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The spine often only calls attention when it aches. As long as it works normally, it is hardly interesting, how it works and manages to shoulder, to absorb vibrations, and to keep human being mobile.

The spine (Latin columna vertebralis) is the "supporting element" of a human being. It forms the bony centre of a body because of its central position and combines all parts of the skeleton with each other. Looked at it from the side, its shape is simialr to a "double S". Cervical and lumbar zone are curved forwards (towards the abdomen - lordosis), while thoracic, sacral and tail bone zone are curved backwards (kyphosis).

Because of its special curve, the spine works like an elastic pole and helps providing a human being its elastic postural control. Vibrations caused naturally by upright locomotion are absorbed and shocks on brain (i.e., for jogging) are minimized.

All in all, human spine consists of 33 to 34 vertebras. By merging of 5 sacral and 3 to 4 tail vertebras, it is often described as 24 presacral vertebras (situated above sacral bone), the tail and sacral bone.  Vertebras of sacral and tail bone are merged with each other.


  • 7 cervical vertebras (Pars cervicalis)
  • 12 thoracic vertebras (Pars thoracica)
  • 5 lumbar vertebras (Pars lumbalis)
  • 5 sacral vertebras (merged; Os sacrum)
  • 3 to 4 tail vertebras (merged vertebral vestiges; Os coccygis)



The spine can be divided in 5 sections structured in single vertebras, cervical, thoracic, lumbar spine as well as sacral and tail bone.

Vertebras in single zones differ externally from each other though being nearly of the same basic structure. Each vertebra consists of a vertebral body, two transverse processes, and a spinous process. The bony lamina attaches to the vertebral body, (exception: atlas, the first cervical vertebra), where transverse processes branch off on the sides and the spinous process on the back. Laminas and vertebral processes form stable structures of the spine. They work as pressure distributor and lever arms and offer insertion points for several muscles and ligaments.

There is a hole between vertebral body and lamina creating a channel by positioning of single vertebras one above the other, where spinal cord runs. Bony bodies of vertebras surround the spinal cord and protect it.


Laminas of two adjacent vertebras contain an interspace on each side, a hole between the vertebras. Nerves of spinal cord (spinal nerves) pass out through these holes on each "floor" out of the vertebral canal. These holes are problematic positions on the spine. Nerves, coming out of these holes, go to skin and muscles and provide a sensible and motor supply. Because of signs of wear on vertebral structures, these nerves can get damaged and bodily functions get distinctively affected.



With the exception of some few vertebras (cervical vertebras, sacral and tail bone), adjacent vertebras are always combined with each other by a disc. This intervertebral disc consiting of fibrocartilage is made up of a strong external ring and a soft core. The discs are situated between two adjacent vertebral bodies. They form mobile elements between single vertebras and have an effect of a pressure-elastic cushion for motions within the spine. Shocks and vibrations are absorbed. Due to loads the disc tissue is pressed together and only takes its original shape after longer lasting relief. 
Bad stresses and signs of wear (lack of elasticity) can cause a damage of discs. Protrusion of discs or slipped discs, pressing on nerves coming off, can be a result and cause for sensibility disorder and pain.

The stability of spine is guaranteed by ligaments and muscles:

  • Ligamentum longitudiale anterius (front longitudinal ligament): goes over front of vertebral bodies
  • Ligamentum longitudiale posterius (rear longitudinal ligament): structured in a superficial and a deep layer and goes along the rear surface of the vertebral body
  • Ligamenta flava (ligament between laminas): are called yellow ligaments and are located between laminas
  • Ligamenta intertransversaria (inter-transverse-process-ligaments): short/strong ligaments between transverse processes
  • Ligamenta interspinalia (inter-spinous process ligaments): short ligaments between spinous processes
  • Ligamenta supraspinale (over-spinous process-ligament): continuous connection going over all spinous processes between vertebras and sacral bone (tenses from 7th cervical vertebra to sacral bone)

Ligaments and several muscles provide stability and flexibility of the spine. They make many motions of the spine possible:


  • Flexion forwards
  • Extension backwards
  • Lateral flexion
  • Rotation


The spine is a link chain effecting several bodily functions in its totality. In case, single segments do not work appropriately, functional disorders in most different zones can emerge. When spine and back remain healthy, it guarantees a good stability up until old age. It is of great benefit to take care of one's back and invest some time in exercising.

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