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10 Fascinating Facts about the Human Spine

The spine is an essential part of the human anatomy, but how much do you know about it?
Matt H May 14, 2019

The Human Spine

Our spine is integral to so many of our bodily functions - it truly is one of the most important parts of the human anatomy. There's much to learn about this impressive structure, but here are perhaps 10 of the most fascinating facts about the spine.

10 - Flexibility

The spine is extremely flexible, thanks to it being made up of over 100 joints. In fact, it would form two thirds of a whole circle, if you were to bend the spine as far as it could go.

9 - Number of vertebrae in neck

There are seven vertebrae in the human neck, which is amazingly the same number of vertebrae in the neck of a giraffe.

8 - Spinal Cord Neurons

The spinal cord is an extremely delicate part of our anatomy, responsible for sending messages from the brain to different parts of the body, among many other things, and contains approximately 13.5 million neutrons.

7 - Cartilage

Around 25% of the spine's length consists of cartilage, which can expand and contract, affecting the overall height of a person.

For example, astronauts can grow by up to 3% in height due to the cartilage in their spine expanding as a result of the change in pressure when travelling in space. 

6 - Muscles

There are more than 120 muscles within the spine, which is a key reason why we are so flexible

5 - Memory

The human spine can remember and get used posture habits. This means it can be difficult, if an individual has bad posture, to make positive changes. However, once the spine is used to a good posture, it will remember to keep it.

4 - Fetal Development

When babies are in the womb, the spine is one of the very first things to develop. It starts to grow as early as two months from conception.

3 - Curves

A typical human spine will have three natural curves within it, in the following locations:
1. the neck
2. the mid back
3. the lower back

These curves are again an integral part of why we are so flexible.

2 - Atlas

At the very top of the spine, the vertebra here is called Atlas, named after the Greek God who was said to 'hold the whole world on his shoulders', in the same way that this particular vertebra holds up the human head.

1 - Tall in the morning

As mentioned before, the cartilage in our spine can expand and contract and as a result, we are actually marginally taller in the morning compared to in the evening. This is due to the fact that the spine is not subjected to the downward pull of gravity in the same way whilst sleeping horizontally, allowing the cartilage to expand ever so slightly.