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Thoracic spine

Learning objectives

Completing this study unit will allow you to:

  1. Identify and name each vertebra of the thoracic spine.
  2. Describe the features of a typical thoracic vertebra.
  3. Name the articulations of the thoracic vertebrae and their associated ligaments.

Watch video

The thoracic spine is a region of the vertebral column located inferior to the cervical spine and superior to the lumbar spine. The twelve thoracic vertebrae display most of the features of a typical vertebra, including vertebral body, vertebral arch and several processes. Together they create an anteriorly concave curvature, which is referred to as a kyphosis. A unique characteristic of the thoracic vertebrae is the presence of costal facets, which articulate with the ribs at costovertebral joints and thus allow the formation of the rib cage - the skeletal framework of the thorax. The thoracic spine is made up of not only the vertebrae, but also the ligaments which stabilise the vertebral column.

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

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Browse atlas

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


Key points about the thoracic spine
Definition Bony segment of the vertebral column, between the vertebrae C7 and L1, consisting of twelve 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
Articulations Adjacent vertebrae via intervertebral and zygapophyseal joints
Ribs via costovertebral joints
Ligaments Ligamentum flavum, intertransverse ligaments, interspinous ligament, anterior longitudinal ligament, posterior longitudinal ligament, supraspinous ligament

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