Vertebra Break Down

Last time Shorty Introduced you to the parts of your #spine. But what about the individual vertebrae that link together to make up your spine? We should understand their structure too! Knowing a little bit about how individual vertebrae are shaped will help you move them well and understand what's going on if you or someone you love has back problems. 

We will cover just a few elements of the basic structure of a typical vertebrae. You should know there is variation in the structure of the vertebrae based on what segment of the spine they are located. Cervical, thoracic, lumbar and sacral vertebrae all have different shapes and sizes based on the function of the portion of the spine they are in and what demands for movement or stability they require. When we talk about vertebrae, we name them with the first letter of the portion of the spine they live in and their number. We number vertebrae from top to bottom or head towards tail. For example the vertebra closest to your head in your thoracic spine is called T-1. Your lowest lumbar vertebra is called L-5. (See more here.) 

Vertebral Body

Image from Wikipedia

Image from Wikipedia

This is the largest part of the vertebrae and is shaped like a cylinder. Your intervertebral discs are cartilaginous cushions that live between each vertebral body, joining them together. These discs help allow the vertebrae to move  and provide shock absorption. Each disc is made of connective tissue and has a softer central portion, know as the nucleus pulposus, and tougher surrounding tissue called the annulus fibrosis. The vertebral body is the anterior portion of the vertebrae. Anterior means closer to the front of your body.  In other words the vertebral bodies and discs are the front side of your spine. 




Spinous Process

Lumbar vertebra image from Wikipedia 

Lumbar vertebra image from Wikipedia 

This is the part of your spine you can see when you round your back or feel when you run your hand down your spine. Each spinous process is connected to the the vertebra above and below it by ligaments and muscles. The spinous processes also serve as an attachment point for a number of muscles like your Latissimus Dorsi (T6-T12), Trapezius (C7 to T12) and Multifidus (All vertebrae). The spinous process is the part of the vertebral arch or posterior portion of the vertebrae. Posterior means towards the back of the body. Check out this dinosaur, the Spinosaurus, that had crazy big spinous processes !



Transverse Process

The transverse process are boney points that stick out to the sides on each vertebra and  also serve as an attachment point for muscles and ligaments. Examples of a few muscles with attachments on your transverse processes are Levator Scapula (C1-C4) and Quadratus Lumborum (L1-L4). Each vertebra has two transverse process on the right and left side. You could imagine these like arms or wings. 




Vertebral Foramen

The spinal cord passes through each vertebrae's vertebral foramen. The vertebral foramen is the hole between the body and the vertebral arch. All of your vertebrae stack on top of each other and together form the spinal or vertebral canal. This is a passageway for your spinal cord. 


These are just the first few land marks to get to know your vertebra! Keep your eyes peeled for more #spine posts to deepen your knowledge.