Cervical Vertebrae

Written by Tele Demetrious


Relevant Bony Anatomy

The cervical vertebrae are the smallest of the moving vertebrae of the spine. There are seven in total (C1 to C7) which form the neck and are numbered from the top of the neck (C1) to the bottom (C7). Collectively they act to support the skull, protect the spinal cord, allow movement of the neck and provide attachment points for the muscles and ligaments of the neck. Each cervical vertebrae joins with adjacent vertebrae primarily at the facet joints (located on each side of the spine) and the discs of the neck (located centrally at the front of the spine). Movements between each adjacent vertebrae are relatively small, but when summated over the entire vertebral column allow considerable mobility.

Apart from C1 and C2 which are atypical cervical vertebrae due to their structure and unique function (i.e. C1 attaches to the skull), the remaining cervical vertebrae primarily comprise of a body (at the front of the bone) and a vertebral arch (situated directly behind the body) which forms a relatively large hole known as the vertebral foramen. Since each vertebrae is situated directly above or below each other, their collective vertebral foramen line up forming the vertebral canal which houses and protects the spinal cord. Each vertebrae also has various bony prominences, such as the spinous process (located at the back of the bone) and transverse processes (located at each side of the vertebrae). These bony prominences provide attachment points to the ligaments and muscles of the neck.

Anatomy of the Cervical Vertebrae & Neck

Figure 1 – Anatomy of the Cervical Vertebrae & Neck



The seven cervical vertebrae are located directly beneath the skull and are numbered from the top to bottom – C1 to C7.

Forms Joints With

Major Muscles of the Neck

Other Attachments

Related Injuries

  Related injuries

Relevant Physiotherapy Exercises


  Relevant Physiotherapy Exercises

Recommended Reading

  Recommended Reading

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