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What is the Spinal Cord?

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Last updated date: 29th Feb 2024
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An Introduction to the Spinal Cord

The spinal cord is a lengthy band of tissue that resembles a tube. It links the lower back to the brain. The spinal cord relays nerve messages back and forth from the brain to the body. Your body can move and sense feelings thanks to these nerve messages. Any spinal cord damage can impair motion or function. From the brainstem to the low back, the spinal cord travels through the middle of the spine in a cylinder-shaped arrangement. It is a fragile structure made up of cells and nerve bundles that transmit signals from the brain to the body's other organs.  Below we can see a diagram of the spinal cord. In this article, we will learn in detail what a spinal cord is.


Spinal Cord


Spinal Cord


What is the Spinal Cord?

A column of nerve tissue that runs from the base of the skull down to the centre of the back. It is covered by three thin layers of protective tissue called membranes. The spinal cord and membranes are surrounded by the vertebrae (back bones). The spinal cord and the brain make up the central nervous system (CNS).


Must-Know Information about the Spinal Cord

The primary processing unit of the body is the spinal cord, which receives data from the brain and transmits it to branched nerves that connect to every other part of the body. Additionally, it collects signals from the body and transmits them to the brain, enabling you to respond appropriately to everything from extreme cold to high levels of worry.


The spinal cord serves as the bodily equivalent of a telephone network, transmitting data from the brain to the rest of the body and returning information about the body's health to the brain. This crucial function means that a spinal cord injury can impair even the most fundamental bodily functions, even when the entire body is operating normally.


The Structure of the Spinal Cord 

The vertebral column's protective covering encloses the spinal cord's overall structure. The gaps between the vertebral arches are home to the spinal nerves. These distinct sections make up the division of spinal nerves:

  • Cervical (neck)

  • Thoracic (chest)

  • Lumbar (abdominal)

  • Sacral (pelvic)

  • Coccygeal (tailbone)


Structure of the Spinal Cord


Structure of the Spinal Cord


What Organs and Substances Comprise the Spinal Cord?

The spinal cord is encased in layers of tissue known as meninges, just like the brain. These insulating tissues consist of:

  • Dura Mater: The outer layer guards against damage to the spinal cord.

  • Arachnoid Tissue: The layer that lies in the subarachnoid and epidural spaces.

  • Pia Mater: Certain parts of the spinal cord are inside layers.


Functions of the Spinal Cord

  • Communication: Different body parts can communicate with the brain by transmitting electrical impulses as they move up and down the spinal cord and through nerves.

  • Walking: Several muscle units in the legs are continuously contracting and relaxing while a person walks. Since we have been doing it our entire lives, the action of taking step after step could appear incredibly simple to us, but many factors need to be properly coordinated for this to happen.

  • Reflexes: Reflexes are uncontrollable reactions to stimuli that involve the brain, spinal cord, and peripheral nervous system nerves.


Purpose of the Spinal Cord

The primary function of the spinal cord is to transport nerve information throughout the body. Three vital tasks are accomplished by these nerve signals. 

  • Control Body's Activities and Actions: Movements are controlled by brain signals that are sent to various bodily regions. They also control autonomic processes like heart rate, breathing rate, and bowel and bladder operations.

  • Send Sensory Data to the Brain: The brain records and processes sensations like pressure or pain with the aid of signals from other areas of the body.

  • Control Reflexes: An automatic action that our body gives in response to anything is known as a reflex. Some reflexes are managed by the spinal cord, independent of the brain. The spinal cord, for instance, controls the patellar reflex.


Facts about the Spinal Cord 

Below are some of the spinal cord facts:

  • A spinal cord injury (SCI) occurs when the nerves or a portion of the cord near the base of the spine is hurt. 

  • If the brain cannot transfer information past the injury, it may have a significant impact on the body's sensory, motor, and reflex functions. 

  • The extent of the damage increases with the proximity of the injury to the brain. As you may imagine, an SCI can permanently change a person's life. 


Summary

The spinal cord extends from your brain down your back. There are billions of nerve cells in this enormous bundle of nerve tissues. Between the brain and the majority of the body, the spinal cord transmits information. The main connection between the brain and the rest of the body is the spinal cord. It has more than 20 million nerve fibres while being only as wide as a little finger. It is connected to the chest, arms, lower body, and legs by 31 pairs of spinal nerves. Spinal cord facts are really interesting.  A diagram of the spinal cord is added for better understanding. This was all about the spinal cord. We hope you have learnt something new today!

FAQs on What is the Spinal Cord?

1. What number of bones make up the spinal cord?

The 33 separate bones (the vertebrae) that make up the normal person's spine interact and link with one another through flexible joints known as facets after birth. Most people only have 24 vertebrae by the time they reach adulthood. This is because during typical growth and development, several vertebrae at the lower end of the spine fuse together. An extra vertebra, known as a transitional body and often located at the sixth level of the lumbar region, may occasionally be present in a person. 

2. What is the clinical significance of the spinal cord?

The dura mater of the spinal cord may be affected by spinal tumours that are either intradural (intradural) or extradural (extradural). Trauma to the spinal column may result in spinal cord damage. The spinal cord may be pierced by a sharp bone fragment if the vertebral bones or intervertebral discs fracture. A spinal injury may result in both spinal shock and neurogenic shock. Spinal shock is a brief loss of sensory and motor function that typically lasts between 24 and 48 hours. 

3. How does spinal cord injury occur commonly?

The spinal cord is a tube-like structure. It connects the brain to the lower back. If it is injured it can affect the movement of some body parts. Common spinal cord injury occurs because of accidents either on road accidents or fall and slip accidents.