Bones of the Spine

By Cameron Delicato, PTA

What are Bones of the Spine? 

The quick answer is bones of the back include 33 bones of the spine. The spine is made up of 33 bones called vertebrae. The vertebral column is split into 5 different sections: cervical, thoracic, lumbar, sacrum, and coccyx. Watch this VIDEO about the anatomy of the spine.  The column itself provides four key functions for the body:

  • Protection: Surrounds and protects the spinal cord within the spinal canal.
  • Support: Carries the weight of the body.
  • Axis: Forms the central axis of the body
  • Movement: Roles in both posture and movement.
The bones of the back are made up of over 30 bones, learn more from JOI here.

Spinal cord schematic diagram.

Cervical Spine or Neck

This is the uppermost section of the bones of the back (spine). The cervical spine has 7 individual vertebrae. There are 3 distinguishable characteristics in cervical vertebrae:

  • Bifid Spinous Process: The spinous process bifurcates (branches into two ends) at the bottom. However, the exceptions are the C1 (no spinous process) and C7 (the spinous process is longer than the other cervical vertebrae).
  • Transverse Foramina: Opening in each transverse process, through which the vertebral arteries travel to the brain).
  • Triangular vertebral Foramen.
    Bones in the neck are supported by the cervical spine.

    Image of the cervical spine.

Cervical vertebrae levels C1 (called the atlas) and C2 (axis) are unique in their characteristics to specialize in head movement.

Thoracic Spine or Mid-back

There are 12 thoracic vertebrae, larger than the cervical spine, and gradually increased as levels go lower down to the lumbar spine. The main distinguishable function of the thoracic spine vertebrae is articulate with the ribs. Each thoracic vertebra has 2 “demi facets,” which are there to articulate with the heads of 2 different ribs.

Lumbar Spine  or Low Back

There are 5 vertebrae in the lumbar spine, which make up the largest section in the vertebral column. They are structurally made up to support the weight of the torso (upper body). Lumbar vertebrae have very large bodies, which are kidney-shaped. They lack characteristics like thoracic and cervical sections, such as having no transverse foramina, costal facets, or bifid spinous processes.

However, the size and orientation allow for clinical access to the spinal cord between the vertebrae (which is not possible in the thoracic section), allowing for procedures such as epidural anesthesia administration and lumbar puncture.


This is a collection of 5 fused vertebrae. It is described as an inverted triangle with the sacrum’s lateral walls, including facets for articulation with the pelvis at the sacroiliac joints (SI-joint). That connection creates support at the base of your spine, helping to support the upper body’s weight.

Coccyx or Tail Bone

This is a small bone that articulates with the bottom of the sacrum. It functions as an attachment point for some muscles of the pelvic floor while functioning as support and stabilization when a person is sitting.

How Do I Strengthen the Bones of the Back?

Exercise to improve your bone of the back health

Exercise to improve your bone health

Maintaining strong back bones as you age may decrease the risk of osteoporosis and other back related complications. Some exercises that help maintain strong bones include:

  • Climbing stairs
  • Walking or hiking
  • Strength training
  • Resistance training

Exercises to avoid if you have osteoporosis include:

  • High impact exercises such as jumping or running
  • Bending and twisting

What Foods are Healthy for Bones of the Back?

In addition to exercise, your diet can impact the strength of the bones in the back. Some natural ways you can increase the bones of the back include:

  • Dark green leafy vegetables, such as spinach or kale
  • High calcium foods like yogurt, cheese or milk
  • Beans and lentils
  • Almonds
  • Canned sardines and salmon (with bones)

Physical Therapy for Bones of the Back

JOI Physical Therapists can help restore healthy function, movement and bone strength. They will customize your plan to include certain bone-strengthening exercises. Additionally, your physical therapist will help you improve your posture and balance. Proper postures will ease unnecessary pressure on your spine. Having good balance will help prevent the chance of falls.  Working with a JOI physical therapist will help you maintain good bone health and strength. Watch this VIDEO on why back pain can’t wait for treatment

If you have spine problems, the Jacksonville Orthopaedic Institute is here for you.  We offer treatment options from conservative care to advanced surgical procedures.  Let JOI get you back on the Road to Recovery.

To schedule an appointment, call JOI-2000, schedule online, or click the link below.

Book An Appointment with a JOI Physician.

Image of Book An Appointment with a JOI Physician.

By: Cameron Delicato, PTA

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