The vertebral canal serves as a protective passageway for the spinal cord. It is a vital part of the central nervous system. Let’s know more about the vertebral canal. This article will cover the following:

Introduction to the Vertebral Canal

The vertebral canal is a crucial anatomical structure that plays a significant role in protecting the delicate spinal cord. It is a hollow, bony tunnel formed by the vertebral column. It houses and shields the spinal cord and other vital structures.

Let’s delve into the vertebral canal and its contents to better understand its importance in the human body.


Overview of Contents of the Vertebral Canal

The vertebral canal serves as a protective passageway for the spinal cord. It is a vital part of the central nervous system. It is responsible for transmitting sensory and motor signals between the brain and the rest of the body. The spinal cord is a long, slender structure extending from the base of the brain down to the lower back. It is enveloped by three protective membranes known as meninges. While the meninges are surrounded by cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) that further cushions and shields it from external forces.

Within the vertebral canal, the spinal cord is divided into different segments, each corresponding to specific regions of the body. These segments are connected to pairs of spinal nerves, which exit the canal through small openings known as intervertebral foramina. These spinal nerves are responsible for transmitting sensory information from the body to the brain (sensory neurons). While sending motor signals from the brain to the muscles (motor neurons).

In the upcoming section, we will talk about the contents of the vertebral canal, to understand it better. And the first thing we will learn is the Spinal Cord and its various regions.

Spinal Cord

The spinal cord is a vital part of the central nervous system (CNS). It plays a crucial role in relaying sensory and motor signals between the brain and the rest of the body. Spinal Column is a cylindrical, long, and thin bundle of nerve fibers. It extends from the base of the brain (brainstem) down to the lower back. The spinal cord is protected by the bony vertebral column, which consists of stacked vertebrae. The region where the spinal cord terminates is called conus medullaris, and from there, nerve roots form the cauda equina. Let’s understand why Spinal cord is important to the Human Body.

Functions of the Spinal Cord

Without Spinal cord, the Human Body cannot function. Let’s delve into the various functions of the Spinal Cord:

  1. Sensory Pathway: The primary function of the spinal cord is to transmit sensory information from the body to the brain. Sensory neurons located in the skin, muscles, and internal organs send signals through nerve fibers to the spinal cord. These signals are then relayed to the brain. They allow us to perceive and interpret various sensations. Sensations like → touch, pain, temperature, and proprioception (awareness of body position).
  2. Motor Pathway: It also serves as a pathway for transmitting motor commands from the brain to the muscles and glands. Neurons in the brain’s motor cortex send signals down the spinal cord to the motor neurons in the ventral horn. From there, the motor neurons extend out of the spinal cord to innervate muscles, initiating movements and coordinating various actions.
  3. Reflex Arcs: It plays a critical role in coordinating reflex actions, which are rapid and involuntary responses to stimuli. Sensory neurons detect a stimulus. Then the spinal cord quickly processes the information and sends motor signals back to produce an immediate response. When you touch a hot surface, the spinal cord quickly signals your muscles. In order, to retract your hand before the pain signal reaches the brain.
  4. Autonomic Functions: In addition to sensory and motor functions, the spinal cord is also involved in autonomic nervous system control. It performs essential functions such as → heart rate, digestion, respiratory rate, and blood pressure, among others. The autonomic nervous system has sympathetic and parasympathetic divisions, which interact with the spinal cord to regulate these involuntary processes.

Let’s look at the various regions of the Spinal Cord, to understand the Spinal Cord in depth.

Regions of the Spinal Cord

Regions of the Spinal Cord

The spinal cord is divided into regions, each responsible for controlling specific areas of the body. These regions are named based on the corresponding vertebral level where nerve roots exit the spinal cord. There are five major regions:

  1. Cervical Region: This region is located in the neck and consists of eight spinal segments, C1 to C8. It controls sensory and motor functions for the → neck, shoulders, arms, and hands.
  2. Thoracic Region: Comprising twelve spinal segments (T1 to T12), this region is located in the upper and mid-back. It is responsible for sensory and motor functions related to the chest and abdominal muscles.
  3. Lumbar Region: Located in the lower back, the lumbar region has five spinal segments (L1 to L5). It controls sensory and motor functions for the lower back, hips, and legs.
  4. Sacral Region: The sacral region is situated just below the lumbar region and includes five spinal segments (S1 to S5). It is responsible for sensory and motor functions in the → buttocks, genitals, and parts of the lower extremities.
  5. Coccygeal Region: This is the final segment of the spinal cord, comprising the coccygeal nerve (Co1). It is responsible for controlling certain pelvic functions and the skin in the coccyx area.

