The Vertebral Column
The Vertebral Column The vertebral column, which connects the skull to the pelvis, is also called the spine. It consists of 24 bone discs called vertebrae and an additional 9 fused vertebrae that make up the lowest part of the spine, the sacrum and tailbone. Each vertebrae of the vertebral column has protruding bony areas for the attachment of muscles that are important for the spine to move. The spinal column protects the spinal cord and its emerging nerves that run down most of the length of the spine. The vertebrae have two major functions
To bear the weight of the body
To house the spinal cord or nerve roots within the spinal column
The spine is arranged in four natural curves:
The cervical curve, made up of 7 vertebrae – where the vertebraecurve forward.
The thoracic curve, made up of 12 vertebrae – where the vertebralcolumn curves backward, and to which the ribs attach.
The lumbar curve, made up of 5 vertebrae – which curves forward inthe same direction as the cervical spine.
The final curve, made up of the sacrum and coccyx, is called thepelvic or sacral curve, and curves backward like the thoraciccurve.
When these curves are in their proper positions, the body is in a balanced position. This distributes weight evenly throughout the vertebrae so one is in a less vulnerable position for strain and injury. In addition to allowing humans to stand upright and maintain their balance, the vertebral column also serves other important functions. It helps to support the head and arms, while permitting freedom of movement. It also provides attachment for many muscles, the ribs, and some of the organs and protects the spinal cord, which controls most bodily functions