Vertebral arch


lat. Arcus vertebrae

seldom too Neural arch called


The vertebral arch is part of every vertebra and therefore also part of the spine. The vertebral arch connects to the back of the vertebral body and together with it forms a vertebra. The vertebral arches of several vertebrae then together form the vertebral canal through which the spinal cord runs.

Figure vortex

Figure three typical vertebrae seen from above

A - fifth cervical vertebra (red)
B - sixth thoracic vertebra (green)
C - third lumbar vertebra (blue)

  1. Vertebral bodies - Corpus vertebrae
  2. Vortex hole - Vertebral foramen
  3. Spinous process
    (mostly in cervical vertebrae
    divided into two) -
    Spinous process
  4. Transverse process -
    Transverse process
  5. Articular surface for the rib -
    Fovea costalis processus
  6. Upper articular process -
    Superior articular process
  7. Vertebral arch - Arcus vertebrae
  8. Articular surface for the rib
    on the vertebral body -
    Fovea costalis superior
  9. Rib-transverse process joint -
    Articulatio costotransversaria
  10. Rib - Costa
  11. Rib head joint -
    Articulatio capitis costae
  12. Transverse process hole
    (only for cervical vertebrae) -
    Foramen transversarium
  13. Transverse process of the lumbar vertebra
    ("Costal process") -
    Costiform process

You can find an overview of all Dr-Gumpert images at: medical illustrations

Anatomy and function

The vertebral arch is essentially a paired, arched outgrowth on the Back of a vortex. In their entirety, the vertebral arches form the Spinal canalwhich contains the spinal cord, as well as its spinal fluid and the spinal cord membranes. See also under: Spine anatomy

As part of this flexible bony tube, the vertebral arches are therefore for the protection one important part of our nervous system responsible. For this, they have strong "feet" as their origin on the vertebral body (Pediculus arcus vertebrae). These unite in the arch plate, which ultimately represents the highest point of the arch.

So that our brain can send information to and from the various regions of our body via the spinal cord, the vertebral arches have notches on both sides, both on their upper and lower sides. Together with the notch of the vertebral arch above or below, these form the intervertebral hole (Intervertebral foramen), through which a Spinal nerve can emerge.

More here: Spinal nerves

Depending on the height at which you look at the spine, distinguish the whirl partly strong in hers Shape and size of each other. This is mainly due to the different levels of stress on the spine at different levels. Both the vertebral bodies and the vertebral arches of a cervical vertebra are more filigree than those of a lumbar vertebra.
Nevertheless the construction principles of all vortices are the same. This also applies to the three great processes that extend from each vertebral arch. The spinous process is always found backwards (Spinous process). A transverse process arises on each side (Transverse process), which serve as a base for the ribs at the level of the thoracic spine.

Apart from that, these bony outgrowths of the vertebral arches mainly fill the Function of attachment points and lever arms for the back muscles and thus play an extremely important role in what the Stability and mobility the entire spine.

In addition to these three distinctive bony processes, the vertebral arches also have the four articular processeswhich are most pronounced in the lumbar vertebrae. Two of them are located on the top and bottom of a vertebral arch. Together they form the small vertebral joints.

Which complaints can arise?

Possible complaints or symptoms that occur on the vertebral arch can usually not be assigned directly to it. Rather, the patients report back pain that affects the entire spine or only individual sections.

Pain can result from an injury to the vertebra or from damage to nerves. An example of this would be trauma to the vertebral arch, which constricts the spinal cord too much in the vertebral canal.

The legs are particularly affected by the neurological abnormalities. This then hurts and tingles. As a result, long distances can no longer be walked. People also say that their legs feel heavy and numb.

The cause of discomfort in the vertebral arch can be, on the one hand, an injury from an accident or age-related wear and tear on the bones, or, on the other hand, a congenital malformation of the vertebral arch.
Degenration can lead to osteoarthritis or, among other things, to the formation of bone extensions, which can then ultimately narrow the nerve exit points and the spinal canal more and more.

You might also be interested in the following articles:

  • Pain in the spine
  • Paraplegia
  • disc prolapse

Broken vertebral arch

The vertebral arch can in particular at excessive flexion, extension, or rotation the spine can be broken around its own axis. With a broken vertebral arch, there is a risk, depending on the extent and location of the break, that the vertebral body is no longer adequately anchored in the spine and thus instability comes. In addition, one of the annoythat pass between the vertebral arches from the spinal cord in the event of a fracture damaged become.

Vertebral arch not closed

If the vertebral arch is not closed, one speaks of a "Spina bifida". A distinction is made here different degrees of expression.

In the "Spina bifida occulta“Is in principle only the vertebral arch in the course of the development of the Embryos not completely closed, the spinal cord with the membranes of the spinal cord and the skin above the spine are normally closed. Because this shape mostly no complaints causes and you get them not see from the outside it is usually diagnosed by chance and is considered to be relatively harmless consider. A Treatment is not necessary.

In contrast, the "Spina bifida aperta“The membranes of the spinal cord, skin over the spine and the spinal cord itself are affected to different degrees and, in the worst case, are completely exposed. A operative treatment should be carried out here as quickly as possible in order to avoid damage to the spinal cord and infections as far as possible. One can have this form of the unclosed vertebral arch operate in the womb.

Gap in the vertebral arch

In the "Spondylolysis“It comes to the training of a Cleft in the vertebral arch namely at the "Pars interarticularis“, Which lies between the upper and lower articular processes. Most of the time, however, the gap is not only formed on one side, but both sides out. The Lumbar vertebrae four or five are most commonly affected.

The consequence of the formation of the gap is that the affected one Do not vortex more sufficient in the structure of the spine attached and then in some cases piece by piece forwards, i.e. towards the abdomen, slips off.

This gap in the vertebral arch does, however only in rare cases complaints in the form of back pain. However, he stays much more often unrecognized. If there is still pain and a spondylolysis is suspected, this can be shown radiologically.

The goal of one therapy in the early stages would be one stabilization the spine so that the vertebral body does not slip off as much as possible.

Treatment of a damaged vertebral arch

The diagnosis is made based on the circumstances in which the discomfort arose physical exam specifically of the back and legs and arms and one bimaging examination like one X-ray respectively MRI- Recording posed.

Therapy of a damaged vertebral body comes into question above all if it is associated with it complaints occur, such as Nerve failure. The aim is then to restore the initial situation as best as possible or at least to relieve the spinal cord and nerves.

The prognosis depends on the extent of damage or degeneration of the vertebral arch individually different to judge. In some cases, neurological abnormalities can persist despite therapy.

How can you prevent damage to the vertebral arch?

Some changes in the vertebral arch, such as osteoarthritis or symptoms caused by an accident, cannot be treated preventively. But you can get through Sports and especially the Building the back muscles to prevent excessive or incorrect loading and wear of the individual vertebrae.

Visiting a Back school and a ergonomically correct sitting posture in office work are examples of the prophylaxis of back problems. In order to maintain a healthy body, it is also advisable to keep up To avoid risk sports.