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 comprised of seven vertebrae and is responsible for supporting and stabilizing 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.

Brief anatomical overview of the spine

The spine is made up of 33 vertebrae, or small bones 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 sections of the vertebrae in the spine:

  • Cervical vertebrae — the neck portion of the spine
  • Thoracic vertebrae — the middle of the back
  • Lumbar vertebrae — the lower back portion of the spine

In between each vertebra is a disc and joint which allows the vertebrae to bend and move comfortably. When the vertebrae of the spine are compressed due to age, injury or lifestyle, the discs and joints may deteriorate and form spine conditions, such as herniated discs or spondylolisthesis.

Spine conditions associated with C2 vertebral disease

The cervical spine, particularly the C2 vertebra, withstands more stress and compression than most other areas of the spine. Because of this, the C2 vertebra and the surrounding C3 nerve root are susceptible to injury or spine conditions, such as 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. Our care team at Laser Spine Institute is here to help you find answers about spine conditions and treatment options so you can make an informed decision about your spine care needs.