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Vertebral Column: Anatomy

The human spine, or vertebral column, is the most important anatomical and functional axis of the human body. It consists of 7 cervical vertebrae, 12 thoracic vertebrae, and 5 lumbar vertebrae and is limited cranially by the skull Skull The skull (cranium) is the skeletal structure of the head supporting the face and forming a protective cavity for the brain. The skull consists of 22 bones divided into the viscerocranium (facial skeleton) and the neurocranium. Skull: Anatomy and caudally by the sacrum. The vertebral column is the foundation for the trunk, provides an attachment Attachment The binding of virus particles to virus receptors on the host cell surface, facilitating virus entry into the cell. Virology for muscles and ligaments, and protects the spinal cord Spinal cord The spinal cord is the major conduction pathway connecting the brain to the body; it is part of the CNS. In cross section, the spinal cord is divided into an H-shaped area of gray matter (consisting of synapsing neuronal cell bodies) and a surrounding area of white matter (consisting of ascending and descending tracts of myelinated axons). Spinal Cord: Anatomy and nerve roots.

Last updated: 21 Apr, 2022

Editorial responsibility: Stanley Oiseth, Lindsay Jones, Evelin Maza

Overview

Definition

The vertebral column is the primary axis of the skeleton:

  • Supports the trunk
  • Provides an attachment Attachment The binding of virus particles to virus receptors on the host cell surface, facilitating virus entry into the cell. Virology for ligaments and muscles that move the body
  • Protects the spinal cord Spinal cord The spinal cord is the major conduction pathway connecting the brain to the body; it is part of the CNS. In cross section, the spinal cord is divided into an H-shaped area of gray matter (consisting of synapsing neuronal cell bodies) and a surrounding area of white matter (consisting of ascending and descending tracts of myelinated axons). Spinal Cord: Anatomy and nerve roots

The vertebral column consists of 33 vertebrae placed in series and connected by intervertebral discs and ligaments.

Regions of the vertebral column

Five different groups of vertebrae:

  • Cervical
  • Thoracic
  • Lumbar
  • Sacral
  • Coccygeal
Vertebral column, anterior view

Vertebral column, anterior view

Image by BioDigital, edited by Lecturio

Number of vertebrae per segment:

  • Cervical: 7
  • Thoracic: 12
  • Lumbar: 5
  • Sacral: 5
  • Coccygeal: 4 (ranges from 3–5, below sacrum)
Vertebral column, posterior view

