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Anatomy of a Normal Spine

The spinal column is a stack of bones (vertebrae) that are separated by soft pads of tissue (disks). Each of these bones has a canal that runs top to bottom. Together these canals form a tunnel called the spinal canal. Running through this canal are nerves. These nerves carry signals between the brain and body.

Outline of torso showing spinal column. Cervical curve of spine is in neck. Thoracic curve is in middle back. Lumbar curve is in lower back.
The spine has three natural curves: the cervical, the thoracic, and the lumbar.

The Parts of the Spine

  • The vertebrae are the 24 bones that connect like puzzle pieces to make up the spine.

  • The lamina of each vertebra forms the back of the spinal canal.

  • A foramen is a small opening. This is where a nerve leaves the spinal canal.

  • The transverse process is the wing of bone on either side of each vertebra.

  • The spinous process is the part of each vertebra you can feel through your skin.

  • A disk lies between each of the vertebrae.

Back view of two vertebrae and disk, turned slightly to side. Disk is between vertebrae. Spinal canal is formed by back of vertebrae. Foramen are spaces formed by vertebrae at sides for spinal nerves to exit spinal canal. Back of vertebra is made of spinous process in center, lamina on either side forming walls of spinal canal, and transverse processes sticking out on either side.
Two vertebrae with a disk between them

Author: StayWell Custom Communications
Last Annual Review Date: 1/15/2007
Copyright © The StayWell Company, LLC. except where otherwise noted.
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