What Is the Function of the Central Canal?

The spine's central canal provides a structure within the vertebral column to house the spinal cord and nerve bundles. The term central canal can refer to other anatomical features, such as the haversian canal of the ostia structure in bones, but that name typically refers to the spinal canal.

The central canal is a space created by the surfaces of adjacent structures. Its front is the rear edge of the vertebral disks. Its rear abuts the rings of the vertebrae and inter-disk ligaments. When malformations of any of those bordering elements reduce the central canal's radius, the spinal cord and other hosted nerve bundles suffer damage. Compression of the connective tissue, pressure on the spinal cord and other forces impact the health of the spine.

One of the most significant outcomes of a narrowed spinal canal is spinal stenosis, which causes side effects such as numbness in the legs and back pain. Major contributors to this condition are age and arthritis. Blockages in the central canal begin in the teens, accelerating throughout life. These occur locally and expand from individual segments with totally open canals existing only in those 10-years-old and younger. Because of these blockages, the central canal is thought to be less functional after infancy, according to the National Institute of Health.