Cervical Spine

The cervical spine consists of seven vertebrae: C1, C2, C3, C4, C5, C6, and C7. These vertebrae begin at the base of the skull and extend down to the thoracic spine. The cervical vertebrae have cylindrical bones that depend on the front of the spinal cord and accumulate one on top of the other to make one constant column of bones in the neck.

At each level, the vertebrae secure their sector of the spine and work with muscles, tendons, ligaments, and joints to provide a combination of assistance, structure, and versatility to the neck.

The cervical vertebra nearest the skull, C1, is the tiniest, then the vertebrae grow as they go down to C7. The lower vertebrae need to be bigger to support the extra loads from above. Similarly, all the cervical vertebrae are smaller sized than the thoracic vertebrae (upper and middle back), and the largest vertebrae are in the back spine or lower back.

Typical Vertebrae: C3, C4, C5, and C6

Cervical vertebrae C3 through C6 are referred to as common vertebrae because they share the very same standard attributes with the majority of the vertebrae throughout the spine. Normal vertebrae have:

Vertebral body. This is a cylindrical-shaped, thick part at the front of the bony vertebra. When vertebrae are stacked on top of each other, the disc between them at each level supplies cushioning in between the bony vertebrae and assists absorb shocks. The vertebral body manages most of the load for a vertebra.

Vertebral arch. This bony arch wraps around the spine towards the back and includes two pedicles and two laminae. The pedicles connect with the vertebral body in the front, and the laminate transition into the spinous process in the back of the vertebra.

Aspect joints. Each vertebra has a pair of element joints, likewise known as Zygapophysial joints, or Z joints for short. These joints, situated in between the pedicle and lamina on each side of the vertebral arch, are lined with smooth cartilage to make it possible for limited motion in between two vertebrae. The little varieties of movement between the two vertebrae can add up to considerable series of motion for the whole cervical spine in regards to rotation, forward/backward, and side flexing.

Leading Vertebrae: C1 and C2 at the Top of the Neck

C1 and C2 are considered atypical vertebrae and have some distinguishing features compared with the rest of the cervical spine.

C1 Vertebra (the atlas). The leading vertebra, called the atlas, is the only cervical vertebra to not have a vertebral body. Rather, it is formed more like a ring. The Atlas connects to the occipital bone above to support the base of the skull.

This connection is the atlantooccipital joint. About 50% of the head’s forward/backward series of motion occurs at this joint.

C2 Vertebra (the axis). The 2nd vertebra, called the axis, has a large bony protrusion (the odontoid process) that points up from its vertebral body and fits into the ring-shaped atlas above it. The Atlas is able to turn around the axis, forming the atlantoaxial joint.

About 50% of the head’s rotation happens at this joint.

Special Vertebra: C7

The seventh cervical vertebrae also called the vertebra prominent, is thought about a unique vertebra and normally has the most popular spinous process. When feeling the back of the neck, the C7 vertebra’s bony spinous process will stick out more than the other cervical vertebrae.

Joints of Luschka

The joints of Luschka, also called uncovertebral joints, are found between vertebral sectors from C3 to C7.

These joints are comprised of 2 uncinate processes– one rising up from the top of each side of the vertebral body– that fit in imprints in the vertebral body above. The joints of Luschka help with the neck’s forward and backward motions while likewise restricting the bending to either side.

The joints of Luschka are reasonably little compared to the aspect joints. Also, unlike the facet joints, the joints of Luschka are not present at birth. Usually, the joints of Luschka establish by age 10.

For the most part, the cervical vertebrae are extremely resilient and resistant to injury. Many neck discomfort associating with the cervical vertebrae is the outcome of wear and tear, not an injury.

In addition to the seven cervical vertebrae, cervical anatomy functions 8 cervical nerve roots (C1-C8) that branch from the spinal cord and control motor and sensory capabilities for different parts of the body.

Each cervical nerve is called based upon the lower cervical vertebra that it runs.  As an example, the C6 nerve root runs in between the C5 vertebra and the C6 vertebra.