Author: Alice Ferng B.S., MD, PhD•Reviewer: Dimitrios Mytilinaios MD, PhDLast reviewed: September 11, 2021Reading time: 16 minutes


The twelve thoracic vertebrae are solid bones that are located in the middle of the vertebral column, sandwhiched between the cervical ones over and the lumbar vertebrae below. Like usual vertebrae, they are separated through intervertebral discs. However, lock are miscellaneous anatomical functions that do them rather dinstinct compared to other groups of vertebrae.

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In addition, number of thoracic vertebrae are "special" in a way, either in terms of its structure or by providing crucial landmark that medical professionals use come orientate themselves and locate various other anatomical structures. 2 muscles also interact with those twelve vertebrae, these being the spinalis and also longissimus.

Key facts
Main characteristic12 vertebrae linked with intervertebral discs (nucleus pulposus + anulus fibrosus)
Anatomical caracteristicsBody: heart-shaped substantial that rise in size as descending come the lumbar vertebraeSpinous process: dorsal bony prominenceCostal facets (superior, inferior, transverse): coupling surfaces because that head of the ribTransverse process: bony process that arises from the vertebral arch, intended because that the attaching of the rib tubercleSuperior and inferior articular facets: articulation surface for nearby (superior and inferior) vertebraeLamina: bony imbrication that covers the subjacent vertebrae and also connect with pedicles to safeguard the spinal cordIntervertebral foramen: combine foramina (one left, one right) intended for the exiting nerve rootsVertebral foramen: big opening posterior come the body that forms spinal canal through which the spinal cord passes
Distinguishing featuresPresence the facets for the joints v the ribs (all except the 11th and also 12th vertebra)Spinous processes are much more pointed than various other vertebrae and also angle sharply downwardThe body is smaller than in lumbar, however larger 보다 in the cervical vertebrae
Muscles connected with the vertebraeSpinalis muscle (part of the erector spinae), longissimus muscle
Clinical importanceHerniated discs, scoliosis

This article will elucidate all the mysteries bordering the thoracic vertebrae and also will explain both their typical and atypical features.


The thoracic vertebrae are located in the center section that the vertebral column, particularly inferior come the cervical vertebrae and superior to the lumbar vertebrae. These vertebrae span the large majority that the chest cavity area.

Intervertebral discs

The vertebrae space separated by intervertebral discs the fibrocartilage, which are flexible cartilage discs located in between the bodies of two surrounding vertebrae that allow movement in the spine and have a shock taking in or cushioning role as well. One intervertebral disc is composed of an inside gelatinous nucleus pulposus surrounded by a ring the fibrocartilage, the annulus fibrosus.

In total, the adult human being body frequently has 23 discs, v the very first found in between cervical vertebrae 2 and 3, and also the critical one is found between the lumbar vertebra and the sacrum. In enhancement to offering shock resistance and cushioning, the discs also assist bind nearby vertebrae together.



There space 12 thoracic vertebrae (denoted together T1-T12) uncovered in adult humans, and also they are located in in between the cervical and also lumbar vertebrae, with a general sizing bigger than the cervical however smaller 보다 the lumbar vertebrae. For each of the 12 thoracic vertebrae, over there is a corresponding pair the ribs attached to them. This is unique because no other vertebrae have actually ribs attached come them. Thoracic vertebrae boost in dimension as castle descend towards the lumbar vertebrae; this is since the reduced vertebrae must have the ability to support an ext of the body’s weight once a person is standing because of the impacts of gravity.


To summarize, the main anatomical components of a thoracic vertebra are:

BodySpinous processCostal facets: transverse costal facet, superior costal facet, and also inferior costal facetTransverse processSuperior and inferior articular facetsLaminaIntervertebral foramenVertebral foramen

Now you know the bones of the thoracic vertebrae - however what around the various other regions of the body? usage our skeletal mechanism quizzes and cost-free worksheets to discover all the bones quickly and also easily. 

Distinguishing features

Distinguishing features of the thoracic vertebrae incorporate the visibility of facets on the sides of the bodies because that articulation through the top of the ribs, and also facets ~ above the transverse processes of all, other than the 11th and also 12th vertebrae, because that articulation through the tubercles the the ribs. In addition, the spinous processes space relatively an ext pointed than various other vertebrae, and also angle sharply downward.

