The vertebral column forms the skeleton of the back.
Location of vertebral column
The vertebral column is located in the middle of the back where it separates the left and right sides. It lies on the pelvis and acts as a support for the ribs and the cranium.
Structure of the vertebral column
The vertebral column is a pile of 24 vertebrae (33 including the fused vertebra in the sacrum and coccyx). From top to bottom, it contains:
- The 7 cervical vertebrae, the cervical spine ;
- the 12 thoracic vertebrae, the thoracic spine ;
- the 5 lumbar vertebrae, the lumbar spine;
- the 5 sacral vertebrae, the sacral spine ;
- and the 4 coccyx vertebrae, the coccyx spine.
It has a total of four curves, two of which are concave forwards (in the thoracic and sacral spine) and two are concave backwards (in the lumbar and cervical spine).
Each vertebra has a cylindrical vertebral body on its anterior side and a vertebral foramen on its posterior side . This cylindrical vertebral body forms a bony channel in which the spinal cord nerves pass. The vertebrae have two transverse processes and one spinal process which develop as outgrowths laterally and posteriorly.
Function of the vertebral column
The column holds part of the nervous system, the spinal cord.
The vertebral column is formed by a column of 24 vertebrae. © Uwe Gille, Wikimedia, public domain