1.4. The Thoracic Vertebrae

Identifying the Thoracic Vertebrae

These 12 vertebrae are super easy to identify if somebody gives you a model of a vertebral column in a practical anatomy session – they have the longest spinous processes of all the vertebrae and have facets for articulating ribs.

Thoracic Vertebral Joints

Now think about the following articulations between the thoracic vertebrae and the ribs. The thoracic vertebrae:

(i) have a superior costal facet and an inferior costal facet on each side of the body of the vertebra.
(ii) a transverse costal facet on each transverse process of the vertebra.

KEY FACT: each rib articulates with the thoracic vertebrae of its own level and the level above. For example, rib 5 articulates with T5 and T4 vertebrae. More specifically, rib 5 articulates with the superior costal facet of T5 and the inferior costal facet of T4. Hopefully the accompanying diagram clarifies this. The transverse costal facets provide an additional area of articulation - the transverse facets articulate with the tubercle of the rib of the same level. So, the tubercle of rib 8 articulates with the transverse costal facet of T8. As you can see, in total there are technically three articulations between a rib and the vertebral column.