Category: Spine | Author: Stefano Sinicropi | Date: April 29, 2014
The spine is the grid on which the human body is built. We need it in order to perform even the most rudimentary daily tasks. We’ve previously discussed the anatomy of the spine, but in this article we will talk about how the spine forms during pregnancy, and investigate when it stops growing.
In the Womb
Development of the spine begins in the womb during pregnancy. Several days after conception, the zygote (created when the sperm and egg join) turns into a blastocyst, which develops into cell layers that will eventually form the all the areas of the body. Roughly six weeks into the pregnancy, bones begin to form – including the spinal vertebrae. The vertebrae and spinal discs continue to form until the woman is nearly full term.
The human spine grows significantly during an infant’s early years. When a child is born, their spine is between 9 and 10 inches on average. In their first year of life, the spine will almost double in length. The following nine years will bring another 8-9 inches of growth.
Everyone knows that children go through a lot of bodily changes during puberty. The spine is no different. On average, the spine will continue to grow between 5-10 inches throughout puberty. Male spines will generally see greater growth than female spine. After years of constant growth, the human spine usually ceases to grow around the age of 18.
As we age our bodies naturally break down. As a result, the spine can degrade and actually decrease in size. This is a big reason why elderly people seem to get shorter over time. The spinal vertebrae loose density over time and shrink.
These decreases will generally only amount to an inch or two in lost height. This shrinking is natural, but if you are concerned about your height decrease, contact your physician.