ANATOMY and MOVEMENT
The spine is grouped into four sections – Cervical, Thoracic, Lumbar, and Sacral regions, reflecting the unique needs of each section. Vertebrae, the building blocks of the spine, are shaped differently depending on where they sit. The lower down the column we go, the larger the vertebrae are, reflecting the added demand to receive weight as we move down to the base of the Lumbar Spine.
The Cervical spine has 7 Vertebrae, the Thoracic spine has 12 vertebrae, the Lumbar spine has 5 vertebrae, and the Sacrum is a single solid structure evolving from several fused vertebrae.
Four distinct curves make up the spine; the Cervical and Lumbar sections of the spine concave posteriorly, while the Thoracic and Sacral curves (primary curves) concave anteriorly. The primary curves develop during the fetal period. These curves also exist when we are born and begin to alter to create the secondary curves (Cervical and Lumbar) as we begin to develop and move into the upright position. The cervical spine (neck) develops as we move our head upwards and forward to see ahead and above us as infants. The Lumbar spine (waist and lower back) becomes more apparent as we develop the skills to stand and eventually walk. These distinct curves provide an excellent shock-absorbing system when working well — and balanced.
If alignment is altered over time, there is the distinct possibility that the undue strain and pressure applied may have a negative impact throughout the SPINE.
Sections of the spine
This is the area between the head and the Rib Cage, with the head resting atop the first Cervical Vertebrae (the Atlas). The cervical spine offers the greatest variety and range of movement of all the spinal regions. Nodding, side bending, and rotation of the head and neck are possible due to the shape and size of these vertebrae. Alignment is an integral part of maintaining a healthy and stable relationship throughout the head, neck, and shoulders.
The Thoracic spine is designed for strength, an essential aspect to maintaining support for the spinal cord, organs including the lungs (within the rib cage). The Upper Thoracic vertebrae can function similarly to the neck, allowing more movement to the left and right than forward and backward. The Lower Thoracic spine functions similar to the lumbar spine allowing for more forward and back bending of the vertebrae than those above.
By virtue of its attachment to the ribs as well as the shape of the vertebrae, movement in extension (bending backward), side bending, and rotation (turning to the left and right) are limited.
The Lumbar vertebrae are the largest of the spine. L5, the lowest and largest of these, sits directly on the pelvis via the Sacrum and must bear more weight than any of those above it — making it at greater risk of injury than the others.
The spine has natural curves bending front and back that provide a means of grouping movement so as no one segment or joint has to do all the work.
How we stand, sit, and walk is affected by the health and integrity of the spine. When we bend down to pick something up off the floor, or when we reach forward to lift something off the table, it is the spine as a whole that moves along with your leg, arm, or both. Each segment (or Vertebra) of the spine connects with the one above and below, creating a joint. Each of these joints offers you a small range for moving forward, back, side-to-side, or rotating. By themselves, each of these connections only provides a small movement. However, when all these joints are combined, they allow us to move further and easier, much like a slinky.