The Spinal Column

Chiropractors are often called "back doctors". Actually, they have nothing to do with the back itself! They work on the spinal column -- one of the most important and complex components of the human nervous system.

Protecting the Spinal Cord
It's clear that the brain and spinal cord are critical to the survival and health of the individual. Protecting them is absolutely vital. That's why the brain is encased in a "shell" of solid bone called the skull. But what about the spinal cord? How does the body protect it? Obviously, a solid shell wouldn't work. We wouldn't be able to bend, and the individual nerves wouldn't be able to branch out to other parts of the body. The answer is the spinal column.

The spinal column is an elaborate "tunnel" of small, interlocking bones slightly curved in the shape of the letter "S". It's flexible enough to allow the body to twist and bend, but sturdy enough to protect the spinal cord.

The spinal column is made up of three sections of vertebrae: the cervical, thoracic, and lumbar. The cervical spine is what most people call their neck. There are seven vertebrae here, labeled C1 through C7. The first, C1, is also known as the Atlas. The second, C2, is sometimes called the Axis. The thoracic spine is located in the middle of the back and is made up of 12 vertebrae. Just below is the lumbar spine with its 5 vertebrae. At the end of the spinal column are two sets of fused vertebrae called the sacrum and the coccyx, or tailbone. The vertebrae are separated and cushioned by thin pads of tough, resilient fiber known as inter-vertebral discs. There is a small opening between each vertebra. Through this opening, nerves branch off and travel to different parts of the body. When the vertebrae are in their proper positions, the nerves pass through without a problem. Impulses race along the nerve fibers to and from the brain relaying information and instructions without interference. When a vertebra is jarred out of its proper alignment, however, the messages are distorted. The body can no longer function at 100% of its capacity. That's where chiropractic comes in. Copyright The World Chiropractic Alliance. All rights reserved.

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