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||edHelper's suggested reading level:
||grades 4 to 6
||Flesch-Kincaid grade level:
||coccyx, lumbar, sacrum, thoracic, vertebral, thickness, therefore, vertebra, spinal, entire, fuse, cartilage, lower, actually, spine, atlas
By Jennifer Kenny
1 Your spine consists of many vertebrae. There are 33 vertebrae in kids and 26 vertebrae in adults, to be exact. These vertebrae fit on top of each other, interlocking, to form your spine.
2 A vertebra is round in front. It has bony spikes on the sides and back. Attached to the spikes are muscles and ligaments. The spine is held together by the ligaments. The muscles support the spine and allow it to move.
3 Below each vertebra you will find cartilage. Cartilage actually makes up about 25% of the spine's length. The cushion of cartilage acts as a shock absorber. Don't forget that your spine takes a lot of strain as you move, sit, and stand. In fact, due to the pounding your cartilage takes all day, it actually compresses during the day like a sponge under pressure. Therefore, you are a tiny bit shorter at bedtime than when you get up in the morning. Overnight, the cartilage recovers its thickness while you sleep. The same can't be said when we age, though. It gets harder for the cartilage to recover as you get older. That's why adults do get shorter as they age!
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