Vertebral Column Articulation (Backbone)

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Vertebral Column Articulation (Backbone)


  • Cervical Vertebrae: These are the seven bones of the neck. The major movement of which was covered in the Atlanto-occipital Joint (Neck)
  • Thoracic Vertebrae: These are the twelve bones of the upper back, they all have ribs attached to them.
  • Lumbar Vertebrae: These are the five lower back bones before getting to the pelvis.
  • Sacrum Vertebrae: These are the five fused back bones below the lumbar vertebrae.
  • Coccyx: Three to five small fused bones that make up the tailbone.

Cartilage: Vertebral discs are pieces of cartilage that are between every vertebral bone in the spine. They act as little shock absorbers for the spinal column.

Ligament: There are a number of different ligaments that connect the vertebrae as well as surround the spinal chord.

Tendon: Unlike the fingers and other main joints the tendons of the back are small and non extensive.


  • Major muscles of the thoracic region include the Spinalis Thoracis extends the spine (bends backwards), Longissimus Thoracis and Iliocostalis Thoracis which are angled in a manner in which when contracted deal with extension, lateral flexion (bending sideways), and rib rotation.
  • Major muscles of the lumbar region include the Psoas Major which flexes the vetebral column, the Quadratus Lumborum which deals with lateral flexion, and the Multifidus which deals with extension and rotation.


  • There are roughly 56 muscles of the back which can change if the neck and/or glutes were to be included, as well as other muscles in the back that do not act on the back. Their origins and insertions can become complex, and the angles at which they span leading to the ability to lean to the side and twist our body.
  • The entirety of the spine has a slight s-shaped curve to it that allows it to cope with different types of loads throughout our activities. The lumbar region of the spine supports the majority of our weight, hence why these bones are the largest but the vertebral column as a whole does a great job supporting our body.

Range of motion: The Throracolumbar region of the back is able to flex forwards (without bending at the hips) to about 45 degrees, and extend backwards about 30 degrees. The back is able the flex laterally (side to side) at about 30 degrees to each side. And about 30 degrees to each side with rotation or twisting of the back side to side. Note: If these numbers dont seem right that is because this is only the range of motion of the thoracolumbar region.

Manipulation: There is little to no direct manipulation of the of spinal movement (as a joint). High impact however can seriously damage the bones, muscles, nerves, ect.

Injury: High impact is a cause for concern, this is why rolls are often done at an angle from the first point of contact with the ground being the shoulder and drawing a line to the opposite hip, that way as little of the spine is in contact with the ground as possible. As for backwards break falls often emphasize keeping the hips and lower back off of the ground.

  • With age vertebral disc problems are a cause for concern. (mention in the Cartilage page but worth re-mentioning)
    • Degenerative disc: This is where the discs start to shrink lessening their ability to absorb shock and the common cause to back pain in aging people. This is the cause for the elderly shrinking in height, but can be prolonged with a health and active lifestyle. For younger people improving posture can help decrease stress over the years. For example rather than doing floor crunches which are bad for your back you can do v-sit, plank, or another exercise with limited back impact.
    • Herniated disc: This is where a the outer portion of the disc become dry and cracks allowing some of the softer inner cartilage to spill out pushing against the nerves. Usually only in the elderly caused by trauma to the back, otherwise these discs are good at absorbing impact. Staying fit as an elderly person will help reduce this from happening as it can also be caused by elderly lifting with the back rather than the legs.
  • Another cause for concern is scoliosis, a common condition where there is a lateral curvature to the spine. It is more often seen in women than men and you should consult with your physician on corrective treatment and other concerns in terms of daily activities.

For information on additional joints please refer back to the Joints page.

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