Anatomy and Physiology of the Vertebral Column

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Anatomy and Physiology of the Vertebral Column In humans, the vertebral column is also called the spine or backbone. It has 24 articulating vertebrae portions and nine vertebrae that are fused in the coccyx and sacrum. The vertebral column protects the spinal cord in the spinal column, providing both protection and flexibility. The vertebral column is grouped by region (See Figure 1), with 7 vertebrae in the cervical curve nearest the neck; moving to 12 thoracic vertebrae (mid-upper back); to 5 lumbar vertebrae (lower back). Each individual vertebrae are made up of a body (the centrum), arches that protrude from the upper and lower parts of the centrum, and various processes that arise from the centrum and/or arches. Arches that extend from the top of the centrum are neural arches; the ones found underneath the centrum are hemal or chevron arches. These arches (also called facets) form articulations. Together, the notches from two contiguous vertebrae for an opening for the spinal cord to pass called the intervertebral foramen (Snell, 2008). There are regional differences in the vertebral structure. Cervical vertebrae have large spinal canals, oval shaped vertebral bodies and facets that are oriented obliquely. Thoracic vertebrae form the transition between the cervical and lumbar. The upper 4 thoracic vertebrae are like cervical vertebrae with vertically oriented articular facets and posteriorly directed spinous processes. The lower four thoracic vertebrae contain more
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