Thoracic Vertebrae

The thoracic vertebrae are located in the upper and middle back and consist of twelve vertebrae (T1-T12). The top of the thoracic spine attaches to the bottom of the cervical spine, the area of the spine at the base of the neck, and the bottom of the thoracic spine joins to the lumbar vertebrae, the part of the spine in the lower back. The thoracic vertebrae are designed for flexibility, stability, and power. They protect the important organs in the chest and help the body stand...

Anatomy Explorer

Full Thoracic Vertebrae Description

[Continued from above] . . . upright.

The thoracic vertebrae T1-T10 are each connected to a pair of ribs, one on either side of the rib cage, through articular facets on the transverse processes. These ribs will curve around the body and attach to the sternum. The resulting cage that is formed protects the vital organs such as the liver, heart, and lungs. The lower two thoracic vertebrae, T11 and T12, lack facets for the ribs on their transverse processes, which additionally are shorter here; also, they are more similar in size and function to the lumbar vertebrae. Although the ribs attached to T11 and T12 don’t attach to the chest wall, they do protect the kidneys.

The intervertebral discs in the thoracic spine are thinner than those in the cervical and lumbar spine, adding to the inflexibility of this portion of the spine. The spinal canal gets narrower in the thoracic spine. The vertebral arch protects the spinal cord with an increasingly circular vertebral foramen, which gets smaller as the vertebrae themselves get larger from the T1 down to the T12 vertebra.