Difference Between Spinal Cord and Spinal Column

Spinal cord and spinal column are two major components of the nervous system and skeletal system, respectively. Spinal column is commonly known as the backbone which protects the spinal cord, which composed of cables of nerves.

Spinal Cord

Spinal cord is composed of nerve fibers, and it enables to transfer nerve impulses from the body to the brain and vice versa through the 31 pairs of spinal nerves. The cord is located inside the spinal column and is surrounded by the cerebrospinal fluid. Spinal cord of an adult individual is about 45 cm in length and about 6-12 mm wide. The width of the spinal cord reduces when it goes further down; thus the bottom end of the spinal cord is narrower than its superior end. The spinal cord is attached to the brain through the brain stem. The nerve fibers enter dorsolaterally and come out ventrolaterally at both sides of the spinal cord. The spinal nerves are further divided into 5 parts; cervical nerves, thoracic nerves, lumbar nerves, sacral nerves, and coccygeal nerves.


Spinal Column (Backbone)

Spinal column belongs to the skeletal system and most often referred to as ‘backbone’. The anatomical term for the spinal column is called ‘vertebral column’, which implies the characteristic feature of vertebrates. Spinal column is considered as the body’s main supportive skeletal structure, which is strong enough to hold the skull at the superior end. It is linked with the pelvis at the bottom end. Spinal column is flexible in order to support the bending of the body. In human, the spinal cord is composed of 33 separate bony parts called vertebrae. Anatomically, it is divided into five main parts; cervical spine, thoracic spine, lumbar spine, sacral spine and coccyx. The cervical spine is composed of seven vertebrae and is often called the neck. The thoracic spine is well below the cervical spine and consists of 12 thoracic vertebrae. Directly below the thoracic spine is the lumbar spine, which consists of five vertebrae. The lumbar spine is connected with sacral spine, which is composed of 05 vertebrae. Finally, last 03 to 05 vertebrae are fused to form the coccyx, which is found at the bottom of the spinal column. An intervertebral disc made up of fluid filled cartilages is found between every two vertebrae. The spinal column is the main skeletal part which helps human to stay in a vertical or erect position. In addition, it also protects the spinal cord, which is considered as one of the most important nerve parts of the central nervous system. 

What is the difference between Spinal Cord and Spinal Column (Backbone)?

• Spinal cord belongs to the nervous system, whereas spinal column belongs to the skeletal system.

• Spinal cord is composed of spinal nerves, whereas spinal column is made up of vertebrae.

• Spinal cord produces 31 pairs of spinal nerves, whereas spinal column has 33 vertebrae.

• Spinal cord is inside the spinal column and is surrounded by cerebrospinal fluid.

• Spinal cord conducts nerve impulses between body and brain and vice versa while spinal column provides support to the body and protects the spinal cord.


Further Readings:

1. Difference Between Sensory and Motor Nerves

2. Difference Between Somatic and Autonomic Nervous System

3. Difference Between Sympathetic and Parasympathetic Nervous System

4. Difference Between Sensory and Motor Neurons

5. Difference Between Upper and Lower Motor Neuron