Structural and functional aspects of the spinal column
The spine is comprised of 24 columnar lumbar, thoracic and cervical vertebrae separated and cushioned by intervertebral discs. The spinal column is stabilised and correctly aligned primarily by intervertebral muscles and ligaments, and posterior fascicular joints and, secondarily by the great muscle masses of the upper and lower back and the neck, posteriorly, and the abdomen anteriorly.
The spine is designed to carry the stress of gravity and day to day activity, and is only as strong as its weakest link.
For efficient spinal function the vertebrae must be:
- correctly aligned
- the intervertebral discs must be elastic and correctly positioned
- the intervertebral muscles, ligaments and joints must be strong and supple
- and the muscles of the back and abdomen must be strong and in good condition.
Any failing in any of these structural components leads inevitably – in time – to pressure on the spinal nerves, herniation of intervertebral discs, erosion of the articular surfaces of joints, and the sequelae of muscle spasm, decreased blood perfusion, inflammation, discomfort and pain and compromised capacity for physical activity.