The spine, also called the backbone, is made up of vertebral bones with cushioning intervertebral discs between them. The spine is designed to give us stability and smooth movement, as well as providing a corridor of protection for the delicate spinal cord. It is supported by muscles, tendons and ligaments, and innervated by nerves that branch out from the centrally placed spinal cord.
Having a well-functioning healthy back is essential for our mobility and ability to participate in various activities. Understanding the anatomy of the spine enhances your ability to discuss conditions of the spine and treatment options with your doctor.
The spine is made up of bony segments called vertebrae, and fibrous tissue called intervertebral discs. The vertebrae and discs form a column from your head to your pelvis providing symmetry and movement to the body.
This spinal column is made up of approximately 33 vertebral bones stacked one on top of the other from the base of the skull to the pelvis. Twenty four of these vertebrae articulate with each other, while the last nine are fused together. Each vertebra is made up of several parts:
This is the main part of the vertebra. It supports most of the load while standing and provides a platform for the attachment of the intervertebral discs.
These are two cylinder-shaped projections originating from the back of the vertebral body, connecting the front and back of the vertebra.
Lamina are a pair of flat arched bones that form the roof of the spinal canal and provide support and protection to the spinal cord at the back.
These are the bony projections that arise at right angles to the midline of the lamina. These projections can be felt when touching the back.
These are bony protrusions located at the junction of the pedicle and lamina. They provide a place for the attachment of the back muscles.
This is the tunnel formed at the center of the vertebra for the passage of the spinal cord.
These are paired articular processes found at the vertebral arch. Each vertebra consists of two pair of facet joints: one pair called superior facets articulates with the vertebra above and the other pair, inferior facets articulates to the vertebra below.
The intervertebral discs are flat, rounded soft tissue structures situated between two vertebral bodies of the spine.
The discs are composed of a tough, fibrous outer ring called the annulus fibrous and a soft, inner core called the nucleus pulposus. Intervertebral discs function as shock absorbers for the spine.
Aging and injury can cause degeneration of these discs and cause painful rubbing of the vertebral bones.
The vertebrae are arranged one on top of the other to form the spine. The spine is categorized into 5 spinal segments: cervical, thoracic, lumbar, sacral and coccyx.
The cervical spine is called the neck. It begins at the base of the skull and is comprised of seven vertebrae numbered C1 to C7. The neck supports the weight of the head and allows the greatest range of motion due to two specially shaped vertebrae, the ring-shaped atlas and the peg-shaped axis, which are the first two vertebrae.
The thoracic spine is made up of twelve thoracic vertebrae, which are numbered T1 to T12. They start from the upper chest and extend to the middle back, communicating with the ribs in the front of the chest to protect the heart and lungs.
The Lumbar spine is made up of five lumbar vertebras numbered L1 to L5. These are situated in the lower back region and are larger in size. The major function of the lumbar vertebrae is to carry the weight of the body and absorb the stress of lifting and carrying heavy objects.
The sacrum is a single bone, formed by the fusion of five sacral vertebras together. It connects the spine to the hip bones.
Also called the tailbone, the coccyx is formed from the fusion of four bones and provides attachment for muscles and ligaments to the pelvic floor.
The side view of an adult spine resembles a natural S-shaped curve. The curves provide strength and support to the spine, maintain balance and absorb shock. Any abnormality in the spinal alignment is called a spinal deformity.
The most important spinal muscles include the extensors, flexors and oblique muscles, which work to stabilize the spine and allow the spine to move.
The extensor muscles are attached to the back of the spine and help us to stand and lift objects.
The flexor muscles originate from the front of the spine and include the muscles of the abdomen. These help in forward movement and lifting and controlling the arch of the lower back.
The oblique muscles are found at the sides of the body and help in the side-ways rotation of the back.
Any weakness or strain in the back muscles can cause incredible strain on the spine.
Spinal ligaments are strong fibrous bands that stabilize and hold the vertebrae in place. The major ligaments are the ligamentum flavum, anterior longitudinal ligament, and posterior longitudinal ligament. The anterior and posterior longitudinal ligaments are continuous bands that run from the top to the bottom of the spinal column along the vertebral bodies, and the ligamentum flavum attach one lamina to the other.
These ligaments function to maintain the alignment of the vertebrae.