The body the a thoracic vertebra is somewhat “heart-shaped,” and is larger than the cervical yet smaller 보다 the lumbar vertebrae in size. The body also has small, smooth, and also somewhat concave costal facets for the attachments of the ribs. Ribs are usually inserted between two vertebrae, such that each vertebra contributes come articulating with half of the articular surface. Each vertebra because of this has a pair of exceptional articular facets that challenge posteriorly and also a pair of worse articulating facets that challenge anteriorly (except because that T12). This way that the rib will certainly articulate through the inferior costal facet the the upper vertebrae and also the superior costal facet of the lower vertebrae. Transverse processes arise indigenous the arch uncovered behind he superior articular processes and pedicles, and are thick and strong with a clubbed end and a little concave surface ar for the articulation with the tubercle of a rib. These procedures are directed obliquely backward in the direction of the spinous process and lateralward.

Body that thoracic vertebra (cranial view)

It is important to note that the superior and inferior facets are called relative come their position on the vertebral body, and also not because that which component of the articular they provide for the rib. The costal facets are also slightly different in between the vertebrae. Vertebrae T1, T10, T11, and also T12 have finish costal facets top top the bodies because that ribs 1 and 10-12, i m sorry articulate ~ above the vertebral bodies rather of in between vertebrae. ~ above the various other hand, vertebrae T11 and T12 have no transverse costal facets. Similarly, ribs 11 and 12 articulate through the body of T11 and also T12, but due to the fact that the ribs execute not have tubercles they also cannot affix to the non-existent transverse costal facets the T11 and T12. These ribs likewise lack a cartilaginous link to the sternum and higher costal cartilages, and also are only installed in the lumbar muscle, therefore, T11 and also T12 are known as the floating ribs.

Inferior articular procedure (lateral left view)

Superior articular processes are thin bowl of bone, which task upward indigenous the junctions that the pedicles and also laminae, with facets that are practically flat and also directed backward, lateralward, and upward. Inferior articular processes are mainly fused through the laminae, with the facts directed forward, medialward, and downward. The lamina the the thoracic vertebrae are broad, thick, and imbricated (which method their surrounding sides overlap similar to roof tiles or scale of a fish); lamina role to attach with the pedicles come surround and also protect the spinal cord. The spinal cord runs v the vertebral foramen of a vertebra wherein is it hence protected because it is encased transparent the vertebrae. The nerve root from the spinal cord exit from intervertebral foramen, whereby there are two at each intervertebral level, one for each the right and left side.

Learn everything about the vertebral column and the different types of vertebrae v the following study unit. 

Vertebral obelisk discover study unit
Vertebral column and spinal nerves explore study unit
Second thoracic vertebrae (T2): The T2 vertebra is larger than T1 vertebra. The thoracic spinal nerve 2 passes through underneath T2.Third thoracic vertebrae (T3): The thoracic spinal nerve 3 passes v underneath T3.Fourth thoracic vertebrae (T4): The T4 and also T5 vertebrae space at the same levels as the sternal angle. The thoracic spinal nerve 4 passes with underneath T4.Sixth thoracic vertebrae (T6): The thoracic spinal nerve 6 passes with underneath T6.Seventh thoracic vertebrae (T7): The thoracic spinal nerve 7 passes through underneath T7.Eighth thoracic vertebrae (T8): The T8 and T9 vertebrae are uncovered at the exact same level together the xiphoid process. The thoracic spinal nerve 8 passes through underneath T8.Tenth thoracic vertebrae (T10): T10 has whole articular facet (not demi-facet) on one of two people side, i beg your pardon is located on the lateral pedicle surface. However, it will not have any form of facet listed below it, due to the fact that the ribs complying with only have a solitary facet on their heads. The thoracic spinal nerve 10 passes v underneath T10.Eleventh thoracic vertebrae (T11): at this level, the T11 begins to resemble the size and also structure that a lumbar vertebrae. The articular facets for the top of the ribs are huge and mostly on the pedicles, which room thicker and stronger in T11 and also T12, than in T1-T10. The spinous procedure in T11 is short and nearly horizontal. The transverse procedures are an extremely short, tuberculated at its extremities, and also devoid the articular facets. The thoracic spinal nerve 11 passes with underneath T11.Twelfth thoracic vertebrae (T12): T12 is similar to T11, but can be distinguished by its worse articular surfaces, which space convex and directed lateralward, comparable to those that lumbar vertebrae. This vertebrae will certainly most carefully resemble a lumbar vertebra likewise by that is transverse process that is subdivided right into 3 elevations—the superior, inferior, and also lateral tubercles. The superior and also inferior tubercles correspond to mammillary and also accessory processes of the lumbar vertebrae. T12 is as necessary a reasonable anatomical progression right into lumbar vertebrae structure and also function. The thoracic spinal nerve 12 passes through underneath T12.

