14.3: Spinal Cord
- Page ID
The spinal cord is a long, thin, tubular structure made up of nervous tissue, which extends from the medulla oblongata in the brainstem to the lumbar region of the vertebral column. It encloses the central canal of the spinal cord, which contains cerebrospinal fluid. In humans, the spinal cord begins at the occipital bone, passing through the foramen magnum and entering the spinal canal at the beginning of the cervical vertebrae. The spinal cord extends down to between the first and second lumbar vertebrae, where it tapers to from the conus medullaris near the second lumbar vertebra as it spreads out into a horse tail-like structure called cauda equina and terminating in a fibrous extension known as the filum terminale. The enclosing bony vertebral column protects the relatively shorter spinal cord. It is around 45 cm (18 in) in men and around 43 cm (17 in) long in women. The diameter of the spinal cord ranges from 13 mm (1⁄2 in) in the cervical and lumbar regions to 6.4 mm (1⁄4 in) in the thoracic area.