The vertebral column, commonly referred to as the spine or spinal column, consists of 33 vertebrae organized in 5 main regions: 7 cervical, 12 thoracic, 5 lumbar, 5 sacral, and 4 coccygeal.
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.
The vertebral body is the thick, cylindrical, anterior portion of the vertebra, which functions in supporting weight.
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.
And when you stack all the foramina on top of each other, that forms the vertebral, or spinal, canal, which forms a protective bony case around the spinal cord.
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.