vertebral column

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Related to columna vertebralis: scapula, beryllium


an anatomical part or other structure that resembles a pillar.
anal c's vertical folds of mucous membrane at the upper half of the anal canal; called also rectal columns.
anterior column the anterior portion of the gray substance of the spinal cord, in transverse section seen as a horn.
gray column the longitudinally oriented parts of the spinal cord in which the nerve cell bodies are found, comprising the gray matter of the spinal cord.
lateral column the lateral portion of the gray substance of the spinal cord, in transverse section seen as a horn; present only in the thoracic and upper lumbar regions.
posterior column the posterior portion of the gray substance of the spinal cord, in transverse section seen as a horn.
rectal c's anal columns.
spinal column (vertebral column) spine (def. 2).

ver·te·bral col·umn

the series of vertebrae that extend from the cranium to the coccyx, providing support and forming a flexible bony case for the spinal cord.

vertebral column

vertebral column

the flexible structure that forms the longitudinal axis of the skeleton. In the adult it includes 26 vertebrae arranged in a straight line from the base of the skull to the coccyx. The vertebrae are separated by intervertebral disks. They provide attachment for various muscles such as the iliocostalis thoracis and the longissimus thoracis that give the column strength and flexibility. In the adult the five sacral and four coccygeal vertebrae fuse to form the sacrum and the coccyx. The average length of the vertebral column in men is about 71 cm. The cervical part measures about 12.5 cm, the thoracic part about 28 cm, the lumbar part about 18 cm, and the sacrum and the coccyx about 12.5 cm. The vertebral column in women measures approximately 61 cm. Several curves in the column increase its strength, such as the cervical, thoracic, lumbar, and pelvic curves. The cervical curve is convex ventrally from the apex of the dens to the middle of the second thoracic vertebra and is the least marked of all the curves. The thoracic curve, concave ventrally, starts at the middle of the second and ends at the middle of the twelfth thoracic vertebra. The lumbar curve, more pronounced in women than in men, begins at the middle of the last thoracic vertebra and ends at the sacrovertebral angle. The pelvic curve starts at the sacrovertebral articulation and ends at the point of the coccyx. The thoracic and the sacral curves constitute primary curves, present during fetal life; the cervical and lumbar curves constitute secondary curves, which develop after birth. Also called spinal column, spine. See also vertebra, vertebral canal.
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Vertebral column: right lateral view

ver·te·bral col·umn

(vĕr'tĕ-brăl kol'ŭm) [TA]
The series of vertebrae that extend from the cranium to the coccyx, providing support and forming a flexible bony case for the spinal cord.
Synonym(s): columna vertebralis [TA] , backbone, rachis, spina, spinal column, spine (2) .
Enlarge picture

vertebral column

The portion of the axial skeleton consisting of vertebrae (7 cervical, 12 thoracic, 5 lumbar, the sacrum, and the coccyx) joined together by intervertebral disks and fibrous tissue. It forms the main supporting axis of the body, encloses and protects the spinal cord, and attaches the appendicular skeleton and muscles for moving the various body parts.
Synonym: spinal column See: illustration
See also: column

vertebral column

The bony spine. A curved column of bones, called vertebrae, of the same general shape but increasing progressively in size from the top of the column to the bottom. Each vertebra has a stout, roughly circular body behind which is an arch that encloses an opening to accommodate the spinal cord. The arch bears bony protuberances on either side and at the back and facets for articulation with the vertebrae above and below. The vertebral bodies are fixed together by cushioning intervertebral discs and strong longitudinal ligaments. There are 7 neck vertebrae, 12 in the back and 5 in the lumbar region. The 5th lumbar vertebra sits on top of the sacrum, which is formed from the fusion of five vertebrae. The coccyx, hanging from the lower tip of the sacrum, is the fused remnant of the tail.

Vertebral column

The vertebral column, also called the spinal column or spine, consists of a series of vertebrae connected by ligaments. It provides a supporting axis for the body and protects the spinal cord. The vertebral column consists of seven cervical vertebrae in the neck, followed by 12 thoracic vertebrae that connect to the ribs, five lumbar vertebrae in the lower back, the sacrum, and the coccyx.
Mentioned in: Coccyx Injuries

spinal injury

injury to the vertebral column (fracture-dislocation) which may or may not involve spinal cord injury and/or injury of the nerve roots within the vertebral (spinal) canal. Cord injury can occur in the cervical, thoracic and upper lumbar regions, ranging from minor damage to complete transection. Cauda equina injury occurs with damage below the first lumbar vertebra, where the 'horse's tail' of lumbar and sacral nerve roots descend to their exits from the vertebral (spinal) canal. Cord and nerve root injuries cause complete or partial paralysis of voluntary movement and sensory loss in the regions served by the nerve tracts or roots affected. See also back injury, cervical spine, neck injury, paraplegia, quadriplegia, whiplash injury.

