Spinal Anatomy Animation

The spinal column is a complex structure made up of many structures, including bones, ligaments, discs, muscles, the spinal cord. The components are designed to work together and help stabilize the spinal column while enabling sensation and movement. This video animation explains and demonstrates the different parts of the spinal column and can help you gain a better understanding of your back and/or neck pain diagnosis.

Here’s what you can learn about spinal anatomy:

Vertebrae: The spine is made up of 33 bones called vertebrae or vertebral bodies. The vertebrae are stacked on top of each other, and those in your neck are smaller than the ones in your low back. The size of the vertebral bodies gradually increase in size to accommodate differences in weight, load and force in the cervical, thoracic and lumbar regions of the spine. For example, the vertebrae in the lumbar spine (low back) are the largest because that region supports and carries most of the body’s weight at rest and during movement.

Facet joints: At the back of each vertebral body are facets. Facet joints are formed by the facets of the upper and lower vertebrae joining similar to a hinge. Facet joints help stabilize the spine and facilitate movement, such as bending forward and backward, side-to-side (neck) and twisting.

Ligaments: These soft but strong and flexible bands of fibrous connective tissue attach to the vertebrae to help stabilize the spinal column, preventing excessive movement (eg, bending too far forward). The spine’s network of ligaments support different aspects of the spinal column. Some important ligaments in your spine are the posterior longitudinal ligament (supports the back, or posterior, of your spine), anterior longitudinal ligament (supports the front, or anterior, of your spine), and the ligamentum flavum.

Intervertebral discs: Between each vertebra is a disc that functions similar to a shock-absorber at rest and during activity. The discs also serve to separate the vertebrae that create natural passageways on either side of the spine for nerve roots. Each disc is basically composed of a tough tire-like outer layer called the annulus fibrosus and an inner, gel-like layer called the nucleus pulposus.

Spine regions: The cervical spine (neck), thoracic spine (upper back), lumbar spine (low back), sacrum, and the coccyx (tailbone) make up the 5 regions of the spinal column.
Model of the spinal column illustrating segments of the spine.Regions of the spinal column and key anatomy illustrated and labelled.

Spinal curves: The curves of your spine are either forward (called lordosis or lordotic) or backward (called kyphosis or kyphotic). The normal and natural curvatures of the spine help to balance the entire spinal column at rest and during movement.

Spinal cord: The spinal cord, which descends from the brain within the spinal canal, is part of your central nervous system, a complex communication system. Spinal nerve roots branch off the spinal cord and extend beyond the spine creating the peripheral nervous system (eg, arms, legs). The spinal cord is a conduit for sending and receiving messages (eg, sensation, function) between the brain and the body.

Updated on: 05/24/18
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