The human spine consists of 33 vertebrae, but some of them grow together in adults. There are 7 cervical (neck), 12 thoracic (chest region), 5 lumbar (lower back), 5 sacral (hip region), and 4 coccygeal (tailbone region) vertebrae.
The vertebrae are held in place by muscles and strong connective tissue called ligaments. Most vertebrae have fibrous intervertebral disks between them to absorb shock and enable the spine to bend.
The spine normally has a slight curve. Abnormal curvatures may be present at birth. They may also result from disease, poor posture, or a strain on the muscles attached to the spine.
Scoliosis occurs when the spine curves sideways. Kyphosis, or hunchback, is a forward bending of the thoracic vertebrae that often affects elderly people. Lordosis, or swayback, is an exaggerated curvature of the lumbar vertebrae. It usually affects overweight people and pregnant women.
Damage to the spine often occurs in the cervical and lumbar regions. Fractured cervical vertebrae may injure the spinal cord, resulting in a loss of sensation, paralysis, or even death.
Whiplash is an injury to the muscles and ligaments attached to cervical vertebrae. It occurs when a sudden force-such as a rear-end car accident-throws the head backward.
As people age, the inner part of an intervertebral disk is likely to stick out through the outer part. This is called a slipped disk. A slipped disk in the lower back may pinch nerves, causing lumbago (low back pain) or sciatica (pain shooting down the leg).
Upper Neck, Upper Cervical Spine (C1 – C2)
Mid/Lower Neck, Cervical Spine (C3 – C7)
Neck, shoulders, thyroid, tonsils, teeth, outer ear, nose, mouth, vocal cords, and more.
Mid Back, Thoracic Spine (T1 – T12)
Arms, hands, heart, coronary arteries, esophagus, trachea, lungs, bronchial tubes, gallbladder, liver, stomach, pancreas, spleen, kidneys, ureters, adrenal glands, small intestines, and more.
Lower Back, Lumbar Spine (L1 – L5)
Large intestines, appendix, abdomen, bladder, reproductive organs, lower back, lower extremities, ankles, feet, and more.
Basebone or Tailbone, Sacrum and Coccyx
Hip bones, tail bone, buttocks, rectum, anus, and more.
The anatomy of the spinal column is extremely well-designed to serve many functions. All of the elements of the spinal column and vertebrae serve the purpose of protecting the spinal cord, which provides communication to the brain, mobility and sensation in the body through the complex interaction of bones, ligaments and muscle structures of the back and the nerves that surround it. The back is also the powerhouse for the entire body, supporting and allowing the movements of our head, arms, and legs possible.