

In addition, complications can occur after the injury, even during treatment:

Keeping the Spine Strong

There are some specific exercises that may help to strengthen your spine. Always talk to your doctor before trying any new exercise or stretch. Make sure it is all right for you to do it.

Here are two exercises for the neck which are recommended by the National Osteoporosis Foundation:

Take care of your spine and you'll be a content walker!

There are other activities that you can do to help strengthen your spine. They include:

A final word of caution about exercising your spine:

Other articles about bones:

Other related articles:

I am a BCRPA-certified fitness instructor in Vancouver, BC. I teach four classes at the West End Community Centre in Vancouver, BC, mostly designed for the older adult. The Inevitable Disclaimer: Everything published here expresses only my opinion, based on my training and research. What you do with the information is entirely your own responsibility. I am not liable for any injury you suffer that seems to be related to anything you read here. Always consult your doctor before beginning an exercise program. For other articles, return to the table of contents.

★ ★ ★

  1. These three dots behave exactly like a footnote. Click on them and you will get more information about the topic.