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The vertebrae come in different shapes and sizes, and they have unique features depending on their region.
Typical vertebrae have a basic structure in common, consisting of a vertebral body, a vertebral arch, and 7 processes: a spinous process, 2 transverse processes, and 2 superior and 2 inferior articular processes.
As you move down the spine the vertebral bodies become larger, as they bear more weight.
Posterior to the vertebral body, there’s the vertebral arch, which consists of two pedicles and two laminae.
The pedicles are short, thick processes that project posteriorly from the vertebral body to meet the laminae, which are two broad, flat plates of bone, that unite in the midline and complete the vertebral arch.
The space between the walls of the vertebral arch and vertebral body is called the vertebral foramen.
Focusing on the 7 processes of the vertebrae, first we have the spinous process, which extends posteriorly from the midline junction of the laminae and serves as an attachment site for ligaments and muscles.
Next, the left and right transverse processes, they extend posterolaterally from the junctions of the pedicles and laminae, while also serving as important attachment sites for ligaments and muscles.
Finally we have the four articular processes. First there’s the left and right superior articular processes, which project superiorly from the junctions of the pedicles and laminae.
The human vertebral column, also known as the spinal column or simply the spine, is a long, flexible structure made up of bones (vertebrae) separated by small cushions of intervertebral discs. It functions to protect the spinal cord, support the weight of the head, and allow movement of the trunk and limbs. The vertebral column is composed of 33 bones in total: 7 cervical (neck), 12 thoracic (chest), 5 lumbar (lower back), 5 sacral, and 4 coccygeal (fused into the coccyx). When viewed from the side, the spine has an S-shape. This is due to the inward curve of the cervical spine, and a gentle outward curve in the thoracic region. The lumbar spine slightly curves inward just like the cervical spine. All these curves help to distribute the weight of the head and body evenly and act as shock absorbers during movement.
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