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Spinal Vertebrae: Anatomy, Function, and Common Conditions - Spine Center of Texas
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Spinal Vertebrae: Anatomy, Function, and Common Conditions

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Spinal vertebrae are flat surfaced bones with a round shape that form the spinal column. There are a total of 34 vertebrae, and 24 of them are separate bones.  The ten vertebrae that make up the sacrum and coccyx at the lowest end of the spine are each fused. Vertebrae very in shape and depending on their location, and expand in size further down the spinal column.

Each vertebral bone has a portion protruding from the cylinder-like body called the vertebral arch. The arch itself has two distinct sections: the spinous process, which can be felt through the skin when touching the spinal column, and the facet joints that are located on the sides.

The facet joints, along with intervertebral discs, connect the vertebrae to each other. There is an opening between the junction of the vertebral body and arch that contains the spinal cord, referred to as the spinal canal. There are also spaces between the vertebral connections for nerves to extend from the spinal cord to the rest of the body.

The functions of the connected spinal vertebrae are to:

  • Provide support for the weight of the head, chest, and shoulders
  • Distribute weight-bearing evenly and assist with balance
  • Serve as a connection between the upper and lower body
  • Act as protection for the nerves, spinal cord, and several internal organs
  • Aid with and limit range of motion to the front, back, sides, and rotation

Spinal vertebrae can deteriorate with normal aging and cause conditions such as:

  • Spinal Stenosis, an ailment causing narrowing of the spinal canal
  • Ankylosing Spondylitis, a form of arthritis causing inflammation of spinal joints
  • Facet Syndrome, and inflammation of the facet joint resulting from an injury

The spinal vertebrae can also have three different types of abnormal curvature, which are:

  • Lordosis (excessive inward curve in the lower back)
  • Kyphosis (excessive outward “rounded” curve in the upper back)
  • Scoliosis (profound sideways curve)

Treatment options for vertebral conditions will depend on the nature and severity of the problem and may range from noninvasive care to surgical intervention.

If you have a vertebral condition and would like to investigate our treatment options, please call us for an appointment in San Antonio, Seguin or New Braunfels offices.