Nerves of the Back
The spinal cord originates as a continuation of the brainstem, specifically the medulla oblongata, and travels within the vertebral canal. At the level of the L2 vertebra, the spinal cord becomes known as the cauda equina. The cauda equina is formed from the spinal nerves which arise from the end of the spinal cord. Compression of these nerves in the back can cause cauda equina syndrome, which requires a full neurological assessment and potentially an MRI scan to see if the patient requires immediate surgical decompression.
Surrounding the spinal cord are the spinal meninges, which consist of 3 layered membranes – the pia mater, the arachnoid mater and the dura mater. Amongst these membranes is the cerebrospinal fluid which provides many supportive and protective functions to the spinal cord. At the distal end of the spinal canal, the meninges come together to form the filum terminale, which is a fibrous strand that attaches to the coccyx.
Originating from the spinal cord are the spinal nerves, which have both sensory and motor functions. The vertebral column contains intervertebral foramina which allows these nerves of the back to exit the vertebral canal.
Whilst there are 3 major arteries providing the blood supply to the spinal cord, there are 6 communicating spinal veins which are responsible for its venous drainage.
In this section, learn more about the nerves of the back, specifically the spinal cord.