A vertebra is an individual bone within the vertebral column and there are 33 in total. These vertebrae are divided into five regions — cervical, thoracic, lumbar, sacral and coccyx — with vertebrae in each region varying in size and shape.

The vertebrae are the primary structural element of the spine and if you’re dealing with chronic neck or back pain, learning about them can be an important step in your care journey. This knowledge can help you and your primary care physician develop a treatment plan that can return you to the people and activities you’ve been missing.

Vertebra — spinal regions and anatomy

A cervical vertebra, located in the upper spine, is relatively small and helps support the head. Thoracic vertebrae, in the middle back, are intermediate in size and fixed to the ribcage. The lumbar vertebrae are the largest, supporting much of the upper body’s weight. The sacrum and coccyx are the lowest regions and consist of vertebrae that are fused together and look significantly different from the others in the spinal column. The purpose of the vertebral column is to protect the spinal cord, as well as support the upper body while still allowing for movement.

Each vertebra contains an oval-shaped vertebral body, which is cushioned above and below by rubbery discs that absorb shock and help with movement. In the center of the vertebra is the foramen, the space through which the spinal cord passes. Vertebrae also contain other parts that enable mobility and aid in protection of the spinal cord and nerves, such as pedicles, laminae and a spinous process.

Treatment for issues affecting the vertebra

A vertebra is subject to a number of disorders and injuries, these can include:

  • Compression fractures
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Spondylolisthesis
  • Spinal stenosis
  • Degenerative disc disease
  • Scoliosis

While some of these conditions are present at birth, others occur as a result of aging and years of wear and tear to the spine. However, there are certainly ways to prevent vertebral damage and minimize your chances of developing chronic neck or back pain. Using good body mechanics while participating in activities such as lifting, exercising and standing can reduce the amount of stress placed on the spine. Practicing correct posture, maintaining a healthy body weight and refraining from smoking are a few other measures you can take to keep your spine healthy.

If you have a spinal condition and are considering surgery because a course of conservative treatment lasting weeks or months has not brought relief, reach out to Laser Spine Institute. Our minimally invasive spine surgery offers many benefits and is an alternative to traditional open spine procedures. This is because we use a muscle-sparing, less than 1-inch incision that allows our procedures to be performed on an outpatient basis.

For a no-cost MRI review* to see if you may be a potential candidate for our minimally invasive spine surgery, contact us today.