V = Vertebral Column
The vertebral column, also known as the spine or the spinal column, is an amazing structure. It is composed of a series of bones known as vertebrae which are stacked on top of each other.
There are 4 parts to the vertebral column, as follows:
- Cervical (neck) – this has 7 vertebrae
- Thoracic (upper/mid back) – this has 12 vertebrae
- Lumbar (lower back) – this has 5 vertebrae
- Sacral (pelvic/base of spine) – this is made of the sacrum and coccyx which together has 9 vertebrae which are fused in an adult
The main function of this region of the spine is to support the weight of the head, approximately 10-12 pounds. This area has the greatest range of motion along with the lumbar spine. The cervical vertebrae are the smallest in size. The first vertebra is called the atlas and is significantly different in shape to the other cervical vertebrae. The second is called the axis. The curve of the neck is a lordotic curve and looks like a reverse C.
The function of this area of the spine is to protect the organs of the chest, especially the heart and lungs. One rib is attached to the 12 thoracic vertebrae on one side to create the thoracic cage. The thoracic curve is a kyphotic curve or a C shape. This area of the spine is less mobile than the cervical because of the thoracic cage.
The 5 vertebrae in this region of the spine are the largest in size because this is the weight bearing area of the spinal column. The curve in this area is another lordotic curve or reverse C shape and, like the cervical area, it has very good range of movement.
Sacrum and coccyx
From birth through childhood, these vertebrae are individual bones, but in adulthood they become and stay fused to create one fused sacral vertebrae and one fused coccyx (tail bone). The curve for this area is kyphotic.
In total there are 26 bones within the spinal column and there are 24 thick fibrous discs between each pair of vertebrae from the axis to the sacrum. The 4 curves of the vertebral column create an S shape, and it’s this shape that provides the super strong structure.
Pilates exercises help to mobilise the spine, increase its flexibility and its strength.