Vertebral Column Anatomy

Vertebral Column Anatomy

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The Bones of the Back

The bones of the back, or vertebral column, are made up of 5 sections: the cervical vertebrae, the thoracic vertebrae, the lumbar vertebrae, the sacrum, and the coccyx. These sections total 33 vertebrae, which, working together, aid locomotion and posture while providing support and protection. Each part of the vertebral column has unique vertebrae that allow for specialized functions, but all vertebrae have common elements. Namely, a vertebral body and vertebral arch that, when combined, form a complete hole called the vertebral foramen. When multiple vertebrae are layered on top of one another, their foramina can coalesce to form a channel known as the vertebral canal, down which the spinal cord is protected and enclosed.

The vertebral arch also has several features, some of which are inarticulation sites for other bones, while others serve as attachment sites for ligaments and muscles. Examples of these features are the spinous processes, transverse processes, pedicles, and lamina. Between each vertebra sits an intervertebral disc, which helps with shock absorption and movement.

Ligaments that articulate with the bones of the back are essential in preventing extreme movements and strengthening joints. Notable ligaments that help achieve this are the ligamentum flavum, the interspinous ligament, the supraspinous ligament, the intertransverse ligaments, and the anterior and posterior longitudinal ligaments.

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