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Anatomy of a Normal Spine

The spinal column is a stack of bones (vertebrae) that are separated by soft pads of tissue (disks). Each of these bones has a canal that runs top to bottom. Together these canals form a tunnel called the spinal canal. Running through this canal are nerves. These nerves carry signals between the brain and body.

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The spine has three natural curves: the cervical, the thoracic, and the lumbar.

The Parts of the Spine

  • The vertebrae are the 24 bones that connect like puzzle pieces to make up the spine.

  • The lamina of each vertebra forms the back of the spinal canal.

  • A foramen is a small opening. This is where a nerve leaves the spinal canal.

  • The transverse process is the wing of bone on either side of each vertebra.

  • The spinous process is the part of each vertebra you can feel through your skin.

  • A disk lies between each of the vertebrae.

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Two vertebrae with a disk between them

© 2000-2011 Krames StayWell, 780 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.