The cervical vertebrae

The spine is divided into three sections: the cervical spine, the thoracic spine and the lumbar 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:

Weaknesses of the cervical vertebrae

As with most vertebrae in the spine, the cervical vertebrae are near spinal nerve roots, which travel through special canals called foramina. These nerve roots carry sensory information and impulse commands to and from the brain and throughout the body.

The nerve roots are vulnerable to compressing or pressure when a spinal disc — a cushion between vertebrae — becomes worn or damaged to the point of a herniated disc or other condition. In this case, the protruding material from the disc presses up against the nerve root, pins it against the bone and can lead to symptoms such as:

  • Numbness, tingling or burning sensations
  • Pain in the area near the herniated disc or other condition
  • Pain in areas stimulated by the compressed nerve
  • Loss of mobility

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

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 find out if you’re a candidate, contact Laser Spine Institute and ask for a no-cost MRI review.*