Have you got backbone? Well, if you’re able to stand upright, you certainly do! The human spine is made up of 33 bones which are collectively known as the vertebral bones. Without these bones, we’d be unable to do simple things like bend over or get out of bed in the mornings. So, what makes up the vertebral bones? You’re about to find out!
The bones making up the Vertebrae
Types of Vertebral Bones
A healthy human spine should take on a sort of ‘S’ shape, with an inward curve at the neck, an outward curve at the upper back, another inward curve at the lower back, and a final outward curve between the base of the spine and the coccyx. These are known as the cervical curve, the thoracic curve, the lumbar curve and the sacral curve. Let’s take a closer look at each of these spinal sections:
These vertebral bones are essential for supporting the head. Without this we’d have a hard time nodding or shaking our heads from side to side. There are seven cervical vertebrae in total, the first of which is found at the base of the skull with the last situated slightly higher than the collar bone.
The thoracic section of the human spine is the longest, made up from a total of twelve vertebrae. While the range of motion is very limited in the thoracic region, these vertebral bones are essential for keeping the rib cage in place – which protects the lungs and the heart.
As the largest vertebral bones in the body, the lumbar vertebrae are critical for standing upright and lifting heavy objects. There are five lumbar vertebrae. Their job is to bear the weight of the body. These bones are much larger than other vertebrae so they can absorb the pressure when handling heavy objects.
The sacral region isn’t an important part of the back. These five vertebral bones are fused together and connect the spine to the hip bones. The sacral region leads to the coccyx region, featuring another four fused vertebrae.
Parts of the Vertebral Bones
The main function of the 33 vertebral bones is to house and protect the spinal cord. Each vertebrae features a central gap, known as the ‘spinal canal’, through which the spinal cord passes from the brain to the sacral region of the spine. Each vertebral bone is made up of three main parts:
Body of the Vertebra
This part of the vertebral bone is cylindrical in appearance and appears similar to a drum. The vertebra body is where the intervertebral discs are found (pads of cartilage between vertebrae) and is designed to withstand compression (from standing upright all day long) and bearing weight.
The vertebral arch is found just behind the body of the vertebra and surrounds the spinal canal. This part of the vertebral bone is critical for ensuring the safety of the spinal cord. Within the spinal canal one will find, other than the spinal cord itself, blood vessels, ligaments and fat.
There are seven other sections of the vertebral bone which form the facet joints and allow for muscle attachment. These are the transverse processes (two), superior facets (two), inferior facets (two), and the spinous process and which give our backs that ‘bumpy’ appearance.
To learn more about how the vertebrae are made up, as well as how they function, sign up for Trifocus Fitness Academy’s Dissection of Vertebrae Course. It is accredited by the Register of Exercise Professionals South Africa (REPSSA) with 3 CPD points which makes it the perfect course for personal trainers to keep current with.