There is no denying that your spine is an extremely important part of your body. Caring for your spine means caring for your entire nervous system. However, the spine is actually far more complex than many people realize. While we all have spines, many of us do not know some of the most basic facts about our spines and our overall spinal health. Here are the top ten facts that every person should know about the spine.

  1. The spine has a ton of working parts. The average spine has approximately 220 ligaments, 100 joints, 120 muscles and 33 individual vertebra. However, over time some of these vertebrae actually fuse together. This is how the sacrum and the coccyx are formed.
  2. As humans we have seven cervical vertebrae in our necks, the same number as giraffes!
  3. Approximately 8 out of 10 Americans will suffer from back pain during their lives. The most common cause of back pain among Americans? Trauma caused by automobile accidents.
  4. Cartilage makes up 25% of the spine’s overall length. Your spinal cartilage is actually a very impressive type of tissue. Did you know that the pressure from microgravity put on the body when in space can cause spinal cartilage to expand? Astronauts who go to space can actually grow by as much as 3% when they return.
  5. Gravity can have a major impact on the spine. In fact, humans actually tend to shrink as they age. After the age of 40, the average person shrinks as much as 1/3 of an inch every ten years.
  6. Sitting hunched over at your desk can put major pressure on your spine. Sitting in this position puts around 200 pounds of pressure on your lumbar spine, or your lower back. This is why so many Americans, especially those with office jobs have low back pain.
  7. The spine is very strong. In fact it can handle hundreds of kilograms of pressure. This is a good thing too, because something as simple as lying flat on your back with your knees elevated can put up to 25 pounds of pressure on your spine.
  8. Your spine protects your spinal cord, which delivers messages throughout your body. The average spinal cord weighs around 35 grams.
  9. The spine is very flexible. So flexible that if you bent it as far is it can go it would form two-thirds of a complete circle.
  10. The first vertebrae in your neck is called the atlas. This is perhaps the most important vertebrae in the entire spine. It is responsible for carrying the weight of the head and was named after the character in Greek mythology who was forced to carry the weight of the world on his shoulders for all eternity.