The cervical spine (neck) is the first section of the spinal column and starts at the bottom of the skull. It contains seven vertebrae separated by intervertebral discs and joins with the thoracic spine, which is the next section below.
The first two vertebrae called the atlas (C1) and the axis (C2), are entirely different than those in other areas of the spine because the first rotates around the second. Thus, the structure allows the skull to have a significant amount of movement. The other five vertebrae (C3-C7) function similarly to those in the thoracic and lumbar spine areas but provide for significantly more motion. The other main difference between cervical vertebrae and those located in the thoracic and lumbar sections is that cervical vertebra have space in each one for the vertebral arteries, which transport blood to the brain.
The primary functions of the cervical spine are to support the weight and motion of the skull and to act as a protective cover for the top section of the spinal cord. The cervical spine also assists with blood flow to the brain.
The most common conditions and injuries to the cervical spine are:
Some cervical spine conditions that are mild to moderate in nature may resolve with conservative care such as rest, activity modification, pain medication, heat or cold treatments, and physical therapy. Severe conditions and injuries may require surgical intervention.
If you have a neck injury and would like to learn about our treatment choices from one of our specialists, please contact our Seguin or New Braunfels offices.