Overview of the cervical vertebrae

The spine is divided into three sections: the cervical (upper) spine, the thoracic (middle) spine and the lumbar (lower) spine.

The uppermost region of the spine — which sits directly beneath the skull — is the cervical spine, containing the smallest and most unique vertebrae in the spine. This section, comprised of seven cervical vertebrae, allows for the neck’s flexibility and the tilting, rotation and other movements of the head.

Most of the cervical vertebrae differ from the other vertebrae. While the seventh cervical vertebra, also known as the C7 vertebra, resembles the general structure of the others, the C1 to C6 vertebrae either lack a spinous process — a bony projection off the back of each vertebra — or have a far less prominent one. Additionally, the C1 and C2 vertebrae in the cervical spine are structured to provide a pivot joint for the skull.

You can read more about each cervical vertebra on the following pages:

Conditions affecting the cervical vertebrae

As with most vertebrae in the spine, the cervical vertebrae are near spinal nerve roots, which travel through openings called the foramina. These nerve roots branch off the spinal cord and carry sensory and motor information between the brain and the rest of the body.

The nerve roots and spinal cord are vulnerable to compression if displaced anatomy such as a herniated disc, inflamed joint or bone spur causes narrowing, or stenosis, of the cervical spine. Common symptoms include:

  • Numbness, tingling or burning sensations in shoulders, arms and hands
  • Local neck pain
  • Loss of mobility

Other conditions, such as foraminal stenosis, spinal arthritis and facet disease, can cause these and other symptoms.

Treatment options

At Laser Spine Institute, we offer minimally invasive spine surgery to help treat painful, debilitating spinal conditions without the increased risks associated with traditional open back surgery. Our minimally invasive decompression and stabilization procedures are designed to restore mobility and ease the pain caused by wear or injury to the discs between the cervical vertebrae.

If you develop a painful condition in the cervical spine that does not respond to conservative treatments, you may be a candidate for our minimally invasive spine surgery. To learn more, contact Laser Spine Institute today.

We can help you receive a no-cost MRI or CT scan review* to determine if you are a potential candidate for one of our procedures.