Anatomy And Disorders Of The Lower Cervical Spine 

Lower Cervical Spine Anatomy And Disorders - What Are They?

Mai Delacruz

Mai Delacruz
Personal Fitness Trainer & Health Coach

Updated on 12/7/2022

Where exactly does one find the cervical spine?

Vertebrae are the bones that make up your lower cervical spine, which refers to the area of your spine that is located around your neck. The structure and function of the first two vertebrae in your cervical spine are distinctive. The Atlas, also known as your first vertebra (C1), is a ring-shaped bone that extends from the base of your skull to the top of your spine. It was named after Atlas, a character from Greek mythology who was said to have carried the weight of the world on his shoulders. Your stance is correct, thanks to Atlas. Your second cervical vertebra, also known as the axis, is the one that enables the Atlas to pivot against it so that your head can rotate from side to side without moving forward or backward.

The seven cervical vertebrae (C1 to C7) in your neck are connected at the back of the bone by a type of joint known as facet joints. These joints allow your neck to move forward, backward, and twist.

Lower Cervical Spine

Aside from muscles, nerves, tendons, and ligaments, your cervical spine is surrounded by these structures. Intervertebral discs, also known as "shock absorbers," are found in between each vertebra in the spine. The spinal cord is located in the middle of your back and travels down the length of your spine. Your brain, responsible for every aspect of your body's functioning, communicates with your spinal cord by sending and receiving messages.

What Are The Functions Of The Cervical Spine?

Your cervical spine performs a variety of functions, including the following:

You Are Ensuring The Safety Of Your Spinal Cord. 

The vertebral foramen is a large hole that runs through the middle of all of your vertebrae and allows the nerves of your spinal cord to exit your body. This hole begins at the base of your skull. It continues through the cervical vertebrae, the thoracic vertebrae, and the lumbar vertebrae before coming to an end between the first and second lumbar vertebrae in your lower back. When viewed as a whole, the individual vertebrae that make up your spine stack together to form a central canal that serves to protect your spinal cord.

Cervical Spine Will Support Your Head, But Movement Will Still Be Possible

Cervical Spine Will Support Your Head

The cervical spine supports the head's weight in your body (average weight of 10 to 13 pounds). In addition to this, it enables your head and neck to flex forward (called flexion), extend backward (called extension), rotate from side to side (called rotation), or bend to the side (called lateral bending) (ear-to-shoulder; lateral flexion).

Cervical Spine Offers The Vertebral Arteries A Secure Path To Travel Through. 

Vertebrae C1 through C6 of the cervical spine each have a small hole that serves as a protective pathway for the vertebral arteries that carry blood to your brain. This is the only portion of the spine's vertebrae with openings in the bone for blood vessels and arteries to travel through; the rest of the spine is solid.

Some Other Muscles And Connective Tissues Found In The Neck

Some Other Muscles And Connective Tissues Found In The Neck

The following are some of the other structures that are located near or involve your cervical spine:

The muscles in your neck help support your cervical spine.

The following are some of the major muscles that attach to your cervical spine:

Sternocleidomastoid

This muscle, which you have one of on each side of your neck, begins behind your ear and extends to the front of your neck. Your sternum (breast bone) and collarbone are where they attach. This muscle allows you to turn your head from side to side and raise the angle of your chin.

Trapezius

Trapezius

These two triangular muscles run from the base of your skull down your cervical and thoracic spines and then extend outward to your shoulder blades. They can assist you in lifting your shoulder blade, rotating your head to the right or left, tilting your head upward, or moving your neck backward.

Levator Scapulae

This muscle is attached to the top of your shoulder blade in addition to the first four cervical vertebrae in your neck (scapula). It assists in lifting the edge of your shoulder, bending your head to the side, and rotating your head.

Spinal Erectors

Spinal Erectors

This muscle group is composed of several different muscles. These muscles are located in the cervical spine region and assist with posture, as well as the rotation and extension of the neck backward.

Flexors Of The Deep Cervical Spine 

These muscles are located on the front of your cervical spine and run down. They make it possible for you to flex your neck forward and help maintain the stability of your cervical spine.

Suboccipital Muscles

These four sets of muscles connect the top of your cervical spine to the base of your skull. They are located in the back of your head, enabling you to extend and rotate your head in different directions.

The Ligaments In Your Neck And Upper Back

The Ligaments In Your Neck And Upper Back

Bones in your cervical spine are connected by ligaments, which contribute to the stability of your cervical spine. The major ligaments of the cervical spine are as follows:

Anterior Longitudinal Ligament

This ligament runs down the front of the cervical vertebrae from the base of your skull to the bottom. It stretches to resist the motion of the neck going backward.

