The cervical curve in the neck is supposed to be a “C” shape. There are 7 vertebrae or bones in the neck spine: C1, C2, C3, C4, C5, C6 and C7. The first vertebrae, or C1 is also know as the atlas, and C2 is known as the axis.
If I look at a “lateral” cervical spine (meaning from the side) x-ray- the spine should be in the shape of a “C”.
If I look at a “AP” cervical spine (meaning from the front) x-ray- the spine should be straight up and down, with no curves.
In between each of the bones, are the cervical spinal nerves, labels as in the diagram below as C1, C2, C3, C4, C5, C6, C7, and C8.
The cervical spine is very important because it encompasses and protects the spinal cord, holds up the head and skull and also allows us to move our head: forward (flexion), look back (extension), bend from side to side (lateral flexion) and turn our head from side to side (rotation).
Protection of the spinal cord is extremely important: messages from the brain travel through the spinal cord, out via nerves- innervating muscles, organs, blood vessels- this system controls how we walk, talk and basically do all of daily functions.
What do these cervical nerves control? They control certain areas of the head, neck and upper back, including the arms and hands. More specifically:
C1: Head and neck
C2: Head and neck
C4: Upper body muscles (e.g. Deltoids, Biceps)
C5: Wrist extensors
C6: Wrist extensors
C7: Triceps Muscle
Often times we see a loss of the cervical curve, also known as a “ loss of cervical lordosis ” or “ military ” neck.
Also surrrounding the cervical spine are tendons, ligaments and muscles- they allow for movement and prevent us from doing certain motions to prevent injury and pain.
So there you have it- hopefully you understand the significance of the cervical spine- and why it is so important. The cervical spine is composed of bones c1-c7, nerves c1-c8, ligaments, tendons and muscles. Wrapping your head around all the complexities and functions of the cervical spine- can be a daunting task.
Several days ago my 89 year old mother-in-law fell down hitting her hed on the bathroom sink and suffered a cracked C2 vertebra. She is wearing a neck brace. I have heard of a proceedure where cement is injected into the fractured part of the bone. Is this proceedure a possibility for me to investigate?
Hi Ted, Thank you for your question. I am not 100% sure if she will be a candidate for
Kyphoplasty. This procedure can restores the size and strength of the fractured vertebra, thus allowing realignment of the spine and decreasing pain. Click on the link for more information about this procedure.