Vertebral column, posterior view

Image by BioDigital, edited by Lecturio
Table: Vertebral column regions and their primary characteristics
Vertebrae Characteristics
Cervical
  • 7 cervical vertebrae
  • Lordotic curve
  • Most mobile region
  • C1 (atlas) and C2 (axis) are specialized:
    • C1: ring-shaped, with no vertebral body; articulates with skull Skull The skull (cranium) is the skeletal structure of the head supporting the face and forming a protective cavity for the brain. The skull consists of 22 bones divided into the viscerocranium (facial skeleton) and the neurocranium. Skull: Anatomy; 50% of cervical flexion Flexion Examination of the Upper Limbs occurs here
    • Atlanto-occipital joint: skull to C1 (flexion: “yes”)
    • C1–C2 articulation: 50% of cervical rotation Rotation Motion of an object in which either one or more points on a line are fixed. It is also the motion of a particle about a fixed point. X-rays occurs here
    • Atlanto-axial joint: C1 to C2 (rotation: “no”)
  • C1: ring-shaped, no body, 2 prominent lateral masses, an anterior and posterior arch, and posterior tubercle instead of spinous bifid processes
  • C2 has a large vertebral body containing the odontoid process (dens) and articulates with the atlas, forming the atlanto- axial Axial Computed Tomography (CT) joint
  • C7 has a palpable spinous process.
  • Uncovertebral joints (joints of Luschka): frequent site of degeneration in the cervical spine
  • Facet joints: diarthrodial synovial joints (zygapophyseal joints), allow gliding movements of the cervical spine
  • Transverse foramen: foramen (opening) in each transverse process, pass-through opening for the vertebral artery Vertebral artery The first branch of the subclavian artery with distribution to muscles of the neck; vertebrae; spinal cord; cerebellum; and interior of the cerebrum. Lateral Medullary Syndrome (Wallenberg Syndrome) traveling superiorly to the brain Brain The part of central nervous system that is contained within the skull (cranium). Arising from the neural tube, the embryonic brain is comprised of three major parts including prosencephalon (the forebrain); mesencephalon (the midbrain); and rhombencephalon (the hindbrain). The developed brain consists of cerebrum; cerebellum; and other structures in the brain stem. Nervous System: Anatomy, Structure, and Classification
Thoracic
  • 12 thoracic vertebrae
  • Kyphotic curve
  • Least amount of flexion Flexion Examination of the Upper Limbs/ extension Extension Examination of the Upper Limbs of regions of the spine
  • Narrow spinal canal Spinal Canal The cavity within the spinal column through which the spinal cord passes. Spinal Cord Injuries
  • Costal facets:
    • 6 facets per thoracic vertebra
    • Facets articulate with the ribs Ribs A set of twelve curved bones which connect to the vertebral column posteriorly, and terminate anteriorly as costal cartilage. Together, they form a protective cage around the internal thoracic organs. Chest Wall: Anatomy
  • Spinous processes are long and are directed posteroinferiorly.
  • T1, T11, and T12 are “atypical ribs Ribs A set of twelve curved bones which connect to the vertebral column posteriorly, and terminate anteriorly as costal cartilage. Together, they form a protective cage around the internal thoracic organs. Chest Wall: Anatomy,” with variation of the costal facets.
Lumbar
  • 5 lumbar vertebrae
  • Highly flexible yet very strong
  • Large vertebral bodies, designed to bear weight
  • Vertebral foramen is triangular.
  • Lumbar spine is often divided into the anterior, middle, and posterior columns when discussing spinal fractures.
  • Short/horizontal spinous processes
  • Facet joints (zygapophyseal joints): synovial joints between the superior and inferior articular processes, permit gliding movements
  • Lumbar intervertebral discs form primary connection between vertebrae.
  • Multiple vertebral ligaments help maintain stability and limit Limit A value (e.g., pressure or time) that should not be exceeded and which is specified by the operator to protect the lung Invasive Mechanical Ventilation range of motion Range of motion The distance and direction to which a bone joint can be extended. Range of motion is a function of the condition of the joints, muscles, and connective tissues involved. Joint flexibility can be improved through appropriate muscle strength exercises. Examination of the Upper Limbs (ROM).
Sacrum
  • Bony structure consisting of 5 coalesced vertebrae
  • Posterior aspect of pelvis Pelvis The pelvis consists of the bony pelvic girdle, the muscular and ligamentous pelvic floor, and the pelvic cavity, which contains viscera, vessels, and multiple nerves and muscles. The pelvic girdle, composed of 2 “hip” bones and the sacrum, is a ring-like bony structure of the axial skeleton that links the vertebral column with the lower extremities. Pelvis: Anatomy; terminal portion of the vertebral canal
  • 3 sacral crests or prominent bony ridges:
    • Median Median After arranging the data from loWest to highest, the median is the middle value, separating the lower half from the upper half of the data set. Measures of Central Tendency and Dispersion: fused spinous processes
    • Intermediate: fused articular processes
    • Lateral: fused transverse processes
Coccyx
  • Bony structure consisting of 3–5 coalesced vertebrae
  • Articulates with inferior sacrum

Curvatures of the vertebral column

  • Primary (develop before birth):
    • Thoracic and sacral
    • Kyphosis Kyphosis Deformities of the spine characterized by an exaggerated convexity of the vertebral column. The forward bending of the thoracic region usually is more than 40 degrees. This deformity sometimes is called round back or hunchback. Osteoporosis: forward rounding of thoracic spine
  • Secondary (develop after birth):
    • Cervical and lumbar
    • Lordosis: inward curvature of lumbar spine
Table: Vertebral column segmentation Segmentation Gastrointestinal Motility and curvatures
Spinal segment Vertebrae Curvature
Cervical C1–C7 Lordosis
Thoracic T1–T12 Kyphosis Kyphosis Deformities of the spine characterized by an exaggerated convexity of the vertebral column. The forward bending of the thoracic region usually is more than 40 degrees. This deformity sometimes is called round back or hunchback. Osteoporosis
Lumbar L1–L5 Lordosis
Sacral S1 S1 Heart Sounds–S5 (fused) Kyphosis Kyphosis Deformities of the spine characterized by an exaggerated convexity of the vertebral column. The forward bending of the thoracic region usually is more than 40 degrees. This deformity sometimes is called round back or hunchback. Osteoporosis
Coccygeal 3–5 (fused)

