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Bones of the Vertebral Column and Ribs: Definition and Function

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  • 0:05 The Ribcage
  • 0:36 The Ribs
  • 0:58 The Costal Cartilages…
  • 2:02 The Vertebrae
  • 3:20 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Artem Cheprasov
Learn about the importance of your ribs, vertebrae, and sternum. If it wasn't for them, you wouldn't be alive. You'll also find out what strange sounding words like manubrium and xyphoid mean.

The Ribcage

If ever there was a structure more important than the skull in its role of protecting vital organs, it would have to be the ribcage. Inside, it houses our lungs and heart. A puncture of the walls of the ribcage can lead to a condition called pneumothorax, where the lungs collapse, and unless treated very quickly, this can lead to death. If you weren't already, I hope that little tidbit convinced you of the importance of the ribcage.

The Ribs

In order to prevent any damage to structures internal to the ribcage, the ribcage itself is made up of three main components. The first of these components encompasses twelve-paired ribs, which are long, curved bones that form the ribcage in order to protect the thoracic cavity.

The Costal Cartilages and Sternum

The costal cartilage connects the ribs to the sternum.
Costal Cartilage

The first 10 ribs on either side of the body have bars of hyaline cartilage, called costal cartilage. This cartilage stretches from each rib's bony end to a structure called the sternum, which is the breastbone of the body. The first seven ribs on either side of the body connect to the sternum via their respective costal cartilage.

The eighth, ninth, and tenth ribs attach to the sternum indirectly. Their costal cartilage connects to the preceding rib's costal cartilage, while the last two ribs do not attach to the sternum at all.

In addition, the sternum has a structure, at the end closest to your head, called the manubrium. This is the upper part of the sternum that articulates with the first pair of ribs and the clavicles.

The location of the sternum in the chest cavity.
Sternum Location

At the other end of the sternum is a structure called the xyphoid process, which is a process, or extension, at the lower part of the sternum.

The Vertebrae

All the ribs attach to their respective vertebrae, which are the bones that connect together to form the vertebral column; more commonly called the spinal column.

There are a total of 33 vertebrae in a human spine, or backbone. The first seven, which help to prop your head up as you're falling asleep in class, are known as the cervical vertebrae, cervix being a term that refers to the neck. Hence, the cervical spinal cord is the one that makes up your neck.

The next 12 vertebrae are known as thoracic vertebrae, as they help to make up the thoracic cavity, or your chest cavity, that is. Remember, each vertebra has a rib on either side of the body. The first seven connect directly on the other side of the body, the anterior or front side, to the sternum via their respective costal cartilages.

The thoracic vertebrae connect to ribs and make up the chest cavity.
Thoracic Vertebrae

The next five vertebrae are known as the lumbar vertebrae and make up the lower back so many people say they have trouble with. Five more vertebrae, this time fused together to form a structure called the sacrum, follow the lumbar portion of the spine. Finally, the spine ends with four coccygeal vertebrae that comprise your tailbone.

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