Cervical Spine Anatomy

The uppermost region of your spine is your neck, or cervical spine. In the medical world, it is abbreviated as the C-spine. Your head rests upon seven vertebrae, labeled C1-C7. These seven vertebrae increase in size from the top down. Together with eight pairs of cervical nerves, they make up the cervical spine.

The neck starts at the base of the skull and connects to the thoracic spine (upper back) through the seven vertebral segments. The first segment, C1, is commonly known as the “atlas” considering its unique position. All seven segments support the head and its movements. Considering the average head weighs 10-13 pounds, this region of your spine is remarkably strong. The cervical spine holds the spinal cord that transmits messages from the brain to control all aspects of a functional body. Each day this region of your spine undergoes several stresses and forces, which can lead to many painful conditions.


Functions of the Cervical Spine

Your neck houses and protects the spinal cord, which is a bundle of nerves that runs from the brain through the cervical spine, thoracic spine, and ends at the lumbar spine. Without your spinal cord, your brain could not send signals to the rest of your body.

In addition, the cervical spine has a duty to carry the heavy load that is your head and allows for your head to move around in different directions. These movements rely upon the segment of your spine called the C5-C6 segment, which includes the C5 and C6 vertebrae and the spinal disc between them. This segment sits beneath the middle of the cervical spine and provides structural support and flexibility to your neck. This particular segment is especially vulnerable to developing degenerative conditions and injuries due to the important functions it performs.

The cervical spine also facilitates the flow of blood to the brain. There are vertebral openings in this region of your spine that provides a passage for vertebral arteries to pass. You can only find such openings in the vertebrae that compose the cervical spine.
Problems Associated with the Cervical Spine

Common causes of pain in the C-spine include many of the problems associated with any other region of your spine. Degenerative disc disease, disc herniation, osteoarthritis, and spinal stenosis can all affect the function of the vertebrae, discs, and joints in the cervical spine. If you are experiencing frequent and consistent neck pain, you may wish to consult with a board-certified pain management specialist. Contact Garden State Pain Control at 973-777-0304 to schedule an appointment at a New Jersey clinic near you.