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How’s Your Neck?

A giraffe towers over humans, yet the giraffe has the exact same number of vertebrae in their neck as a human. Scientists continue to scratch their heads about the exact evolutionary path the animal’s ancestors took to develop this unique adaptation. It’s not only the length of the giraffe neck but the flexibility that is truly amazing.

The giraffe males or bulls fight by whipping their necks at each other over the affection of the female giraffes. Thus, survival of the fittest male would suggest that the ones with the longest and strongest neck would be the victors.

Whatever the case, those seven vertebrae are significantly larger than the ones in your neck. Each giraffe necks vertebra may be as long as 10 inches. Stacking seven of these vertebrae or blocks of bone may result in a load of approximately 600 pounds.

A giraffe’s flexibility results from how the cervical vertebrae are united. The average vertebra is a joint in a ball and socket configuration similar to one’s hip joint. Also, the giraffe has a specialized cardiovascular system that keeps blood traveling through the neck to the brain. The giraffe’s blood vessels are equipped with valves that prevent the blood from backtracking due to gravity. Due to the need for large pumping mechanism, the giraffe’s heart is huge.

One can also see that the long neck of the giraffe allows for it to reach leaves, fruit, and flowers for feeding. The length of the neck allows for a sharp lookout for predators across the African savanna.

Next time you suffer from neck pain, take a leaf out of the giraffe’s book and stretch.

To learn more about Dr. Cotler or to schedule an appointment, please call us on (713) 523-8884 or visit www.gulfcoastspinecare.com

Howard B. Cotler, MD, FACS, FAAOS is board certified and recertified in Orthopedic Surgery. He is a fellow of the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgery and the American College of Surgeons.

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