Function of the C7 vertebra

At the bottom of the cervical spine, which is located in the neck and upper back region of the spine, you will find the seventh and final cervical vertebra — the C7 vertebra, also known as the vertebra prominens. The C7 vertebra is the largest and most inferior vertebra that bears the weight of the head and neck. This level of the cervical spine differs significantly in structure from the other cervical vertebrae because its shape begins a transition from the neck into the torso. Read on to learn more about the C7 vertebra anatomy as well as the symptoms and treatments for associated conditions.

What makes the C7 vertebra unique?

The cervical spine is the uppermost section of the spine. The feature that sets the C7 vertebra apart from the other cervical vertebrae is its large spinous process, which extends from the posterior of the vertebral arch in order to connect the muscles that extend the neck. The spinous process is a bony projection off the back of each vertebra that protrudes where the small bones of the vertebral arch join and provides the point of attachment for muscles and ligaments of the spine. The other vertebrae in the cervical spine either do not have a spinous process or do not have one as pronounced. The much more prominent spinous process on the C7 vertebra sets it apart from the others and is the inspiration for its anatomical name.

Symptoms for C7 vertebra spinal conditions

The C8 nerve root rests between the C7 vertebra and the first thoracic vertebra underneath it. This nerve, which affects parts of the hand, wrist and arm, can become compressed due to a herniated disc or foraminal stenosis in the cervical spine. The resulting symptoms can include the following:

  • Numbness or tingling in the arm or neck
  • Loss of mobility in the neck
  • Pain in the lower arm or in the index and middle fingers

The constant motion of the cervical spine creates added stress on the spinal discs that reduce shock and friction on the vertebrae. Added stress means a greater risk of damage to those discs, which in turn creates a greater likelihood of a degenerative spine conditions such as a herniated disc, spinal stenosis or spinal osteoarthritis.

Treatments for C7 vertebra spinal conditions

If you have been diagnosed with a herniated disc or another spine injury, and conservative treatment plans have proven ineffective, contact Laser Spine Institute to learn about our minimally invasive outpatient techniques. Our procedures have helped more than 75,000 patients to date find relief from chronic neck and back pain. The minimally invasive spine surgery we offer provides a safer and effective alternative to traditional over open neck or back surgery, by using a less-than 1-inch incision which carries a lower risk of complication and results in no lengthy recovery.^

For more information about our minimally invasive procedures and to receive your no-cost MRI review,* reach out to Laser Spine Institute today. We can determine if you are a candidate for our minimally invasive spine surgery and help guide you through your options so you can make a confident decision about the course of treatment that will work best for you.