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Spinal Structure and Body Mechanics

Part 2 of 5

Peer Reviewed
A Complex Structure
As we age our spines change. Associated with aging are normal degenerative processes that can affect the vertebrae, facet joints and discs. Trauma, wear and tear, disease and poor body mechanics can alter the structural integrity of the spine.

Your spine is a complex arrangement of bones, joints, muscles, ligaments, discs, a spinal cord and nerves. In a healthy spine the vertebrae, facet joints and discs are vertically stacked, held together by a system of ligaments that help support the alignment while allowing movement within a safe range.

laterial cutaway of spine labeled
Lateral (Side) View of Spinal Structures

 

ligaments
Ligaments in the Spine

The discs absorb shock from the changing weight loads applied to the spine from excessive; as well as normal activities such as walking, running, lifting and so on. The spine’s four natural curves also help to evenly distribute these loads, while providing structural support and stability.

Facet joints and the discs allow the spine to bend and twist. Different muscles coordinate movement in many directions. The brain, spinal cord and nerves, the body’s message delivery system, orchestrates movement.

facet joints:

Updated on: 09/07/12
Brian R. Subach, MD
In this article, Dr. Garfin does an excellent job explaining the normal structure and function of the spine. The emphasis on body mechanics is also extremely important. As a spine surgeon, I firmly believe that a significant number of the patients I see use poor body mechanics when performing activities related to their daily personal lives and careers. This may contribute to both injury and spinal degeneration. I highly recommend this well-written article as necessary basic information for the physician and patient alike.
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