thoracolumbar spine

Dorsolumbar spine: Definition and 7 associated pathologies

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

What is the thoraco-lumbar spine, and what are its anatomical particularities? What are the pathologies associated with this important region of the spine ?


This explanation tells you everything you need to know about the thoraco-lumbar spine, this transitional zone between the dorsal spine and Lumbar spine.


Definition and anatomy


To understand the thoraco-lumbar spine, one must first understand the anatomy of the dorsal spine and Lumbar spine.


The vertebrae dorsals are 12 in number (numbered from D1 to D12). The alignment of these vertebrae at the level of the trunk means that they allow a lot of rotation.


dorsal vertebrae


The lumbar vertebrae are 5 in number. Unlike the dorsal column, these vertebrae in the lower back are not very mobile in rotation. Rather, their alignment allows for more flexion and extension movements.


lumbar vertebrae


The junction between the last vertebrate dorsal and the first lumbar vertebra is called the dorso-lumbar spine (or thoraco-lumbar hinge). It corresponds to the space between the D12 and L1 vertebrae. (also called D12-L1).



Pathologies related to the thoraco-lumbar hinge


The last thoracic vertebrae (D11 and D12), as well as the first lumbar vertebra (L1), are frequently the site of spinal pathology and dysfunction.


Indeed, the thoraco-lumbar spine undergoes a lot of stress, in particular because it constitutes a transition zone between the end of the dorsal vertebrae and the ribs with the lumbar vertebrae. This can lead to degeneration and irritation of the facet joints.


thoraco-lumbar hinge


Specifically, when rotational forces from the thoracic spine are transmitted to the lumbar vertebrae (as in twisting movements), the surrounding tissues must absorb this force to protect the lumbar spine from excessive rotation. The more these movements are repeated (and accompanied by heavy loads), the greater the risk of irritation and inflammation of the surrounding vertebral structures.


Additionally, static sitting and standing postures (especially when held for long periods of time) place additional stress on the thoracolumbar spine, increasing the risk of inflammation there.


Here is a list of pathologies of the thoraco-lumbar spine:



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