C1 – C7 vertebrae overview and treatment options

There are seven vertebrae in the neck, collectively known as the C1 – C7 vertebrae. These vertebrae stack on top of each other and make up the structure of the upper spine. Along with the facet joints and discs, they support the weight of the head while providing range of motion.

The responsibility of the C1 – C7 vertebrae to support the head and maintain flexibility in the neck can strain the small vertebrae in the cervical (upper) spine, making them susceptible to damage from both injury and regular wear and tear. While a certain amount of spinal degeneration is an unavoidable part of the aging process, sometimes this deterioration can lead to nerve compression and neck pain.

Conditions that may affect the C1 – C7 vertebrae

Like the vertebrae in the lumbar (lower) and thoracic (middle) spine, the C1 – C7 vertebrae are cushioned by rubbery discs. Each vertebra also has facet joints on the top and bottom, which connect the vertebrae, giving the spine strength and stability.

As the discs and facet joints gradually wear down over time, a variety of problems can develop in the C1 – C7 vertebrae, leading to pain, discomfort and possibly cervical spine surgery. These conditions include:

  • Spinal stenosis
  • Degenerative disc disease
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Herniated or bulging discs
  • Pinched nerves

Treatment options for cervical spine conditions

In many cases, the symptoms of these conditions can be managed with a conservative treatment plan. Rest, physical therapy and pain medication are all common methods of conservative treatment, though your doctor may recommend additional therapies as well.

If a full course of conservative treatments are not effective at relieving the pain and symptoms of a condition affecting any of the C1 – C7 vertebrae, you may be recommended for spine surgery. At Laser Spine Institute, we offer minimally invasive spine surgery as an alternative to traditional open neck and back surgery. Our patients experience a shorter recovery time and lower risk of complication with our procedures than patients who undergo traditional open spine surgery.^ Reach out to our dedicated team today to learn more.

Ask for your free MRI review* to find out if you are a potential candidate for one of our minimally invasive procedures.