In the next part, we will learn about the Meninges. This protects the spinal cord and its various layers like → Dura Mater, Arachnoid Mater, and Pia Mater.



The meninges are a protective covering around the brain and spinal cord. It plays a crucial role in safeguarding and supporting these delicate structures. The meninges consist of three layers: 

Dura Mater

The Dura Mater is the outermost layer of the meninges. It is a thick, strong, and fibrous membrane that encases the brain and spinal cord, acting as a sturdy shield. The primary function of the Dura Mater is to protect delicate neural structures from external trauma and mechanical shocks. Additionally, the Dura Mater plays a crucial role in supporting the brain’s venous drainage. It forms structures known as dural sinuses. Dural Sinuses are responsible for collecting deoxygenated blood and cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) from the brain tissue. The collected fluid is then transported back to the bloodstream, ensuring the proper circulation and drainage of essential substances.

Arachnoid Mater

The Arachnoid Mater is the middle layer of the meninges. It is situated between the Dura Mater and the Pia Mater. This delicate membrane is named for its web-like appearance, resembling a spider’s web. Unlike the Dura Mater, the Arachnoid Mater is much thinner and more fragile. The space between the Arachnoid Mater and the Pia Mater is called the subarachnoid space. This region is filled with cerebrospinal fluid (CSF), which serves multiple essential functions. The CSF acts as a cushion, absorbing shocks and preventing the brain from directly coming into contact with the skull. Furthermore, it facilitates the exchange of nutrients and waste products between the brain and the bloodstream. While ensuring proper nourishment and waste removal.

Pia Mater

The Pia Mater is the innermost layer of the meninges. It lies in direct contact with the brain and spinal cord. It is a thin and delicate membrane that closely adheres to the brain’s contours, following every convolution and indentation. This close attachment allows the Pia Mater to provide crucial support and stability to the brain and spinal cord. The Pia Mater is richly supplied with blood vessels, which play a vital role in nourishing the underlying neural tissue. These tiny blood vessels penetrate the brain tissue, providing oxygen and nutrients to the active neurons and glial cells. Thus supporting their metabolic needs.

In the next section, we will talk about the Cerebrospinal Fluid and its various functions.

CSF system

Cerebrospinal Fluid (CSF): Definition and Functions 

It is a clear, colorless fluid that surrounds and protects the brain and spinal cord. It plays a crucial role in maintaining the health and proper functioning of the central nervous system (CNS). The brain’s ventricles produce CSF, which circulates throughout the CNS, offering several essential functions. Let’s explore each of these functions in detail:

Cushioning and Mechanical Protection

One of the primary functions of CSF is to act as a cushion for the brain and spinal cord. These vital organs are delicate and susceptible to damage from impact or sudden movements. CSF serves as a shock absorber. It prevents the organs from hitting the hard skull or vertebral bones during movements, impacts, or injuries. This cushioning property helps to minimize the risk of severe brain or spinal cord damage.


The brain is a relatively heavy organ, and without proper support, it would compress itself under its weight. CSF’s buoyancy reduces the effective weight of the brain, allowing it to float within the skull. This buoyant force helps in maintaining its position and prevents it from pressing against the base of the skull. Thus avoiding serious neurological problems.

Nutrient and Waste Transport

CSF plays a vital role in supplying essential nutrients and removing waste products from the CNS. It acts as a medium for transporting glucose, oxygen, ions, and various other nutrients to various organs. Furthermore, it assists in clearing metabolic waste and toxic substances, such as carbon dioxide and lactic acid. This function helps maintain a stable and optimal environment for the neurons to function correctly.

Homeostasis Maintenance

The composition of CSF is subject to strict regulation. In order, to maintain a stable internal environment for the brain and spinal cord. It helps balance the concentrations of ions, hormones, and other chemicals within the CNS. By regulating the pH and electrolyte levels, CSF ensures that the nerve cells can function optimally and maintain proper communication.

Immune Function

CSF plays a role in the immune response within the central nervous system. It contains immune cells (lymphocytes and macrophages) that defend against infections or harmful agents that may enter the nervous system. These immune cells can detect and respond to foreign substances, contributing to the CNS’s protection and recovery.

Diagnostic Tools

Analysis of CSF can provide valuable insights into the health of the central nervous system. By performing a lumbar puncture (spinal tap), healthcare professionals can collect CSF to evaluate its composition and identify abnormalities. Abnormalities in CSF can be indicative of various neurological disorders, infections, or inflammatory conditions. Thus seeking diagnosis and management of these conditions.

In the next part, we will discuss the nerve roots, which include → Dorsal Roots and Ventral Roots. Spinal nerves, dermatomes, and myotomes form other structures within the vertebral canal.

