Spinous process

The spinous process on the vertebrae of the spine serves as an approach for muscles and ligaments. Read more about spinous processes!

Spinous process

Of the Spinous process (Processus spinosus) is a bony extension on the vertebral arch of the cervical, thoracic and lumbar vertebrae. It is regressed in the vertebrae of the sacrum and coccyx. The spinous process points to the rear, where it is visible and palpable in the case of slim people on the back. Here are numerous ligaments and muscles. Read everything important about the spinous process!

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Spinous process

  • What is the spinous process?

  • What is the function of the spinous process?

  • Where is the spinous process located?

  • What problems can the spinous process cause?

What is the spinous process?

Every vertebra of the spine, with few exceptions, has the same structure: it consists of a strong anterior bone piece, the vertebral body, and a narrower posterior part, the vertebral arch. The two parts form the vortex hole. The vertebral holes of all vertebrae on top of each other form the spinal canal, in which the spinal cord runs.

From the vertebral arch go from seven processes:

  • a posterior spinous process (processus spinosus) on which muscles and ligaments attach
  • two transverse processes (transverse process), where muscles also attach; in the case of the thoracic vertebrae they serve as an abutment for the ribs
  • four articular processes (processus articulares) as articulated connection with the respective adjacent vertebrae

Spinous process: variable shape

The spinous process (spine) has a slightly different shape depending on the vertebrae:

In the first cervical vertebra (atlas), the spinous process is reduced to a small cusp. The spinous process of the second to sixth cervical vertebra is slightly tilted backwards, short and forked in two teeth. The seventh cervical vertebra (Vertebra prominens) is the longest and strongest of all cervical vertebrae. Its spinous process is not forked and is clearly visible and palpable under the skin.

On the thoracic vertebrae the spinous process is long, triangular and directed at the middle vertebrae downwards. All spinous processes overlap each other like a roof tile and close the gaps between the vertebral arches. A stretching of the thoracic spine to the rear is inhibited by the overlapping spinous processes.

The five strong lumbar vertebrae have a high, horizontal backward spinous process, which is flattened laterally. Adjacent spinous processes are each connected by ligaments (Ligamenta interspinalia), which run from the top to the bottom of the back.

The spinous process on the sacrum is regressed, here there is only a narrow bar, which pulls down in the middle of the sacrum.

What is the function of the spinous process?

The spinous process of the various vertebrae serves as a point of attachment for muscles and ligaments that are important for the stability and mobility of the spine. Some examples:

The hood muscle (trapezius muscle), which raises, lowers and turns the scapula and turns the head to the opposite side, attaches to the spinous process of the cervical vertebrae and those of all thoracic vertebrae.

The large dorsal muscle (latissimus dorsi muscle), the widest of all the back muscles, has its origin with a flat tendon on the spinous process of the lower six thoracic vertebrae and all five lumbar vertebrae and the back of the sacrum. He pulls the raised arm down, the hanging arm to the rear and to the body and turns it inwards.

The rhomboid muscles (rhomboid muscles) move from the spinous process of the last two cervical vertebrae and the first four thoracic vertebrae to the scapula. These muscles lift the shoulder girdle and pull it backwards.

The posterior superior sawing muscle (serratus posterior superior muscle) attaches to the spinous process of the two lower cervical and two upper thoracic vertebrae.

The spleen muscle (splenius muscle), which pulls the head and neck back and head to the side, arises from the spinous process of the lower five cervical and upper six thoracic vertebrae.

The hemispheric muscle (semispinalis muscle) comes from the transverse processes of the three to four lower cervical vertebrae and extends to the occiput and spinous process of the second to seventh cervical vertebrae as well as to thoracic vertebrae.

The spur muscle (spinal cord), which stretches and tilts the spine, pulls from the spinous process of the last two thoracic and first three lumbar vertebrae to the spinous processes three to nine of the thoracic spine.

Short spinal muscles (interspinous muscles) run from one spinous process to the next in the cervical and lumbar spine.

Where is the spinous process located?

The spinous process is in each case from the vertebral arch of the cervical, thoracic and lumbar vertebrae backwards.

What problems can the spinous process cause?

In a vertebral fracture, not only the vertebral body or vertebral arch may be affected, but also the spinous process. Cause are direct and indirect violence, as well as osteoporosis or tumors.

Pressure ulcers often occur over the spinous processes of the lower back.

Baastrup disease (Baastrup syndrome, Baastrup sign) or "kissing spine syndrome" is a pain syndrome in the area of ​​the lumbar spine. In this case, too large formed spinous processes of the lumbar spine in the area of ​​an increased lumbar lordosis (lordosis = curvature of the spine forward, ie in the direction of the abdomen). This causes pain in the muscles and ligaments surrounding this area.

When individual vertebrae come closer together due to degenerative changes, the spinous processes of the spine touch each other.

In Scheuermann's disease, the increased round back (kyphosis = backward curvature) leads to a lordosis of the lumbar spine in the opposite direction, in order to maintain the statics. This can lead to an approximation of the spinous processes of the lumbar spine with the complaints described above.

In a spondylolisthesis, a spondylolisthesis, the examining physician may press the button Spinous process recognize the step formation. Vertebral gliding may be congenital or traumatic.


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