lumbar lordosis

Spinal Canal: Definition and Anatomy (Link to Back Pain)

Article reviewed and approved by Dr. Ibtissama Boukas, physician specializing in family medicine 

What is the spinal canal, and how does it relate to back pain and some common pathologies related to it (such as narrowing of the spinal canal)?

Spinal Canal Definition and Anatomy

Before talking about the spinal canal, it is worth reviewing certain anatomical notions that will allow you to better understand what it is.

La spine consists of the juxtaposition of bones called vertebrae. Also called rachis, it is separated as follows:

  • 7 vertebrae cervical
  • 12 thoracic (or dorsal) vertebrae
  • 5 lumbar vertebrae
  • 5 sacral vertebrae (forming the sacrum)
  • 4 coccygeal vertebrae (fused)

Here is a visual diagram of the spine:

juxtaposition of vertebrae forming the spinal column

In general, each vertebrate is formed in front of a circular bone called vertebral body. A posterior arch is attached to the back of each vertebral body. Formed from the pedicles and laminae that meet, this arch forms the spinal canal when the vertebrae are stacked on top of each other.

dorsal spine vertebra

The juxtaposition of vertebrae thus forms a free space of cylindrical shape. This is called the Spinal canal. This channel originates at the base of the skull, and ends at the level of the sacrum.

One of its most important features is that it houses the spinal cord and the spinal nerves.

spinal cord located between the vertebrae


Spinal canal pathologies

The most common pathology of the spinal canal is narrow spinal canal syndrome (also called spinal canal stenosis or narrow lumbar canal).

Spinal canal

To learn all about this condition that causes low back pain and other symptoms, see the following article: Narrow lumbar canal: Treatment, operation, recovery

Another, more serious pathology of the spinal canal is tail syndrome. It is a medical and often surgical emergency that must be taken care of as soon as possible. To learn all about this condition, see the following article:

Cauda equina syndrome: Symptoms and recovery


To diagnose with certainty an attack of the rachidian canal, one will carry out tests ofmedical imaging. This includes:

  • IRM
  • Scanner
  • X-ray
  • Endoscopy

A clinical examination is also carried out to determine the functional consequences of damage to the spinal canal.

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