Home > The Human Spine > Functions of the Spine

Functions of the Spine

By: Jo Johnson - Updated: 19 Nov 2012 | comments*Discuss
Strength; Support; Movement; Cell

The spine has many functions in providing humans with the ability to lead the lives they do.

Strength and Support

The spine provides strength and support for the remainder of the human body with particular attention to the heavy bones of the skull.

The thoracic region of the spine is particularly responsible for the task of offering strength and stability to the body. The lumbar region has the job of carrying most of the body’s weight and allows for movements of flexion but not rotation.

The spine and its curvaceous nature coupled with the array of muscles and tendons, provide our bodies with a method of being able to distribute our weight, and adapt to our changing bodies such as weight gain or pregnancy. During times of carrying extra weight the curves of the spine become more marked in order to for the body to balance by finding the centre of gravity and maintaining it. The presence of muscles, ligaments and tendons allow for this flexibility.


The intricate design of the spine and its accompanying structures of muscles, tendons, ligaments etc, permit the body to move in ways such as bending, stretching, rotating and leaning.

The cervical spine is responsible for allowing movement and rotation of the head and neck, due to the presence of the first two cervical vertebrae, the atlas and axis, a unique combination of bones.

Protection of Nerves

The spinal column provides reliable protection of the delicate nerves and the spinal cord, without which humans could not function, as certain nerve impulses control the functions of our major organs. The design and placement of the vertebrae and certain ligaments form a network of protection that keeps the spinal cord from getting injured.

Blood Supply

The vertebrae provide plenty of bone to produce red blood cells and minerals from within the hollow interior chamber of the bone, known as bone marrow. There are two types of bone marrow; red and yellow. Red bone marrow is responsible for the production of red blood cells, platelets and white blood cells, while yellow bone marrow contains high levels of fat cells and also produces some amounts of white blood cells.

Protection of Major Organs

The skeleton allows a base for the ribs to attach which surround and protect our major organs. The term ribcage is actually defined as being the sternum (breast bone), 12 pairs of ribs and the 12 thoracic vertebrae. All human ribs attach to the spine, but only the upper 7 pairs attach to the sternum. The ribs form the cage of protection around the heart and lungs.

Absorption of Impact

The spine provides a way of absorbing impact by containing intervertebral discs. These discs are situated between each vertebrae and as well as preventing the vertebrae from ‘bumping’ into each other, they contain a substance that absorbs forceful motion preventing the impact from being transferred to the next vertebra, much like a shock absorber.

Other Functions

The spine provides a means of connecting the upper and lower body via the sacrum which connects the spine to the pelvis.The coccyx does not have a useful function in modern mankind.

Newborn babies have fairly straight spines, and it isn't until they begin to hold the weight of their head independently, that the spine develops its characteristic curves.

You might also like...
Share Your Story, Join the Discussion or Seek Advice..
Why not be the first to leave a comment for discussion, ask for advice or share your story...

If you'd like to ask a question one of our experts (workload permitting) or a helpful reader hopefully can help you... We also love comments and interesting stories

(never shown)
(never shown)
(never shown)
(never shown)
Enter word:
Latest Comments
  • Micky
    Re: Ligament Damage and Back Pain
    I had prolapse of rectum op in 2001.he also said he had repaired a ligament.cane home couldn't bare down to open bowels.lost…
    21 April 2017
  • Vis
    Re: Spinal Dislocation
    i have enjoyed the literature.
    17 April 2017
  • KFreedOM
    Re: Dehydrated Discs
    I'm so glad to have read this article about dehydration affecting the disc. It just happened to be something that I was curious about and decided…
    26 December 2016
  • Kal
    Re: Dehydrated Discs
    I was suffering from sciatic pain for nearly 1 year and don't have any idea what is the reason for pain. After 1 year 3 weeks back I went to…
    26 November 2016
  • Skb24 going on 75
    Re: Dehydrated Discs
    I am 24 and i have severe back pain i have a buldging disc in my L1 and L5 almost my entire lower lumbar is dehydrated and i have lost nearly 50%…
    21 November 2016
  • billa
    Re: Dehydrated Discs
    I am 25. My mri result shows I hv got dehydration of L4/5 disc.my doctor advice me to take Diclofenac and hv physiotherapy ,but I Still hv pain…
    16 October 2016
  • Salsybar
    Re: Dehydrated Discs
    Hello all Im a newbie on here ...my long road started 4 years ago I had always been a fitness fanatic..vegetarian and look after myself At the…
    14 October 2016
  • Lorie
    Re: Dehydrated Discs
    All dics on mri are dehydrated with bulging at c4 and c5 also L4 and L5 amd an elongated conus medullaris. I have radiculopathy from neck to…
    7 October 2016
  • madan
    Re: Spinal Dislocation
    My father is 51 his spin has dislocated Lower region due to this he suffer pain on his one whole leg suggests me what should we do
    13 September 2016
  • zane
    Re: Spinal Dislocation
    I can literally see one of the nobs(disks or whatever it's called) on my back that is moved to right of my spine and out of line with the rest…
    25 August 2016
Further Reading...
Our Most Popular...
Add to my Yahoo!
Add to Google
Stumble this
Add to Twitter
Add To Facebook
RSS feed
You should seek independent professional advice before acting upon any information on the BackPainExpert website. Please read our Disclaimer.