Spinal canal Spinal Canal The cavity within the spinal column through which the spinal cord passes. Spinal Cord Injuries

  • The vertebrae form the spinal canal Spinal Canal The cavity within the spinal column through which the spinal cord passes. Spinal Cord Injuries, which houses the spinal cord Spinal cord The spinal cord is the major conduction pathway connecting the brain to the body; it is part of the CNS. In cross section, the spinal cord is divided into an H-shaped area of gray matter (consisting of synapsing neuronal cell bodies) and a surrounding area of white matter (consisting of ascending and descending tracts of myelinated axons). Spinal Cord: Anatomy and spinal nerves Spinal nerves The 31 paired peripheral nerves formed by the union of the dorsal and ventral spinal roots from each spinal cord segment. The spinal nerve plexuses and the spinal roots are also included. Spinal Cord: Anatomy.
  • Intervertebral foramen Intervertebral Foramen Spinal Stenosis (or neural foramen): foramen for the spinal nerves Spinal nerves The 31 paired peripheral nerves formed by the union of the dorsal and ventral spinal roots from each spinal cord segment. The spinal nerve plexuses and the spinal roots are also included. Spinal Cord: Anatomy exiting between 2 spinal vertebrae
Articulated vertebrae spinal cord

Spinal cord Spinal cord The spinal cord is the major conduction pathway connecting the brain to the body; it is part of the CNS. In cross section, the spinal cord is divided into an H-shaped area of gray matter (consisting of synapsing neuronal cell bodies) and a surrounding area of white matter (consisting of ascending and descending tracts of myelinated axons). Spinal Cord: Anatomy traveling through the vertebral foramen with nerve roots (in yellow) exiting through the intervertebral foramina

Image: “Articulated Vertebrae” by Phil Schatz. License: CC BY 4.0, edited by Lecturio.

Vertebrae

Vertebrae protect the spinal column.

Two adjacent vertebrae are often referred to as a motion segment or functional unit of the spine (e.g., C6 and C7).

Components of the vertebrae

  • Body:
    • Anterior portion of vertebra
    • Weight-bearing function
    • Lined with hyaline cartilage Cartilage Cartilage is a type of connective tissue derived from embryonic mesenchyme that is responsible for structural support, resilience, and the smoothness of physical actions. Perichondrium (connective tissue membrane surrounding cartilage) compensates for the absence of vasculature in cartilage by providing nutrition and support. Cartilage: Histology superiorly and inferiorly
  • Vertebral arch:
    • Lateral and posterior portion of vertebra
    • Encloses the vertebral canal
    • Vertebral arch consists of the following components:
      • Pedicles 
      • Laminae 
      • Processes: transverse (lateral), articular, and spinous (posterior)
Superior view (left) and anterior view (right) of a lumbar vertebra-01

Components of vertebrae

Image by BioDigital, edited by Lecturio

Vertebral foramen

  • Large central opening in vertebrae that collectively form the spinal canal Spinal Canal The cavity within the spinal column through which the spinal cord passes. Spinal Cord Injuries 
  • Contains the spinal cord Spinal cord The spinal cord is the major conduction pathway connecting the brain to the body; it is part of the CNS. In cross section, the spinal cord is divided into an H-shaped area of gray matter (consisting of synapsing neuronal cell bodies) and a surrounding area of white matter (consisting of ascending and descending tracts of myelinated axons). Spinal Cord: Anatomy, nerve roots, and blood vessels

Intervertebral foramen Intervertebral Foramen Spinal Stenosis (neural foramen)