Nerve Roots

The nervous system is a complex network of structures. It facilitates communication between different parts of the body and the brain. Nerve roots are essential components, which play a fundamental role in transmitting signals between the body and the spinal cord. Nerve roots are classified into two main types → Dorsal Roots and Ventral Roots. And the Other structures are formed through these nerve roots. Let’s talk about the roots and these structures:

Dorsal Roots

The Dorsal Roots are an integral part of the nerve root system. They are primarily responsible for carrying sensory information from the body to the spinal cord. These roots consist of nerve fibers that originate in specialized nerve cells (sensory neurons) located within the peripheral nervous system. The sensory neurons are distributed throughout the body. Each type specializes in detecting different sensations such as → touch, temperature, pain, and proprioception. Sensory neurons detect stimuli, they generate electrical impulses that travel through the Dorsal Roots and converge into the spinal cord. The spinal cord processes and relays sensory information to the brain. This allows us to perceive and interpret various sensory experiences.

Ventral Roots

The Ventral Roots transmit motor information from the spinal cord to the rest of the body. Motor information includes the commands from the brain to control muscle movement and facilitate body responses. These commands originate in specialized motor neurons.
They exist within the spinal cord and subsequently convey signals to the muscles via the Ventral Roots. When motor neurons receive signals from the brain, they generate electrical impulses that travel through the Ventral Roots. Further, transfers out to the muscles. As a result, the muscles contract or relax, leading to the desired movement or action. This interplay between the Ventral Roots, motor neurons, and muscles ensures our ability to perform various physical activities.

Formation of Spinal Nerves

The Dorsal Roots and Ventral Roots come together to form spinal nerves. They are vital communication channels between the spinal cord and the rest of the body. The union of a Dorsal Root and a Ventral Root forms each spinal nerve. By combining both sensory and motor pathways into a single nerve structure. These spinal nerves branch out from the spinal cord at regular intervals along the vertebral column. They extend outward to innervate specific regions of the body. By ensuring the seamless transmission of sensory information from the periphery to the spinal cord. Further, it transmits motor commands from the spinal cord to the muscles. The formation of spinal nerves is a crucial mechanism. It enables us to interact with our environment effectively and maintain our body’s functional integrity.

Myotomes and Dermatomes

Myotomes and Dermatomes are essential concepts closely related to nerve roots and spinal nerves. Dermatomes are specific regions of the skin that sensory fibers from a single spinal nerve root innervate. Understanding dermatomes helps medical professionals diagnose problems such as nerve compression or damage. Essentially based on the pattern of sensory loss in these regions. On the other hand, Myotomes represent groups of muscles that a single motor nerve root supplies. By testing the strength and function of muscles associated with specific myotomes. Healthcare practitioners can assess the integrity of the motor nerve pathways and identify potential muscular or neurological impairments.

In the upcoming section, we will talk about the blood vessels. These are the Anterior Spinal Artery, Posterior Spinal Artery, and Segmental Medullary Arteries.

Various blood vessels in the spine

Blood Vessels

Blood vessels play a vital role in the human body. They ensure the constant delivery of oxygen and nutrients to different organs and tissues. Within the spinal cord, there are three essential blood vessels:

Anterior Spinal Artery (ASA)

The anterior spinal artery is a key player in spinal cord blood supply. It runs along the front of the spinal cord. Then delivers oxygen and nutrients to the anterior (front) part of the cord. Problems in the artery can lead to damage to the motor and sensory functions controlled through the anterior spinal cord. Let’s understand the Anterior Spinal Artery (ASA) in various segments:

  1. Location and Origin: The Anterior Spinal Artery is the primary blood supply for the anterior two-thirds of the spinal cord. It arises from the vertebral arteries, which are branches of the subclavian arteries.
  2. Vulnerable Points: The ASA is vulnerable to blockages or infarctions, which can lead to Anterior Spinal Artery Syndrome. It causes weakness or paralysis in the limbs, loss of pain and temperature sensation, and urinary and bowel disturbances.

Posterior Spinal Arteries (PSA)

On the other hand, the posterior spinal arteries run along the back of the spinal cord. They provide blood to the posterior (back) regions of the cord. These arteries contribute to functions like proprioception, which helps us understand our body’s position in space and touch sensation. Now, we will understand the Posterior Spinal Arteries in certain divisions:

  1. Location and Origin: The Posterior Spinal Arteries, as the name suggests, supply the posterior one-third of the spinal cord. They originate from the vertebral arteries and/or the posterior inferior cerebellar arteries.
  2. Distribution: The PSA consists of paired vessels running along the posterior aspects of the spinal cord. They supply the dorsal horns, dorsal columns, and posterior columns, which are essential for transmitting sensory information.
  3. Function: The PSA is responsible for providing oxygen and nutrients to the sensory neurons. It allows for the perception of various sensory modalities such as touch, vibration, and proprioception.
  4. Impairment: Blockages or damage to the PSA can lead to Posterior Spinal Artery Syndrome.
    It causes a loss of fine touch, proprioception, and vibratory sensation, while generally preserving pain and temperature sensations.

