Structure: The Backbone

The spine, also known as the vertebral column, holds the body upright, supports the head, and encircles the spinal cord. It consists of 33 bones called vertebrae. Joints and discs of fibrous tissue between most of the vertebrae make the spine flexible, while ligaments and muscles stabilize it and control movement.

Flexibility of the spine

Joints between vertebrae are formed by a facet joint and a shock-absorbing intervertebral disc. Movement between individual vertebrae is limited, but they work together to give the spine flexibility.

Section of intervertebral disc

Thoracic vertebrae

From the 2010 revision of the Complete Home Medical Guide © Dorling Kindersley Limited.

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