  • Boundaries include the superior and inferior notches of the vertebrae.
  • Spinal nerves Spinal nerves The 31 paired peripheral nerves formed by the union of the dorsal and ventral spinal roots from each spinal cord segment. The spinal nerve plexuses and the spinal roots are also included. Spinal Cord: Anatomy exit here.
  • Contents: spinal nerve root, dorsal root ganglion, segmental arteries Arteries Arteries are tubular collections of cells that transport oxygenated blood and nutrients from the heart to the tissues of the body. The blood passes through the arteries in order of decreasing luminal diameter, starting in the largest artery (the aorta) and ending in the small arterioles. Arteries are classified into 3 types: large elastic arteries, medium muscular arteries, and small arteries and arterioles. Arteries: Histology/ veins Veins Veins are tubular collections of cells, which transport deoxygenated blood and waste from the capillary beds back to the heart. Veins are classified into 3 types: small veins/venules, medium veins, and large veins. Each type contains 3 primary layers: tunica intima, tunica media, and tunica adventitia. Veins: Histology, fat
  • Cervical spine:
    • C1–C7 nerve roots exit superiorly to the pedicles of C1–C7.
    • C8 nerve root exits inferiorly to the pedicles of C7.
  • Thoracic and sacral nerve roots exit inferiorly to their corresponding vertebrae.
  • May become stenotic with injury or degenerative changes Degenerative Changes Spinal Stenosis

Atlas and axis

  • C1 and C2 are specially named because of their unique functions.
  • Atlas (C1):
    • Supports the entire skull Skull The skull (cranium) is the skeletal structure of the head supporting the face and forming a protective cavity for the brain. The skull consists of 22 bones divided into the viscerocranium (facial skeleton) and the neurocranium. Skull: Anatomy
    • Does not possess a vertebral body
    • Primary function is to allow head to nod up and down.
  • Axis (C2):
    • Possesses a bony projection Projection A defense mechanism, operating unconsciously, whereby that which is emotionally unacceptable in the self is rejected and attributed (projected) to others. Defense Mechanisms called the dens (also known as odontoid process):
      • Serves as a pivot point to allow head to rotate side to side
      • Commonly fractured during high-impact injuries
    • Has a bifid spinous process

Sacrum and coccyx

  • Sacrum
    • Consists of 5 fused vertebrae below the lumbar vertebrae
    • Represents the terminal portion of the vertebral canal
    • Articulates with the ilium (hip bone Bone Bone is a compact type of hardened connective tissue composed of bone cells, membranes, an extracellular mineralized matrix, and central bone marrow. The 2 primary types of bone are compact and spongy. Bones: Structure and Types) to form the pelvic girdle
  • Coccyx
    • Consists of 3–5 fused vertebrae
    • Articulates with the inferior sacrum
Posterior (left), anterior (center), and lateral (right) views of the sacrum

3 views of the sacrum:
The coccyx extends from the inferior portion of the sacrum.

Image by BioDigital, edited by Lecturio

Intervertebral Discs, Ligaments, and Joints of the Spine

Intervertebral discs

Intervertebral discs form the primary connection between vertebrae.

