Difference Between Cervical and Thoracic Vertebrae

Key Difference – Cervical vs Thoracic Vertebrae
 

Let us first know some information about the vertebral column to understand the difference between cervical and thoracic vertebrae. The vertebral column is the major structural feature of the axial skeleton in human and supports their vertical posture. Moreover, the vertebral column protects the spinal cord, which is one of the most important parts of nervous system. The human vertebrae are made up of 26 bony parts, and each part is called vertebra. These parts are arranged to form an ‘S’ shaped, curved vertical axis. According to the functionality of vertebra, the vertebral column has five parts; cervical, thoracic, lumbar, sacrum, and coccyx. The key difference between Cervical and Thoracic Vertebrae is based on the location and function. The cervical vertebrae are the first seven vertebrae starting from the skull and thoracic vertebrae situated in between the cervical and lumbar vertebrae. In this article, the difference between cervical and thoracic vertebrae will be highlighted.

Cervical vs Thoracic Vertebrae-vertebral column

 What are Cervical Vertebrae?

The first seven vertebrae starting from the skull are called cervical vertebrae. All the cervical vertebrae except the first two have common general features. The first cervical vertebra (C1) is known as the atlas as it supports the skull. It makes the atlanto-occipital joints that support the lateral movements of the skull. The presence of a foramen called foramen transversarium in the transverse process is unique to the cervical vertebra. Moreover, cervical vertebra has long (transversely) and narrow (vertically) laminae. In addition, the spinous processes of a typical cervical vertebra are short and bifid.

Difference between Cervical and Thoracic Vertebrae

What are Thoracic Vertebrae?

There are 12 thoracic vertebrae situated in between the cervical and lumbar vertebrae. The major characteristic that is unique to thoracic vertebrae is the presence of costal facets for articulation with ribs. These costal facets can be seen on the sides of the vertebral bodies and on the transverse processes. The laminae of thoracic vertebrae are short (transversely) and broad (vertically) so that the laminae of the adjacent vertebrae overlap. The spinous processes of thoracic vertebrae are long and project downward in the thoracic region.

Key Difference - Cervical vs Thoracic Vertebrae

What is the difference between Cervical and Thoracic Vertebrae?

Definition of Cervical and Thoracic Vertebrae

Cervical vertebrae: The cervical vertebrae are the upper 7 vertebrae in the vertebral column.

Thoracic Vertebrae: Thoracic Vertebrae  is the vertebrae in the chest region to which the ribs attach.

Characteristics of Cervical and Thoracic Vertebrae

Location

Cervical vertebrae: Cervical vertebrae are situated in between the skull and thoracic vertebrae.

Thoracic Vertebrae: Thoracic vertebrae are situated in between the cervical and lumbar vertebrae.

Unique Features

Cervical vertebrae: Cervical vertebra has a foramen called foramen transversarium in transverse process.

Thoracic Vertebrae: Thoracic vertebrae have costal facets on the sides of the vertebral bodies and on the transverse processes that help for articulation with ribs.

Number of Vertebrae

Cervical vertebrae: Cervical vertebrae have 7 vertebra.

Thoracic Vertebrae: Thoracic vertebrae have 12 vertebra.

Laminae of Vertebra

Cervical vertebra: Laminae of Cervical vertebra is  long (transversely) and narrow (vertically).

Thoracic vertebrae: Laminae of Thoracic vertebrae is short (transversely) and broad (vertically) and the laminae of the adjacent vertebrae overlap.

Spinous Processes of Vertebra

Cervical vertebra: The Spinous process is short and bifid.

Thoracic vertebra: The Spinous process is  long and projects downward in the thoracic region.

Vertebral Body

Cervical vertebra: It is oval shaped and small.

Thoracic vertebra: It is heart shaped and larger.

Vertebral Foramen

Cervical vertebra: It is large and triangular.

Thoracic vertebra: It is  small and circular.

 
Image Courtesy:
“Illu vertebral column” by seer (Public Domain) via Wikimedia Commons
“Cervical vertebra” by Anatomist90 – Own work. (CC BY-SA 3.0) via Wikimedia Commons 
“Thoracic vertebrae” by Anatomist90 – Own work. (CC BY-SA 3.0) via Wikimedia Commons