Bones of the Back

By Cameron Delicato, PTA

Bones of the Back

The 33 bones of the back make up the vertebrae column. The vertebral column is also known as the spine and is divided and numbered into five regions. Watch this VIDEO anatomy of the spine.  To read more about the spine, please read this article catch in upper back.

X-Ray image of the human body showing the vertebral column and bones of the back. JOI Rehab

X-Ray image of the vertebral column

What are the 5 Parts of the Back?

  1. Cervical
  2. Thoracic
  3. Lumbar
  4. Sacrum
  5. Coccyx

Cervical Spine or Neck 

Cervical Spine: 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 C1 (no spinous process) and C7 (the spinous process is longer than other cervical vertebrae)
  • Transverse Foramina: opening in each transverse process, through which the vertebral arteries travel to the brain)
  • Triangular vertebral Foramen

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

X-ray diagram labeling the cervical vertebrae of the upper part of the back bones. JOI Rehab

Cervical Spine Labeled

Thoracic Spine or Chest

Thoracic Spine: there are 12 thoracic vertebrae, larger than the cervical spine, and gradually increases 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.

X-Ray image of the thoracic vertebrae in the human spine anatomy. JOI Rehab

X-Ray image of the Thoracic Vertebrae

Lumbar Spine or Lower Back 

Lumbar Spine: 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.

X-ray image of the lumbar spine bones of the back. JOI Rehab

X-ray Image of the Lumbar Vertebrae

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.

Sacrum or Tailbone

Sacrum: 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 sacro-iliac joints (SI-joint). That connection creates support at the base of your spine, helping to support the upper body’s weight.

x-ray image of the human body showing the sacral region of the spine or sacrum. JOI Rehab

X-Ray image of the Sacral Region


Coccyx: 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.

X-Ray image of the Coccyx bone of the back. JOI Rehab

X-Ray image of the Coccyx

Vertebral Body

The vertebral bodies of the spine are the bones which provide support for the entire body.  Each one stacks upon each other for this support network.  The disc is a jelly like structure within the vertebral body which acts like a cushion for compressive forces.  Herniation to the disc from injury or degenerative changes is a major source of pain in the spine.

How Do You Strengthen the Bones of the Back?

It is important to maintain strong bones as you age. You can improve bone density with exercise and diet. Here are ways to give your bones a boost of vitamin D and calcium:

  • Dark green leafy vegetables – spinach and kale
  • Canned sardines or salmon
  • Dairy products – yogurt, milk, and cottage cheese
  • Almonds

Related Articles and Videos:

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By: Cameron Delicato, PTA

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