Posted by JR Olson | Posted in Health And Fitness, Reference And Education | Posted on 07-07-2015
The human spinal cord is a wonder of nature. Consisting of 33 bones and 31 pairs of nerves, the spinal column is the link between the body and the brain. The spinal cord, along with the brain, forms the central nervous system. If the brain is the command center, the spinal cord is the pathway for the brain’s messages to the body as well as the road for the body’s messages to the brain. The following is a glimpse into the human spinal cord.
The Bones of the Spinal Cord
The spinal cord is 15 to 20 inches long and approximately one half of an inch in diameter, consisting of 31 bones, known as vertebrae. The vertebrae are classified into five different groups: the seven cervical vertebrae are found in the neck, 12 thoracic vertebrae comprise both the upper and middle back, five lumbar vertebrae form the lower back, and two vertebrae, which are fused together, are the coccygeal vertebrae. Also known as atlas, the first cervical vertebra derives its name from Atlas of Greek mythology. Just as the Greek titan supported the Earth on his shoulders, the atlas in the spinal cord supports the skull.
Nerves of the Spinal Cord
Enclosed within the vertebrae of the spinal cord are millions of nerves. These nerves combine to form 31 pairs of spinal nerves. Just as with the bones of the spinal cord, the spinal nerves are also classified by their location. The four main sections are the cervical, thoracic, lumbar, and sacral nerves. The cervical nerves control movement and feeling to the upper body, arms, neck, and they are responsible for controlling respiration. The thoracic nerves, located in the upper back, control the body core and the abdomen, and both the lumbar and sacral nerves control the legs, sexual organs, bowels, and bladder. The spinal nerves are insulated by cerebral spinal fluid, which protects them from impact.
Spinal nerves that carry messages from the brain to the body’s muscles are referred to as motor neurons, while nerves that carry messages from the body back to the brain are named sensory neurons. Sensory neurons give the brain information regarding skin temperature, pain, touch, and the position of the joints. Other neurons control digestion, body temperature, heart rate, urination, and blood pressure.
Injuries to the Spinal Cord
Within the United States, approximately 12,000-20,000 people experience a spinal cord injury each year, of which 25 percent will be alcohol related. When an injury to the spinal cord is located below the neck level, paralysis below the waist, known as paraplegia, may occur. Injuries located at or above neck level may lead to quadriplegia, paralysis of body functioning from neck down.
The demographics for spinal cord injury fall heavily on white males who are thirty years old or younger. Males comprise 80 percent of spinal cord injuries, while 50 to 70 percent of spinal cord injuries occur between the ages of 15 and 35. Forty-six percent of spinal cord injuries occur in car accidents, 22 percent are from falls, 16 percent are the result of violence, and 12 percent are from sports.
Eric Furlong is a freelance writer based in Bellingham, WA. The spine is a fascinating anatomical item, and something which should be take care of very well; for assistance toward this end Eric recommends that readers take a look at the services offered from Gulf Coast Spine Care.