Occipital bone

The occipital bone is part of the skull. It is located in the back of the head, directly above the neck. The occipital bone is one of eight fused bones that surround the brain, the meninges (protective membranes) and the cerebrospinal fluid to form the skull. The occipital bone contains a large hole in the center called the foramen magnum, which is how the medulla oblongata, or the lower half of the brainstem, connects to the spinal cord. This passageway allows the brain and the spinal cord to communicate effectively with each other.

If you or someone you know is dealing with neck or back pain educating yourself about anatomy related to the spine can be a critical step in getting the help you need. Being able to ask your doctor the right questions and better understand the answers can make it easier to work together to develop an effective treatment plan.

The occipital bone and the spine

The occipital bone connects with the very top of the spinal column. The first vertebra of the cervical (upper) spine is called the atlas (C1) vertebra. The occipital bone and the atlas come together to create a joint called the atlanto-occipital joint. This joint makes it possible for us to nod our heads up and down. The vertebra directly underneath the atlas is called the axis (C2). After the atlas and axis, there are five more vertebrae in the cervical spine for a total of seven vertebrae in that spinal region.

The cervical spine, thoracic (middle) spine and lumbar (lower) spine are all vulnerable to a range of spinal conditions that can cause neck pain, back pain as well as radiating symptoms throughout the body. Many spine conditions are not painful by themselves but cause issues when displaced spinal anatomy puts pressure on the spinal cord or a nerve root. Common causes of spinal nerve compression include:

  • Bone spurs
  • Herniated discs
  • Bulging discs
  • Degenerative disc disease
  • Arthritis of the spine
  • Spinal stenosis
  • Foraminal stenosis

Treating spine conditions

However, spinal conditions from the occipital bone to the tailbone can be treated. Your physician may suggest conservative options for relief, such as exercise, steroid injections or prescription and over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications. If these treatments prove ineffective after weeks or months of treatment, surgery can start to become a more likely option.

Laser Spine Institute provides an alternative to traditional open spine surgery. Our surgeons perform minimally invasive outpatient surgery to help people find relief from neck and back pain. Because a smaller, muscle-sparing incision is used to access the spine and decompress nerves, our patients enjoy a shorter recovery period^ with less risk of complication than traditional open neck or back procedures.

Contact Laser Spine Institute today for a no-cost MRI review* to see if you may be a potential candidate for minimally invasive spine surgery.