The neck (cervical spine) is made up of the bones (vertebrae), spinal cord, nerves, muscles, ligaments, and the system that carries blood (blood vessels). The top seven vertebrae make up the cervical spine and begin at the base of the skull. The vertebrae of the cervical spine protect the spinal cord and support the skull. A disc between each vertebra helps to cushion the vertebrae from moving together with the load of the body. Each disc has a strong outer ring (annulus fibrosus). The outer ring helps keep the disc’s soft center (nucleus pulposus) in place. Disc problems can start from over-use, an accident, or just the wear and tear of everyday life.
The vertebrae and the discs allow a healthy cervical spine to:
- Bend side-to-side (lateral bend).
- Bend forward-to-back (flexion and extension).
- Turn left-to-right (rotation).