Basic Spine Anatomy

Dr. Luis Lombardi practices non-traumatic spine surgery through his independent practice in Los Angeles, California. Dr. Luis Lombardi comes to his work with more than 30 years of experience and an in-depth knowledge of spinal anatomy and physiology.

The human spine is a flexible, yet sturdy column of 24 individual vertebrae, stacked on top of a fused series of bones that make up the sacrum and tailbone. On top of the sacrum is the lumbar spine, which includes five vertebrae and carries the majority of the body’s weight. Because of the stress placed on the lumbar spine, it is most prone to the development of painful conditions.

On top of the lumbar spine is the thoracic spine, also known as the “upper back”. The 12 vertebrae of the thoracic spine attach to the sternum and rib bones, which, in turn, makes this section of the spine the least mobile. The section is, however, less prone to damage and pain.

The cervical spine includes the topmost seven vertebrae, which make up the neck. The top two vertebrae, known as “C1” and “C2” or the “Atlas” and “Axis,” are responsible for turning and rotating the head. The C1 vertebra allows for a nodding motion, while the C2 vertebra enables the shaking of the head.

The bones of the spine can articulate thanks to small joints known as “facet joints,” which are located behind and between pairs of vertebrae. Also, between each pair of vertebrae is a cushioned structure known as an “intervertebral disc,” which absorbs the shock of movement and keeps the bones of the spine from damaging one another.

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