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Anatomy Of Spine

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Spinal Anatomy and Back Pain


Spinal anatomy is a remarkable combination of strong bones, flexible ligaments and tendons, large muscles and highly sensitive nerves. It is designed to be incredibly strong, protecting the highly sensitive nerve roots, yet highly flexible, providing for mobility on many different planes. Most of us take this juxtaposition of strength, structure and flexibility for granted in our everyday lives-until something goes wrong. Once we're in pain, we're driven to know what's wrong and what it will take to relieve the pain and prevent a recurrence.

Spine Treatment India, India Spine Anatomy, Spine  India Spine Anatomy, Spine


Many different structures in the spine are capable of producing back pain or neck pain, including : -


  • The large nerve roots that go to the legs and arms may be irritated
  • The smaller nerves that innervate the spine may be irritated
  • The large paired back muscles (erector spinae) may be strained
  • The bones, ligaments or joints themselves may be injured
  • The disc space itself can be a source of pain

Therefore, a review of spinal anatomy is important to understand the causes of back pain, neck pain and sciatica (leg pain) and evaluate treatment options.

There are four major regions of the spine : -


  • The cervical spine (neck)

    The neck supports the weight of the head and protects the nerves that come from the brain to the rest of the body. This section of the spine has seven vertebral bodies (bones) that get smaller as they get closer to the base of the skull. Most of the rotation of the cervical spine comes from the top two segments whereas most of the flexion/extension movement comes from C5-C6 and C6-C7 (each motion segment is named by the two vertebral bodies that are connected).

    Acute neck pain is most often caused by a muscle, ligament or tendon strain (such as from a sudden force or straining the neck), and will usually heal with time and conservative treatments to alleviate the pain (such as ice and/or heat, medications, chiropractic or osteopathic manipulation, etc).

    For patients with neck pain that lasts longer than two weeks to three months, or with mainly arm pain, numbness or tingling, there is often a specific anatomic problem. For example, pain that radiates down the arm, and possibly into the hands and fingers, is usually caused by a cervical herniated disc or foraminal stenosis pinching a nerve in the neck. Treatment options for neck pain will differ depending on the specific diagnosis.



  • The thoracic spine (upper back)

    The 12 vertebral bodies in the upper back make up the thoracic spine.The firm attachment of the rib cage at each level of the thoracic spine provides stability and structural support to the upper back and allows very little motion. The thoracic spine is basically a strong cage and it is designed to protect the vital organs of the heart and lungs. The upper back is not designed for motion, and subsequently, injuries to the thoracic spine are rare.However, irritation of the large back and shoulder muscles or joint dysfunction in the upper back can be very painful.



  • The lumbar spine (lower back)

    The lower back has a lot more motion than the thoracic spine and also carries all the weight of the torso, making it the most frequently injured area of the spine.

    The motion in the lower back is divided between five motion segments, although a disproportionate amount of the motion is in the lower segments (L3-L4 and L4-L5). Consequently, these two segments are the most likely to breakdown from wear and tear (e.g. Osteoarthritis). The two lowest discs (L4-L5 and L5-S1) take the most strain and are the most likely to herniate. This can cause pain and possibly numbness that radiates through the leg and down to the foot (sciatica).

    The vast majority of episodes of lower back pain are caused by muscle strain.Even though this doesn't sound like a serious injury, trauma to the muscles and other soft tissues (ligaments, tendons) in the lower back can cause severe and debilitating pain. The good news is that soft tissues have a good blood supply, which brings nutrients to the injured area and facilitates the healing process.



  • The sacral region (bottom of the spine)

    Below the lumbar spine is a bone called the sacrum, which makes up the back part of the pelvis. This bone is shaped like a triangle that fits between the two halves of the pelvis, connecting the spine to the lower half of the body.

    The sacrum is connected to part of the pelvis (the iliac bones) by the sacroiliac joints.Pain here is often called sacroiliac joint dysfunction, and is more common in women than men.The coccyx-or the tailbone-is in the sacral region at the very bottom of the spine. Pain here is called Coccydynia and is more common in women than men.