The spinal cord originates from the brain and extends through the base of the skull to the lower back through the spinal canal. It is covered by three membranes called meninges. Spaces between these membranes are filled with cerebrospinal fluid.
There are 31 pairs of spinal nerves that originate from the spinal cord. These nerves carry all the information from the body to the brain, controlling sensation and movement.
Any damage or injury to the spinal cord can cause loss of sensation or function to the part of the body that the nerves supply.
The spine is a complex anatomical structure made up of bones, joints, tendons, ligaments, muscles, nerves, and the spinal cord. This strong spinal column provides the basic structure, support and flexibility to the human body.
Lumbar laminectomy is a spinal surgery to relieve excess pressure on the spinal cord or nerves within the spinal canal in the lumbar or lower back region.
The spinal cord is protected by a bony column of vertebral bones, arranged one above the other. Injury or wear-and-tear can cause parts of the vertebrae to compress the nerves of the spinal cord, leading to pain, numbness or tingling in the part of the body that the nerve supplies.
Transforaminal Lumbar Interbody Fusion (TLIF)
Transforaminal lumbar interbody fusion (TLIF) is a type of spinal fusion procedure in which bone graft is placed between the affected vertebrae in the lower back (lumbar) region through an incision on the patient’s back.
Posterolateral Lumbar Fusion
Posterolateral lumbar fusion is a surgical technique that involves correcting spinal problems from the back of the spine by placing bone graft between segments in the back and leaving the disc space intact.
Lateral Lumbar Interbody Fusion
The back is made up of a number of small bones called vertebrae. Cushioning discs present between the vertebrae act as shock absorbers.
Lumbar Interbody Fusion
Lumbar interbody fusion (LIF) surgery is a surgical technique that involves the removal of a damaged intervertebral disc and the insertion of a bone graft into the disc space created between the two adjoining vertebrae.
Posterior Cervical Microforaminotomy/Discectomy
Posterior cervical microforaminotomy/discectomy is an operative procedure that relieves pressure or compression on the nerve roots at the cervical spine.
Minimally Invasive Lumbar Discectomy
Lumbar discectomy is a spinal surgery that involves the removal of the damaged intervertebral disc(s) to relieve pressure on the spinal nerves (decompression) in the lumbar (lower back) region, which forms the lower portion of the spine and comprises of five vertebrae (L1-L5). A minimally invasive technique is implemented to perform the surgery.
Anterior Lumbar Interbody Fusion
Anterior lumbar interbody fusion (ALIF) is a surgery performed to correct spinal problems in the lower back. The surgery can be implemented either as an open surgery or minimally invasive technique.
Osteoporosis (bone disease) is the primary cause of vertebral compression fractures. Other causes include trauma such as a fall or motor vehicle accident and some types of cancers affecting the spinal vertebrae.
Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery
Minimally invasive spine surgery (MISS) is the latest technology available to perform spinal surgeries through small, less than one-inch-long incisions.
Microdiscectomy is a surgical procedure employed to relieve the pressure over the spinal cord and/or nerve roots, caused by a ruptured (herniated) intervertebral disc.
Microscopic Spine Surgery
Microscopic spine surgery is a minimally invasive surgical procedure performed using state-of-the-art technology to treat conditions pertaining to the spine
Degenerative Spine Surgery
Degenerative spine surgery includes surgical procedures to treat degenerative spine conditions such as disc disease and spinal stenosis that can result in the gradual deterioration of the spine with pain and loss of function.
Robotic Spine Surgery
Robotic spine surgery is a procedure where your surgeon is assisted by a robotic system to perform surgery to the spine. Precision is very important when performing spine surgery.
Posterior Cervical Laminectomy and Fusion
Injury or wear-and-tear can cause parts of the cervical vertebrae in the neck region to compress the nerves of the spinal cord, leading to pain, numbness, or tingling in the part of the body that the nerve supplies.
Degeneration of the facet joints and intervertebral discs that connect vertebrae to one another results in narrowing of the spinal canal, known as spinal stenosis. In addition, the arthritic facet joints become bulkier and consume the space existing for the nerve roots.
Minimally Invasive Lumbar Decompression
Minimally invasive lumbar decompression or mild® is a procedure developed by Vertos Medical to treat lumbar spinal stenosis by relieving pressure on the spinal nerves.
