A Tutorial on the Human Vertebrae

There are approximately 206 bones in the human skeletal system, and 26 of those are found in the vertebral column, which is also known as the spine. These bones are categorized into groups so that doctors can better diagnose back issues and determine causes of various back-related problems. The cervical portion of the vertebral column is at the base of the skull and is considered to be part of the neck area. This portion consists of seven bones. The thoracic area is twelve bones, and is located closer to the chest area. It goes all the way down to the pelvis and consists of spongy bones, which are designed to absorb shock. The lumbar area is the third major part of the human vertebral column. It is the lower back and typically has five bones, although some people may have six. The pelvic curves is located just below the lumbar curve beginning at the acrovertebral articulation and ending at the tip of the tailbone.

Spinal Disorders

Some people experience problems with their spines and these disorders can be painful. A herniated disc is actually quite common, and happens when the spongy discs between the vertebra become inflamed or damaged. This occurs for a number of reasons, but wear and tear with age is the most common. Scoliosis is the curvature of the spine, and affects millions of people. Children are often diagnosed with this at a fairly early age, and schools now test students for this affliction as early as possible so it can be treated and corrected. It can result in a “crooked” posture and a multitude of back problems later on in life. Kyphosis, which is also known as “hunchback” is the curvature of the upper or thoracic spine. This affects both the young and the old, and is usually a result of bad posture or slouching. It can cause breathing problems and pain in the chest area.

Lordosis is commonly referred to as “saddle back” and happens when the spine curves inward. This causes severe lower back pain and surgery is often needed. There are exercises that can be done to prevent or treat this condition, namely strengthening of the abdominal or core muscles. Spina bifida is a birth defect that affects the lumbar areas. Surgery is usually needed to correct this problem, which involves the vertebrae overlying onto the spinal cord and not closing properly. Nerve damage can often result, but fortunately new surgeries are in practice now that can correct it and prevent it from becoming permanent.

Spinal Procedures

There are several procedures that doctors use to treat the spine. A spinal epidural is a form of anesthesia that involves injecting medication directly into the spine. Many pregnant women undergo this procedure before childbirth, and it is also used often in back surgeries. A lumbar puncture, also known as a spinal tap, is another procedure used on the spinal area. This is performed in order to get a sample of spinal fluid so that doctors can diagnose or analyze various conditions. It is also done to help relieve pressure caused by fluid build up within the spinal column.

  • Diagram – Detailed scientific diagram of the spinal vertebrae.
  • Conditions from A to Z – A list of most spinal related medical conditions, with links to various descriptions and information.
  • Human Spinal Cord – Information about the human spinal cord and the bones that it contains.
  • Central Nervous System – Comprehensive information about the human central nervous system, with portions dedicated to the spine.