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A Closer Look at Your Spine

A Closer Look at Your Spine

Without it, you wouldn’t be able to hold yourself up. Without it, your body’s most valuable structure — the spinal cord — would be left unprotected. In short, your spine is crucial to your ability to function. 

But how much do you know about how your spine works? It’s okay if the answer is “not much.” Many of our patients have questions about their anatomy and how their body functions, especially when they start to feel pain. 

Here, our team of orthopaedic specialists at Somers Orthopaedic Surgery & Sports Medicine Group are taking a closer look at the anatomy and function of your spine, it’s unique needs, and how we can help when something goes wrong.

How your spine works

Your spine consists of 24 small bones called vertebrae that are stacked on top of each other. To cushion them, there are gel-like discs between each vertebra. These discs also help absorb shock and pressure. 

The vertebrae are held to each other by groups of tough bands of connective tissue called ligaments, and tendons connect muscles to the vertebrae. Just like the rest of your body, your spine has joints called facet joints. These special joints join the vertebrae together and allow them to move against each other easily. 

In the center of each vertebra there’s a hole, which holds and protects the spinal cord, a column of nerves that connects your brain to the rest of your body. From here, your spinal cord branches off into 30 pairs of nerve roots that exit your spine and extend into other areas of your body. 

Your spine is divided into three sections: the upper (cervical), middle (thoracic), and lower (lumbar). At the end of your spine is the sacrum — a group of specialized vertebrae that connect your spine to your pelvis. 

What can go wrong

Your spine is uniquely designed to be both protective and flexible. And with so many moving parts, it’s easy to understand that there are many things that can go wrong and cause you pain. Back pain is so common, in fact, that it’s the single leading cause of disability not just in the United States, but worldwide. 

Some of the most common causes of back pain that stem from your spine include:

Though there are many things that can go wrong in your spine, there are a few things you can do to protect it and many treatment options available if you do develop a painful condition. 

How you can support your spine

When it comes to supporting your spine health, the key is to practice better body mechanics. For example, lifting heavy items without proper technique is an easy way to damage your spine. Make sure that you stand closer to the item and lift with your legs and knees rather than your upper body and back. 

It’s also a good idea to be mindful of your posture when you’re sitting and standing, especially if you’re doing either for long periods of time. We also encourage you to avoid sleeping on your stomach if possible, as it puts an inordinate amount of stress on your spine. Other healthy habits include:

Of course, the best thing you can do for your spine is to listen to your body and see our specialists at the first signs of pain or other symptoms. We quickly and accurately identify a wide range of spine problems and offer comprehensive treatments to resolve them. 

How we can help

When it comes to problems of the spine, we take the time to understand your unique situation before recommending a treatment plan. Typically, we begin conservatively and use noninvasive therapies, such as activity modification, physical therapy with manual treatment, and medication. 

Should your situation present more severe or persistent symptoms, we may recommend epidural steroid injections, radiofrequency ablation, or platelet-rich plasma (PRP) therapy. You may need surgery, but we generally only recommend surgery in the most severe cases and those that have not responded to non-surgical treatment.. 

If you’d like more information about your spine or an evaluation of your spine for any potential problems, you can request an appointment online or over the phone today. We’re conveniently located in Carmel, Newburgh, Mt. Kisco, and Fishkill, New York, as well as in Danbury, Connecticut. 

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