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A Breakdown of Spine Anatomy

The spine and the central nervous system, where the spine lives, is a complex piece of our human anatomy. There are many bones, ligaments, and muscles to know if you are a specialist working in this field.

However, it is useful to know the basics in case you ever find yourself with spine issues and problems later down the road, even if you aren’t a physician. That’s why we’re breaking down the basics of spine anatomy below, just enough to keep you in the know of how things work back there.


A healthy spine will normally have a natural S-shaped curve. It helps our spine absorb shock, keep balance, and have a full range of motion.

That spine actually consists of three main types of curves. The first curve happens at the neck, and it is called a cervical curve. The second curve is at the middle back and called a thoracic curve, while the third curve is the lumbar curve that occurs at the lower back.


The spine is made up of 33 different bones, called vertebras. These bones are broken down into five different regions: the cervical region at the neck, the thoracic region at the mid-back, the lumbar region at the low back, the sacrum which connects the spine to the hip bones, and the coccyx region which is where the tailbone is located.

In between all of these bones is something called the intervertebral disc, a cushion that keeps the bones from rubbing against each other and breaking down. Unfortunately, while we age, these discs begin to break down naturally and can eventually cause issues, such as pinched nerves and decreased mobility.

Alongside the discs are facet joints, and each vertebra has four of them. These allow the range of motion that our back if capable of doing.

While there is more information available about all of the vertebrae that make up the spine, this is the basic knowledge you need to know to keep yourself educated.


There are two major groups of muscles in the spine. The first is called extensors, which are attached to the back of the spine. They allow us to stand up and lift objects. The second group, called flexors, is in front of the spine. They allow us to flex and bend forward.


Ligaments are defined as strong, fibrous bands that hold the bones together in the spine. There are three main types of ligaments: ligamentum flavum, anterior longitudinal ligament (ALL), and posterior longitudinal ligament (PLL).


Almost as numerous as the number of bones in your spine are the number of spinal nerves that branch off from them. There are 31 pairs in total and cover the entire body.  They are in charge of the feeling and movement in your body and spine.

The above information is a basic summary of all of the complex medical elements of the spine and the back. If you would like to learn more, call the experts at Alliance Spine and Pain Centers at 770-929-9033 or click here to schedule an appointment.