The spinal column, more commonly called the backbone, is made up primarily of vertebrae, discs, and the spinal cord. Acting as a communication channel for the brain, signals are transmitted and received through the spinal cord to and fro from different body parts.
Spinal Cord & Column
The spinal column is separated into 5 specific functional areas.
Cervical / C 1-7
Thoracic / T 1 - 12
Lumbar / L 1 - 5
The spinal cord is a bundle of nerve cells and fibers wrapped together extending down from the brain stem to the lower back. The cord is protected by a kind of bone tunnel made up of vertebrae which are separated by membranes called discs. The brain sends electrical signals through the spinal cord, giving instructions to the legs, arms, and other areas of the body.
There are 33 vertebrae that make up the bone structure of the spinal column, with the last four being fused together to make the tailbone.
Each vertebrae is separated by a soft bone substance, called a disc, which acts as a cushion and a seal at the same time.
There are seven cervical bones or vertebrae. The cervical bones are designed to allow flexion, extension, bending, and turning of the head. They are smaller than the other vertebrae, which allows a greater amount of movement.
Each cervical vertebra consists of two parts, a body and a protective arch for the spinal cord called the neural arch. Fractures or injuries can occur to the body, lim pedicles, or processes. Each vertebra articulates with the one above it and the one below it.
In the chest region the thoracic spine attaches to the ribs. There are 12 vertebrae in the thoracic region. The motion that occurs in the thoracic spine is mostly rotation. The ribs prevent bending to the side. A small amount of movement occurs in bending forward and backward.
The lumbar vertebrae are large, wide, and thick. There are five vertebrae in the lumbar spine. The lowest lumbar vertebra, L5, articulates with the sacrum. The sacrum attaches to the pelvis.
The main motions of the lumbar area are bending forward and extending backwards. Bending to the side also occurs.
Just like the spinal column is divided into cervical, thoracic, and lumbar regions, so is the spinal cord. Each portion of the spinal cord is divided into specific neurological segments.
The cervical spinal cord is divided into eight levels. Each level contributes to different functions in the neck and the arms. Sensations from the body are similarly transported from the skin and other areas of the body from the neck, shoulders, and arms up to the brain.
In the thoracic region the nerves of the spinal cord supply muscles of the chest that help in breathing and coughing. This region also contains nerves in the sympathetic nervous system.
The lumbosacral spinal cord and nerve supply legs, pelvis, and bowel and bladder. Sensations from the feet, legs, pelvis, and lower abdomen are transmitted through the lumbosacral nerves and spinal cord to higher segments and eventually the brain.
There are many nerve pathways that transmit signals up and down the spinal cord. Some supply sensation from the skin and outer portions of the body. Others supply sensation from deeper structures such as the organs in the belly, the pelvis, or other areas. Other nerves transmit signals from the brain to the body. Still others work at the level of the spinal cord and act as "go betweens" in the signal transmission process.
Feelings from the body such as hot, cold, pain, and touch, are transmitted to the skin and other parts of the body to the brain where sensations are "felt". These pathways are called the sensory pathways.
Once signals enter the spinal cord, they are sent up to the brain. Different types of sensation are sent in different pathways, called "tracts".
Autonomic Nerve Pathways
Another type of special nerves are the autonomic nerves. The autonomic nerves are divided into two types: the sympathetic and parasympathetic nerves.
The autonomic nervous system influences the activities of involuntary (also known as smooth) muscles, the heart muscle, and glands that release certain hormones. It controls cardiovascular, digestive, and respiratory systems. These systems work in a generally "involuntary" fashion. The primary role of the autonomic nervous system is to maintain a stable internal environment within the body. The heart and blood vessels are controlled by the autonomic nervous system. The sympathetic nerves help to control blood pressure based on the physical demands placed on the body. It also helps to control heart rate. The sympathetic nerves, when stimulated, cause the heart to beat faster.
Back and neck pain are the most common chronic pain conditions. Back and neck pain can arise from soft tissues, bony parts of the back and neck, and joints holding the spine in alignment. It can arise directly or indirectly from the discs in the back or neck, and it can occur when nerves and nervous tissue, normally protected by the bones of the spine, are compressed by those bones.
Back pain can range from a dull, constant ache to a sudden, sharp pain that leaves the individual suffering and/or incapacitated. Back pain can be acute (immediate) or chronic (long-term). Acute back pain usually gets better on its own without treatment. However, chronic back pain may require medication and/or surgery.
Age: The first attack of low back pain typically occurs between the ages of 30-40. Back pain becomes more common with age. Aging produces wear and tear on the spine that may result in conditions (such as disc degeneration or spinal stenosis) that produce neck and back pain.
Diet: A diet high in calories and fat, especially trans-fats found in fried foods, combined with an inactive lifestyle, can lead to obesity. Obesity has been found to be a major risk factor in the development of back pain due to increased stress on the back.
Occupation: Physically demanding occupations, such as construction work and healthcare, which require repetitive bending and lifting, have a high incidence of back injury. Jobs that require long hours of standing without a break (such as hairdressing and fast food service) or sitting in a chair that does not support the back well (computer keyboard operation or writing) also put a person at risk for neck and lower back injury.
Lifestyle: Back pain is more common among people who are not physically fit. Weak back and abdominal muscles may not properly support the spine. Clinical studies report that low-impact yogic exercise is good for the discs that cushion the vertebrae.
Although smoking tobacco may not directly cause back pain, it increases the risk of developing low back pain and low back pain with sciatica. Sciatica is back pain that radiates to the hip and/or leg due to pressure on a nerve. Smoking has been reported to negatively affect bone mineral density, lumbar disk disease, the rate of hip fractures, and the rate and extent of bone and wound healing.
Poor posture, such as slouching in a chair, driving hunched over, standing incorrectly, and using poor body mechanics when lifting and carrying heavy loads, are risk factors. Sleeping on a soft or sagging mattress also can lead to back pain.
Back-Bone and Yoga
Yoga is an ancient system of relaxation, exercise, and healing with origins in Indian (Hindu) philosophy. Preliminary research reports that yoga may improve chronic low back pain in humans. Yoga helps us to maintain our healthy posture, flexibility, mobility of joints and relaxing body and mind. Our spinal work is specially designed for your back bone. Yoga emphasize on back bone for your health, well being and spiritual growth by-
· Maintaining balance of sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems (loma-viloma),
· Free flow of energy through major naris(psychic energy channels) based in spine.
· Activating and balancing psychic chakras
· Maintain mobility, strength and stamina of spine
· Allow you to sit for longer duration for Pranayama and meditation
· Keeps you away from all types of back problems and pain.
Yogic Prescription- All our spinal twists and stretches, kati-chakra-asana-series, Brahma-mudra-kriyas, triangle postures lying and standing(if you can do), aum chanting for vibrational healing, anuloma-viloma pranayamas for balancing sympathetic and parasympathetic systems, healthy life style, and balance of your energy and rest.