Cervical

Cervical Spine

Where is the Cervical Spine?

If you ever wondered where is the cervical spine, this article will help with learning more about the cervical spine, its location, and complications, pain, and treatment. The neck area of the spine is known as the cervical spine and is a very intricate but important structure of the body playing as much an important role as vital organs. It is made up of the seven cervical vertebrae, which are designated as C1 through to C7, starting at the base of the skull and moving down the spine. It is also comprised of ligaments, tendons, muscles, and nerves.  

If you've also considered the structure related to where is the cervical spine, then the following sheds even more insight.

Vertebrae of the Cervical Spine

Most of the head's movement is due to the flexion and extension of the joint called the atlanto-occipital which is located between the first cervical vertebrae and the occipital bone of the skull.

The first two cervical spine vertebrae have been assigned special names, the atlas, and the axis. The atlas is the first cervical vertebra (C1). It is shaped like a ring and does not have a body. This allows more room for the widest portion of the spinal cord to pass through. C2, the axis, is the second vertebra in the cervical spine. It has a short peg-like projection that allows these first two vertebrae to pivot together and allow the head to nod. Special joints such as the "atlanto-axial" found between the atlas and the axis allow for side to side movement, and the cervical spine's structure also allows us to rotate your head.

Vertebrae in the cervical spine are different from other vertebrae because they contain holes called transverse foramina. Arteries which supply parts of the brain with blood coming from the neck, up through these holes from the neck.

The upper portion of the cervical spine is curved forward, helping to absorb some of the shock and vibrations that occur with movement. The curve of the cervical spine also helps to balance and hold the body in proper alignment. The curve in the cervical spine starts at the second vertebra and ends in the center of the second vertebra of the thoracic section of the spine.

Where is the cervical spine C3, C4, C5 and C6 and how does it function?

These are known as "typical vertebrae" and they form the "vertebral arch", "vertebral body" and "facet joints".  C3, C4, C5, and C6 share similar characteristics to the other vertebrae of the spine.

  • Vertebral body. The vertebral body is located in the front of the vertebrae and they provide cushioning of the stacked vertebral bones.
  • Facet joints. Every vertebra has a pair of facet joints or "Zygapophysial" also known as "Zjoints". Smooth but hard cartilage provides cushioning between the bones and also helps to limit the amount of movement. 
  • Vertebral arch. The bony arch known as the vertebral arch surrounds the spinal card facing the back and is also made up of two lamina and two pedicles.  Pedicles are responsible for connecting the vertebrae at the front and the lamina joins the spinous process of the vertebrae. 

C7 is a unique vertebra in a class of its own and has a more prominent spinous process than the rest of the vertebrae in the cervical spine.

The Functions of the Cervical Spine

When looking at where is the cervical spine, you'll notice that because of its location it is able to do various important functions regarding the movement of the head as well as protection of the spinal cord in that region. The cervical spine is also responsible to help the head to move in various directions and is the most flexible part of the spine.

Furthermore here are some of the cervical spine's functions:

  • Houses and protects the spinal chord - the spinal chord plays a vital role and is a group of nerves that run all the way from the brain throughout the length of the spine delivering messages from the brain to the body.
  • Provides movement and support for the head - While the human head could weigh an average of 10 to 13 pounds, the cervical spine supports this weight completely and provides support during movement.
  • Aids the blood flow to the brain - vertebral openings in the cervical spine allows for arteries to pass through and carry blood to the brain.

Risk Factors Related to Neck Pain 

Regarding factors related to "where is the cervical spine", one can conclude that this region of the spine sustains plenty of wear and tear due to aging and this will lead to neck pain over the years.
While age is a major cause of neck pain, injuries can also trigger pain in the cervical spine. Depending on the injury and location it could develop as post-traumatic arthritis. Many patients who suffer a bone injury whether it be fractured or broken bones and joints in their youth, it could develop into post-traumatic arthritis years later. 
Pain can also be caused due to cervical degeneration due to bone spurs or "osteophytes" which are growths that develop and attach to bones with age. Many patients over the age of 60 begin to develop these bone spurs and they tend to cause joint enlargement of the facet joints that lie behind and in between the adjacent cervical vertebrae.  
Facet joints play a key role in the spine's ability to be flexible. After years of wear and tear facet joints wear down and in the end when that cartilage no longer exists, bone on bone friction can cause severe pain. 
Minor causes of neck pain include:
  • Sitting for prolonged time in an awkward position
  • Picking up heavy objects with the wrong posture
  • Sleeping on a bad pillow or mattress
  • Sleeping without a pillow
  • Bad habits such as cradling a mobile phone in the crook of your neck

Diagnostic Process

The doctor may do the following to establish the cause of the neck pain:
  • X-Rays
  • CT scans
  • MRI
  • Bone scans
  • Electrodiagnostic testing

Treatment for cervical osteoarthritis 

After the doctor finds the source of the neck pain in the cervical spine region, he will prescribe treatment accordingly. Both surgical and non-surgical treatments are used to treat neck pain these include:

Non-surgical

OTC medications can be prescribed by your doctor.

  • Ibuprofen (Advil)
  • Naproxen (Aleve)
  • COX-2 Inhibitors (Celebrex)

You can also apply hot and cold compresses to help reduce inflammation and pain. Limiting the movement of the neck for a while can help reduces inflammation as well.

