Anatomy of the Neck
Within the neck lies the cervical spine, the upper most portion of the spinal column. The cervical spine is structurally and functionally unique from the other areas of the spinal column.
Structurally, the cervical spine is composed of 7 moderately small and unique vertebrae including associated muscles, ligaments, joints and nerves.
The cervical spine has many important functions which include providing support and mobility to the head and neck, providing essential information for the balance and coordination of the body, and protection for the upper spinal cord and associated spinal nerves.
Generous Amounts of Motion
The cervical spine is the most flexible region of the spine, providing the most generous amounts of flexion, extension, lateral flexion and rotation.
The 1st and 2nd cervical vertebrae, known as the atlas and axis respectively, have highly unique structures which allow them to form a pivot joint. This joint alone provides approximately 90 degrees of rotation in the cervical spine. These same vertebrae also contain special receptors within their joints which provide the brain with important information essential for the maintenance of balance and coordination. As you will see in "Causes", injury or irritation to these mechanoreceptors results in balance disturbances and problems with coordination.
The remaining cervical vertebrae also provide large degrees of motion but mainly in flexion, extension and lateral flexion (side bending). Unfortunately, there's an inverse relationship between mobility and stability. Thus, the cervical spine is more susceptible to injury compared with other areas of the spine.