DEFINE – What is the Cervical Spine?
The cervical spine is the top of the spine that makes up the neck.
BREAKING DOWN – The Cervical Spine
The cervical spine contains bones, ligaments, muscles, nerves, and tendons. It’s delicate positioning at the top of the spine means it’s responsible in protecting the spinal cord originating from the brainstem. However, this doesn’t mean it’s not very flexible. In fact, the joints of the cervical spine are the reason for this flexibility and the movement of your neck.
The cervical spine consists of 7 vertebrae. The first two vertebrae are known as the atlas and axis, or C1 and C2. C1 connects to the skull, while C7 connects to the thoracic spine.
This part of the spine also supports the head, consisting of your skull and control center, the brain. Surprisingly, the head weighs about 10-13 pounds. Interestingly, with forward head posture (where the cervical spine is abnormally positioned in a forward position) for every inch the head moves forward, this can add an extra 10 pounds of strain onto the neck and the cervical spine.
Further, the cervical spine and its vertebrae allow for passage of necessary arteries which help carry blood to the brain, providing it with nutrients and oxygen. Specific openings exist in C1-C6 for these blood vessels to pass through.
The joints of the cervical spine allow for flexion, extension, rotation, and lateral flexion of the head. Various muscles also attach the the vertebrae of the cervical spine, including the levator scapulae, the trapezius, the erector spinae, and more. Many ligaments also attach the cervical spine’s vertebrae together.
Frequently, trauma is the most common cause of injury to the cervical spine. This may occur through motor vehicle accidents, blunt trauma, diving injuries, or sports-related injuries. More rare injuries include non-trauma causes such as osteoporosis, cancer, and arthritis.
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