Dr Emmanuel
Dr Emmanuel
Orthopaedic Surgeon

Normal Anatomy of the Spine

Introduction

The spine also called the back bone is designed to give us stability, smooth movement as well as providing a corridor of protection for the delicate spinal cord.

It is made up of bony segments called vertebra and fibrous tissue called inter vertebral discs.

The vertebra and discs form a column from your head to the pelvis giving symmetry and support to the body.

The spine can be divided in to 4 parts. The uppermost is the cervical region, consisting of 7 small vertebrae that form the neck. As we move down the body, the next 12 vertebrae make up the thoracic region or mid back from which the ribs are hinged.

The 5 lumbar vertebrae are the largest of the mobile vertebrae and supports 2/3 of the body’s weight.

The lowest region of the spine is the sacrum and coccyx. The sacrum is a triangular plate made up of five fused vertebral segments while the four coccyxes terminate the bony spine.

Vertebra

A single vertebra is made up of two parts, the front portion is called the body, cylindrical in shape, and it is strong and stable.

The back portion of the vertebra is referred to as the vertebral or neural arch and is made up of many parts. The strong 2 pedicles join the vertebral arch to the front body.

The laminae forms the arch itself while the transverse process spread out from the side of the pedicles like wings to help anchor the vertebral arch to surrounding muscle.

The spinous process forms a steeple at the apex of the laminae, and is the part of our spine that is felt directly under the skin.

  • Laminae
    The laminae of the vertebra can be described as a pair of flat arched bones that form a component of the vertebral arch.
  • Spinal canal
    This canal is formed by the placement of single vertebral foramina one on top of the other to form a canal. The purpose of the canal is to create a bony casing from the head to the lower back through which the spinal cord passes.
  • Pars inter articularis
    Known as the Pars, it is the part of the vertebral arch where the pedicle, transverse process and articular process transect.

Fibrous Tissue

  • Intervertebral Disc
    The intervertebral disc sits between the weight bearing vertebral bodies, servicing the spine as shock absorbers.

The disc has fibrous outer rings called the annulus fibrosus with a watery jelly filled nucleus called the Nucleus Pulposus.

Spinal Cord

The spinal cord is the means by which the nervous system communicates the electrical signals between the brain and the body. It begins at the brain stem and is held within the spinal canal until it reaches the beginning of the lumbar vertebra.

At L1 the spinal cord resolves down to a grouping of nerves that supply the lower body.

Facet Joint

Facet joints are the paired articular processes of the vertebral arch.

These synovial joints give the spine it’s flexibility by sliding on the articular processes of the vertebra below.

Conditions

Procedures

  • North American Spine Society
  • California Medical Association
  • Spine Arthroplasty Society