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Anatomy of the Spine

Side view of a normal spineThe spine is a column of 26 bones that extend in a line from the base of the skull to the pelvis. Twenty-four of the bones are called vertebrae.

The bones of the spine include:

  • 7 cervical vertebrae in the neck
  • 12 thoracic vertebrae at the back wall of the chest
  • 5 lumbar vertebrae at the inward curve (small) of the lower back
  • sacrum, composed of 5 fused vertebrae between the hip bones
  • coccyx, composed of 3 to 5 fused bones at the lower tip of the vertebral column

The vertebrae link to each other and are cushioned by shock-absorbing disks that lie between them.

The vertebral column provides the main support for the upper body, allowing humans to stand upright or bend and twist, and it protects the spinal cord from injury.

Above content provided by National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases in partnership with Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. For advice about your medical care, consult your doctor.

Posted March 2011

Contact Information

Spine Center
Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center
Shapiro Clinical Center, Second Floor
330 Brookline Avenue
Boston, MA 02215