A guide to the bones of the spinal column

The bones in the spinal column support the upper body and allow a wide range of movement. In most people, there are 24 individual vertebrae from the base of the skull to the lower back and nine additional vertebrae that make up the sacrum and coccyx at the base of the spine and tailbone.

Individual vertebrae are also responsible for the protection of the spinal cord by forming the spinal canal from arches that extend off the body of each vertebra. The vertebrae are cushioned by discs and connected by facet joints, which allow the spine to bend and flex.

Spinal column segments

The 24 vertebrae are divided into three segments:

  • Cervical. The upper spine includes seven vertebrae (C1-7) that run from the neck to the upper back. These vertebrae are the smallest bones in the spinal column and support the head. Cervical vertebrae give the head the ability to pivot left and right, as well as bend forward, backward and side to side.
  • Thoracic. The middle region of the spine has 12 vertebrae (T1-12), which are typically the most stable bones in the spine because they are not required to move as much as the cervical and lumbar bones. This region is fused to, and supported by, the surrounding rib cage.
  • Lumbar. This lower back region of the spine has the largest vertebrae (L1-5) and supports the majority of the body’s weight. As a result, spinal conditions most commonly occur here.

The sacrum and coccyx

The sacrum is a shield-like plate of five fused vertebrae (S1-5), situated between the pelvic bones. It connects with the fifth lumbar vertebra above and the coccyx below. The coccyx, also known as the tailbone, is formed by segments of fused vertebrae. It serves as the attachment point for many important muscles and ligaments.

Laser Spine Institute

Many conditions can affect the bones in the spinal column as well as the surrounding muscles, ligaments, nerves and the spinal cord. If you are suffering from a degenerative spine condition such as spinal osteoarthritis or a herniated disc and you are considering surgery after exhausting conservative treatment options, reach out to Laser Spine Institute.

Our team of board-certified orthopedic surgeons and neurosurgeons perform minimally invasive spine surgery that is a safer and effective alternative to traditional open spine procedures.^

If you’d like to learn more, contact Laser Spine Institute for your no-cost MRI or CT scan review* to find out if you are a potential candidate for a procedure at one of our state-of-the-art outpatient centers.