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Difference Between Cervical, Thoracic and Lumbar Vertebra

The backbone or spine runs from the skull to the pelvis. Typically, the column comprises 26 bones protecting the spinal cord. The spinal column renders support and enables one to bend, stand upright and twist. The vertebrae are classified into sections – cervical, thoracic, lumbar, sacrum, and coccyx. The most significant difference between the cervical, thoracic, and lumbar vertebrae lies in their location.

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From where the skull starts, the cervical vertebrae constitute the first seven vertebrae. These are the light, small vertebrae found at the neck. The following 12 vertebrae, seen from the neck down to the mid-back, form the thoracic spine, each of which forms a joint with the 12 pairs of ribs. The lower five vertebrae from the ribs to the sacrum constitute the lumbar spine. They form the largest vertebrae in the spine.

Table of Contents

Cervical Vertebra

The seven cervical vertebrae are – C1, C2, C3, C4, C5, C6 and C7. 

  • The cervical spine is mainly involved in supporting the weight of the head.
  • Numbered C1 to C7, there are seven cervical vertebrae.
  • Due to two specialised vertebrae connecting the skull, the neck has the greatest motion.
  • C1 (the first vertebra) is the ring-shaped atlas connecting directly to the skull; the joint enables the motion of the head.
  • C2 (the second vertebra) is the peg-shaped axis having a projection – odontoid. The joint enables the sideways movement of the head.

Thoracic Vertebra

The 12 thoracic vertebrae are – T1, T2, T3, T4, T5, T6, T7, T8, T9, T10, T11 and T12. 

  • The primary role of the thoracic spine is to bear the rib cage, safeguarding the lungs and heart.
  • The thoracic vertebrae are twelve in number, T1 to T12.
  • The movement of the thoracic spine is restricted.

Also, Check: Vertebral Column

Lumbar Vertebra

The five lumbar vertebrae are – L1, L2, L3, L4 and L5. 

  • This section is mainly involved with bearing the body’s weight.
  • The lower back has five lumbar vertebrae, L1 to L5.
  • They form the large vertebrae taking in the strain of carrying and lifting heavier objects.

Key Differences between Cervical, Thoracic and Lumbar Vertebrae

The table below depicts the differences between the Cervical, Thoracic and Lumbar Vertebrae.

Cervical Vertebra
Thoracic Vertebra
Lumbar Vertebra
In the neck area, just below the skull Bears the rib cage Constitutes the spine in the lower back
Region associated with
Neck Mid back Low back
Number of vertebrae
Seven Twelve Five
Numbered as
C1 to C7 T1 to T12 L1 to L5
Forms the smallest vertebrae Smaller than lumbar, larger than cervical vertebrae Forms the largest vertebrae
Oval Heart-shaped comprising costal facets Kidney-shaped
Shape of vertebral foramen
Triangle-shaped Circular Triangular (flattened)

You read some of the differences between the cervical vertebra, thoracic vertebra and lumbar vertebra. For more such articles and other difference-between topics, visit us at BYJU’S NEET.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What is a thoracic vertebra?

The thoracic vertebrae is made up of twelve vertebrae, labelled T1 through T12 from top to bottom. The main role of the thoracic vertebrae is to bear the rib cage, safeguarding the lungs and heart.

Describe thoracic vertebral bodies.

In thoracic vertebrae, the vertebral body is roughly heart-shaped and bigger than a cervical vertebra. But it is smaller than a lumbar vertebra in size.

What is the T1 vertebrae?

The first of the twelve thoracic vertebrae is termed T1. T1 is the smallest vertebra in the thoracic region and the first rib is completely articulated with the T1.

Which are the largest and smallest vertebrae?

The lumbar is the largest vertebrae and the cervical is comparatively the smallest vertebrae in the human body.

Where are the kidneys located?

The last thoracic vertebra is termed T12 and the third lumbar vertebra is termed L3. The kidney is located between the last thoracic and third lumbar vertebrae in the abdominal cavity.


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