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Vertebral column

Learning objectives

After completing this study unit you will be able to:

  1. Identify the main regions of the vertebral column.
  2. Understand the distinguishing features of each region.
  3. Describe the main components and bony landmarks of a typical vertebra.
  4. Learn about the main functions and movements of the vertebral column.

Watch video

The vertebral column (spine) is composed of 33-35 vertebrae, 24 of which are separated by intervertebral discs; the remaining vertebrae are usually fused to compose two respective bones, the sacrum and coccyx. The vertebral column is divided into five regions: (from superior to inferior) the cervical, thoracic, lumbar, sacral and coccygeal regions. The vertebrae articulate with each other by connecting their bodies and their arches via intervertebral joints. These joints are present throughout the whole spine, while some regions have region-specific joints (e.g., the thoracic spine with the ribs).

The following video tutorial will provide you with a brief overview of the vertebral column, its structure and functions.

Take a quiz

Now that you have watched the video about the vertebral column, you can test your knowledge on the subject by taking the quiz below.

Do you want to make your own personalized quiz by picking your favorite topics and adjusting the difficulty level? You can do it by clicking on our custom quiz!

Download the following PDF worksheets and learn the parts of the vertebral column.


Browse atlas

You can observe the features of the spine and vertebrae in more detail in our image galleries below. This first gallery focuses on the spine as a whole.

While this second gallery takes a closer look at the features of a typical vertebra.


Key points about the vertebral column
Main regions Cervical spine (7)
Thoracic spine (12)
Lumbar spine (5)
Sacrum (5)
Coccyx (3-5)
Curvatures Cervical lordosis (C2-T2)
Thoracic kyphosis (T2-T12)
Lumbar lordosis (T12 - sacrovertebral angle)
Sacral kyphosis (sacrovertebral articulation - coccyx)
Movements Flexion, extension, lateral flexion, rotation (torsion)
Functions Movement, stabilization and support of the trunk; protection of the spinal cord
Key points about the structure of a typical vertebra
Main components Vertebral body
Vertebral arch
Vertebral foramen
Bony landmarks of vertebral arch Pedicles
Vertebral processes: Spinous process, transverse processes, superior articular processes (with superior articular facets) and inferior articular processes (with inferior articular facets)

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