Where is the Cervical Spine?
If you ever wondered where is the cervical spine, this article will help with learning more about the cervical spine, its location, and complications, pain, and treatment. The neck area of the spine is known as the cervical spine and is a very intricate but important structure of the body playing as much an important role as vital organs. It is made up of the seven cervical vertebrae, which are designated as C1 through to C7, starting at the base of the skull and moving down the spine. It is also comprised of ligaments, tendons, muscles, and nerves.
If you've also considered the structure related to where is the cervical spine, then the following sheds even more insight.
Vertebrae of the Cervical Spine
Most of the head's movement is due to the flexion and extension of the joint called the atlanto-occipital which is located between the first cervical vertebrae and the occipital bone of the skull.
The first two cervical spine vertebrae have been assigned special names, the atlas, and the axis. The atlas is the first cervical vertebra (C1). It is shaped like a ring and does not have a body. This allows more room for the widest portion of the spinal cord to pass through. C2, the axis, is the second vertebra in the cervical spine. It has a short peg-like projection that allows these first two vertebrae to pivot together and allow the head to nod. Special joints such as the "atlanto-axial" found between the atlas and the axis allow for side to side movement, and the cervical spine's structure also allows us to rotate your head.
Vertebrae in the cervical spine are different from other vertebrae because they contain holes called transverse foramina. Arteries which supply parts of the brain with blood coming from the neck, up through these holes from the neck.
The upper portion of the cervical spine is curved forward, helping to absorb some of the shock and vibrations that occur with movement. The curve of the cervical spine also helps to balance and hold the body in proper alignment. The curve in the cervical spine starts at the second vertebra and ends in the center of the second vertebra of the thoracic section of the spine.
Where is the cervical spine C3, C4, C5 and C6 and how does it function?
These are known as "typical vertebrae" and they form the "vertebral arch", "vertebral body" and "facet joints". C3, C4, C5, and C6 share similar characteristics to the other vertebrae of the spine.
- Vertebral body. The vertebral body is located in the front of the vertebrae and they provide cushioning of the stacked vertebral bones.
- Facet joints. Every vertebra has a pair of facet joints or "Zygapophysial" also known as "Zjoints". Smooth but hard cartilage provides cushioning between the bones and also helps to limit the amount of movement.
- Vertebral arch. The bony arch known as the vertebral arch surrounds the spinal card facing the back and is also made up of two lamina and two pedicles. Pedicles are responsible for connecting the vertebrae at the front and the lamina joins the spinous process of the vertebrae.
C7 is a unique vertebra in a class of its own and has a more prominent spinous process than the rest of the vertebrae in the cervical spine.
The Functions of the Cervical Spine
When looking at where is the cervical spine, you'll notice that because of its location it is able to do various important functions regarding the movement of the head as well as protection of the spinal cord in that region. The cervical spine is also responsible to help the head to move in various directions and is the most flexible part of the spine.
Furthermore here are some of the cervical spine's functions:
- Houses and protects the spinal chord - the spinal chord plays a vital role and is a group of nerves that run all the way from the brain throughout the length of the spine delivering messages from the brain to the body.
- Provides movement and support for the head - While the human head could weigh an average of 10 to 13 pounds, the cervical spine supports this weight completely and provides support during movement.
- Aids the blood flow to the brain - vertebral openings in the cervical spine allows for arteries to pass through and carry blood to the brain.
Risk Factors Related to Neck Pain
- Sitting for prolonged time in an awkward position
- Picking up heavy objects with the wrong posture
- Sleeping on a bad pillow or mattress
- Sleeping without a pillow
- Bad habits such as cradling a mobile phone in the crook of your neck
- CT scans
- Bone scans
- Electrodiagnostic testing
After the doctor finds the source of the neck pain in the cervical spine region, he will prescribe treatment accordingly. Both surgical and non-surgical treatments are used to treat neck pain these include:
OTC medications can be prescribed by your doctor.
- Ibuprofen (Advil)
- Naproxen (Aleve)
- COX-2 Inhibitors (Celebrex)
You can also apply hot and cold compresses to help reduce inflammation and pain. Limiting the movement of the neck for a while can help reduces inflammation as well.
The mild exercise of the joints can also aid in reducing the pain experienced. If you do live a more active lifestyle this will be helpful. A physical therapist can assist with the types of exercise that will be the safest to execute.
There are two common Cervical Disc surgical procedures performed to alleviate severe neck pain namely:
- Anterior Cervical Discectomy and Fusion
- Posterior Cervical Laminectomy