The mild exercise of the joints can also aid in reducing the pain experienced. If you do live a more active lifestyle this will be helpful. A physical therapist can assist with the types of exercise that will be the safest to execute.

Surgical

There are two common Cervical Disc surgical procedures performed to alleviate severe neck pain namely:

  • Anterior Cervical Discectomy and Fusion
  • Posterior Cervical Laminectomy
Other care and treatment include the likes of:
  • Physiotherapy
  • Acupuncture
  • Meditation
  • Massage
Show Less Show Comments
Questions & Answers
Q:
What is the best way to treat permanent back and neck pain and stiffness?
A:

Here are some tips:

Neck Pain Tips: Sleep with a cervical pillow

Orthopedic or cervical pillows are made with special contours to support the space beneath the neck and head. They are also more concave for the head and provide more support to the neck.

Neck Pain Tips: Sleep on your back

The best position to lie to sleep is on your back. If you sleep on your stomach or on your side, make sure your pillow is not too thick. It should raise your head no more than 4 to 6 inches. This will keep your neck and head from turning to either side.

Neck Pain Tips: Position your computer screen at eye level

While you are working at a computer, sit comfortably in your chair with your computer in front of you. Close your eyes and then open them. When you open your eyes, you should see the middle of the computer screen. If your gaze is not in the middle of the screen, adjust the height of the screen using items like books.

To keep your head from gradually drifting forward, take frequent breaks to stretch. Getting up to walk around at least once every half-hour is one of the best neck pain tips.

Neck Pain Tips: Use a telephone headset

Never hold a phone between your shoulder and your ear. Use a headset or other hands-free system to talk on the phone and avoid abusing your neck and spine.

Neck Pain Tips: Exercise your neck muscles

One of the best neck pain tips is using the chin tuck. You can do this often throughout the day. In addition to helping strengthen the muscles that hold the head in alignment over the shoulders, it also helps strengthen the scalene and sub-occipital muscles.

Read more tips here: Neck Pain Tips: Sleeping, Posture, Exercising, Hydration & Prevention

Read more
Temed Holdings
4 answers
Q:
What is the best treatment for neck pain and shoulder Pain?
A:

One of the best treatment for neck pain and shoulder pain is exercises:

Neck Pain Exercises: Neck Extension

  1. To begin this neck pain exercise, sit up straight in a chair with your feet flat on the floor.
  2. Looking straight ahead, tuck your chin slightly (starting position)
  3. Place the palm of your hand on the back of your neck, at the base of your head
  4. Apply slight forward pressure with your hand, while resisting the forward motion of your neck and head
  5. Hold for a count of 5 and return to the starting position and relax
  6. Repeat the neck pain exercises 5-10 times

Neck pain exercises: Side bend

  1. Sit up straight in a chair with your feet flat on the floor.
  2. Looking straight ahead, tuck your chin slightly (starting position)
  3. Place your left hand, palm down, on the left side of your head (around your ear)
  4. Slightly push your head to the right side with your hand, while resisting the sideways motion of your neck and head
  5. Hold for a count of 5 and return to the starting position and relax.
  6. Repeat 5-10 times
  7. Repeat the neck pain exercises with the other side.

Neck pain exercises: Neck flexion

  1. Sit up straight in a chair with your feet flat on the floor.
  2. Looking straight ahead, tuck your chin slightly (starting position)
  3. Place the tips of your fingers on your forehead
  4. Slightly push your head backward with your fingers, while resisting the backward motion of your neck and head
  5. Hold for a count of 5 and return to the starting position and relax.
  6. Repeat the neck pain exercises 5-10 times

More exercises here: Neck Pain Exercises

Read more
Temed Holdings
4 answers
Q:
How do I reduce the shoulder and neck pain?
A:

Here are some tips:

Neck Pain Tips: Sleep with a cervical pillow

Orthopedic or cervical pillows are made with special contours to support the space beneath the neck and head. They are also more concave for the head and provide more support to the neck.

Neck Pain Tips: Sleep on your back

The best position to lie to sleep is on your back. If you sleep on your stomach or on your side, make sure your pillow is not too thick. It should raise your head no more than 4 to 6 inches. This will keep your neck and head from turning to either side.

Neck Pain Tips: Position your computer screen at eye level

While you are working at a computer, sit comfortably in your chair with your computer in front of you. Close your eyes and then open them. When you open your eyes, you should see the middle of the computer screen. If your gaze is not in the middle of the screen, adjust the height of the screen using items like books.

To keep your head from gradually drifting forward, take frequent breaks to stretch. Getting up to walk around at least once every half-hour is one of the best neck pain tips.

Neck Pain Tips: Carry weight evenly

Many people make the mistake of carrying a heavy briefcase or their purse on their shoulder or on one side of their body. Doing this causes strain in the muscles and leads to pain.

Remove non-essentials from your briefcase or purse. Consider using a backpack to evenly distribute the weight across your shoulders. If you choose to carry a purse or backpack, keep your shoulders level while carrying it.

Neck Pain Tips: Maintain a proper posture

The most common posture contributing to neck pain is the “head-and-shoulders-forward” posture. In this position, the neck slopes forward, putting the head in front of the shoulders.

In this position, the head pulls the upper back forward also in a slumped position. This places a strain on the entire spinal column.

More tips here: Neck Pain Tips: Sleeping, Posture, Exercising, Hydration & Prevention

Read more
Temed Holdings
4 answers