  • 25 discs (7 cervical, 12 thoracic, 5 lumbar, 1 sacral) account for 25%–30% of the length of the spine.
  • Provide shock Shock Shock is a life-threatening condition associated with impaired circulation that results in tissue hypoxia. The different types of shock are based on the underlying cause: distributive (↑ cardiac output (CO), ↓ systemic vascular resistance (SVR)), cardiogenic (↓ CO, ↑ SVR), hypovolemic (↓ CO, ↑ SVR), obstructive (↓ CO), and mixed. Types of Shock-absorbing protection within the spine
  • 3 major components:
    • Annulus fibrosis Fibrosis Any pathological condition where fibrous connective tissue invades any organ, usually as a consequence of inflammation or other injury. Bronchiolitis Obliterans:
      • Ring-shaped fibrous Fibrous Fibrocystic Change connective tissue Connective tissue Connective tissues originate from embryonic mesenchyme and are present throughout the body except inside the brain and spinal cord. The main function of connective tissues is to provide structural support to organs. Connective tissues consist of cells and an extracellular matrix. Connective Tissue: Histology around the nucleus Nucleus Within a eukaryotic cell, a membrane-limited body which contains chromosomes and one or more nucleoli (cell nucleolus). The nuclear membrane consists of a double unit-type membrane which is perforated by a number of pores; the outermost membrane is continuous with the endoplasmic reticulum. A cell may contain more than one nucleus. The Cell: Organelles pulposus
      • Multilayered alignment of predominantly collagen Collagen A polypeptide substance comprising about one third of the total protein in mammalian organisms. It is the main constituent of skin; connective tissue; and the organic substance of bones (bone and bones) and teeth (tooth). Connective Tissue: Histology fibers → remarkable strength.
      • Adhere dorsally to the posterior longitudinal ligament
    • Nucleus Nucleus Within a eukaryotic cell, a membrane-limited body which contains chromosomes and one or more nucleoli (cell nucleolus). The nuclear membrane consists of a double unit-type membrane which is perforated by a number of pores; the outermost membrane is continuous with the endoplasmic reticulum. A cell may contain more than one nucleus. The Cell: Organelles pulposus:
      • Center of the intervertebral disc
      • Mucoid or gel-like structure
      • Responsible for much of the strength and flexibility of the spine
      • 70%–80% water when young, the remainder composed of collagen Collagen A polypeptide substance comprising about one third of the total protein in mammalian organisms. It is the main constituent of skin; connective tissue; and the organic substance of bones (bone and bones) and teeth (tooth). Connective Tissue: Histology fibers and proteoglycans Proteoglycans Glycoproteins which have a very high polysaccharide content. Basics of Carbohydrates; % of water decreases with aging
      • Receives nutrition through diffusion Diffusion The tendency of a gas or solute to pass from a point of higher pressure or concentration to a point of lower pressure or concentration and to distribute itself throughout the available space. Diffusion, especially facilitated diffusion, is a major mechanism of biological transport. Peritoneal Dialysis and Hemodialysis
    • Cartilaginous end plates anchor the discs to the adjacent vertebrae.
Lateral and superior view showing the components of the intervertebral disc

Views showing the components of the intervertebral disc

Image by Lecturio.

Ligaments of the vertebral column

The ligaments of the vertebral column are essential for stability of the spine:

  • Ligaments are composed of sheets of fibrous Fibrous Fibrocystic Change connective tissue Connective tissue Connective tissues originate from embryonic mesenchyme and are present throughout the body except inside the brain and spinal cord. The main function of connective tissues is to provide structural support to organs. Connective tissues consist of cells and an extracellular matrix. Connective Tissue: Histology.
  • Prevent excessive motion (e.g., hyperextension of the spine)
Table: Ligaments of the vertebral column
Ligament Characteristics Functions
Anterior longitudinal ligament
  • From the sacrum to the occiput
  • Attaches to the anterior portion of the vertebral bodies and intervertebral discs
Posterior longitudinal ligament
  • Attaches to the posterior portion of the vertebral bodies and intervertebral discs
  • Narrower than the anterior longitudinal ligament
  • Resists hyperflexion
Ligamentum flavum Stabilizes the vertebral arch joint during flexion Flexion Examination of the Upper Limbs
Interspinous ligament
  • Attaches to the spinous processes
  • Connects to the supraspinous (dorsal) and flava (ventral) ligaments
Stabilizes, controls, and limits flexion Flexion Examination of the Upper Limbs, lateral flexion Flexion Examination of the Upper Limbs, and rotation Rotation Motion of an object in which either one or more points on a line are fixed. It is also the motion of a particle about a fixed point. X-rays
Supraspinous ligament
  • Attaches to the spinous processes of the adjacent vertebral bodies of C7 to the sacrum
  • Merges superiorly with the nuchal ligament
Stabilizes, controls, and limits flexion Flexion Examination of the Upper Limbs, lateral flexion Flexion Examination of the Upper Limbs, and rotation Rotation Motion of an object in which either one or more points on a line are fixed. It is also the motion of a particle about a fixed point. X-rays
Intertransverse ligament Connects the transverse processes of adjacent cervical, thoracic, and lumbar vertebrae Limits both flexion Flexion Examination of the Upper Limbs and lateral flexion Flexion Examination of the Upper Limbs
Nuchal ligament
  • Strong, posterior ligament that attaches the external occipital Occipital Part of the back and base of the cranium that encloses the foramen magnum. Skull: Anatomy protuberance and atlas to spinous processes of the cervical vertebrae
  • Ends at C7
Limits flexion Flexion Examination of the Upper Limbs of the cervical spine
Ligaments of the spine

