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Cervical Spine Anatomy


The cervical spine (neck) is comprised of seven vertebrae (Fig.1). A mobile structure, the cervical spine allows rotation, flexion (chin to chest) and extension (looking up) of the head. Flexion and extension take place at the articulation of the occipital bone and the first cervical vertebra (atlanto-occipital joint) which joins the head to the spine. Rotation of the head takes place between the first and second vertebrae (atlanto-axial joint).


The seven cervical vertebrae are connected by strong ligaments. Ligaments connect bone to bone. The anterior longitudinal ligament can be seen in (Fig.1).

The ligamentum Nuchae runs parallel to the anterior longitudinal ligament at the back of the neck. It provides an attachment point for the neck muscles.

The muscles of the neck (Figs.2 & 3) allow the movements of flexion, extension as well as lateral flexion (ear towards the shoulder) and rotation.
  • Flexors: longus colli and capitis, infra hyoids
  • Extensors: splenius capitis, semispinalis capitis suboccipitals, trapezius.
  • Rotators: splenius capitis, sternocleidomastoid, levator scapula, suboccipitals.
  • Lateral flexion: scalenes.
Fig.2 Fig.3

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Sprain & Strain

Sprain & Strain

A neck sprain is a stretching of the ligaments of the cervical vertebrae of the neck.

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