Bones in the Neck

By Robert Lim, PTA

Bone Anatomy of the Neck

The neck, or also known as the cervical spine in medical terms, is made up of seven bones.   The first bone in the neck is the atlas and is where the head attaches to the neck.  The second neck bone is the axis, in which the head and atlas rotate on top of each other.

What are the 7 Bones in the Neck?

The bones in the neck are numbered from one to seven from the atlas down.  In simple terms, they are the Atlas (C1), Axis (C2), C3, C4, C5, C6, and C7.

The upper portion of the spine is the cervical vertebrae bones this is also known as the bones of the neck Atlas Axis. JOI Rehab

Cervical Spine Labeled

In the cervical spine region, the cervical spine normally curves backward.  This curvature in the cervical spine is the lordosis.  The amount of lordosis curve in an individual has varied.

The bone in the cervical spine consists of a body, two pedicles, lamina, and multiple bony projections (called processes). The bones in the neck are the smallest out of the other bones in the spine, as they only support the head’s weight.  The processes serve as attachment points for various ligaments and muscles that help stabilize the cervical spine.

Bones in the Neck Anatomy

C1 – Also known as the atlas.  The skull rests directly on it.  This is the uppermost bone of the neck.   About 50% of flexion/extension in the neck occurs at the C1 skull joint.

C2- Also known as the axis.  It has a special process called the dens, which acts as a pivot point on which the atlas (C1) turns on.  About 50% of rotation in the neck occurs between the C1-C2  joint.

The neck bones are highlighted in red to show the cervical vertebrae at the upper portion of the spine. JOI Rehab

Cervical Vertebral Bones

What is C3 C4 C5 C6/C7 of the Spine?

C3 thru C7- The bones in the neck in this area are very much like the rest of the spinal column in structure. The rest of the neck motion occurs equally between each of these vertebral levels.

Also watch this video from The Jacksonville Orthopaedic Institute: Neck Stretches For The Office

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Written by: Robert Lim, PTA

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