Vertebral Column

Saturday, April 12th 2014. | Anatomy

Vertebral Column

The vertebral column is not actually a column but, rather, a sort of spiral spring in the form of the letter S. The newborn child has a relatively straight backbone.




The main functions of the vertebral column are:

1) protection of the spinal cord

2) providing stiffening for the body and attachment for the pectoral and pelvic girdle and many other muscles.

3) providing motion for the human skeleton

4) transmitting body weight in walking and standing.


The spinal column is comprised of 26 individual bones, these bones are referred to as vertebrae. The spinal column is divided into 5 different areas containing groups of vertebrae and are grouped as follows:


The adult vertebral (spinal) column consists of 26 bones that are grouped as follows:


  • 7 cervical vertebrae in the neck
  • 12 thoracic vertebrae that articulate with the 12 pairs of ribs
  • 5 lumbar vertebrae of the lower back
  • 1 sacrum which is actually a fusion of 5 sacral vertebrae (fusion occurs from late teens to early 20’s)
  • 1 coccyx or “tailbone” which is a fusion of 4 coccygeal vertebrae


Intervertebral discs are located between adjacent vertebrae. These fibrocartilage discs form strong joints and absorb spinal compression shock.


Various spinal disorders include:

  • Herniated (slipped) disc – protrusion or rupture of an intervertebral disc
  • Scoliosis – exaggerated lateral bending of spinal column
  • Kyphosis – “hunchback” exaggerated thoracic curvature
  • Lordosis – “swayback” exaggerated lumbar curvature
  • Spina bifida – congenital defect with incomplete closure of the vertebral column

Epidural anesthesia, often used in obstetrics, is injected into the sacrum at the sacral hiatus.

In a lumbar puncture (“spinal tap), spinal fluid is removed using a long needle inserted between L3-L4 or L4-L5.


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