Cervical Vertebrae

The cervical vertebrae of the spine consist of seven vertebrae that reside at the base of the skull and reach to the thoracic vertebrae. The seven cervical vertebrae are named C1 (atlas or 1st cervical vertebrae), C2 (axis or 2nd cervical vertebrae), C3 (3rd cervical vertebrae), C4 (4th cervical vertebrae), C5 (5th cervical vertebrae), C6 (6th cervical vertebrae), and C7 (7th cervical vertebrae). Each of these vertebras consists of vertebral bodies that are cylindrical bones. The spinal cord rests behind the...

Anatomy Explorer

Full Cervical Vertebrae Description

[Continued from above] . . . bones. The cervical vertebrae, in conjunction with the muscles, ligaments, joints, and tendons are responsible for the structure, support and stabilization of the neck.

The first and second cervical vertebrae are distinct from the other true vertebrae or movable vertebrae below them. As the superior of the seven (7) cervical vertebrae, the C1 is granted the nickname of the atlas vertebra in its role, together with the C2 axis vertebra, of supporting the skull where the head attaches to the neck. The C2 vertebra allows the head to rotate from its support atop the C1 vertebra.

The C3-C6 vertebrae are often grouped together as very similar, and as with the other movable vertebrae they are characterized by two primary parts: a vertebral arch that protects the spinal cord and the centrum or ventral body that provides strength, protection, and mobility to the spinal column and thus to the body. The centrum is concave on its upper surface and convex below, with cartilaginous intervertebral discs providing cushioning between these surfaces and those of the respective inferior and superior articular facets of the adjacent vertebrae, simultaneously aiding the articulation between itself and the C2 vertebra above and the other cervical vertebrae below.

The cervical vertebrae are the smallest of all the vertebrae in the spine. They grant rotation, flexion, and extension of the neck. They also support the head.