In human anatomy, the vertebral column (Latin − Columna vertebralis) (backbone or spine) is a column usually consisting of 24 articulating vertebrae, and 9 fused vertebrae in the sacrum and the coccyx. It is situated in the dorsal aspect of the torso, separated by intervertebral discs. It houses and protects the spinal cord in its spinal canal.

There are normally thirty-three (33) vertebrae in humans, including the five that are fused to form the sacrum (the others are separated by intervertebral discs) and the four coccygeal bones that form the tailbone. The upper three regions comprise the remaining 24, and are grouped under the names cervical (7 vertebrae), thoracic (12 vertebrae) and lumbar (5 vertebrae), according to the regions they occupy. This number is sometimes increased by an additional vertebra in one region, or it may be diminished in one region, the deficiency often being supplied by an additional vertebra in another. The number of cervical vertebrae is, however, very rarely increased or diminished.

A diagram of a human thoracic vertebra. Notice the articulations for the ribs

With the exception of the first and second cervical, the true or movable vertebrae (the upper three regions) present certain common characteristics that are best studied by examining one from the middle of the thoracic region.

(Source: mortisia)

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