Cervical Vertebrae

Cervical vertebrae consist of bony rings that are located in the neck between the bases of the skull and the thoracic vertebrae. They are thinnest and the most delicate compared to other vertebrae of the spinal column. They generally support the head, protect the delicate spinal cord and provide mobility to the head and the neck. They are also stacked along the neck thus forming continuous columns between the chest and the skull. Each vertebra is named according to its position starting from the superior to the inferior. The superior vertebra holds up the skull and is called the atlas. The inferior vertebra on the other hand provides the rotating point between the skull and the atlas when the head is moved side to side. It is therefore named the axis.

Cervical vertebrae consist of a slender ring of bone, commonly referred to as vertebral arch that surrounds the vertebral and slanting foramina. The vertebral foramen in this case is a large opening in the center of each vertebra that provides room for the spinal cord to pass through the neck.

Several bony processes extend from the vertebral arch. These processes are involved in attachment of muscles as well as movement of the neck. One of the processes is called spinuos process that extends from the posterior end of the arch. The main function spinuos process is that it serves as a connection for the muscles that extend the neck, this include the spinalis and the trapezious muscles. Secondly, there is the traverse process that lies normally on the right and left lateral sides of each particular vertebra. The main purpose of the traverse process is that it forms the insertion point for the muscles that extend and flex the neck region.

Vital nerves and blood vessels passing through the neck are protected from mechanical damage by the bony arches of the cervical vertebrae. The cervical vertebrae also provide support to the head and neck, including supporting the muscles that move this region of the body. The muscles that attach to the vertebral processes provide posture to the head and neck throughout the day and have the greatest endurance of all of the body's muscles. Finally, the many joints formed between the skull and cervical vertebrae provide incredible flexibility that allows the head and neck to rotate, flex, and extend.

There exist a fully thickened region known as the body that lies anterior to the foramen and it forms the bone mass for all vertebrae with the exception of the atlas. The bodies also act to strengthen the vertebrae as well as supporting the weight of the neck and the neck. Between the vertebral bodies lies the intervertebral disk, which provides flexibility to the neck. Flattened facets lie laterally to the vertebral bodies. These facets form various joints with neighboring vertebrae and the skull to allow movement among the several vertebrae.

Conclusively, the cervical vertebrae are considered as some of the smallest and lightest bones in the human body. Nevertheless, they perform very crucial and important functions that vital to the survival of the human body. The bony arches of the cervical vertebrae protect the nerves and vital blood vessels that pass through the neck from mechanical damage. Furthermore, the vertebrae also provide support to the neck by supporting the muscles around the neck.