Ligaments of the vertebral column

Image by Lecturio. License: CC BY-NC-SA 4.0

Joints of the spine

Joints of the spine consist of intervertebral discs and facet joints:

  • The vertebral bodies articulate with each other via the intervertebral discs.
  • The facet joints (zygapophyseal joints) consist of cartilage Cartilage Cartilage is a type of connective tissue derived from embryonic mesenchyme that is responsible for structural support, resilience, and the smoothness of physical actions. Perichondrium (connective tissue membrane surrounding cartilage) compensates for the absence of vasculature in cartilage by providing nutrition and support. Cartilage: Histology-covered surfaces with a joint capsule Joint capsule The sac enclosing a joint. It is composed of an outer fibrous articular capsule and an inner synovial membrane. Hip Joint: Anatomy. Each vertebra has 2 sets of facet joints (facing superiorly and inferiorly).

Clinical Relevance

  • Herniated disc or herniated nucleus Nucleus Within a eukaryotic cell, a membrane-limited body which contains chromosomes and one or more nucleoli (cell nucleolus). The nuclear membrane consists of a double unit-type membrane which is perforated by a number of pores; the outermost membrane is continuous with the endoplasmic reticulum. A cell may contain more than one nucleus. The Cell: Organelles pulposus: Herniated nucleus Nucleus Within a eukaryotic cell, a membrane-limited body which contains chromosomes and one or more nucleoli (cell nucleolus). The nuclear membrane consists of a double unit-type membrane which is perforated by a number of pores; the outermost membrane is continuous with the endoplasmic reticulum. A cell may contain more than one nucleus. The Cell: Organelles pulposus occurs when the nucleus Nucleus Within a eukaryotic cell, a membrane-limited body which contains chromosomes and one or more nucleoli (cell nucleolus). The nuclear membrane consists of a double unit-type membrane which is perforated by a number of pores; the outermost membrane is continuous with the endoplasmic reticulum. A cell may contain more than one nucleus. The Cell: Organelles pulposus prolapses or herniates through a tear in the surrounding annulus fibrosus Annulus Fibrosus Spinal Disk Herniation. This herniation Herniation Omphalocele results in pain Pain An unpleasant sensation induced by noxious stimuli which are detected by nerve endings of nociceptive neurons. Pain: Types and Pathways from irritation and injury to adjacent nerve roots and surrounding tissue. Herniated discs occur most commonly in the cervical or lumbar spine. Physical therapy Physical Therapy Becker Muscular Dystrophy is the 1st-line treatment for a disc herniation Herniation Omphalocele.
  • Degenerative disc disease Degenerative Disc Disease Spinal Disk Herniation: Intervertebral discs undergo age- and trauma-related changes. The proteoglycan and water concentrations decrease in the disc, which decreases the height of the disc and leads to anatomical and biomechanical changes. These changes typically lead to low back pain Back pain Back pain is a common complaint among the general population and is mostly self-limiting. Back pain can be classified as acute, subacute, or chronic depending on the duration of symptoms. The wide variety of potential etiologies include degenerative, mechanical, malignant, infectious, rheumatologic, and extraspinal causes. Back Pain, which is primarily managed through the use of nonsteroidal antiinflammatory drugs Nonsteroidal Antiinflammatory Drugs Nonsteroidal antiinflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are a class of medications consisting of aspirin, reversible NSAIDs, and selective NSAIDs. NSAIDs are used as antiplatelet, analgesic, antipyretic, and antiinflammatory agents. Nonsteroidal Antiinflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs).
