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The Cervical Spine: Anatomy, Function, and Common - Spine Center of Texas
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The Cervical Spine: Anatomy, Function, and Common

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:

  • Cervical Disc Degeneration from age and general wear and tear
  • Cervical Stenosis, which causes narrowing of the spinal canal and leads to painful nerve constriction
  • Cervical Fracture sometimes referred to as a broken neck, which can happen in sports, car accidents, or other types of acute trauma
  • Cervical Kyphosis, is an abnormal forward curve resulting from a genetic problem, degenerated this, or traumatic injury
  • Syringomyelia, a condition that happens when a cerebrospinal fluid leaks into the spinal cord
  • Spinal Infection
  • Cervical Tumor

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.