Anatomy of the cervical spine

How does it work?

In anatomy, the neck is the area between the head and the thorax. It is composed of two distinct parts:

The neck is made up of muscles, blood vessels and the cervical spine, itself crossed by the spinal cord.

The cervical spine

is very mobile and flexible so that the head can move in a wide variety of ways in space. For this reason, the musculature in the neck region is very fine and complex. The structure of the neck helps to maintain posture and the structure of the neck is used to maintain posture and balance the head, but it is also used for various movements of the head and neck, such as extension and rotation.

The spine

is composed of 7 vertebrae, two of which have a particular structure and are articulated together:

  • The atlas is the 1st cervical vertebra (C1), which supports the skull
  • The axis is the 2nd cervical vertebra (C2). It has a very important role in the mobility of the head, as the joint between C1 and C2 allows for 180° rotation.

The other cervical vertebrae (C3 to C7) have a more similar structure (body, vertebral arch, vertebral foramen). There is no intervertebral disc, neither between the skull and C1, nor between C1 and C2. The other cervical vertebrae are separated by intervertebral discs. It is sometimes these discs that can cause pain (herniated discs).

Neck pain

Cervicalgia is the term used to describe pain in the neck area. Some pains, often benign, such as torticollis, are due to deformations or tears that occur in the ligaments or muscles of the neck.

Other, more serious pains lead to the progressive degradation of certain cellular elements, and are referred to as degenerative pathologies:

Cervical osteoarthritis

Characterised by wear and tear of the cartilage protecting the bones of the joints. It is painful and reduces mobility.

Cervical disc herniation

Corresponds to the expulsion backwards of the nucleus present in the disc, in particular due to too frequent, too long or too strong compression of these discs.