Vertebrae

Your spine is made up of 24 small bones, called vertebrae. The vertebrae protect and support the spinal cord. They also bear the majority of the weight put upon your spine. Vertebrae, like all bones, have an outer shell called cortical bone that is hard and strong. The inside is made of a soft, spongy type of bone, called cancellous bone.

The vertebral body is the large, round portion of bone. Each vertebra is attached to a bony ring. When the vertebrae are stacked one on top of the other, the rings create a hollow tube for the spinal cord to pass through. Each vertebra is held to the others by groups of ligaments. Ligaments connect bones to bones; tendons connect muscles to bones. There are also tendons that fasten muscles to the vertebrae.

The bony ring attached to the vertebral body consists of several parts. The laminae extend from the body to cover the spinal canal, which is the hole in the center of the vertebrae. The spinous process is the bony portion opposite the body of the vertebra. You feel this part if you run your hand down a person's back. There are two transverse processes (little bony bumps), where the back muscles attach to the vertebrae. The pedicle is a bony projection that connects to both sides of the lamina.

 

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