Anatomy of the Spine

The spinal column is the main support system of the body. These 33 bones, called vertebrae, along with the nerves, muscles and tendons surrounding the spine, help us maintain a stable daily lifestyle and allow us to stand up straight, twist, bend, and so on. Between each vertebrae lies a spinal disc, which is tough, rubbery material that allows the vertebrae to move properly and efficiently. Each and every vertebrae holds a unique role in supporting our bodies, and in protecting the spinal cord and nerve roots. The spine is divided into 5 regions:

Cervical

The neck region of the spine – it consists of 7 vertebrae and provides proper support and protection for the head and allows for a full range of head movements. These vertebrae are labeled from C1-C7. The first is called the Atlas, and the second is called the Axis. Together, these two vertebrae form the joint that connects the spine to the skull, and allows for full head movement.

Thoracic

The next 12 vertebrae have a more limited range of motion – but provide vital support to the ribcage. These vertebrae are labeled from T1-T12.

Lumbar

The next 5 vertebrae vary in size and shape, as they are designed to help carry and support our full body weight. This section of the spine allows for more extension type movements, rather than rotation. These vertebrae are labeled from L1-L5.

Sacral

This section of the spine consists of 5 bones in an almost triangular shape. It is located between the hip bones, and connects the pelvis to the rest of the spine. These vertebrae are labeled from S1-S5.

Coccygeal

The final section of the spine is home of the Coccyx – or the tailbone – and plays a vital role in proper weight bearing and allowing us to sit, stand and move properly. It acts as attachment for various muscles, tendons and ligaments.

At the top of the spine, you’ll find the spinal cord. This is the main bundle of nerve fibers that connects the brain to the rest of the body. It ends near the L1 and L2 vertebrae, where it divides into many nerve roots. Nerve roots are thick branches of nerves that transmit information to the rest of the body.

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