Anterior Cervical Corpectomy and Fusion
An anterior cervical corpectomy and fusion is an operative procedure to relieve pressure on the spinal cord and spinal nerves by removing the vertebral bone and intervertebral disc material (decompression) in the cervical spine or neck.
Anterior Lumbar Corpectomy and Fusion
Anterior Lumbar Corpectomy and Fusion is a surgical technique performed to remove the vertebral bone or disc material between the vertebrae to alleviate pressure on the spinal cord and spinal nerves (decompression) in the lumbar (lower back) region.
Minimally Invasive Cervical Discectomy
The vertebrae of the backbone are cushioned by intervertebral discs that act as shock absorbers and allow frictionless movement of your back. It is made up of a soft gel-like center called the nucleus pulposus that is surrounded by a tough outer ring of annulus fibrosus
Anterior Cervical Discectomy with Fusion
The vertebrae of the backbone are cushioned by intervertebral discs that act as shock absorbers and allow frictionless movement of your back.
Cervical Disc Replacement
The cervical spine is located in the neck region and consists of seven bones arranged one on top of the other. Cushioning tissue called vertebral discs located between the vertebrae act as shock absorbers, allowing easy movement of the neck.
Cervical Laminectomy and Fusion
Cervical laminectomy is a surgical procedure in which the spinal canal is made larger by removing the spinous process and the lamina in the cervical region of the spine.
Spinal Compression Fractures
A compression fracture of the vertebra occurs when the bones of the spine (vertebrae) collapse. Most commonly, these fractures occur in the thoracic or the middle portion of the spine.
Fracture of the Thoracic and Lumbar Spine
The backbone is made of small bones arranged from the neck down to the buttocks, one above the other. The region at the chest and lower back are called the thoracic and lumbar spine, respectively. These are the two regions commonly affected by a fracture.
The spine consists of 33 vertebral bones stacked one on top of the other with cushioning discs lying between each vertebra. The lumbar region of the spine (below the rib cage) consists of 5 vertebrae.
Lumbar stenosis is the compression of spinal nerves caused by the narrowing of the spinal canal. It is one of the common causes of lower back pain. Spinal stenosis can also affect the spine in the neck region.
Lumbar Disc Herniation
The lumbar intervertebral discs are flat and round, present between the lumbar vertebrae and act as shock absorbers when you walk or run.
Cervical spondylosis, also called arthritis of the neck, is an age-related medical condition characterized by deterioration of spinal joints, vertebrae, discs, and ligaments in your neck.
Spondylolisthesis is the displacement of the vertebral disc from the spinal column. Outward (forward) displacement is termed as anterolisthesis and inward (backward) displacement is termed as retrolisthesis.
The sciatic nerve is the longest nerve in your body. It begins in the lower back and extends through the buttocks down the back of each leg to the thighs and feet.
The spine, also called the backbone, is designed to give us stability, smooth movement, as well as provide a corridor of protection for the delicate spinal cord. It is made up of bony segments called vertebrae and fibrous tissue called intervertebral discs.
Cervical stenosis refers to the narrowing of the spinal canal that protects the spinal cord and its branching nerves.
Cervical Degenerative Disorder
The intervertebral disc is composed of an inflexible ring called the annulus fibrosis which encloses a gelatinous inner structure called the nucleus pulposus.
Spinal stenosis is a condition caused by the vertebral column constricting and exerting pressure on the spinal cord or neural foramen (a bony tunnel through which a nerve exits the spinal cord).
Adult Degenerative Scoliosis
Adult degenerative scoliosis is characterized by side to side or lateral bending of the spine in adults. Degenerative scoliosis can involve either the mid-back and/or lower back region of the spine.
Low Back Pain
Low back pain is often a common symptom of many disease conditions and the back pain may range from simple or dull pain to sudden and sharp pain.
Cervical Disc Herniation
Cervical disc herniation can arise due to aberrations of the intervertebral disc such as bulging, rupture, and slipped or extruded disc. It results in neck, shoulder, and arm pain.
Cervical Degenerative Disc Disease
Cervical degenerative disc disease (DDD) is a misnomer, as it is not a disease as such but a condition that affects the strength, resiliency and structural integrity of the intervertebral discs due to increasing age, trauma, injury, repetitive movement, improper posture, or poor body mechanics.