Physiotherapy services for Upper Back and Neck in Edmonton

Welcoming all to the online resource of Excelsior Physiotherapy's online resource on Thoracic Spine Anatomy.

The thoracic spine is the region of the spine found in the upper back. It extends from the bottom of the rib cage to the base of the neck. As you learn how to treat your back condition, it is crucial to understand the key components of the thoracic spine and how these components function.

It helps to understand two basic anatomical concepts about the thoracic spine. The front of the spine is referred to as the anterior. The back of the spine is referred to as the posterior. Thus, the term "anterior thoracic area" refers to the front of the thoracic spine. The posterior thoracic area refers to the back of the thoracic spine.

This guide provides a general summary of the thoracic spine's anatomy.

This online guide will provide information on:

  • What are the parts that the thoracic spine comprises?
  • The way these parts function

Significant Structures

The thoracic spine comprises the following parts:

  • Joints and bones
  • Nerves
  • Connective Tissues
  • Muscles
  • Segments of Spine

Joints and Bones

There are 24 vertebrae, or spinal bones, in the human spine. The spinal column is made up of vertebrae that are piled on top of one another. The body's spinal column serves as its primary vertical support.

The spine has three bends when viewed from the side. The cervical spine of the neck has a small inward bend. The thoracic spine sways to the outside. The lumbar spine, often known as the lower back, has a small inward curve. A lordosis is an inward bend of the spine. A kyphosis is an outward curve, such as that found in the thoracic spine. A kyphosis has an opening in the front and is shaped like an alphabet "C".

The thoracic spine is made up of the 12 vertebrae in the middle. These vertebrae are frequently referred to as T1 to T12 by doctors. The seventh cervical vertebra, also known as C7, is the first noticeable big bump on the back of the lower region of the neck. It rests on T1 having a noticeable bump. T12, the thoracic spine's lowest vertebra, is connected to L1, the first vertebra of the lumbar spine, lying at the bottom of the rib cage.

These components also make up each vertebra. The primary portion of each thoracic vertebra from T1 to T12 is made up of a spherical bone block, which is known as the vertebral body. The size of each vertebra grows from your neck to down. The larger muscles that attach to the lower portions of the spine are supported and balanced by the vertebra. The bone ring attaches to each vertebral joint. The spinal canal formed by the bony ring shields the spinal cord. Pedicles are two bony protrusions that attach directly to the rear of the vertebral body. The pedicles of the ring are connected by two laminae. The bony ring's exterior is made up of laminae and it forms a hollow tube around the spinal cord and nerves when the vertebrae are piled on top of one another. These nerve tissues are covered with protective laminae to prevent all kinds of damage.

In the junction of the two laminae in the back of the spine, a bony bump can be felt. If you run your fingers along the spine, you may feel these small bumps, which are referred to as spinous processes. The bony knobs, one on either side of the bony ring, lie on the T-side.

Transverse processes are the name given to these projections. All ribs in the thoracic spine, except the 11th and 12th, are attached to the thoracic vertebral body performing transverse processes. The 11th and 12th ribs are more mobile since they are flexible and attached to the vertebral body. There are two facet joints between each spinal segment's vertebrae. On the rear of the spinal column are the facet joints. Each pair of vertebrae has two facet joints, one on either side of the spinous process. The thoracic spine's facet joints are in alignment, allowing for mobility of foramen when leaning on either side.


The bony knobs, one on each side of the bony ring, also stay raised from its hollow stance. The spinal cord is encased in a hollow tube created by the bony rings on the back of the spinal column.  The millions of nerve fibres that make up the spinal cord make it resemble a lengthy wire. The spinal column's bones guard the spinal cord similar to how the skull guards the brain. Through the spinal column, the spinal cord descends from the brain.

There is very little room for the spinal cord as it goes through the thoracic spine, as the spinal canal is smaller when compared with the rest of the spine. As a result, thoracic spine injuries affecting the spinal cord are frequently more difficult to treat than injuries in other parts of the spine.

Connective tissue

Connective tissue is a network of fibres that connects the cells of the body. Ligaments are powerful connective fibres that hold bones in place by joining one bone to another. The thoracic spine, along with the rest of the spine, is connected at the front and back by several lengthy ligaments. The front of the vertebral bodies is lengthwise stitched together by the anterior longitudinal ligament. Inside the spinal canal, two more ligaments are also connected. The posterior longitudinal ligament is connected to the vertebral bodies at the back. The front surface of the lamina region of the vertebrae is connected to the ligamentum flavum, an elastic-like long ligament. The ribs and the transverse processes of the thoracic spine are also connected by very thick ligaments.

Connective tissue also makes up the intervertebral disc, a unique form of structure found in the spine. The fibres of the disc are formed by specialized cells known as collagen cells. The fibres can be crisscrossed or lined together like nylon rope strands.

The intervertebral disc consists of two components. The nucleus pulposus, which makes up the middle, is spongy. The majority of the spine's shock absorption is provided by it. The annulus, a collection of sturdy ligament rings around the nucleus, keeps the nucleus in place. The inner nucleus may protrude if the annulus is damaged or worn down, which can irritate adjacent nerves as well as cause pain.


The thoracic spine's muscles are organized in layers. From the back of the vertebrae to the shoulder blades are those that are closest to the skin's surface. Others link to the shoulders and wrap around the rib cage. The middle layer of muscles is composed of erector spinae, which are strap-shaped muscles. These muscles cross to the lower back from the lower ribs and thorax, running up and down over them. Each vertebra is joined together by the deepest layer of muscles, which attaches along the back of the spine bones. Additionally, muscles run parallel to the ribs. The thoracic spine muscles perform a variety of tasks, such as moving the thorax and promoting trunk stability.

Spinal Segment

Visualizing one spinal segment about the previously mentioned anatomy is a helpful technique to comprehend the anatomy of the thoracic spine. Two vertebrae separated by an intervertebral disc make up each spinal segment, together with the nerves that exit the spinal column at each vertebra and the tiny facet joints that connect the levels of the spinal column.


The thoracic spine's anatomy is made up of several significant components. You can pay more attention to your health care and stay aware of the areas and structures of the thoracic spine to get your back problem treated by a medical professional.

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