Skip to main content
Medicine LibreTexts

5.2: Vertebrae

  • Page ID
  • \( \newcommand{\vecs}[1]{\overset { \scriptstyle \rightharpoonup} {\mathbf{#1}} } \) \( \newcommand{\vecd}[1]{\overset{-\!-\!\rightharpoonup}{\vphantom{a}\smash {#1}}} \)\(\newcommand{\id}{\mathrm{id}}\) \( \newcommand{\Span}{\mathrm{span}}\) \( \newcommand{\kernel}{\mathrm{null}\,}\) \( \newcommand{\range}{\mathrm{range}\,}\) \( \newcommand{\RealPart}{\mathrm{Re}}\) \( \newcommand{\ImaginaryPart}{\mathrm{Im}}\) \( \newcommand{\Argument}{\mathrm{Arg}}\) \( \newcommand{\norm}[1]{\| #1 \|}\) \( \newcommand{\inner}[2]{\langle #1, #2 \rangle}\) \( \newcommand{\Span}{\mathrm{span}}\) \(\newcommand{\id}{\mathrm{id}}\) \( \newcommand{\Span}{\mathrm{span}}\) \( \newcommand{\kernel}{\mathrm{null}\,}\) \( \newcommand{\range}{\mathrm{range}\,}\) \( \newcommand{\RealPart}{\mathrm{Re}}\) \( \newcommand{\ImaginaryPart}{\mathrm{Im}}\) \( \newcommand{\Argument}{\mathrm{Arg}}\) \( \newcommand{\norm}[1]{\| #1 \|}\) \( \newcommand{\inner}[2]{\langle #1, #2 \rangle}\) \( \newcommand{\Span}{\mathrm{span}}\)\(\newcommand{\AA}{\unicode[.8,0]{x212B}}\)

    Body - Development of the vertebrae can be used in aging of individuals. In the first stage of development there are three separate portions, the two neural arches and the body. The neural arches fuse to each other first, around age 2-4 years of age. The body and neural arches later fuse at approximately 3-6 years of age. The body of a juvenile vertebra will exhibit billowing around the margins; these disappear as the end plates fuse to the body.

    Foramen - Central hole through which the spinal cord passes.

    Transverse foramina - Foramen on each of the transverse processes of the cervical vertebrae. Through these foramina the vertebral arteries pass.

    Arches – Encloses the spinal column.

    Spinous process – Posteriorly projecting aspect of the vertebra; attachment for muscles and ligaments that varies in size.

    Superior articular facets & Inferior articular facets – Oval shaped facets located on the superior and inferior aspects of the posterior part of the vertebrae. As they articulate with each other, they are faced in opposite directions depending on their location in the spinal column.

    Characteristics Cervical (7) Thoracic (12) Lumbar (5)
    Body Shape Oval Round Heart
    Body Size Small Medium Large
    Vertebral Foramen Rounded Round Triangular
    Transverse Process Small Large Large and blunt
    Transverse Foramen Present Absent Absent
    Spinous Process 2-6 Bifid Long, projects inferiorly Thick and horizontal
    Articulating Facets

    Superior: face posterior

    Inferior: face anterior

    Superior: face posterior, flat

    Inferior: face anterior, flat

    Superior: face medially, curved

    Inferior: face laterally, curved

    Costal Facets None On body and transverse processes None

    This page titled 5.2: Vertebrae is shared under a CC BY-NC 4.0 license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Roberta Hall, Kenneth Beals, Holm Neumann, Georg Neumann, Gwyn Madden (ScholarWorks: Grand Valley State University) via source content that was edited to the style and standards of the LibreTexts platform; a detailed edit history is available upon request.