Overview of the C2 vertebra — definition and function

The C2 vertebra is located in the cervical spine, which extends from the base of the skull to the bottom of the neck. The cervical spine is made of seven vertebrae and supports and stabilizes the neck and head. The C2 vertebra is the second vertebra from the top in the cervical spine.

The C2 vertebra is unique in shape and purpose compared to the rest of the vertebra in the cervical spine. While most vertebrae are small bones, the C2 vertebra has a significant vertical protrusion that acts as a pivot point between the C1 and C2 vertebra. Tilt your head to the left and the right. This movement is made possible by the pivot point on the C2 vertebra, which lines up relatively close to the line of your teeth, just below the base of your skull.

Overview of spinal anatomy

The spine is made up of 33 vertebrae which are segments of bone stacked on top of each other to form the spine. The vertebrae of the spine are responsible for the mobility, support and stabilization of the majority of the body’s weight. There are three primary sections of the vertebrae in the spine:

  • Cervical vertebrae — the upper portion of the spine in the neck
  • Thoracic vertebrae — the middle of the back fixed to the ribcage
  • Lumbar vertebrae — the lower portion of the spine

In between most of the vertebrae is a disc and two joints which allow the vertebrae to bend and move comfortably. When these moving parts begin to deteriorate due to age, injury or lifestyle, spine conditions, such as herniated discs or spondylolisthesis, may develop.

Spine conditions associated with the C2 vertebra

The cervical spine, particularly the C2 vertebra, is put under a large degree of stress due to supporting the head, while being flexible enough for movement. Because of this, the C2 vertebra and the surrounding C3 nerve root are prone to injury or spine conditions, such as a herniated or bulging disc, bone spurs or spondylosis.

If the C3 nerve root is compressed by a spine condition in the C2 vertebra, a patient may experience the following symptoms:

  • Loss of mobility in the neck
  • Numbness or tingling sensations in the neck and shoulder
  • Pain in the back of the head or neck, or pain behind the eyes or ears

If you are experiencing these symptoms, you should consult your physician about the treatment options available to you. In many cases conservative treatment options, like physical therapy or medication, are effective for long-term relief of symptoms, but they don’t work for everyone. If you have exhausted conservative treatments and are considering spine surgery, contact Laser Spine Institute. Our minimally invasive spine surgery is a safer and effective alternative to traditional open neck or back procedures, offering less risk of complication and a shorter recovery time for our patients.^

Ask for your no-cost MRI or CT scan review* to determine if you are a potential candidate for one of our procedures today.