Skip to Main Content



The cervical and thoracic spine are composed of 19 vertebrae (7 cervical and 12 thoracic). Typically, components of the vertebrae include the body, pedicle, lamina, transverse processes, and spinous process (Figures 27-1 and 27-2). The posterior aspect of the vertebral body, lamina, transverse processes, and spinous process form the vertebral foramen. The spinal cord passes through the vertebral foramen with nerve roots that pass through the intervertebral foramen. The size of the vertebral foramen progressively decreases in a caudal direction as the spinal cord tapers in size. The intervertebral foramen are larger at the cervical and lumbar levels to accommodate the larger nerve roots at each level which are responsible for innervation of the limbs. The cervical nerve roots (C1-7) exit through the intervertebral foramen above the associated vertebral segment, whereas the other nerve roots exit below their associated vertebral segment (eg, C8 nerve root exits below C7 and T1 nerve root exits below T1).

Figure 27-1

Cervical and thoracic vertebrae anatomy

Figure 27-2

Cervical and thoracic vertebrae anatomy

There are two major joints for each vertebral segment: the intervertebral and zygapophyseal (facet) joints. The intervertebral joint is a symphysis joint consisting of two vertebral bodies connected by an intervertebral disc. The zygapophyseal joint (right and left side) is a diarthrodial synovial joint with articulations between the inferior facet of a vertebral segment and the superior facet of the caudal segment.

The intervertebral disc transmits loads between segments and provides spacing between segments allowing motion to occur. There is a progressive increase in disc size from the cervical to the lumbar region. The anterior portion of the disc is wider and relatively stronger than the thinner posterior aspect of the disc. Each vertebral segment is separated by an intervertebral disc, with the exception of the atlantooccipital and ...

Pop-up div Successfully Displayed

This div only appears when the trigger link is hovered over. Otherwise it is hidden from view.