intervertebral discs

the soft pads between the bodies of the vertebrae which make up the spinal column. Each disc has an inner spongy gelatinous substance (nucleus pulposus) surrounded by a protective ring of fibrocartilage (annulus fibrosus). The discs contribute to flexibility of the spine and act as shock absorbers. prolapsed intervertebral disc syn slipped disc protrusion of the nucleus pulposus through its fibrous covering into the spinal canal, due to degenerative changes, heavy lifting or injury in sport. Can press on the spinal cord or on the nerve roots, leading to pain, numbness, paraesthesia or even paralysis. Most common in the lumbar region, causing sciatica if the roots of the sciatic nerve are compressed. Diagnosis is clinical with MRI scanning to confirm. Treatment is initially rest with appropriate analgesia, then a programme of core muscle strengthening to prevent recurrence. Persistent neurological symptoms and signs require investigation and, rarely, surgical treatment with minimally invasive microdiscectomy. In sport the commonest disc injuries are in the lumbar and cervical regions, the latter typically in rugby (scrum collapse or direct injury in a tackle), in judo or in a fall from a height as in trampolining or gymnastics. These injuries highlight the need for adequately trained and experienced medical back-up.
Figure 1: Efferent nerve pathways from the brainstem and spinal cord. Shown on the right: somatic, to skeletal muscles. Shown on the left: autonomic. B brain stem, C cervical, T thoracic, L lumbar, S sacral segments of the spinal cord. (Red shaded regions are those with no autonomic outflow.)

cervical spine

the seven cervical vertebrae, through which the cervical part of the spinal cord passes from the brain to the thoracic part of the spine. Damage to the spinal cord at a high cervical level, where the phrenic nerves to the diaphragm originate, can paralyse breathing. Cervical damage in sport may result in quadriplegia, seen in sports such as rugby (collapsed scrum), trampolining and horse riding. See also spinal injury; Figure 1.
Figure 1: The brain viewed from the left showing the lobes of the cerebral hemisphere, the cerebellum and the lower parts of the brain stem in continuity with the spinal cord. Coloured area: the position of the ventricles, lying deep in the brain, containing cerebrospinal fluid and continuous with the central canal of the spinal cord.


the last bone of the vertebral column. Composed of four or five rudimentary vertebrae, cartilaginous at birth, ossification and fusion not being complete until the age of 25-30. coccydynia pain in the region of the coccyx; in sport, usually the result of a fall. coccygeal adj. See Figure 1.

spinal column

; vertebral column column of bones surrounding a central canal housing the spinal cord; each vertebra is separated from its neighbour by a fibrogelatinous intervertebral disc; paired spinal nerves emerge between adjacent vertebrae (see vertebrae)


of or pertaining to a vertebra.

vertebral abscess
commonly associated with navel infection in the young. Usually infection delivered by the hematogenous route to the cervical or lumbar vertebral bodies or to meninges. Compression of the spinal cord by the abscess or a pathological fracture causes paraplegia or quadriplegia depending on location. See also vertebral osteomyelitis (below).
vertebral asymmetry
a contributing factor in enzootic equine incoordination.
vertebral body
vertebral body osteosclerosis
occurs together with vertebral osteophyte development in old bulls with thyroid C-cell tumors.
vertebral canal
see spinal canal.
vertebral column
see spinal column.
complex vertebral malformation (CVM)
a recently recognized autosomal recessive lethal defect in Holstein cattle. Produces early embryonic death, late term abortions, premature birth and neonatal mortality in liveborn calves. The morphological expression of CVM is wide but vertebral (cervical and thoracic) malformation and arthrogryposis (carpal and tarsal joints) are almost always present. Vertebral malformations may be clinically apparent in some calves and can be detected by radiography. A wide spectrum of other congenital defects may be present.
vertebral curves
the cervical, thoracic and lumbar curves.
vertebral exostosis
may be the result of fractures, and in pigs, hypovitaminosis A. May cause compression of spinal cord and paralysis.
vertebral fracture
often due to minor trauma in bone weakened by osteoporosis or osteomyelitis. In neonates may be dystocia-related. Usually causes acute onset of flaccid paralysis.
vertebral instability
see canine wobbler syndrome.
vertebral joints
are of two types, symphyseal between the vertebral bodies, and synovial between the facets of the neural arch.
vertebral malformation
includes block vertebra and defective alignment such as scoliosis, kyphosis, torticollis. See also complex vertebral malformation (above).
vertebral osteomyelitis
results in pathological fracture causing acute paralysis, or spinal cord abscess causing slower onset paralysis. Hematogenesis spread from omphalophlebitis is common so that disease is most often seen in young patients.
vertebral osteophytes
see spondylosis deformans.
vertebral stenosis
compression of the spinal cord by a vertebral canal which has too small a diameter.
vertebral subluxation
largely restricted to the cervical vertebrae where looser ligaments permit more intervertebral movement.

Patient discussion about vertebral column

Q. Anyone have knowledge of cancer in the spine? Doctors think my 40 year old brother has. My brother has been undergoing test and treatnment for back problems since a vehicle accident in August. The did a test last week and Monday said they saw 4 nodules they think are cancer, his doctor said everytime he had seen this it was cancer. I am devestated right now but trying to stay positive. I am sure you will notice it on the site b/c I know it is affecting me and the stress and worry has the fibromyalgia kicking in at full speed:-( PLEASE anything you can tell me would be a help!

A. Thank you for the answer and the prayers!

Q. I have hurt my cervical spine and shoulder in a rear end car crash in July. Why does it still hurt?

A. Spine and back injuries are known to to be causing a lot of pain and discomfort and for a long period of time. You should try and do some mellow exercise and physiotherapy that might help you a lot. If the pain is unbarable, you should consult your doctor about using pain medications.

Q. Has anyone had a spine fusion that failed? Or hardware that failed?

A. Haven't experienced it myself, but here ( you may find a discussion about it.

More discussions about vertebral column