  • Spinal stenosis Spinal stenosis Spinal stenosis is the progressive narrowing of the central spinal canal, intervertebral foramen, and lateral recess, leading to compression of the nerve root. Spinal stenosis can occur in the cervical, thoracic, and lumbar spine and is commonly caused by degenerative bone disease (mostly affecting the elderly). Spinal Stenosis: occurs from narrowing of the spinal canal Spinal Canal The cavity within the spinal column through which the spinal cord passes. Spinal Cord Injuries. Spinal stenosis Spinal stenosis Spinal stenosis is the progressive narrowing of the central spinal canal, intervertebral foramen, and lateral recess, leading to compression of the nerve root. Spinal stenosis can occur in the cervical, thoracic, and lumbar spine and is commonly caused by degenerative bone disease (mostly affecting the elderly). Spinal Stenosis is described as central and/or lateral stenosis Stenosis Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome (HLHS), based on the location. Depending on the position and severity, the spinal nerves Spinal nerves The 31 paired peripheral nerves formed by the union of the dorsal and ventral spinal roots from each spinal cord segment. The spinal nerve plexuses and the spinal roots are also included. Spinal Cord: Anatomy, spinal cord Spinal cord The spinal cord is the major conduction pathway connecting the brain to the body; it is part of the CNS. In cross section, the spinal cord is divided into an H-shaped area of gray matter (consisting of synapsing neuronal cell bodies) and a surrounding area of white matter (consisting of ascending and descending tracts of myelinated axons). Spinal Cord: Anatomy, or blood vessels may be affected by the compression Compression Blunt Chest Trauma. Classically, pain Pain An unpleasant sensation induced by noxious stimuli which are detected by nerve endings of nociceptive neurons. Pain: Types and Pathways from spinal stenosis Spinal stenosis Spinal stenosis is the progressive narrowing of the central spinal canal, intervertebral foramen, and lateral recess, leading to compression of the nerve root. Spinal stenosis can occur in the cervical, thoracic, and lumbar spine and is commonly caused by degenerative bone disease (mostly affecting the elderly). Spinal Stenosis improves when leaning forward.
  • Cervical spondylosis Cervical Spondylosis Neck Pain: Stenosis Stenosis Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome (HLHS) of the cervical canal Cervical canal Uterus, Cervix, and Fallopian Tubes: Anatomy secondary to degenerative changes Degenerative Changes Spinal Stenosis to the cervical spine leads to cervical spondylosis Cervical Spondylosis Neck Pain, which may lead to cervical myelopathy when there is encroachment on the cervical spinal cord Spinal cord The spinal cord is the major conduction pathway connecting the brain to the body; it is part of the CNS. In cross section, the spinal cord is divided into an H-shaped area of gray matter (consisting of synapsing neuronal cell bodies) and a surrounding area of white matter (consisting of ascending and descending tracts of myelinated axons). Spinal Cord: Anatomy.
  • Abnormal curvature of the spine:
    • Scoliosis Scoliosis Scoliosis is a structural alteration of the vertebral column characterized by a lateral spinal curvature of greater than 10 degrees in the coronal plane. Scoliosis can be classified as idiopathic (in most cases) or secondary to underlying conditions. Scoliosis: lateral curvature of the spine; usually an idiopathic Idiopathic Dermatomyositis process
    • Kyphosis Kyphosis Deformities of the spine characterized by an exaggerated convexity of the vertebral column. The forward bending of the thoracic region usually is more than 40 degrees. This deformity sometimes is called round back or hunchback. Osteoporosis: excessive thoracic curvature; can occur congenitally or be due to a traumatic event Traumatic event An emotionally painful, shocking, stressful, and sometimes life-threatening experience. It can result from witnessing distressing events such as natural disasters, physical or sexual abuse, and terrorism or other acts of violence. Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Kyphosis Kyphosis Deformities of the spine characterized by an exaggerated convexity of the vertebral column. The forward bending of the thoracic region usually is more than 40 degrees. This deformity sometimes is called round back or hunchback. Osteoporosis is also referred to as a “hunchback” deformity Deformity Examination of the Upper Limbs.
    • Lordosis: excessive curvature of the lumbar spine

References

  1. Desai, C. Reddy, V. Agarwal, A. (2020). Anatomy, back, vertebral column. StatPearls. Retrieved June 27, 2021, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK525969/
  2. Drake, R.L., Vogl, A.W., Mitchell, A.W.M. (2014). Gray’s Anatomy for Students, 3rd ed. Philadelphia:  Churchill Livingstone.
  3. Mahadevan, V. (2018). Anatomy of the vertebral column. Surgery (Oxford) 36:327–332.

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