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Artistic sketch of vertebral column with vertebrae, disks, and intervertebral spaces.

An artistic sketch of the vertebrae and the soft jelly-like disks between them.

 The superior and inferior articulate processes are depicted to form a spiral staircase (artistic interpretation). Note that not all vertebral processes are shown.

What Is Intervertebral Space?


Your spine is made up of individual vertebrae that protect the spinal cord, which is a crucial part of the Central Nervous System. The space between those vertebrae is called the intervertebral space.

The intervertebral space is occupied by intervertebral discs, which are like soft, cushiony centers surrounded by a tougher outer layer. These discs help increase the space between the vertebrae, which is important because nerves exit and enter the spinal column through small openings called intervertebral foramina. These foramina are like little passageways formed by the bony walls of the vertebrae above and below. The spinal nerves that travel through these foramina transmit sensory information from the body to the spinal cord and brain, as well as motor signals from the spinal cord to the muscles and organs.

If the intervertebral discs degenerate or become compressed, the space between the vertebrae decreases, and that can lead to compression of the nerves. 

It's kind of like if you pinch a hose, the water can't flow through properly. In this case, the nerves can't transmit signals properly either, which can cause irritation, inflammation, and improper function. This can lead to pain, discomfort, numbness, tingling, weakness, and even abnormal sensations.

For example, if the nerves in your lower back (lumbar spine) get compressed, you might experience pain that "radiates" down your legs, which is commonly known as sciatica. But it's not just about pain – compressed nerves can also affect the function of the nerves in your autonomic nervous system, which controls things like your bladder function. So you can see why the intervertebral space really matters!

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