A Brief 101 About The Anatomy Of The Spine for Massage Therapists and Bodyworkers

A Brief 101 About The Anatomy Of The Spine for Massage Therapists and Bodyworkers

The Human Spine is Made up of 5 Distinct Sections:

Cervical = 7 Vertebra

Thoracic = 12 Vertebra

Lumbar = 5 Vertebra 

Sacrum = 5 (fused) Vertebra

Coccyx = 3-5 Vertebra


There are many differences between Cervical, Thoracic and Lumbar Vertebra.  Here are some Highlights:

 Cervical Vertebra (pictured)

  • 1st & 2nd Axis & Atlas (different from all other vertebra in the body)
  • C3-C7 Are Similar
  • Vertebral Artery Openings in Transverse Foramen



Thoracic Vertebra

  • Have Little Motion
  • Affixed to the Ribs
  • Least Common Area of Back Pain



Lumbar Vertebra

  • Largest Vertebra
  • Weight Baring
  • Most Common Area of Back Pain



Each Veterbra has ”foramen” where important vessels pass through to other areas of the body.  Vessels exiting these foramen often become ”pinched” or damaged.  Sometimes there are no symptoms with this impingement, and sometimes it can cause great pain. 


”FORAMEN” Definition:

An opening, hole, or passage, especially in a bone.



Facet Joints

  • Made of small, bony knobs
  • Create flexibility/limitations for flexion, bending & twisting of the spine
  • Nerves exit between the facet joints
  • Facet joints are located on the back of the spinal column
  • 2 facet joints are between each pair of vertebrae




There are 23 Vertebral Discs in the Spinal Column. These may also be called:


Spinal Discs

Vertebral Discs

Intervertebral Discs

Annulus Fibrosus



These Discs Have a Tough Outer Ring (Annulus Fibrosus) with an Inner Softer Nucleus (Nucleus Pulposus)


When damaged, the discs may be replaced with a “Disc Implant” (pictured).



Bodyworker Precaution:

Working OVER Implants is Generally Contraindicated.  Always check with a physician prior to working with a contraindication!

Vertebral discs are Shock or Compression Absorbers & Nerve Protectors

The Discs Are Constantly “at Work”, and are “At Risk” for Injury



Spine-Health.com Reports*:

“There are many terms used to describe spinal disc pathology and associated pain, such as "herniated disc," "pinched nerve," and "bulging disc," and all are used differently and, at times, interchangeably.

Unfortunately, healthcare professionals do not agree on a precise definition of any of these terms, and patients may be frustrated when they hear their diagnosis referred to in different terms. The unusually wide range of terms used to describe spinal disc problems (such as ruptured disc, torn disc, slipped disc, collapsed disc, disc protrusion, disc disease, and black disc) can add to the confusion.”

To learn more, please register for training at https://ceinstitute.com/

#massage #massagetherapy #massageprecautions #massagecontraindications





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