spine anatomy

One of the most confusing parts of the human body is the spine.

While the spine may be referred to as the backbone much of the time, it is actually made up of 33 individual bones called vertebrae that function together to hold the body upright.

A quick look at spine anatomy may help you understand how important correct spinal function should be to you.

What are the Vertebrae & What do They Do?

Adults have 33 vertebrae that are stacked on top of each other and that naturally interlock. Each vertebra is made up of three main parts, which include the following:

  1. The body that carries the weight
  2. The interior circular-shaped bone arch that provides an opening called the spinal canal
  3. The posterior bony prominences that provide places for muscular attachments

While vertebrae meaning is defined as only the bones, these intricate structures must work together with nerves and muscles to provide movement and support to the entire body. The spinal column has numerous important functions and must be protected carefully against injuries, compressions, and strains. In particular vertebral column function includes the following:

  1. Protecting the spinal cord
  2. Allowing the individual to stand and walk
  3. Bearing much of the weight of the upper body

What Are the Different Types of Vertebrae?

Vertebrae Regions

The 33 vertebrae are separated into five regions and are referred to by specific vertebrae numbers. Each category of vertebrae has a specific function in the body.

Cervical Spine

The cervical spine has seven vertebrae, which are numbered from C1 through C7. It is incredibly flexible, and it supports the head.

Thoracic Spine

The thoracic spine has 12 vertebrae, which are numbered from T1 through T12. It provides attachments for the rib cage and provides stability for the upper body.

Lumbar Spine

The lumbar spine has 5 vertebrae, which are numbered from L1 through L5. The lumbar vertebrae are the largest bones in the spinal column and support a great deal of body weight.


The sacrum has five bones, which are fused together in adults and are numbered S1 through S5. It connects the spine to the hipbones.


The coccyx usually has four bones, which are fused in adults and are often called the tailbone.

What Are Spinal Nerves and Their Functions?

A spinal nerve carries all types of signals from the brain through the spinal cord and into the rest of the body. Spinal nerves produce movements, collect sensory information or provide automatic signals from the brainstem to the body.

Every person has 31 pairs of spinal nerves with half of each set branching out to each side of the body. A spinal nerves name and a spinal nerves number typically refer to the vertebrae beneath which they are passing. For example, thoracic spinal nerves T1 through T12 branch out beneath the corresponding thoracic vertebrae.

The human spine is incredibly intricate and comprises numerous parts. Because it houses so many important muscles and nerves that then run throughout the body, it requires great care throughout life to prevent discomfort, inflexibility, and disease.


Spine anatomy isn’t as complicated when you think of all 33 bones in the spinal column as one. They all work together to protect the spinal cord, allow for upright walking, and bearing the weight of the upper body. That being said the vertebrae and spinal nerves are too complex to thoroughly understand from a single article like this one. If you’re experiencing back pain, you need to seek the help of a professional. Contact Absolute Life Wellness Center to schedule an appointment with one of the top chiropractors in the Austin, Texas area.