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Lumbar spine

Learning objectives

Completing this study unit will allow you to:

  1. Describe the structure and function of the lumbar spine.
  2. Identify the features of a typical lumbar vertebra.
  3. Name the articulations of the lumbar vertebrae and their associated ligaments.

Watch video

The lumbar spine is composed of five vertebrae. This spinal segment is located between the thoracic spine superiorly and the sacrum inferiorly. The lumbar vertebrae are the largest and sturdiest of all vertebrae, as they are responsible for supporting the weight of the entire upper body. As opposed to the thoracic spine, the lumbar spinal segment has a posteriorly concave curvature, which is referred to as lordosis. The lumbar spine is more mobile than the thoracic spine and its associated muscles allow for flexion, extension, lateral flexion as well as slight rotation. The numerous ligaments associated with the lumbar vertebrae are responsible for stabilising the vertebral column.

Watch the following video to take a closer look at the lumbar spine and compare its anatomical features with those of the thoracic spine.

Take a quiz

Make all that new knowledge stick with the quiz below!

Have you mastered the lumbar spine and are now looking for an extra challenge? Try out the quiz below and test yourself on the structures of the vertebral column.

Browse atlas

Take a closer look at all the distinguishing features of the lumbar vertebrae in the gallery below.


Key points about the lumbar spine
Definition Bony segment of the vertebral column, between the vertebrae T12 and the sacrum, consisting of five vertebrae
Key anatomical features Main structures: Vertebral body, pedicle of vertebral arch, lamina of vertebral arch
: Vertebral foramen, intervertebral foramen
: Spinous process, transverse process, inferior articular process, superior articular process, mammillary process, accessory process
Articulations Adjacent vertebrae via intervertebral and zygapophyseal joints

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