Normal Spinal Anatomy

Spine Treatment India, Spine, India General Spinal Anatomy

Figure 1

Lateral (side) view of a normal spine. The drawing shows the locations of the five major spinal levels. The cervical region has seven vertebrae (C1 through C7), the thoracic region has 12 vertebrae (T1 through T12) and the lumbar region has five vertebrae (L1 through L5). The sacral region consists of five vertebrae, all fused together to form one continuous bone mass known as the sacrum. The coccygeal region consists of four vertebrae, all fused together to form the coccyx or tailbone.


Figure 2 : -

. Detailed views of a vertebra and vertebral segment. The drawing to the right represents a top view of a lumbar vertebra. The drawing below is a lateral (side) view of a segment of three lumbar vertebrae.

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Abnormal Spinal Anatomy

Spine Treatment India, India General Spinal Anatomy, Cervical, The Thoracic, Spinous Process

Figure 1

. The drawings to the right and below represent the appearance of a herniated or ruptured disc. Both drawings show the disruption of the annulus fibrosus, the outer ring-like portion of an intervertebral disc.



Spine Treatment India, Cervical
The tissue located in the center of the intervertebral disc, the nucleus pulposus, is partially extruded from the intervertebral disc. The extruded nucleus pulposus material can exert pressure on nerves thus causing pain, numbness, and muscle weakness due to nerve damage.



Spine Treatment India, The Thoracic, And The Lumbar Spine

Figure 2

. An abnormal spinal condition known as scoliosis is shown in this drawing. Scoliosis is a lateral (sideways) curvature of the spine.






India Spine Anatomy, Spine

Figure 3

. Spondylolisthesis is an abnormal spinal condition in which one vertebra slips or is displaced over another vertebra. The drawing shows spondylolisthesis as a result of a lumbar vertebra (L5) slipping over the sacrum (S1).



India Spine Anatomy, Cervical

Figure 4

. This drawing depicts the spinal condition of kyphosis. Kyphosis is an abnormal increase in normal kyphotic (posterior) curvature of the thoracic spine which can result in a noticeable round back deformity.



Spine Treatment India, The Thoracic, And The Lumbar Spine

Figure 5

This drawing represents the spinal condition of lordosis. Lordosis is the abnormal increase in normal lordotic (anterior) curvature of the lumbar spine. This can lead to a noticeable "sway-back" appearance.





, Spine, India General Spinal Anatomy, Cervical

Figure 6

This drawing illustrates degenerative and hypertrophic arthritis between the 3rd, 4th, and 5th lumbar vertebrae, as well as the lumbosacral joint (L5-S1 disc space). The degeneration of the intervertebral discs has reduced the height of the discs.




There are bone spurs or hypertrophic bone adjacent to the discs and hypertrophic arthritis of the facet joints. This results in reduced range of motion of the spine. Also, the hypertrophic bone and narrowing of the intervertebral foramen can produce nerve root impingement thereby causing back and leg pain, as well as numbness and weakness of leg muscles.


The list of of world class Spine hospitals in India is as follows : -


Apollo Hospital Chennai Apollo Hospital, Chennai, India
Apollo Hospitals Delhi Indraprastha Apollo Hospital, Delhi, India
Apollo Hospitals Bangalore Apollo Hospitals, Bangalore, India
Apollo Hospitals Hyderabad Apollo Hospitals, Hyderabad, India
Wockhardt Hospital Bangalore India Wockhardt Hospital, Bangalore India
Fortis Hospital, Delhi, India Fortis Hospital, Delhi, India
Fortis Hospital Mohali, India Fortis Hospital, Mohali, India
Sparsh Hospital, Bangalore, India Sparsh Hospital, Bangalore, India
Artemis Hospital, Gurgaon ( Delhi ) , India Artemis Hospital, Gurgaon ( Delhi ) , India
Max Super Specialty hospital,  Delhi, India Max Super Specialty hospital, Delhi, India
BGS Global Hospital Bangalore, India BGS Global Hospital, Bangalore, India
BGS Global Hospital Chennai, India BGS Global Hospital, Chennai, India
BGS Global Hospital Hyderabad, India BGS Global Hospital, Hyderabad, India

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