Strengthening Benefits More than Just the Spine's Muscles!
Strength is the key to physical freedom to function the way we want every day. As children we freely ran, jumped and played without regard to the spine or its intricate muscular support system. Although the muscles are important to a healthy and functional spine, other spinal components work with muscles to execute static and active movement.
Figure 1. Various depths of the spinal musculature.
The spinal column (Fig. 2) is made up of 33 bones called vertebra; each is separated by a sturdy disc (intervertebral disc) composed of a jelly-like interior (nucleus pulposus) and tough outer ring (annulus fibrosus). The nucleus has no blood or nerve supply and gets nutrition from the vertebral bodies above and below. During spinal movement, the vertebral endplates act like pumps delivering nutrients to the disc.
The vertebral structures of the spine create a hollow in the center of the spinal column called the spinal canal. Within this protective canal is the spinal cord; an extension of the brain's 'grand central station' of nerve communication. Small nerve roots shoot off from the spinal cord and pass outside the column through pathways naturally created by spaces between the vertebral bodies. (Fig. 3) The nerves branch throughout the body and make up the peripheral nervous system. (Fig. 4)
What stabilizes the spine? Ligaments, tendons and muscles are like small ropes that help stabilize and balance the spinal column. Spinal ligaments connect bone to bone, help hold vertebrae in place, and limit movement to help prevent injury. (Fig. 5) The spine's tendons connect bone to muscle and serve as anchors to aid muscles when they contract during joint movement. (Fig. 6)
Each spinal structure works together as a team to balance the spine at rest and during movement. The spinal muscles are important. Building and preserving spinal strength is central to staying healthy and active at any age. When there is an injury our nervous system inhibits the function of some muscles.