Send to

Choose Destination
Handb Clin Neurol. 2016;136:675-88. doi: 10.1016/B978-0-444-53486-6.00032-6.

Functional anatomy of the spine.

Author information

Newcastle Bone and Joint Institute, University of Newcastle, Newcastle, Australia. Electronic address:


Among other important features of the functional anatomy of the spine, described in this chapter, is the remarkable difference between the design and function of the cervical spine and that of the lumbar spine. In the cervical spine, the atlas serves to transmit the load of the head to the typical cervical vertebrae. The axis adapts the suboccipital region to the typical cervical spine. In cervical intervertebrtal discs the anulus fibrosus is not circumferential but is crescentic, and serves as an interosseous ligament in the saddle joint between vertebral bodies. Cervical vertebrae rotate and translate in the sagittal plane, and rotate in the manner of an inverted cone, across an oblique coronal plane. The cervical zygapophysial joints are the most common source of chronic neck pain. By contrast, lumbar discs are well designed to sustain compression loads, but rely on posterior elements to limit axial rotation. Internal disc disruption is the most common basis for chronic low-back pain. Spinal muscles are arranged systematically in prevertebral and postvertebral groups. The intrinsic elements of the spine are innervated by the dorsal rami of the spinal nerves, and by the sinuvertebral nerves. Little modern research has been conducted into the structure of the thoracic spine, or the causes of thoracic spinal pain.


anatomy; back pain; cervical; disc; joint; lumbar; neck pain; nerves; thoracic

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Elsevier Science
Loading ...
Support Center