Posterior Longitudinal Ligament 

This ligament begins at C2 and travels down the back of your cervical vertebrae until it reaches the base of your skull, and it stretches to resist forward movement of the neck.

Ligamentum Flava

These ligaments line the posterior surface of the interior opening of each vertebra, which is where your spinal cord travels through the body. These ligaments wrap around and shield your spinal cord to protect it from the back.

The Cervical Spine Contains Some Discs

The Cervical Spine Contains Some Discs

The "shock absorber cushions" found between each vertebra are called cervical discs. Six discs are located between the seven vertebrae that make up the cervical region (one between two vertebrae). The discs protect your neck from the stresses placed on it and make it easier for you to flex and rotate your head while engaged in the activity.

The Cervical Spine Contains Many Nerves

The Cervical Spine Contains Many Nerves

In the cervical region of your spine, eight pairs of spinal nerves leave the body through small openings (foramen) between every pair of vertebrae. They have the designations C1 through C8 on them. In addition to providing sensation, they encourage movement in your neck, shoulders, arms, and hands muscles.

  • Your forward, backward, and side-to-side head and neck movements are controlled by the cervical nerves C1, C2, and C3. The C2 nerve provides sensation to the top of your head, and the C3 nerve provides feeling to the side of your face and the back of your head.
  • Your ability to raise your shoulders is governed by cervical nerve 4, which is also one of the nerves that direct the activity of your diaphragm (muscle at the bottom of your rib cage that helps you breathe). C4 is responsible for providing sensation to a portion of your neck, shoulders, and upper arms.
  • The biceps and the deltoid muscles in your shoulders are under the control of the fifth cervical nerve. Your sense of touch extends from the upper part of your upper arm down to your elbow, thanks to the C5 nerve.

Main nerves of the head and neck (preview) - Human Anatomy

  • The extensor muscles of your wrist and biceps are controlled by cervical nerve 6, which is also involved in maintaining your triceps. Your thumb side of your forearm and hand receive sensation from C6, located at C6.
  • Your seventh cervical nerve controls your triceps and the muscles that extend your wrist. Your middle finger and the back of your arm receive sensations from the C7 nerve.
  • The sensation you feel in the pinky side of your hand and forearm comes from the cervical nerve number 8, which also controls your hands.

Spinal Cord

The Ache In The Neck Pain

Your spinal cord is a collection of nerve tissue that runs from the base of your brain down through the middle of your back to the rest of your body. It is responsible for transmitting messages between your brain and the muscles that you just described.

What Conditions And Illnesses Affect Your Cervical Spine, Specifically?

Problems in the cervical spine and the soft tissues and nerves in the surrounding area can cause various diseases and conditions. These are the following:

Radiculopathy 

Radiculopathy of the cervical spine occurs when the cervical vertebrae press on one or more of the nerves in the neck. There is a possibility that you will feel tingling, numbness, weakness, and pain. Your symptoms may stay localized, but they also have the potential to spread to your entire arm, hand, and fingers. Pinched nerves or nerve compression are other names for cervical radiculopathy, another name for a pinched nerve.

The Ache In The Neck Pain

Bone Spurs

The ache In the neck Pain is a common symptom caused by various injuries and medical conditions. The most common causes include degenerative diseases (such as osteoarthritis, spinal stenosis, herniated disc, and pinched nerve), whiplash, mental stress, physical strain, poor posture, and growths (tumors, cysts, and bone spurs), meningitis, rheumatoid arthritis, and cancer.

Cervical Degenerative Disc Disease

When the discs in your cervical spine deteriorate over time, you may develop a condition known as cervical degenerative disc disease.

Herniated Disc

A tear or leak in one of the discs that act as a cushion between the vertebrae causes this condition. Your ability to bend and move around freely is made possible by your intervertebral discs.

Bone Spurs

Cervical Spinal Fracture

Your cervical spine has developed bone spurs (cervical osteophytes). Bone spurs are protrusions that can extend on any one of the seven vertebrae that make up your cervical spine.

Spondylosis Of The Cervical Spine

Cervical spondylosis, also known as arthritis of the neck, is the age-related slow degeneration of your discs and joints in your cervical spine. This condition can also be referred to as arthritis of the neck.

A Tear Or Injury To The Cervical Spinal Cord

Damage to the cervical vertebrae can be a cervical spinal cord injury. Most injuries to the spinal cord are brought on by a sudden and forceful impact on the vertebrae.

