The significance of the spinal cord is mostly clear to most people when it comes to specific diseases or paralysis. Otherwise, the spinal cord is a very complex and complicated system, but which is hardly noticeable in a healthy state.

What is spinal cord?

In the definition of the spinal cord different names such as the medulla spinalis or the myelon are used. Basically, the colloquial term spinal cord is understood to mean part of the nervous system.

Unlike other regions of the central nervous system, the approximately 40 cm long spinal cord is concentrated in an elongated cavity within the spine.

The individual breakthroughs in the vertebral bodies result in their entirety a passage opening for the spinal cord.

Antomie & Aufbau

The morphology of the spinal cord is extremely fine and is based on an accumulation of nerve fibers and so-called perikarya. The perikaryas are anatomical components of the ascending and descending nerve cells. The spinal cord comprises several sections which, depending on their location, include the cervical and thoracic spinal cord, the lumbar spine and the sacral marrow.

In contrast to the cervical and lumbar spinal cord, the spinal cord is much narrower at the level of the lungs and neck. In the lower regions towards the buttocks there is a greater density of nerve cells.

When looking at the spinal cord, a front, a lateral and a posterior cord are recognizable. In addition, a double envelope of hard and soft media protects the spinal cord. These layers are referred to as spinal cuticle. The morphology of these membranes is equal to that of the meninges.

If the spinal cord is cut transversely, the white and the gray medullary substance are striking, which are composed of different physiologically relevant structures. In an overview, the cross section of a spinal cord is compared with a butterfly with outstretched wings.

Functions & Tasks

The spinal cord works closely together with the brain and represents the connection between this "control center" and all organs. The skin and the muscles are also under the control of the brain via the spinal cord.

In addition, various stimuli can be absorbed via the spinal cord via the peripheral nervous system (which extends to the outer areas of the body) and fed to the brain. The spinal cord is also responsible for tasks such as the monitoring of motor function and body movements, the coordination of all functional processes in the organism and the processing of environmental stimuli. Further functions of the spinal cord also have to do with feeling, language and thinking.

Through the spinal nerves, the stimuli received from outside are absorbed by the spinal cord via the gray and white medullary substance and directed to the brain as well as vice versa. In addition to the nerve cells mentioned, the neurotransmitters, which are essential for the transmission of stimuli, are also present in the spinal cord, which operate on a biochemical basis between the extensions of the nerve cells.


A variety of diseases refers exclusively to the spinal cord. Other diseases include spinal cord involvement. This fact applies, for example, to multiple sclerosis, meningitis and epilepsy.

If the spinal cord is suffering from spondylolysis or Paget's disease, or if other spinal cord destruction occurs, the consequences may be catastrophic. In all diseases in which the spinal cord is affected in some way, disorders of cognition, speech, mobility, the performance of simple, involuntary reflexes and thinking occur in varying degrees of severity.

A plethora of diseases of the spinal cord is caused by mechanical injuries. These are impairments such as paraplegia in different forms such as tetra-, paraparesis and paraparysis. Other disease-specific deficits in the spinal cord are myelopathy, disorders of the blood supply, inflammation of the spinal cord and the narrowing of this system by a herniated disc.

Myelopathy is damage to the spinal cord in the cervical spine. The spinal cord is pressed in by an increase in volume of bony substances. Myelitis is an inflammatory process in the spinal cord, which is primarily caused by microorganisms. Are affected by these inflammatory processes, the spinal membranes, meningomyelitis is spoken of.

Typical & common diseases

  • syringomyelia
  • Spinal injury (spinal trauma)
  • Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis
  • Paraplegia
  • multiple sclerosis
  • leukemia
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