The Spinal Column

The vertebral or spinal column are terms used to describe your entire “backbone”. The spinal column includes four key functions:

  • To protect your spinal cord and related essential nerves.
  • To give structure and connection for our hips, legs, shoulders and arms.
  • To serve as an attachment to muscles that enable movement.
  • To provide framework and support for skull and ribs.


The spine is made up of:

Cervical Vertebra

There are seven cervical vertebrae from C1 to C7.  The “atlas”, C1 holds the globe of the skull like the god Atlas held up the earth.  C2, the “axis” permits head turning and tilting.


Between your vertebrae, little pads called discs act as cushions or shock absorbers so your vertebrae won’t bump into each other when you run, jump, bend or walk.

Thoracic Vertebra

The thoracic vertebrae, T1 to T12, are connected to your ribs.  If you follow the path of your ribs around from the front or sides of the back, you can feel where they attach to the thoracic vertebrae in the back.

Lumbar Vertebra

The five lumbar vertebrae are the biggest, thickest and most massive vertebrae.  Many spinal problems occur in the lower back because they support the weight of the spine.


The sacrum, a triangular shaped bone, connects to the hips on either side.


The end of the spinal column is a bone made up of four fused vertebrae. It is named after the Greek word Kokkyx, or cuckoo, because early anatomists thought it resembled a cuckoo’s beak.

Source: British Columbia Chiropractic Association