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By the end of this section, you will be able to:
  • Describe each region of the vertebral column and the number of bones in each region
  • Discuss the curves of the vertebral column and how these change after birth
  • Describe a typical vertebra and determine the distinguishing characteristics for vertebrae in each vertebral region and features of the sacrum and the coccyx
  • Define the structure of an intervertebral disc
  • Determine the location of the ligaments that provide support for the vertebral column

The vertebral column is also known as the spinal column or spine ( [link] ). It consists of a sequence of vertebrae (singular = vertebra), each of which is separated and united by an intervertebral disc    . Together, the vertebrae and intervertebral discs form the vertebral column. It is a flexible column that supports the head, neck, and body and allows for their movements. It also protects the spinal cord, which passes down the back through openings in the vertebrae.

Vertebral column

This image shows the structure of the vertebral column. The left panel shows the front view of the vertebral column and the right panel shows the side view of the vertebral column.
The adult vertebral column consists of 24 vertebrae, plus the sacrum and coccyx. The vertebrae are divided into three regions: cervical C1–C7 vertebrae, thoracic T1–T12 vertebrae, and lumbar L1–L5 vertebrae. The vertebral column is curved, with two primary curvatures (thoracic and sacrococcygeal curves) and two secondary curvatures (cervical and lumbar curves).

Regions of the vertebral column

The vertebral column originally develops as a series of 33 vertebrae, but this number is eventually reduced to 24 vertebrae, plus the sacrum and coccyx. The vertebral column is subdivided into five regions, with the vertebrae in each area named for that region and numbered in descending order. In the neck, there are seven cervical vertebrae, each designated with the letter “C” followed by its number. Superiorly, the C1 vertebra articulates (forms a joint) with the occipital condyles of the skull. Inferiorly, C1 articulates with the C2 vertebra, and so on. Below these are the 12 thoracic vertebrae, designated T1–T12. The lower back contains the L1–L5 lumbar vertebrae. The single sacrum, which is also part of the pelvis, is formed by the fusion of five sacral vertebrae. Similarly, the coccyx, or tailbone, results from the fusion of four small coccygeal vertebrae. However, the sacral and coccygeal fusions do not start until age 20 and are not completed until middle age.

An interesting anatomical fact is that almost all mammals have seven cervical vertebrae, regardless of body size. This means that there are large variations in the size of cervical vertebrae, ranging from the very small cervical vertebrae of a shrew to the greatly elongated vertebrae in the neck of a giraffe. In a full-grown giraffe, each cervical vertebra is 11 inches tall.

Curvatures of the vertebral column

The adult vertebral column does not form a straight line, but instead has four curvatures along its length (see [link] ). These curves increase the vertebral column’s strength, flexibility, and ability to absorb shock. When the load on the spine is increased, by carrying a heavy backpack for example, the curvatures increase in depth (become more curved) to accommodate the extra weight. They then spring back when the weight is removed. The four adult curvatures are classified as either primary or secondary curvatures. Primary curves are retained from the original fetal curvature, while secondary curvatures develop after birth.

Questions & Answers

machenic support production of blood cells locomotion protection of delicate organs
Ackson Reply
what are hormones?
Ackson
what is anatomy
Juma Reply
what are the functions of bones
Michael
To support and control the movements of the body
Mu
the study of human body is called anatomy
mishra
the study of human body is nt only anatomy but also physiology and histology
Evans
ooops lol I thought Michael was the one with the questions so sorry people. yes anatomy is the study of the body(structure)and it's physiology (functions).
Mu
what are the muscles of respiration?
Dorisha
Hi everyone, Why actyl choline decreases blood pressure although it affects adrenal gland leading it to secret adrenaline and noradrenaline which increase blood pressure?
cholinergic receptors are mostly under Parasympathetic response while adrenergic (norepinephrine) receptors are mostly sympathetic although they are cholinergic adrenergic receptors as well
Ayodeji
vocal cords
MT Reply
musah was admitted to your ward yesterday with traumatic amputation of the right thump . he complained this morning that he has not passed enough urine. Questions. 1) will you consider his complain to be pathological or physiological?. 2) in less than three sentences, justify your opinion. 3) Apply your understanding of the renin- angiotensin-aldosterone system to explain the factors and mechanisms accounting for his complains.
Ellen Reply
the mineral salt which break up a large portion of bone tissue is
Aurora Reply
calcium
Calcium
Sawda
please I need help. musah was admitted to your ward yesterday with traumatic amputation of the right thump. he complained this morning that he has not passed enough urine. Questions. 1). will you consider his complain to be pathological or physiological?.
Ellen
2). In less than three sentences, justify your opinion.
Ellen
Physiological
Ruth
musah copmlan to be physiological because of:-
Juma
cholesterol and triglycerides in simplest terms are fats (lipid) found in blood
Roy Reply
calcium is important for bone density and development. it also helps for safe / normal blood clotting, blood circulation to and from the heart, and muscle movement
Roy
please undertand me action potential ?
Josoph
minimum potential that must be overcomed to cause polarization and stimulate a neuronal response( generate impulse)
Ayodeji
what is muscle tissue
Rifat Reply
the muscle tissue is one of the 4 basic tissues in our body and is responsible for movement of our body
What Is difference between Ovary and Ovum
Sawda
ovary is female reproductive organ while ovum is a female gamete formed from ovary
Ubaidah
Thank You
Sawda
What Is Cholesterol and Triglycerides
Sawda
the mineral salt which break up a large portion of bone tissue
Aurora
in simple way muscle tissue is responsible for movement of our body.
Wellington
Hi Be Home Be safe , how are things doing hope all is well
Natarajan Reply
3 longitudinal bands of smooth muscles found in large intestines
Jamia
what's is sutures
Nimeshka Reply
what would I like to know
Roy Reply
anything u can tell me
Roy
anatomy mins
Manish
when two or more bones meet.
Joseph
Joints
Anita
I am interested in learning but it is a little threatening corona virus covid 19
Samnang Reply
I don't know about Corona virus
Vicky
what would you like to know?
Mbasa
what is a peripheral protien
Ayesha Reply
actually its located in between the lipid layer, it does not specify if it's closer to the inside or the outside of the cell
Justin
It is protein found in lipid bilayer but found attached with Cytoplasm aspect
Jamal
what are the collection of blood.?
sunshine Reply
Effect of exercise on different body systems?
Rania Reply

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Source:  OpenStax, Anatomy & Physiology. OpenStax CNX. Feb 04, 2016 Download for free at http://legacy.cnx.org/content/col11496/1.8
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