Anatomy of the spine

The spinal anatomy is engaged in almost every movement made by the human body. Our arms, legs, chest and head all are attached to the spine. The spine’s complex arrangement of bone, cartilage, ligaments, nerves, muscles, blood vessels and other tissue is strong enough to support the body, yet flexible enough to allow for a wide range of motion. Overall, our spinal anatomy is the foundation for all physical function, including exercise, sitting, walking and resting. To learn about the sections of the spinal anatomy as well as the treatments for any conditions that develop in this area, read on.

Sections of the spinal anatomy

There are 33 bones in the spine, known as vertebrae, which are stacked from top to bottom. These vertebrae are categorized into five areas. The categories are:

  • Cervical spine (C1 to C7). This is the upper area of the spine, from the bottom of the skull to the top of the rib cage. This section is made up of the seven vertebrae at the top of the spine that help support the head.
  • Thoracic spine (T1 to T12). This consists of the 12 vertebrae in the middle section of the spine, to which the ribs are attached. Since this section does not undergo frequent movement, it is less susceptible to deterioration.
  • Lumbar spine (L1 to L5). These five vertebrae toward the lower back support much of the body’s weight. This region spans from the bottom of the ribcage to the sacrum.
  • Sacrum (S1 to S5). This section consists of five fused vertebrae located between the pelvic bones. It is responsible for forming the base of the spine.
  • Coccyx (tailbone). This area is made up of four fused vertebrae at the base of the spine and functions as a point that attaches the muscles, tendons and ligaments.

Function of the spinal anatomy

In addition to structural support, the vertebral column provides protection for the spinal cord, which is a very important part of the spinal anatomy. The spinal cord runs from the brain, along the spine through the spinal canal and ends between the L1 and L2 vertebrae. The spinal cord is part of the central nervous system and is the primary pathway for messages from the brain to the rest of the body.

Nerve roots branch off the spinal cord and exit the spinal column through openings in the vertebrae called foramina. Spine conditions within the spinal anatomy can lead to neck or back pain caused by compressed or irritated nerve roots. These conditions include herniated or bulging discs, spinal arthritis and bone spurs, as well as other degenerative conditions.

If you are dealing with a spine condition that is causing nerve compression, contact Laser Spine Institute to learn about the advantages of our minimally invasive spine surgery. Our procedures offer a safer and effective alternative to traditional open spine surgery, along with a lower risk of complication and a shorter recovery period.^

Since 2005, our procedures have helped more than 75,000 patients find lasting relief from their chronic neck or back pain, setting us apart as the leader in minimally invasive spine surgery. We can provide you with a free MRI review* and determine if you are a potential candidate for one of our minimally invasive procedures.