The Vertebral Column

By on December 30, 2012

The vertebral column is composed of five sections and 33 individual bones:

Vertebral column

  • The cervical spine (Orange, C1-C7) spans the length of the neck and supports the weight of the skull. C1, the atlas, is shaped like a cradle and has the greatest mobility in flexion and extension of the neck. C2, the axis, has a pivot point that articulates with the atlas to aid in rotating the neck.
  • The thoracic spine (Green, T1-T12) is the arch that spans the middle of the back, and articulates with the ribs.
  • The five large vertebrae of the lumbar spine (Purple, L1-L5) form the lower back.
  • The sacrum (Yellow) consists of five fused bones and connects the spine to the pelvis.
  • The coccyx (Blue), commonly referred to as the tailbone, is the base of the column that is formed by three (or sometimes four) fused bones.

Between each vertebra is a fibrous disc that protect the bones by bearing the bulk of the weight placed on the spine and absorbing shock during movements.  In addition, the space created between the vertebrae allow for movement of the spine itself.  If too much impact is repeatedly placed on the body, this can sometimes result in a bulging or herniated disc.

The spine’s unique structure makes it supple and strong.

Range of motion is achieved through a unique balance of each of the regions of the spine. The lumbar spine, for example, can produce flexion and extension, but is very limited in rotation. The thoracic spine is much better at rotating, but the majority of this is achieved at the level of T11 and 12, where the “floating ribs” are.

Going upside down:

In yoga, is it thought that inverted postures such as supported shoulder stands, headstands and hand stands clear the lymph nodes, regulate blood pressure and heart rate, aid digestion and reduce inflammation. Many of these postures appear in dance, and a common concern is that inverted postures place too much pressure on the cervical spine.

Further Reading:

On Dance Advantage:

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