Common Conditions of the Cervical Spine
The cervical spine starts at the base of the skull. Seven bones or vertebrae make up the cervical spine with eight pairs of cervical nerves. The individual cervical vertebrae are called C1, C2, C3, C4, C5, C6 and C7. The cervical nerves are also abbreviated C1 through C8. The cervical bones are smaller in size when compared to other vertebrae of the back. The purpose of the cervical spine is to protect the spinal cord, support the skull and enable multiple head movements such as rotating, bending the neck side to side and bending the head forward and backward.
Ligaments, tendons and muscles help to support and stabilize the cervical spine. Ligaments work to prevent excessive movement of the vertebrae that could result in serious injury. Muscles also help to provide balance and stability and enable movement. Muscles contract and relax in response to nerve impulses originating in the brain. There are different types of muscles: flexors (forward motion), lateral flexors (side to side), rotators and extensors (backward motion).
Nerve impulses travel to and from the brain through the spinal cord to a specific location by way of the peripheral nervous system (PNS). The PNS is the complex system of nerves that branch off from the spinal nerve roots. These nerves travel outside of the spinal canal or spinal cord into the organs, arms, legs, fingers – throughout the entire body.
Injury or mild trauma to the cervical spine can cause a serious or life-threatening medical emergency that will send you to a hospital or a neck pain clinic. Pain, numbness, weakness and tingling are symptoms that may develop when one or more spinal nerves are injured, irritated or stretched. The cervical nerves control many bodily functions and sensory activities. The C1 and C2 nerves help control the head and neck muscles, C3 your diaphragm or the muscle that helps you breath, C4 the muscles of your upper body, C5 arm flexors, C6 wrist extensors, C7 your triceps muscle and C8 helps control the muscles of your hands.