Looking Back – All About Spines!

Objectives:

  • Make a model of the spine that incorporates different anatomical features
  • Discuss the function and importance of the spine
  • Understand the critical nature of protecting the spine

What Do I Do All Day?

Hi! I’m a Chiroprator – did you know the word “chiropractic” comes from the Greek words cheir (hand) and praxis (action) and literally means “done by hand”? This is because I help my patients with my hands: I adjust bones and joints to make sure they fit together properly, give massages, and help with exercise therapy. Our bodies are amazing – there are so many parts that work together. When one is a little out of place, it can throw the whole system off.

Materials Needed:

  • Egg carton (cardboard)
  • Foam sheet or construction paper, cut into quarter-sized circles
  • One pipe cleaner (chenille stem)
  • Kid-friendly scissors (some of the cutting may be challenging for younger kids)
  • (Optional Addition: many pipe cleaners, or yarn/sting cut into about 5 inch pieces)
  • Optional: 2 tin cans/plastic cups, string/yarn, 2 paper clips

Background

  1. Bones give humans their structure and shape and protect our vital organs.
  2. Bones are made up of calcium, phosphorus, sodium and other minerals, as well as collagen
  3. With tendons, ligaments and muscles, bones allow us to move.
  4. The human backbone – also known as the spine – is a series of bones that stretches all the way from the neck to the pelvis/hips that provides the main support for your body, allowing you to stand upright, bend and twist while protecting the spinal cord
  • The spine is made up of 33 smaller bones called vertebrae that connect up with joints, kind of like special puzzle pieces that still allow them to move
    1. Most vertebrae have a main section, an opening in the middle, and spiny parts called processes where muscles and ligaments attach to them
    2. There are three sections of vertebrae:
      1. Cervical (neck) – supports the weight of the head, allows for head nodding and shaking
      2. Thoracic (mid back) – holds the rib cage
      3. Lumbar (low back) – holds weight of the body, bigger in size to help absorb weight of lifting things/carrying heavy objects
      4. Sacrum/coccyx – these nine vertebrae are fused together and connect the spine to the hip bones and provide attachment for ligaments and muscles of the pelvic floor
  • Each vertebra is separated and cushioned by an intervertebral disk which keeps them from rubbing together
  • Each disk has two parts: the outer ring (annulus) is fibrous and acts kind of like a spring, pulling the vertebral bones together, and the nucleus, an inner gel-filled section that acts like a ball bearing, allowing the bones to roll over the gel
  1. The spine protects the spinal cord, one of the most important parts of your body. About the thickness of the thumb, it runs from the brainstem to your tailbone and serves as the information superhighway between the brain and body, carrying messages
    1. The brain sends motor messages to the limbs and body through the spinal cord allowing for movement.
    1. The limbs and body send sensory messages to the brain through the spinal cord about what we feel and touch.
    1. Sometimes the spinal cord can react without sending information to the brain. These special pathways, called spinal reflexes, are designed to immediately protect our body from harm.
  2. Any damage to the spinal cord can result in a loss of sensory and motor function below the level of injury. For example, an injury to the thoracic or lumbar area may cause motor and sensory loss of the legs and trunk (called paraplegia). An injury to the cervical (neck) area may cause sensory and motor loss of the arms and legs (called tetraplegia, formerly known as quadriplegia).
  3. Thirty-one pairs of spinal nerves branch off the spinal cord. The spinal nerves act as “telephone lines,” carrying messages back and forth between your body and spinal cord to control sensation and movement. Each spinal nerve has two roots (Fig. 8). The ventral (front) root carries motor impulses from the brain and the dorsal (back) root carries sensory impulses to the brain.

This information and more from: Mayfield Brain & Spine

Activity

Activity:

  1. Connect to prior knowledge:
    • Optional: Build a tin can telephone by stringing yarn between two cans or cups (instructions in the link). Instruct the students to whisper easy physical actions between the two cups (i.e. student one says raise your left hand, hop once, etc.). The other student can send back sensory information (i.e. this blanket feels soft, etc.)
    • Explain: Your spinal cord works between your brain and your body just like the string between the cups – sending messages from your brain to your limbs about movement, and back about sensory information. It’s so important for your body that it has 33 bones protecting it, just like your skull protects your brain.
    • Today we’ll be chiropractors and build a model of the spine to learn more about how it important it is for your body.
  2. Cut the egg cups from the egg carton and trim away any excess pieces
  3. Cut the foam into quarter-sized circles, if not done already
  4. Begin threading the egg cups and circles alternatively onto the pipe cleaner. Help students who may need to pre-cut holes in the pieces.
  5. Repeat until all the cups and circles have been used
  6. Optional: add two strings or additional pipe cleaners to each of the egg cups, representing the nerves that connect to the cord and go throughout the body
  7. Hold the spine up to your back and move around to see how it bends and twists to support the body. Try cat/cow and other yoga poses!
  8. Discuss the importance of protecting the spinal cord: helmets and seat belts are easy ways to make sure the spinal cord doesn’t get injured in an accident. Never dive into unknown waters!

Examples and instructions: https://www.mombrite.com/egg-carton-spine-model/