Cervical Spinal Fracture

Cervical Stenosis

A fracture to the bones of your spine can be the result of compression (which frequently occurs as a result of minor trauma in people who have osteoporosis), a burst fracture (which describes a vertebra that has been crushed in all directions), or a fracture-dislocation (mostly from vehicle accidents or falls from heights).

Cervical Spinal Cord Compression

Cervical spinal cord compression (cervical spondylotic myelopathy). This is a condition in which there is pressure on your spinal cord in the cervical region of your spine. This pressure can cause symptoms such as tingling, numbness, and pain. One of the most common causes is osteoarthritis, which is caused by excessive wear and tears on the bones of your spine.

Cervical Stenosis

Cervical Stenosis

This condition occurs when there is a narrowing of the spinal canal in the cervical region of the spine. When there is less space within your cervical spine, there is also less space for your spinal cord and the nerves that branch off your spinal cord. Your spinal cord or nerves can become irritated, compressed, or pinched if the space in which they are located becomes too constrained.

Cancer Of The Cervical Spine And Spinal Tumor

Inside your spinal column can be found abnormal growths of tissue called tumors. They can be cancerous or noncancerous (also known as benign) (malignant).

Meningitis

An infection of the meninges is what is known as meningitis. Your brain and spinal cord are surrounded by a lining of protective tissue called the meninges.

Osteomyelitis

Osteomyelitis

An infection of the bone, specifically the vertebrae in your spine, can be caused by bacteria or fungi and is referred to as osteomyelitis. The vertebrae can die if the condition is not treated.

How Does One Diagnose Diseases And Conditions Affecting The Cervical Spine?

First, your healthcare provider will collect your medical and medication history, perform a physical exam, ask about your symptoms, and order tests and imaging studies.

Some examples of tests and imaging are as follows:

CT Scan

CT scan, which stands for computed tomography. A combination of X-rays and computers are used in this scan to produce images like skinny "slices" of the area being analyzed. A CT scan can reveal the structure and dimensions of your spinal canal, its contents, and the bone surrounding it. This aids in diagnosing bone spurs, osteophytes, bone fusion, and bone destruction caused by infection or tumor.

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)

This examination uses a powerful magnet, radio waves, and a computer to obtain clear pictures. This scan has the potential to reveal issues with your spinal cord and the nerves that exit the spinal column, as well as spinal degeneration, herniated discs, infections, and tumors.

X-Rays

X-rays make it possible to create images of your bones and soft tissues by exposing the patient to a low radiation dose. Fractures, issues with the discs, problems with the spine's alignment, and the presence of arthritis can all be seen on X-rays.

Electromyography

Studies using electromyography (EMG) as well as nerve conduction. An electromyogram (EMG) is a diagnostic tool that helps determine how well nerves and muscles function. An electrical impulse travels through your nerves at a certain speed, which can measure with a nerve conduction study. These tests assist in determining the extent of ongoing nerve damage and the location of nerve compression.

Myelogram

Myelogram

The relationship between your vertebrae and discs, as well as the spinal cord and nerves that exit your spinal column, will be mapped out with the help of this imaging test. It demonstrates whether something like a tumor, bone spurs, or a herniated disc is putting pressure on your spinal cord, nerves, or nerve roots, which could be the source of your pain, numbness, or weakness.

X-Rays

X-rays make it possible to create images of your bones and soft tissues by exposing the patient to a low radiation dose. Fractures, issues with the discs, issues with the spine's alignment, and the presence of arthritis can all be seen on X-rays.

How Are Health Problems Associated With The Cervical Spine Treated?

Medical professionals offer nonsurgical treatment options and surgical procedures to treat many conditions that affect the cervical spine. The chance taken is determined by the nature and severity of the problem with the cervical spine.

What Do Treatment Options Not Involve Surgery For Conditions Affecting The Cervical Spine?

TREATMENT

If an injury or a tumor doesn't bring on the pain in your neck, your doctor may recommend less invasive treatments as a first step in treating it. The following are some standard treatment options that do not involve surgery:

  • Rest.
  • Frost or high heat.
  • A gentle collar for the neck. Your neck will be stabilized and supported by the use of a collar.
  • I am keeping away from strenuous or irritating forms of physical activity.
  • Physiotherapy or massage.
  • Medications may include muscle relaxants, pain relievers (such as acetaminophen), and anti-inflammatory drugs (such as ibuprofen and naproxen).
  • Injections of various steroids If you suffer from arm or neck pain, your doctor may recommend one of two distinct types of steroid injections. A steroid is injected into the epidural space during the process of a cervical epidural block, which is a type of procedure (the area next to the covering of your spinal cord). The steroid is injected into the capsule (the connective tissue covering) of the facet joint in the cervical region during the procedure known as a cervical facet standard block (the small joint at the top and bottom of each vertebra that connects the vertebrae to permit motion).

