5 Facts About the Spine

Your spine is a wondrous thing. It supports your body’s weight and movement and is the superhighway where most of your nervous systems flows. Below are five little-known facts about your marvelous spine – feel free to whip one of these nuggets of knowledge out at your next cocktail party.

1. Babies have more bones than adults.

The human skeleton begins to develop 13 to 16 weeks after conception. At birth, a human has about 300 bones and cartilage elements, and many bones that will eventually fuse together are still separate, although joined by tough membranes. The malleable nature of cartilage allows for a baby’s easier passage through the birth canal. As an adult, the skull consists of 26 cranial and facial bones fused together along unmovable joints called sutures, with the exception of the mandible, or jaw, which is attached at a moveable joint. At birth, many of those bones are not yet fused and instead are joined by fibrous membranes called fontanelles. The fontanelles are the so-called “soft spot” on an infant’s head. Eventually the fontanelles close as the bones grow together.The process of changing cartilage to bone is called ossification, and begins before birth and continues into a person’s twenties. Ossification occurs when capillaries bring blood to bone-forming cells called osteoblasts. The osteoblasts then begin producing compact bone, covering the cartilage and eventually replacing it. At adulthood the average person has approximately 206 bones.

2. Your spinal cord is very light.

Your spine protects your spinal cord, which delivers messages throughout your body. The average spinal cord weighs only 1.2 ounces!

3. One of the bones in your spine was named after a Greek god.

In anatomy, the atlas (C1) is the most superior (first) cervical vertebra of the spine. It is named for the Atlas of Greek mythology, because it supports the globe of the head. The atlas is the topmost vertebra and with the axis forms the joint connecting the skull and spine. Since this area is in such close proximity to the brain, subluxations here can result in an alteration to a large variety of body functions. Much of the body’s nervous system messages flow past this point. This means that very large areas of the body are supplied by the nerves that pass through or near here. Some of the areas of nerve supply that can be affected by subluxations in the upper cervical spine include your brain, head, and face. Nervous system interference here could result in headaches, facial palsy, sinus trouble, allergies, fatigue, cross-eyes, or dizziness.

4. We have arches in our feet because of our spine.

“The foot bone’s connected to the spine bone…” Most people know the nursery rhyme sung with great hilarity as a child, for how could a bone in your toe be linked to your neck? However, in order for our spines to take the weight of our body, balance us, and allow us to walk upright, our feet have arches to help spread the burden.

5. Only humans have an S-shaped spine.

Our spines were designed to have one curve, in one upwards arch, as all primates walked on all-fours. When humans stood up for the first time around six million years ago, our spines were not used to having to bear the weight of our head and body in an upright column. To counteract this, humans evolved an ’S’ shape in the spine, with a curve backwards at the top of the thoracic region, and a subsequent curve forwards just before the lumbar.


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