The spinal cord is one of the most vital components of the human body and is actually an extension of the brain. It functions by connecting the brain to the body and sending out all of the nerve signals that, among other things, allow a person to walk, move a finger, and talk.
Here are 13 interesting spinal cord facts:
Fact #1: The spinal cord is connected to the central nervous system
The central nervous system (CNS) is made up of the brain and the spinal cord. While the brain is responsible for physical movements, thoughts, and interpretations of the external world through the senses, the spinal cord is how the body and the brain communicates. This is why injuries to the spinal cord disrupt how information moves between the brain and the body.
Fact #2: The spine functions independently
The spine doesn’t always require a command from the brain; sometimes it sends messages directly to the muscles.
Fact #3: The spine is a bundle of nerves
Rather than a single cord, the spine is a bundle of nerves that starts at the base of the brain, runs down the back, and ends between the first and second lumbar vertebrae. This bundle of nerves sends and receives huge numbers of signals from all over the body on a continuous basis.
In addition to acting as the conduit for all nerve signals going between the body and the brain, the spinal cord has another purpose. It holds receptors for pain and it is also how other stimulus communicate with the spinal cord using peripheral nerves. These are located all over the human body and constantly send communications to the brain. If you are feeling spinal cord pain, a chiropractor will have more expertise in giving you the proper treatments without injuring any of the nerves systems.
Fact #4: The spine controls both voluntary and involuntary movement of muscles
The nerve signals that pass along the spinal cord control both voluntary and involuntary movements. Voluntary movements would include picking up a drinking glass or sitting down, while involuntary movements include those made by organs and body parts like the bladder, diaphragm, and bowels.
Fact #5: The spinal cord has grey and white matter, just like the brain
Grey matter is neutrons that deal with sensory or motor function, while white matter has what is needed for communication between the brain and other parts of the body. The spinal cord and the brain have the same essential materials but where the grey and white matter are located within each one of those places are different. In the brain, the grey matter makes up the outer part of the brain. In the spinal cord, the grey matter is on the inside of the cord.
Fact #6: The spinal cord is a lot smaller than you might think
The human spinal cord is a lot smaller than most people think. Rather than being a thick rope, it takes up very little space, around half an inch in diameter.
Fact #7: The spinal cord has a memory
The spinal cord actually remembers pain. Say you break your finger. The neutrons in your spinal cord will more easily carry signals to the nerves in that finger for the next few days, making it feel more sensitive.
Fact #8: The spinal cord stops growing at age five
Believe it or not, but the human spinal cord actually stop growing when a person is about five years old. It grows a lot in the first four or five years, up to a length of 16 to 20 inches. After that, it stops, and stays the same length it was at age five.
Fact #9: The spinal cord is divided into 31 different sections
Each section of the spinal cord has several sets of nerves that run out from the spinal cord to the rest of the body: five sacral, eight cervical, one coccygeal, five lumbar, and 12 thoracic.
Fact #10: The spinal cord goes through 33 vertebrae
In between each bony vertebrae of the spine is a tiny space just large enough for the spinal cord to travel through.
Fact #11: A spinal tap can cause a terrible headache
When someone requires a spinal tap, also called a lumbar puncture, they sometimes develop a horrible headache as a side effect. Scientists don’t really know what causes this, but one theory is that a disruption in the fluid volume is responsible for the headache.
Fact #12: The spinal cord is required for humans to sweat
People with injuries that cause quadriplegia must be kept cool manually with air conditioning or cool water because the signals to the sweat glands from the brain are interrupted.
Fact #13: Paralysis can occur as a result of spinal cord injury
If the spinal cord is severed, any number of different forms of paralysis can take place. Paralysis can be complete or incomplete. With complete paralysis, a person loses almost all feeling and the ability to control movement at or below where the injury is sustained. With incomplete paralysis, the person would still have some sensory function and/or motor function below the point of the injury.