Anatomy & Function of the Spinal Cord

The spine is composed of much more than just bones and carries out multiple important functions.

Functions of the Spine
The spine serves many important functions.

Protection
The spinal vertebrae are responsible for enclosing and protecting the spinal cord; a bundle of nerve fibers. These nerve fibers are directly connected to the central nervous system and are crucial to all movements of the body. The spinal vertebrae ensures the spinal cord is safe and away from harm.

Bodily Movement
The spine plays a large role in the ability of the body to move; from walking to reaching, the spine is not only crucial to the physical activity, but to the transmission of the signals that lead to the physical response. A group of neurons within the spine known as central pattern generators are responsible for coordinating and sustaining movement of the body, sending signals and receiving signals from the brain.

Attachment
The spine serves as an attachement site for the pectoral and pelvic girdle, along with many other muscles.

Weight Distribution
The spine is able to help transfer and balance weight distribution of the body during activities such as standing and walking. When weight is evenly distributing, an individual has a much easier time walking and moving.

Anatomy of the Spine
The spinal cord is a “cord” of nerve fibers extending from the base of the brain to just above the sacrum, within the spinal column. The spinal cord, just as the vertebrae within the spine, is divided into segments; cervical, thoracic, lumbar and sacral.

The nerves within the spinal column exhibit enlargements in some areas. An enlargement within the cervical vertebrae, known as the cervical enlargement, is the site that the nerves that control the upper limbs extend from. Another enlargement, within the lumbar region, is the lumbar enlargement. The nerves that control the lower limbs stem from the lumbar enlargement. Just beneath the lumbar enlargement, where the spinal cord comes to an end, is the medullary cone.

The spinal cord contains membranes known as meninges that are responsible for separating the nervous system from the bones. Around the spinal cord, a specific meninge known as the dura mater, forms the dural sheath. This sheath is tough and serves a s a form of protection for the delicate spinal cord. The space between the dura mater and the bone is known as the epidural space and is the location in which epidural anesthetics, such as those administered during childbirth, are given.

References
Saladin, Kenneth S.. Anatomy & physiology: the unity of form and function. 5th ed. Dubuque: McGraw-Hill, 2010. Print.

Functions of the Spine

What is the Dura Mater?