Injections of various steroids If you suffer from arm or

  • Radiofrequency ablation and medical branch block are two options. A surgical procedure may be considered in some instances of persistent neck pain. First, a local anesthetic is injected into the nerve that supplies the facet joint of the vertebrae. This is done to numb the area. If you are experiencing less pain, the next step is finding a solution to prevent the pain from returning. It is accomplished through a process known as radiofrequency ablation, which causes damage to your nerve. The relief from pain lasts for several months. If your nerve were to regenerate, you might experience the pain again.

How Can I Determine If I Am Good For A Surgery On My Cervical Spine?

How Can I Determine If I Am Good For A Surgery On My CervicaL

You may be a candidate for surgery on your cervical spine if any of the following apply to you:

  • Other treatments are not producing any positive results.
  • Your symptoms, which may involve your spine, arms, or legs, worsen.
  • You're at a point in your life where you can safely undergo surgery.
  • What are surgical treatment options there for conditions affecting the cervical spine?

The following are examples of common surgical approaches:

Cervical Spinal Decompression Surgery

Surgery to relieve symptoms brought on by pressure, or compression, on your spinal cord or nerve roots is collectively called "cervical spinal decompression surgery." This surgery can take many different forms. When a nerve exits the spinal cord through one of the many small hollows found between the vertebrae, the first segment of the nerve is called a nerve root. Standard surgical techniques for decompression include:

Disectomy Of The Cervical Spine

During this procedure, your surgeon will remove a portion of a disc to relieve the pressure that is being placed on the nerve roots that are located in the area.

Cervical Laminotomy Or Laminectomy

Cervical Laminotomy Or Laminectomy

During these procedures, your surgeon will remove a small portion of the lamina, the name given to the bony arches that line the spinal canal. Will remove Only a tiny piece of the lamina during a laminotomy. A laminectomy involves the removal of the patient's entire lamina, as well as any bone spurs, disc material, and thickened ligaments that may be present. The pressure in the spinal canal is relieved when the lamina is removed because this increases the size of the channel.

Foraminotomy Or Foraminectomy Of The Cervical Spine

In both of these procedures, bone is removed from the affected region to enlarge the openings through which the nerve roots exit the spinal cord, and it allows perfect space for the nerve roots to leave the spinal cord. A significant quantity of bone is removed during a procedure known as a foraminectomy.

Corpectomy Of The Cervical Spine

Corpectomy Of The Cervical Spine

To alleviate pressure on the spinal cord, your surgeon will perform this procedure, during which the body of the vertebra, which is the large front portion of the vertebra and the disc, will be removed. In some instances, this is followed by fusion of the vertebrae, which refers to permanently connecting two or more vertebrae to maintain the stability of the cervical spine.

Cervical Disc Replacement Surgery

A diseased cervical disc is removed during surgery to replace it with an artificial disc. This procedure is known as cervical disc replacement surgery. The degeneration of the cervical disc is the primary indication of this surgical procedure.

Cervical Spinal Fusion

Cervical Spinal Fusion

A procedure called cervical spinal fusion permanently connects one or more cervical vertebrae through surgery. The surgery will stop any motion that occurs between the vertebrae.

  1. Can treat Injuries to the spinal cord with functional electrical stimulation.
  2. Can treat Injuries to the spinal cord with functional electrical stimulation. To restore function to the muscles of your upper body that are controlled by your cervical nerves, this procedure employs tiny electrical impulses to activate specific muscles and nerves.

Minimally Invasive Surgery 

Is It At All Possible To Have Surgery On The Cervical Spine

Talk things over with your surgeon. Spine surgery that only requires a small incision is an option in many cases. One large incision through your skin is made during traditional open surgery, but one or smaller incisions are made during minimally invasive surgery. Conventional open surgery is performed through your skin. Working through a series of smaller incisions rather than one long incision causes significantly less damage to the muscles and soft tissues than the alternative.

Hipdips Has A Note For You

The cervical spine, also known as the neck region of the spinal column or backbone, is located in the upper part of the body. It comprises the first seven bones in your body (C1-C7). Intervertebral discs, spinal cord and nerves, muscles, tendons, and ligaments are some other structures found in or around the cervical spine. Your cervical spine is responsible for bearing the weight of your head and enabling a broad range of motion in your head. The circular ring of the bone surrounding it also protects your spinal cord. Your cervical spine can be affected by various diseases and disorders. Fortunately, there are a variety of treatment options available, both surgical and nonsurgical, for these conditions.

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