A Closer Look at How Your Spine Works (And What Can Go Wrong)

A Closer Look at How Your Spine Works (And What Can Go Wrong)

As the main support for your head and abdomen, the spine plays a complex role. As well as support, it’s capable of a wide range of motion with remarkable strength and flexibility, all the while protecting the spinal cord. 

A remarkable example of bioengineering, the spine endures many demands, usually with ease, though occasional setbacks are common. After all, about 80% of all adults experience back pain at some point in their lives, and lower back pain is a leading cause of missed time from work. 

When you have back issues or spine problems, visit Atlas Neurosurgery and Spine Center in Phoenix, Arizona. Our neurosurgeons can diagnose and treat your back pain problems, from the most conservative therapy through more aggressive treatments until your issue is solved. Taking a closer look at how your spine works can help you recognize the right time to seek medical care. 

Components of the spine

There are five general parts that make up your spine. 


Thirty-three bones comprise the five sections and three curves that make up your spine. Called vertebrae, these bones have spaces and passageways through which the spinal cord and nerves pass, radiating out to every point of your body and reporting back to the brain. 

Spinal disks

The cushions that absorb the forces your spine endures sit between the vertebrae, puck-like disks of a tough but pliable outer ring encasing a gel-like center. Think of intervertebral disks as your body’s shock absorbers. 

Facet joints

Each pair of vertebrae forms a facet joint that allows twisting and turning flexibility, while maintaining overall stability. The surfaces of vertebrae that interact with each other are covered with cartilage, a slippery tissue that aids smooth movement and protects bone surfaces from wear. 

Spinal cord

Your body’s information superhighway, the spinal cord connects the brain with nerves throughout your body. Nerves branch off in 33 pairs along most of the length of the spine.  

Soft tissue

These support tissues include muscles, tendons, and ligaments. 

When things go wrong

With a system as complex as your spine, there’s much that could go wrong. Perhaps the most common reasons for back pain stem from overuse and strains and sprains of the soft support tissues. 

Herniated spinal disks are also a frequent source of pain. 

Scoliosis and kyphosis are two conditions where the spine displays irregular curvature. 

Arthritis can cause any joint to deteriorate, and the facet joints of the spine are no exception. 

Bone spurs can result from these degenerative changes and they can irritate or pressure nerves, creating problems like spinal stenosis and sciatica. 

People with osteoporosis may be at risk from collapsing vertebrae.

Infections of the spine include meningitis and osteomyelitis and neuromuscular diseases can also take a toll, like amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. 

Like any part of your body, the spine can suffer trauma during an accident, and spinal cord injuries could result in paralysis. 

Though rare, there are cancers and benign tumors that affect the spine, as well.

Contact Atlas Neurosurgery and Spine Center by calling the office directly or by using the New Patient link on this webpage. There’s a reason for your back issues as well as effective treatment. Schedule your appointment now. 

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If you're looking for a neurosurgeon in the Phoenix area, contact Atlas Neurosurgery and Spine Center for the ultimate neurological care.