spinal motion segment

Getting to Know Your Spine In-Depth: Spinal Motion Segments

The Spinal Motion Segment

There are thirty-three vertebrae that make up the human spine. Between each one is a spinal motion segment, also known as a functional spinal unit. Spinal motion segments are made up of:

  • Two vertebrae
  • Intervertebral disc
  • Two facet joints
  • A host of supportive ligaments and other soft tissue

The first three in the bulleted list make up what is known as the articular triad, because they allow for the minute articulation between vertebrae.  The main role of the spinal motion segment is to allow for motion of the upper body while maintaining enough structural integrity to stabilize the spine and prevent injury to spinal nerves that exit at each level of the spine.  

What can go wrong with the spinal motion segment 

In the grand scheme of your body, these are small-scale structures. But because of their strategic location, they play a disproportionately important role in keeping you upright and healthy. Healthy facet joints, vertebrae, ligaments and discs allow for stable movement and a modicum of flexibility. But they are vulnerable to many injuries, both acute and those due to repetitive trauma. 

Two problems that frequently interfere with the proper function of the spinal motion segment are: 

  • Hypomobility: loss of range of motion in the spinal motion segments.
  • Hypermobility: excessive range of motion in the spinal motion segments. 

Both of these can result in stress to the facet joints, often resulting in sprain; as well as compression of nearby spinal nerves, resulting in sharp episodes of back pain. 

The importance of knowing your spine

The more you know about your spine, the more you can be aware of the forces which conspire to cause injury. Keeping your spinal motion segments healthy means attention to diet and exercise, to keep the joints hydrated and the discs well nourished; as well as regular stretching to maintain proper intradiscal pressure. Chiropractic is important because it keeps the spine aligned and range of motion intact, preventing nerve compression and problems associated with both hypo- and hypermobility. If you are interested in empowering your health by treating the spine, give our office in Houston a call to schedule an appointment and start the conversation today.