Human Anatomy FAQ

There are 206 bones in the human body, and between 640-850 muscles, depending on the source and how that source classifies the muscles. An agreed-upon number does not exist.

The vertebral column (the spine) is made of up 24 vertebrae beginning at the Atlas at the base of the skull, C-1. There are 7 cervical vertebrae, C-1 moving down to C-7, aka the neck, that are naturally lordotic, meaning the bend is toward the front. Next there are 12 thoracic vertebrae connected to the 12 ribs, T-1 down to T-12, and these are naturally kyphotic, with a slight bend toward the rear. Finally, there are 5 lumbar vertebrae, L-1 down to L-5, which are again somewhat lordotic with a bend toward the front. At the base of the spine is the sacrum, then the coccyx, both considered part of the pelvis.

Easy markers to find your place in the spine: C-1 is the base of the skull; C-7 is the base of the neck; T-2 is at the top of the scapula; T-7 is the bottom of the scapula; L-4 is the top of the iliac crest (top of the pelvis).

There are 12 pair of ribs (occasionally there are 11 or 13 pair), originating at the corresponding thoracic vertebrae, and, like the thoracic spine, need mobility also: The ribs are supposed to move easily—not a great deal of movement, but easy movement.

Ribs 1-7 attach directly to the sternum
; ribs 8-10 attach to the sternum via cartilage; ribs 11 and 12 are floating ribs and do not attach to the sternum at all. This is the reason you need to be careful when foam rolling the lumbar spine. In fact, self-massage of the lumbar spine is best done carefully with a small ball instead of the foam roller.

Intercostals are the muscles between the ribs that hold the ribs together. The diaphragm is a muscle that expands the ribs to make space for the lungs to fill, rather than a “region” below the ribcage.

The coveted “Christmas Tree” shape seen at the base of an extremely lean back isn’t a muscle at all. That’s the tendon the lats attach to called the Thoracolumbar Aponeurosis.

The popping and crunching sound of tendons and ligaments moving around the joints is called crepitus or crepitation. Crepitation is a descriptive word for the sound made, not a type of joint injury.

Pelvic tilt or rotation refers to a shifting from neutral. Neutral is balanced side to side, top to top and front to back. Posterior tilt moves too far to the back; anterior tilt moves too far to the front; lateral tilt means one side is elevated (hip hitch), which makes the leg on the elevated side functionally (not structurally) shorter. Pelvic rotation adds a turn to the side from the optimal neutral to exterior or interior. A person can have varying degrees of both problemic tilt and rotation, both sides or one or the other or even one of each. These conditions are often, perhaps even usually, fixable with corrective exercises.

Here’s a simple human movement terminology cheat sheet, and here’s an easy-to-understand explanation of human planes of motion.

While you’re here, have a look at our complete list of corrective exercise lectures, books and videos.

For much more on anatomy, check out this fabulous new way of learning anatomy using body painting.

Immaculate Dissection Anatomy Video


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