Segmental Medullary Arteries (SMA)

The segmental medullary arteries are smaller arteries that branch off from larger blood vessels. They ensure a consistent blood supply to various segments of the spinal cord. These arteries help maintain the health and function of different parts of the spinal cord. Let’s figure out the Segmental Medullary Arteries (AMA) in various segments:

  1. Location and Origin: These arteries are a group of small arteries that supply the spinal cord at multiple segments. They arise from the vertebral, ascending cervical, deep cervical, and intercostal arteries.
  2. Distribution: These arteries enter the spinal cord laterally through the nerve roots and supply specific segments of the spinal cord.
  3. Function: They contribute to the blood supply of the spinal cord, acting as supplementary vessels to the ASA and PSA. By ensuring a continuous flow of blood, and reducing the risk of ischemia (inadequate blood supply). Ischemia occurs in case of temporary interruptions in the primary arterial supply.
  4. Clinical Significance: SMAs play a role in various medical procedures, such as spinal cord surgery. In that surgery, preservation of the blood supply is crucial to avoid neurological complications.

In the next part, we will understand the clinical shortcomings that occur in the vertebral canal. Those mainly include → Spinal Stenosis, Disc Herniation, Spinal Tumors, and Meningitis.

Common Spinal Conditions

The spine, also known as the backbone, plays a crucial role in supporting our body and protecting the spinal cord. It consists of bones called vertebrae, which are stacked on top of each other. Sometimes, certain conditions can affect the spine and cause discomfort or health issues. Let’s take a closer look at some common spinal conditions: 


Spinal Stenosis

Spinal stenosis occurs when the spaces within the spine narrow down, putting pressure on the nerves. This narrowing can happen in the neck (cervical stenosis) or lower back (lumbar stenosis). As a result, people might experience pain, numbness, or weakness in their arms, legs, or back. It’s often seen in older adults due to the natural aging of the spine.

Disc Herniation

Between our vertebrae, there are discs that act like cushions, absorbing shock and helping us move. Sometimes, these discs can bulge or break open, leading to a condition known as disc herniation or slipped disc. This can cause pain if the herniated disc presses against nearby nerves. People might feel pain, tingling, or even muscle weakness in the affected area.

Spinal Tumors

Spinal tumors are abnormal growths that can develop in or around the spine. These growths can be either benign (non-cancerous) or malignant (cancerous). They might cause pain, difficulty walking, or even paralysis if they press on the spinal cord or nerves. Early detection and treatment are important for managing spinal tumors.


Meningitis is an infection that causes inflammation of the membranes (meninges) covering the brain and spinal cord. While it’s not a condition of the spine itself, it can affect the spinal cord indirectly. Meningitis can lead to symptoms such as severe headaches, fever, stiffness in the neck, and sensitivity to light. It’s crucial to seek medical attention promptly if meningitis is suspected, as it can be serious.



In conclusion, the vertebral canal serves as a protective passageway for the spinal cord and its associated structures. The canal ensures the proper functioning of the central nervous system. The spinal cord is surrounded by meninges and bathed in cerebrospinal fluid. It plays a pivotal role in transmitting sensory and motor signals. The organization of nerve roots into spinal nerves enables communication between the spinal cord and the rest of the body.

Understanding the contents of the vertebral canal is essential for appreciating the complexity of the human nervous system. It includes the spinal cord, meninges, cerebrospinal fluid, nerve roots, and blood vessels, and their roles. Additionally, recognizing common spinal conditions and their potential impact on overall health forces us to take proper care. Through this comprehensive understanding, individuals can appreciate the delicate balance. It allows our bodies to function optimally while taking steps to maintain spinal well-being.

Further Reading

We express our heartfelt gratitude to our readers for their unwavering support in engaging with the Intake Learn article on Anatomy. We will continuously provide significant information you can check articles like and .

For more information on this topic, you can check other sources:

  1. Wikipedia:
  2. Wikipedia:
  3. Wikipedia:
  4. Wikipedia:
  5. Wikipedia:


  1., CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
  2. StatPearls Illustration, CC BY 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
  3. BruceBlaus. When using this image in external sources it can be cited staff (2014). “Medical gallery of Blausen Medical 2014”. WikiJournal of Medicine 1 (2). DOI:10.15347/wjm/2014.010. ISSN 2002-4436., CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Categories: Anatomy


Leave a Reply