The spine is one of the most essential parts of the body. Just think of all the metaphors we use regularly. We refer to indispensable people as “the backbone of the organization”, and talk of making a principled commitment as “growing a spine”. All of these recognize the importance of the spine and the part it plays in giving support, strength, movement and flexibility to the body.

And yet, we do so little to take care of this important part of our body. Through neglect, lack of exercise and strain, over time we acquire a bad posture, lose our flexibility, and may end up suffering from back pain. Luckily, there are some simple things you can do to keep your spine in good shape, such as exercising regularly, sleeping on a comfortable mattress, and paying attention to posture and spinal alignment at all times.

To help you get inspired to take better care of it, here are some interesting facts about the spine. But first, what exactly are we talking about when we refer to the spine? And what role does it play in maintaining a healthy life?

Getting to Know Your Spine

Metaphors aside, everyone has a spine. In fact, all vertebrates do. This is a category of animals (subphyla) that includes everything from giraffes to dolphins. About 50,000 species of animals are classed as vertebrates.

The spine of a human is also known as the backbone or the vertebral column and consists of 33 vertebrae or vertebral discs (at birth), 220 ligaments, 120 muscles, and 100 joints. The vertebral discs are joined together with cartilage, a spongelike substance.

The spine is essentially the body’s support system. And with so many moving and stretching parts, it’s easy to see why back pain is one of the most common ailments. It’s also easy to see why paying attention to your spine is key to good health.

5 Interesting Facts About the Spine

  1. The natural S-curved shape is gained over the age, as human baby’s spine is absolutely straight at the moment of birth. The curves form as the baby develops its muscles, gets stronger, and starts to hold its head by their own, sit, crawl, and, finally, walk.
  2. The spine is very flexible. While the normal shape of the human spine is a curved S-shape, it can be bent about two-thirds of the way into a perfect circle. This is why gymnasts and acrobats can perform those amazing feats. The spine is also very strong.
  3. You can actually grow taller in space. That’s because cartilage, which connects the vertebrae, can expand and contract. In lower gravity, with less force pulling at it, cartilage can expand. This why astronauts traveling to space return to earth taller than they left it. They can gain up to two or three inches in height. The reverse is also true, and over time the pull of gravity will cause the cartilage to shrink. This is why people lose some of their height as they age.
  4. Back pain is one of the most common ailments. With so many separate parts and complex functions, it’s not surprising that back pain is the leading cause of visits to the doctors office. In the US, it is estimated that around 80% of the population will suffer from back pain at some point in their lives. One of the most common causes of back pain in the US is traffic accidents. People who remain seated for long hours, because of their jobs or lifestyle, are also vulnerable to back pain.
  5. Back pain doesn’t always need surgery to heal. In 80% of all cases, back pain will subside on its own, without any medical treatment. If it persists for longer than two months, it is defined as chronic back pain. But even for chronic back pain, surgery is not always the best answer. Physical therapy, massage and some alternative treatments can provide relief.

Taking Care of Your Spine

Given the essential role that the spine plays in supporting your body, it important not to neglect it. Taking care of your spine involves basic steps that will also improve your overall health. Getting enough exercise and staying hydrated will help your spine remain limber and strong. Remember that stretches are as important as aerobic activity.

Don’t strain yourself when lifting heavy weights. If your muscles begin to send out warning signs, stop or ask someone to help you. If your job involves sitting for long hours, remember to take short breaks every hour or two. Take a short walk, stretch, or do some activity to vary the routine. Aim for an ergonomic workspace with a supportive chair and your keyboard and computer monitor at the right height.

Make sure that you have a comfortable mattress that provides enough support for your back. You can get a mattress and a pillow that support your back and neck. Sleeping on your side is better for your back than sleeping face down.

Your spine is an important part of your body. It provides the support and flexibility you need for your life and work. In return, a little care on your part can keep it functioning at its best throughout your life.

Author's Bio: 

Umar Bajwa is a blogger and professional content writer loves to write about lifestyle, fitness and health related topics.