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Vertebral Column

Bones and Other Structures of the Vertebral Column

Number of Adult Vertebrae 26 - 7 Cervical, 12 Thoracic, 5 Lumbar, Sacrum and Coccyx
Fetal Vertebral Development Vertebral column consists of 33 seperate bones, nine inferior bones fuse to form 2 composite bones, sacrum and coccyx.
Cervical Vertebrae First 7 of the vertebral column, located in the neck.
Thoracic Vertebrae The 12 vertebrae below the 7 cervical vertebrae, articulate with the ribs.
Lumbar Vertebrae The 5 vertebrae below the thoracic vertebrae and directly superior to the sacrum.
Sacrum Formed of 5 fused vertebrae, located inferior to the lumbar vertebrae, articulates with the hip bones of the pelvis.
Coccyx Terminus of the vertebral column, commonly called the tailbone.
Spinal Curvatures The 4 curvatures give the spine an "S" shape and increase resilience and flexibility, cervical and lumbar are concave, thoracic and sacral are convex.
Scoliosis "Twisted Disease", lateral curvature that occurs most often in the thoracic region, treated with braces or surgery before growth ends to prevent deformity and breathing difficulties due to compressed lung.
Kyphosis "Hunchback", dorsally exaggerated thoracic curvature, common in elderly people due to osteoporosis, may also indicate tuberculosis of the spine, rickets or osteomalacia.
Lordosis "Swayback", accentuated lumbar curvature, can result from spinal tuberculosis or osteomalacia, temporary lordosis common in people carrying large loads up front (pregnant women).
Anterior and Posterior Longitudinal Ligaments Cable-like supports that help keep the spine upright, run as continuous bands down the front and back surface of the spine from the neck to the sacrum.
Nucleus Pulposus Inner gelatinous center of the vertebrae, acts like a rubber ball giving it elasticity and compressibility.
Anulus Fibrosus Strong collar composed of collagen fibers superficially and fibrocartilage internally that surrounds the nucleus pulposus of each vertebrae, limits expansion.
Herniate (Prolapsed) Disc Usually involves rupture of the anulus fibrosis followed by protrusion of the spongy nucleus pulposus, if protrusion compresses spinal cord or nerves numbness/pain may result, generally treated w/ moderate exercise, massage, heat-therapy, painkillers.
Vertebral Structure Consists of a centrum (body) anteriorly and vertebral arch posteriorly, centrum is the weight bearing portion, centrum and arch enclose an opening called the vertebral foramen.
Centrum The vertebral body, forms the weight bearing portion of the vertebrae.
Vertebral Arch Formed by 2 pedicles and 2 laminae.
Pedicles Short bony pillars that project post. from the vertebral body and form the sides of the vertebral arch.
Laminae Flattened plates that fuse medially and complete the vertebral arch.
Spinous Process Median posterior projection arising at the junction of the 2 laminae, provides attachment site for muscles and ligaments that move and stabilize the vertebral column.
Transverse Process Extends laterally from each side of the vertebral arch, provides attachment site for muscles and ligaments that move and stabilize the vertebral column.
Superior and Inferior Articular Processes Protrude from the pedicle-laminae junction, articulate w/ corresponding facets on adjacent vertebrae to form movabale joints.
Intervertebral Foramina Notches on the pedicle superior and inferior borders, provide lateral openings that allow passage of spinal nerves.
Cervical Vertebrae Regional Characteristics Body is oval, except in C7 spinous process is short, projects directly back and is bifid, vertebral foramen is large and triangular, each transverse process contain transverse foramen through which arteries pass to serve the brain.
Vertebra Prominens Spinous process of the C7 vertebrae, visible through the skin and is used as a landmark.
Atlas C1 vertebrae, has no body and no spinous process, ring of bone consisting of the ant. & post. arches and lateral mass on each side.
Atlas Lateral Masses Contains articular facets on superior and inferior surface, superior facets receive the occipital condyles of the skull, inferior facets articulate w/ the axis.
Axis Not as specialized as the atlas, has body, spine and typical processes, specialized dens or odontoid process projects superiorly from the body.
Dens Also called odontoid process, cradled in the anterior arch of the atlas by tansverse ligaments, acts as a pivot for the rotation of the atlas.
Thoracic Vertebrae Regional Characteristics Heart-shaped body that contain 2 facets for articulating with the ribs (T10-T12 contain 1), vertebral foramen is circular, spinous process is long and points downward.
Lumbar Vertebrae Regional Characteristics Prime weight bearers that is reflected in structure, pedicles and laminae shorter and thicker, spinous processes are short, flat and hatchet shaped, vertebral foramen is triangular, features lock vertebrae together to provide stability.
Sacrum Triangular shaped bone that shapes the posterior wall of the pelvis, formed by 5 fused vertebrae, articulates superiorly with L5 and inferiorly with the coccyx.
Sacroiliac Joint Formed by the superior articular surfaces of the sacrum and the pelvic hip bones.
Sacral Promontory Antero-superior margin of the first sacral vertebra, bulges anteriorly into the pelvic cavity, body's center of gravity lies about 1 cm posterior
Sacral Canal Continuation of the vertebral canal, created by the failure of the laminae to fuse medially.
Sacral Hiatus Enlared external opening at the inferior end of the sacral canal.