Test your knowledge of your back

How much do you know about backs and spines?

Thanks to the thriving Internet, patients have become more and more articulate. They research before they go see a doctor, asking tougher questions at the surgery and won't accept any advice just like that.

Some physicians are complaining, but at Bergman Clinics we welcome this. We like curious people who show an interest. Even more than that, I now challenge you to thoroughly test your knowledge of backs and spines. We will play a quiz, after which you may discover if you'd need to brush up on anything. For the real heroes: why don't you try this without Google! Here we go:


1. How many vertebrae are there in a human spine?

  1. 17
  2. 20
  3. 24
  4. 28
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The correct answer is C. A human being has 7 cervical vertebrae, 12 thoracic vertebrae and 5 lumbar vertebrae.

2. How many weeks must you lay flat on your back after surgery on a slipped disk?

  1. 0 weeks
  2. 1 week
  3. 3 weeks
  4. 6 weeks
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The correct answer is A. Lying flat on your back is not done anymore, it would cause your muscle corset to deteriorate. On the contrary, you should move as much as possible, but prompted by what you can do. That is the most sensible thing to do (read blog number 8!).

3. Which tissue is not in the spinal canal?

  1. Sciatic nerve
  2. Blood
  3. Spinal cord
  4. Cerebral Spinal Fluid
  5. Muscle
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The correct answer is E.

4. In what position are you on the table during surgery on a slipped disk?

  1. On your side
  2. On your abdomen
  3. On your back
  4. In the salaam-position
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The correct answer is D. The salaam-position looks like this:


5. Who will decide if a slipped disk needs an operation?

  1. Family doctor
  2. Neurologist
  3. Patient
  4. Neurosurgeon
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The correct answer is C. When you are seeing your family doctor with pain in your back and leg, or neck and arm, he or she can refer you to the neurologist for further neurological examination, a diagnosis and perhaps an MRI. If a slipped disk has been diagnosed, the neurologist can refer you to the neurosurgeon when the pain in your back and leg is severe and there has not been any natural improvement. The neurosurgeon can then propose an operation, but you will always be the one to decide if, after all the ins and outs of such an operation have been explained, you wish to undergo the proposed surgery.

6. When was the first surgery on a slipped disk performed and who did this?

  1. 430 (BC), by Hippocrates
  2. 1864, by Ernest Lasègue
  3. 1933, by Mixter and Barr
  4. 1977, by Gazi Yasargil
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The correct answer is C.

Hippocrates was a Greek physician. He is considered the founder, the 'father' of Western medicine, because he was the first who saw natural causes of diseases instead of supernatural ones. Every candidate physician in the Netherlands must take ‘Hippocrates' oath', before being allowed to practice medicine. Hippocrates described many clinical pictures and symptoms including the lumbosciatica phenomenon: radiating pain in a leg.

Ernest Lasegue described a maneuver to show a pinched sciatic nerve. Even today this test is still performed in neurological examinations.

Mixter and Barr were 2 English surgeons who performed the first surgery on a slipped disk in 1933. They presented their operation and findings for the first time in London at the annual meeting of the New England Surgical Society in 1933.

Gazi Yasargil is a Turkish medical scientist and neurosurgeon. He and Harvey Cushing are considered the two greatest neurosurgeons of the 20th century. He was the founder of micro-neurosurgery and was the first neurosurgeon who has operated on slipped disks using a microscope since 1967.

7. The surgery on your slipped disk has been performed. What does the tissue that the surgeon removed, look like?

  1. Chewing gum
  2. Tendon
  3. Cartilage
  4. Mucus
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The correct answer is A.

8. How does a slipped disk develop?

  1. Accident
  2. Lifting
  3. Spontaneous
  4. Genetic predisposition
  5. All answers are correct
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The correct answer is E. A slipped disk can be caused by: lifting, an accident, or a different incorrect movement. But the slipped disk will only manifest in people having a genetic predisposition for a bad intervertebral disk. So it is the DNA which will decide if such trauma will lead to a slipped disk.

9. Which animal has the biggest risk of getting a slipped disk?

  1. Giraffe
  2. Hamster
  3. Dog
  4. Monkey
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The correct answer is C.

Of all animals, slipped disks mostly occur in dogs and then especially in dachshunds, but also more often in dobermans, French bulldogs, shih tzus, and Labrador retrievers. Very rarely in cats, and in monkeys only now and then: My colleague Dick Van Zuylen, animal orthopedist in Amsterdam (MCD), once succesfully operated on the slipped disk in a chimpanzee in Artis Zoo.

10. Which is not spinal surgery?

  1. Discectomy
  2. Craniotomy
  3. Spondylodese
  4. Laminectomy
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The correct answer is B.

Discectomy is surgery on a slipped disk, craniotomy is brain surgery, spondylodese is spinal surgery where two or more vertebrae are being bolted together (see: conditions - unstable spine, in the menu at this website). Laminectomy is a spinal operation, where the back part of the spinal vertebra is removed in order to create more space for the spinal canal with the sciatic nerves (read blog number 9!).


And… was it easier than you expected or do you have no idea how you did? Quickly check your scores and see what kind of patient you are!

1 - 3 correct answers

No worries. Just leave the knowledge of spines to the experts; fortunately we, at Bergman Clinics know more about it!

4 - 6 correct answers

Make sure you listen well when you're at the surgery. You could always bring a friend or a relative, they are quite welcome and two people will remember more than one.

7 - 9 correct answers

You are a certificated patient, we are here, ready to answer all your critical questions.

10 correct answers

We're looking forward to receiving your application letter asap!

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