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Cervical Spine – The Neck

The cervical spine is the part of the spine which starts just below the skull and runs down to join the thoracic spine below. The curve of the neck is described as a lordosis or lordotic curve, and looks like a “C” in reverse. It consists of 7 vertebrae or bones stacked one upon another and they are numbered C1, C2, C3, C4, C5, C6 and C7. C7 is the lower one and it has a distinctive long and prominent spinous process at the back of it which can be seen and felt if you bend your head forward (as in looking at your feet)

The first and second cervical vertebrae are distinct from the other true vertebrae and are significantly different. The first cervical (C1) vertebra is called the atlas and it is ring-like in shape with two large protrusions on the sides to support the weight of the head. A lot of flexion-extension (nodding the head ) takes place here.

The Axis (C2) is also unique in that it has a bony peg-like protrusion, called the dens or odontoid process on its upper surface that fits within the ring of the atlas. The C2 vertebra allows the head to rotate from its support atop the C1 vertebra (turning head left and right).

The C3-C6 vertebrae are often grouped together as very similar and as with the other movable vertebrae they are characterized by two primary parts: a vertebral arch that protects the spinal cord and the centre or ventral body that provides strength, protection and mobility to the spinal column and thus to the body. The cervical disc sits between the vertebrae bodies and act as a shock absorber and ligament. The main function of the cervical spine is to support the weight of the head which is approximately 10-12 pounds and to protect the spinal cord as it runs down inside the central canal which is created by the vertebrae being stacked one upon another.

Conditions often associated with the cervical spine that we treat include:

  • Neck stiffness
    Neck pain
    Neck pain with pain radiating down the arm
    Trapped nerve in the neck,
    Neck and shoulder pain,
    Tingling in arm,
    Tingling in hand,
    Numbness in arm or hand,
    Wear and tear of neck,
    Spondylosis of the neck,
    Osteoarthritis of the neck
    Torticollis or wry neck
    Tension headaches,
    Cervicogenic headaches,
    Sprain or strain injury to neck
    Pulled muscles in the neck
    Muscle spasm in neck or shoulder area.

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