An Overview of the Cervical Spine: Anatomy 101 for the Chiropractic Patient 

 April 14, 2021

By  Dr. Polly Hediger

cervical anatomy chiropracticAmong the various reasons why people seek out the care of a healthcare professional, neck pain is at the top of the list. Based on the information that has been published by the International Association for the Study of Pain, as many as half of all people in the world will suffer neck pain at some point this year. Furthermore, as many as 15 percent of people could end up with chronic neck pain at some point during their lives. In many situations, neck pain originates from the cervical spine. Understanding the anatomy of the cervical spine will help individuals understand why chiropractors do what they do, how certain exercises can lead to pain relief, and how they can better manage neck pain.

An Overview of the Cervical Spine

First, it is important to understand the structure of the cervical spine. There are seven separate vertebrae that make up the cervical spine. They are numbered C1 through C7. The job of these vertebrae is to protect the spinal cord. They also provide flexibility, support, and range of motion to the neck and upper back.

The cervical spine is located at the top of the spinal column. C1 sits just beneath the skull. The cervical spine is on top of the thoracic, lumbar, and sacral regions of the spine. Of note, C1 and C2 are unique vertebrae. They are called the atlas and axis (respectively) because of the way they are shaped. C1 is shaped like a ring. C2 has a point that connects through the ring of C1, called the atlantoaxial joint. This joint is responsible for providing the skull’s range of motion.

As we proceed down the cervical spine, there are small openings through which nerves, blood vessels, and tendons project. These nerves power motor and sensory functions throughout the body.

Where Does Neck Pain Come From?

There are numerous reasons why someone may be suffering from neck pain. A lot of them relate to the structure and function of the cervical spine. Some of the most common causes of cervical neck pain include:

  • Many people suffer whiplash in a motor vehicle accident, leading to a cervical ligament sprain
  • Degenerative disc disease can also impact the cervical spine, leading to neck pain
  • There could be a pinched nerve as it leaves the spine, leading to shooting, shock-like pains
  • Some people may suffer from spinal stenosis of the cervical neck
  • Other individuals develop neck pain due to poor posture at work or while sleeping
  • Osteoarthritis can also impact the cervical spine
  • Fibromyalgia can also lead to cervical neck pain

These are just a few of the many reasons why someone may suffer from cervical neck pain. Anyone with neck pain should rely on the help of a trained chiropractor.

Trust the Help of a Trained Chiropractor

A chiropractor will use cervical adjustments to help people who suffer from neck pain. This manual therapy involves short, rapid thrusts that focus on a single joint in the cervical spine. By properly aligning the cervical vertebrae, it is possible to alleviate the root cause of neck pain. That way, people not only get better but stay better as well.

Usually, the chiropractor will focus on one area of the cervical spine at a time. In addition, the chiropractor may also use cold therapy, heat therapy, massage therapy, or corrective exercises to strengthen the neck, stretch the ligaments, and provide a comprehensive approach to the treatment of neck pain. Finally, a chiropractor may also help people make lifestyle adjustments that help them manage their neck pain and discomfort. Knowledge of cervical anatomy is foundational to the treatment of neck pain. So if you or a loved one is suffering from neck pain, give us a call. We’re here to help!

This article is copyrighted by Blogging Chiropractors for its Doctor of Chiropractic members and may not be copied or duplicated in any manner including printed or electronic media, regardless of whether for a fee or gratis without the prior written permission of Blogging Chiropractors.

Dr. Polly Hediger

Dr. Polly Hediger grew up in a small town in southern Illinois, called Highland. After graduating in the top 10 of her high school class, she attended Southwestern Illinois College for general studies. In 1998, Dr. Hediger entered the accelerated science program at Logan College of Chiropractic in Missouri. Through her coursework there she completed her Bachelor of Science degree (B.S.) and graduated with a Doctorate of Chiropractic (D.C.).

Dr. Polly Hediger

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