Vertebrae make up your vertebral column or your backbone(spine). The vertebral column consists of seven cervical vertebrae(in the neck), twelve thoracic vertebrae, and five lumbar vertebrae(lower back). The main function of the vertebral column is protecting the spinal cord. The spinal cord communicates with the brain stem(medulla oblongata) through the foramen magnum in the occipital bone(back of the head). The brain and spinal cord comprise the CNS(central nervous system). Situated between each vertebrae are intervertebral disc's which are sort of a "shock absorber" that help form a cushion between the bones and help in locomotion and certain other movements that the spine must accommodate.
The cervical vertebrae are the first seven vertebrae of the spine. The next twelve are the thoracic vertebrae and the last five are the lumbar vertebrae. So, totally the human spine is made up of twenty four vertebrae.
The first cervical vertebra is called the atlas as it supports the skull. The second cervical vertebra is called the axis which functions as the pivot on which the skull can rotate.
The twelve ribs are attached to the twelve thoracic vertebrae. They permit some movement especially when bending.
The five lumbar vertebrae are load bearing in function and they bear most of the weight of the human body. Lateral flexion, extension and rotation is possible in the lumbar region.
Cervical, thoracic and lumber vertebrae are all parts of the vertebral column.
Cervical vertebrae include the top seven vertebra in the cervical column. It allows the neck and head substantial movement. It also allows the skull to move up and down, and the upper neck to twist left and right.
The thoracic vertebrae include the twelve vertebra after cervical vertebrae. These and their transverse processes have surfaces that articulate with the ribs. Thoracic vertebrae allows some rotation, but their connection with the rib cage prevents greater movement.
Lumber vertebrae consists of 5 vertebra just below thoracic vertebrae. Being lower down in the body they need to support greater body weight. They allow considerable forward and backward bending and extension, moderate side bending, and a small degree of rotation.