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Spine Mechanics At Home Activity

A spine made of pretzels and marshmallows

What is the spine?

You use your back (or spine) all the time! While we often call it your “back bone” there are actually 24 bones, which we call vertebrae, that make up your spine! They are split into 3 different sections of your spine. These are called the cervical, thoracic, and lumbar spines. Your cervical spine, which has 7 vertebrae, is what you normally call your neck. The thoracic spine has 12 vertebrae. If you were thinking about how it is a coincidence that you have 12 ribs, its actually not! Each vertebra in the thoracic spine connects to a set of ribs. The lumbar spine has 5 vertebrae. That’s the part of your spine that is behind your stomach. There is one last section of the spine, and that is called the sacrum! The sacrum consists of five bones that are all joined together. It is just below your lumbar spine and connects to your hips!

How does the spine stay together?

Between each set of vertebrae, there is padding called a disc. The discs absorb the movement, and keep the bones from rubbing together. Think of them as cushions on a couch. It is super uncomfortable to sit on a couch without cushions, but the cushions make it comfortable. They also keep the spine together. We will look at how the discs help us in Activity 3.

Activity 1: Learning the Parts of the Spine

Fill out the different parts of the spine! Please download the file to finish the activity!

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Spine Activity 1.docx

What does the spine do?

The spine has a few different jobs, it works really hard! One job is to protect the nerves that run through it and all the way to your muscles. Nerves are responsible for you feeling pain, like when you get a scratch. The nerves are bundled into the spinal cord, which runs through the spine and out to the places they need to be.

Another job of the spine is to help us move and bend more. Can you imagine if we only had one or two bones instead of our spine? It would be so much harder to move! To demonstrate, I want you to pretend you only have one bone in your back.

Activity 2: One Bone Back

Let’s pretend we only have one bone between our head and hips (but you still can use your shoulders, elbows, wrists, and fingers). We are going to try to pick things up from the ground at different places and see how hard it is! Remember, no twisting and no bending your back.

Step 1: Place your pencil on the ground in front of you.

Step 2: Stand up straight and look ahead. Take note of the position of your back and neck. We won’t be moving those anymore

Step 3: Bend down and pick up your pencil. Remember, you can’t look down at it because your neck is part of that back bone.

Please download the file to finish the activity!

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Spine Activity 2.docx

Activity 3: Build a Spine

Now that we know why it is so important that we have so many vertebrae, let’s make some!

Learning objective: Understand why we have so many vertebrae by looking at two vertebrae and a disc and five vertebrae and four discs, why we have bone, discs, and the spinal cord, and how different back problems happen.

Materials: 7 Sourdough pretzels, 5 jumbo marshmallows, 2 pipe cleaners

Now we will be making two models of the spine, one with two vertebrae and one disc, one with five vertebrae and four discs.

Please download the file to finish the activity!

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Spine_Activity_3.docx
a bag pretzels, marshmallows, and twirlers
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Spine Activity 1.docx
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Spine Activity 2.docx
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Spine_Activity_3.docx