Excellent spinal care is the backbone of excellent orthopedic care. Because of the critical role the spine plays in structural support and protection of the spinal cord, effective treatments for spinal conditions require specialized expertise. At OrthoAspen, we are committed to providing patients with the most advanced, conservative spinal care available; all right here in the Aspen area.

The spine begins at the base of the skull and extends to the coccyx, or tailbone. It is composed of small bone segments known as vertebrae, which enable the curvature of the spine. These segments are separated by intervertebral discs that act as shock absorbers. Along the full length of the spine, a network of muscle and ligaments creates positional stability. Perhaps the most important anatomical feature of the spine is the presence of the spinal cord within the central canal, which carries nerve signals from the brain to the body.

This musculoskeletal composition of the spine supports its complex anatomical roles. Unfortunately, each component of the spine is susceptible to orthopedic damage and degeneration. The curvature of the spine can give way to deformity and scoliosis. Vertebrae may be fragmented or displaced in traumatic injuries. Spinal degradation can result in nerve damage. Aging or injured intervertebral discs may experience slippage or herniation.

When back and spinal issues emerge, OrthoAspen’s conservative care spine specialist, Stanley D. Gertzbein, MD, offers patients an integrative approach to orthopedic care. The focus is on non-surgical and preventative care for spinal patients, including physical therapy and innovative regenerative techniques.

Common Conditions

Overview of the Spine

Anatomy of the Spine (Cervical, Thoracic and Lumbar)

Cervical Spine Anatomy

The spine, also called the backbone, plays a vital role in stability, smooth movement and protection of the delicate spinal cord. It is made up of bony segments called vertebra with fibrous tissue called intervertebral discs between them. The vertebra and discs form the spinal column from the head to the pelvis, giving symmetry and support to the body.

A single vertebra is made up of two parts, the front portion is called the body and the back portion is referred to as the vertebral or neural arch. The body is cylindrical in shape, strong and stable. Two strong pedicle bones join the vertebral arch to the body of the vertebrae.

The laminae of the vertebra can be described as a pair of flat arched bones that form a component of the vertebral arch. The transverse processes spread out from the side of the pedicles, like wings, and help to anchor the surrounding muscle to the vertebral arch. The spinous process forms a steeple at the apex of the laminae, and is the part of our spine that is felt directly under the skin.

The spinal canal is formed by the placement of single vertebral foramina, one on top of the other, to form a canal. The purpose of the canal is to create a bony casing from the head to the lower back through which the spinal cord passes.

The spine can be divided into 4 parts: cervical, thoracic, lumber and sacral region. The cervical spine comprises the first 7 vertebrae of the spinal column, which form the neck (C1-C7).

The cervical spine is highly mobile compared to other regions of the spine such as thoracic or lumbar spine. In contrast to other parts of the spine, the cervical spine has transverse foramina in each vertebra through which the vertebral arteries supply blood to the brain.

Thoracic Spine Anatomy

The thoracic spine is the central part of the spine, also called the dorsal spine, which runs from the base of the neck to the bottom of the rib cage. The thoracic spine provides the flexibility to hold the body upright and protects the organs of the chest.

The spine is made up of 24 spinal bones, called vertebra. The thoracic region of the spine is made up of 12 vertebrae (T1-T12). The vertebrae are aligned on top of one another to form the spinal cord which gives  posture to our body. Different parts of the thoracic spine include bones and joints, nerves, connective tissues, muscles and a spinal segment.

Lumbar Spine Anatomy

The lumbar spine is composed of the lower 5 vertebrae, which have been numbered L1-L5. The lowest vertebra of the lumbar spine (L5) is connected to the top of the sacrum, which is a triangular bone present at the base of the spine fitting into the two pelvic bones. In some cases, an extra or sixth lumbar vertebra may be present.

The lumbar vertebral bodies are seen to be taller and bulkier than the rest of the spine, as the lower back has to withstand higher pressure due to body weight and other movements such as lifting, pulling and twisting. In addition, large and powerful muscles are found to be attached on or near the lumbar spine to provide extra strength to the lumbar vertebral bodies.

The transverse processes in the low back are broader compared to those in other areas of the spine, because of the attachment of large back muscles which exert heavy force on them.

There are two facet joints present between a pair of vertebrae, one on either side of the spine. A facet joint is comprised of small, bony knobs arranged along the back of the spine. Two vertebrae are connected to each other through these knobs and form a facet joint. These joints aid in the free movement of the spine.


Visit OrthoAspen in two convenient locations
Aspen Clinic
Aspen Valley Hospital
0401 Castle Creek Rd., Suite 2100,

Aspen, CO 81611
+(970) 544-1289
+(970) 544-1400
Basalt Clinic
Midvalley Medical Center
1450 E. Valley Rd., Suite 201,

Basalt, CO 81621
+(970) 544-1289
+(970) 544-1400