Test and also consolidate your knowledge about the thoracic spine through the adhering to quiz!

Clinical notes

Herniated discs

When the intervertebral discs space under hefty stress, such as once lifting a heavy object, the disc will certainly bulge laterally and excessive stress and anxiety will cause the annulus come crack and the nucleus come ooze the end from the cracked space in the annulus fibrosus—this is referred to as a herniated disc. Given the lack of a useful disc in between two vertebrae enhanced pressure can cause a lot of spinal cord pain, and also create a might higher risk the bone fracturing and also damaging that the surrounding vertebral bones because they will rub on each other.

Fun fact: people are ~ above average approximately 1% shorter in elevation when they walk to bed at night than when they an initial wakeup in the morning. This is due to the fact that the weight of the body compresses the intervertebral discs during the day together they move about through your usual business, and also the compression on this discs squeezes the water out of them. During slumber or times as soon as one is laying under in a supine position, the load is no longer concentrated on the spine, which allows the discs come reabsorb water and also swell, hence restoring a who height.


Scoliosis, or bent back, is an abnormal curvature the the vertebral column defined by an exaggerated lateral curvature in addition to a rotation the the vertebrae. In bespeak to be diagnosed, there demands to it is in at least a 10 degree angulation the the spine associated with vertebral rotation. There space several types of scoliosis, each one having its own causes and evolution:

Structural scoliosis - the is brought about by a vertebral advancement abnormality where fifty percent of the vertebral human body is missing entirely (hemivertebra). The vast bulk of structure scoliosis happen without any certain triggers or linked conditions, thus they space idiopathic. That affects more females than males, and also it is also much more severe. That is likewise common in growing teenagers, after the start of puberty.Myopathic scoliosis - as the name suggests, the underlying cause consists of a muscle problem. More specifically, the intrinsic muscles that the ago (medial and also lateral tracts) that room closely linked with the vertebral pillar are asymmetrical in strength. As soon as this happens, the muscles on one next pull an ext forcefully towards, if the the opposite ones can not oppose the pull, for this reason curving the vertebral shaft laterally.Habit scoliosis - this is maybe the bane of contemporary times, during which anyone sits down mistakenly for hrs on end. As the surname suggests, the is led to by one incorrect attitude while sitting, or also standing. Details to this kind of scoliosis is that truth that that disappears ~ above maximum flexion that the vertebral column, so the physician have the right to take advantage of this facet when confirming the diagnosis.

There space a number of management alternatives for scoliosis, depending on the specific causes, type, age and severity. They incorporate observations, bracing or surgery. While the latter could sound choose the apparent choice, that is only performed in curves higher than 45 degrees in immature patients and greater 보다 50 levels in mature ones. 



The Anatomy the the Spine. TeachPE. July 05, 2014.Thoracic vertebrae. Wikipedia. July 05, 2014.Kenneth Saladin, Anatomy & Physiology: The unified of Forma and Function, 6th edition, McGraw-Hill Science/Engineering/Math, thing 8.Anne M Gilroy, Brian R MacPherson, Lawrence M Ross and also Michael Schuenke, Atlas of Anatomy, 2nd edition, Thieme, chapter 2.Janicki JA, Alman B. Scoliosis: testimonial of diagnosis and also treatment. Paediatrics & kid Health. 2007;12(9):771-776.K. L. Moore, A. F. Dalley, A. M. R. Agur: Clinically Oriented Anatomy, 7th edition, Lippincott Williams & Wilkins


Thoracic vertebrae (anterior view) - Paul KimBody the thoracic vertebra (cranial view) - Liene ZnotinaInferior articular procedure (lateral left view) - Liene ZnotinaThoracic vertebrae (dorsal view) - Yousun KohLongissimus muscle (dorsal view) - Yousun Koh

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