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Joints of the vertebral bodies and arches

Learning objectives

After completing this study unit you will be able to:

  1. Identify the main groups of joints formed between the vertebral bodies and arches. 
  2. Name the main and accessory ligaments that support the joints between the vertebrae. 
  3. Master the movements and functions of vertebral joints.

Browse atlas

In order to maintain stability and secure movements of the vertebral column, the vertebrae articulate with each other by connecting their bodies and their arches. The intervertebral joints are the articulations between the adjacent vertebrae of the vertebral column. Each intervertebral joint is composed of three separate joints; an intervertebral symphysis (intervertebral disc joint) and two zygapophyseal (facet) joints.

An intervertebral symphysis is the articulation of two contiguous vertebral bodies and the intervening intervertebral disc. It is classified as a secondary cartilaginous joint or symphysis (fibrocartilage composition). Vertebral bodies in the cervical region also articulate at the uncovertebral joints. Also known as the "joints of Luschka", these four pairs of plane synovial joints are only present between the vertebrae C3-C7. They are found on the lateral borders of the vertebral bodies on each side of the respective intervertebral discs.

A zygapophyseal joint (facet joint) is a synovial joint that connects the articular processes of neighboring vertebrae. Both intervertebral disc and zygapophyseal joints extend between the levels of the axis (C2) and sacrum (S1). The intervertebral joints are reinforced and supported by numerous ligaments.

The images in our atlas gallery will provide you with a detailed overview of the bony features that comprise the intervertebral joints and their associated ligaments.

Take a closer look at the joints of the vertebral bodies and arches in the gallery below.

Take a quiz

Now that you have explored the atlas images on the important aspects of the joints of the vertebral bodies and arches, test yourself and see how much you have learned by taking our quiz below.

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Key points about the joints of the vertebral bodies and arches
Joints Intervertebral symphysis: Inferior vertebral plateau of superior vertebral body and superior vertebral plateau of inferior vertebral body
Zygapophyseal joints
: Superior articular facets of inferior vertebra and inferior articular facets of superior vertebra
Uncovertebral joints
: Uncinate processes of inferior vertebra and inferolateral surfaces of superior vertebral body
Ligaments Main ligaments:
Anterior longitudinal ligament:
 Anterior aspect of vertebral bodies and intervertebral discs
Posterior longitudinal ligament:
 Posterior aspect of vertebral bodies and intervertebral discs
Accessory ligaments
Ligamenta flava:
 Posterior surface of vertebral canal, along adjacent laminae
Interspinous ligaments:
 Adjacent spinous processes
Supraspinous ligament:
Extremities of spinous processes
Intertransverse ligaments:
adjacent transverse processes
Nuchal ligament:
 External occipital protuberance to spinous process of C7
Movements Flexion, extension, lateral flexion, rotation

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