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Spinal Cord Facts

Long, thin, tubular bundle of nervous tissue

  • The brain and spinal cord together make up the central nervous system.
  • It is a bundle of nerves running down the middle of the backbone.
  • It actually works independently of the brain, sending out responses to the muscles directly.
  • The spinal cord begins at the occipital bone and extends down to the space between the first and second lumbar vertebrae.
  • Its length is 45 cm (18 in) in men and around 43 cm (17 in) in women.
  • Its thickness ranges from 1/2 inch thick in the cervical and lumbar regions to 1/4 inch thick in the thoracic area.
  • The human spinal cord is divided into 31 different segments.
  • There will be 33 individual vertebrae that make up the spinal cord at the time of birth.
  • As we grow, 5 vertebrae fuse together to become the tailbone.
  • There will be twelve vertebrae in the thoracic area.
  • There are over 120 muscles contained in the spine.
  • It is supplied with blood by three arteries that run along its length starting in the brain, and many arteries that approach it through the sides of the spinal column.
  • Damage to the spinal cord can cause paralysis.
  • Injuries below the neck can cause paraplegia — paralysis below the waist while injuries to the neck can cause quadriplegia — paralysis below the neck.
  • 52% of spinal cord injured (SCI) individuals are considered paraplegic and 47% quadriplegic.
  • Only 52% of SCI individuals are covered by private health insurance at time of injury.
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