The spine is divided up into three major sections: the cervical, or neck, area; the thoracic section at chest level, and the lumbar spine of the lower back. When seen from the side, the three sections form the natural curves of the spine. When viewed from back to front, a healthy spinal column forms a straight line.
Each section is made up of individual bones called vertebrae. There are 7 cervical, 12 thoracic, and 5 lumbar vertebrae.
Each vertebra has a hole in the center of it, so when they are stacked on top of each other they form a hollow tube that protects the spinal cord and its nerve roots.
The vertebrae are separated by discs made up of a soft, gel-like center surrounded by a tough outer layer. These discs provide flexibility as you move and act as cushions that prevent the bones from rubbing against each other.
The spinal cord branches off into pairs of nerve roots which exit the spine through small openings on each side of the vertebra.
The nerves connect to specific parts of your body. Nerves from the cervical spine go to the upper chest and arms; from the thoracic spine to the chest and abdomen; and from the lumbar spine to your legs, pelvis, bowel, and bladder.
The nerves carry electrical signals back to your brain and allow you to feel pain if you get hurt. If the nerves themselves get hurt, you may feel pain, tingling or numbness in the area where the nerve travels.
If you are feeling some discomfort, there are many treatment options available today. To find the treatment that suits you best, contact your physician.