Spine: how is it composed?

The spine, also called the spine, is a bone structure located between the head and pelvis. Its role is to support the head and transmit the weight of the body to the pelvis, thus allowing it to move.

In this article, here is everything you need to know about anatomy, different pathologies, and treatments of the spine.

Anatomy of the spine

Structure of the spine

The spine, or spine, consists of an average of 33 bones, called vertebrae.

The bones of the spine are connected together to form an axis, which has a double S shape.

From the upper part to the lower part, these 33 vertebrae are defined according to their location:

  • 7 cervical vertebrae;
  • 12 thoracic vertebrae;
  • 5 lumbar vertebrae;
  • 5 sacral vertebrae fused together to form the sacrum;
  • 4 coccygeal vertebrae fused together to form the coccyx.

Being flexible and mobile, the first 24 vertebrae are considered the true vertebrae while the sacrum and coccyx, remaining fixed, are considered the false vertebrae.

Structure of the vertebrae

Each vertebra has the same basic constitution:

  • the body, the ventral part of the vertebra, which is voluminous and strong. It carries the weight of the skeletal axis;
  • the vertebral arch, or dorsal part of the vertebra, surrounds the vertebral foramen;
  • The vertebral foramen is the central and hollow part of the vertebra. The stacking of vertebrae and foramina constitutes the vertebral canal, crossed by the spinal cord.


The spine is covered by the back musculature.

What is the role of the spine?

Support and protection role

The spine gives the back a role of support for the head and protection of the spinal cord.

Role in mobility and posture

The spine makes it possible to preserve the posture of the trunk, and thus to maintain the standing position.

The structure of the spine ensures many movements such as movements:

  • twisting of the trunk;
  • trunk flexion;
  • traction.

What are the ailments that can affect the spine?

Back pain is defined as localized pain that most often originates in the spine and usually affects the muscle groups surrounding it.

Depending on the origin of the muscle groups, three main forms are distinguished:

  • neck pain;
  • back pain;
  • low back pain.

Sciatica is characterized by pain starting from the lower back and extending into the leg. They are also common and are due to compression of the sciatic nerve.

Different pathologies can be at the origin of these pains.

Degenerative pathologies

Different pathologies can lead to the progressive degradation of cellular elements.


Osteoarthritis is characterized by wear and tear of the cartilage protecting the bones of the joints.

Slipped disc

Herniated disc corresponds to the expulsion at the back of the nucleus of the intervertebral disc, by wear of the latter. This can result in compression of the spinal cord or sciatic nerve.

Deformities of the spine

Different deformations of the column may appear.


Scoliosis is a lateral displacement of the spine. Kyphosis, or excessive curvature of the spine, develops at shoulder height while lordosis is associated with an accentuated arch in the lumbar.

Lumbago and torticollis

Lumbago and torticollis are pathologies due to deformities or tears in the ligaments or muscles, located respectively at the lumbar or cervical level.

How to treat back pain?

Drug treatments

Depending on the pathology, certain medications may be prescribed, including painkillers.

Physiotherapy, physiotherapy, or osteopathy

Back rehabilitation can be performed with physiotherapy or osteopathy sessions.

Surgical treatment

Depending on the pathology, surgery may be performed on the back.

Spinal examinations

Clinical examination

The observation of the posture of the back by the doctor is the first step in identifying an abnormality.

Radiological examinations

Depending on the supposed or proven pathology, additional examinations may be carried out such as:

  • an X-ray;
  • ultrasound;
  • a scanner;
  • MRI;
  • scintigraphy.

Spinal research

Published in the scientific journal Stem Cell, researchers from an Inserm unit have succeeded in transforming adipose stem cells into cells that can replace intervertebral discs.

This work aims to renew worn intervertebral discs, causing some lower back pain.

Image Credit: Photo by Joyce McCown on Unsplash

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