The typical vertebrae consist of:

  • Vertebral body which gives the vertebrae its strength and weight bearing ability
  • Vertebral arch formed by pedicles and laminae which with the vertebral body form the vertebral foramen
  • Vertebral foramen – align to form the vertebral canal for the spinal cord
  • Seven processes:
    • Spinous process – projects posteriorly from the vertebral arch
    • Two transverse processes – posteriolaterally from intersection of pedicles and laminae
    • Four articular processes – two superior and two inferior to articulate with vertebrae above and below in the articular facet joints

The spinous and transverse processes allow attachment of the deep muscles of the back.

A number of ligaments help provide stability to the vertebral column:

Anterior longitudinal ligament

  • Strong broad fibrous band which covers the anterior of the vertebral bodies and intervertebral discs
  • Extends from pelvic surface of sacrum to anterior tubercle of C1 vertebra
  • Maintains stability of intervertebral joints and prevents hyperextension of vertebral column

Posterior longitudinal ligament

  • Narrower and weaker fibrous band
  • Runs within the vertebral canal along the posterior aspects of vertebral bodies from C2 to sacrum
  • Helps prevents hyperflexion of vertebral column and protrusion of intervertebral discs

Ligamentum flavum

  • Joins laminae of adjacent vertebral arches  that extends from vertebrae above to vertebrae below
  • Binds the laminae of adjacent vertebrae together and forms part of posterior of vertebral canal
  • Resists separation of vertebral laminae and so attempts to prevent abrupt flexion of vertebral column

Interspinous and supraspinous ligaments

  • Adjacent vertebrae joined by weak interspinous and strong supraspinous ligaments merges with nucal ligament in the neck

Intertransverse ligaments

  • Connect adjacent transverse processes with scattered fibres in cervical spine, becoming stronger in thoracic spine