After a long day at the office, you’re really feeling the tension in your neck. It’s tight, sore, and is even radiating pain into your shoulders and arms. How is it that one part of your body can have such an impact on the rest?
We recently discussed the function and importance of the nervous system, as well as the importance of visiting a chiropractor to protect your spinal cord.
We know that the spinal cord makes up part of the central nervous system and that all of the other nerves in our body meet back at specific spots on the spinal cord. This means that our vertebrae can affect different nerves in our body based on alignment alone. In today’s post, we’re going further explore the cervical spine, the vertebrae that make up this part of the spine, as well as the functions in the nervous system to which these vertebrae are connected.
Remember, tech-neck doesn’t have to be a chronic condition in your life just because you work a desk job. Contact Senara Health and Healing Center & Spa in Peoria to schedule an appointment with our chiropractor. We can make adjustments to your spine and give you recommendations on how to protect your neck throughout your busy workday.
Role of the Cervical Spine
The cervical spine, as you may have figured out, is the part of your spine in your neck. These vertebrae stack to connect the bottom of the skull to the upper back at the shoulders. The cervical spine also serves to protect the spinal cord, support the head and its movement, and facilitate the flow of blood to the brain.
These three functions are reason enough alone to enlist a chiropractor to help take care of your cervical spine — and this is just one section of your whole spine!
The vertebrae have a hole in them through which the spinal cord runs through. This allows the large bundle of nerves to carry out its function while being protected. Together, these holes in the vertebrae form what is called the spinal canal that shields the nervous system.
Not only does the neck and cervical spine protect the spinal cord, but it also supports your head. The cervical spine is not only responsible for supporting the 10–13 pounds that your head weighs, but it also allows for your head’s range of motion and neck’s flexibility.
In the vertebrae C1–C6, there are small holes that allow vertebral arteries to transport blood to the brain. These openings do not exist in any other vertebra in the spine, so these six vertebrae are crucial for facilitating the flow of blood to the brain.
A Breakdown of the Cervical Vertebrae
Each vertebra in the cervical spine is connected to different muscles, tendons, ligaments, and joints. This allows for stability, support, and flexibility in the neck. Not all vertebrae in the cervical spine are constructed in the same way, though. Your chiropractor knows this, and knows how to make adjustments to help each vertebra perform as it should.
The vertebrae C3 through C6 are considered “typical” vertebrae because they have the same general shape, characteristics, and function. Their vertebral bodies support most of the weight that they bear, their vertebral arches curve toward the back of the spine, and their facet joints allow for additional movement between each vertebra.
The “atypical” vertebrae in the cervical spine are C1 and C2. They work together to support a larger range of motion for the neck and head. The C1 vertebra (called the atlas) doesn’t have a vertebral body but rather a ring-shape, and works to support the head’s forward and backward motion.
The C2 vertebra (called the axis) has a bony protrusion that sits within the ring of the C1. The joint that’s formed by these two vertebrae allows for nearly 50% of your head’s rotation.
Of all the cervical vertebrae, the most unique in shape and function is the C7 vertebra. This vertebra is larger than the others, which allows for more muscle tissue to connect to it. However, it doesn’t have the small holes for vertebral arteries. Instead, C7’s function is to connect the cervical spine to the thoracic spine (the upper and middle back).
This segment in the spine is one that you can actually feel. If you reach behind your neck and feel for a bump that protrudes further than the others, you’ve found your C7 and cervicothoracic junction. Don’t try to do anything to manipulate it, though — this type of treatment should be reserved for a trained chiropractor.
In addition to supporting the head, protecting the spinal cord, and helping transport blood to the brain, the cervical spine also has nerves that help different parts of the body function. If you’re experiencing nerve issues like pain, numbness, or tingling, a visit to the chiropractor could help realign your cervical spine and take pressure off of those nerves.
C1, C2 & C3
The first three cervical vertebrae are in control of how the head and neck move. They’re also responsible for the sensations you feel on top of your head, on the back of your head, and on the side of your face.
This vertebra helps control shoulder movement. It also assists with breathing by helping control the diaphragm. The C4 helps control parts of the neck, shoulders, and even the upper arms.
The C5 vertebra controls more of your arm movements. It’s connected to the deltoids in your shoulders, your biceps, and the outer part of your upper arm down to your elbow.
This vertebra helps with wrist extension, and also provides some movement for the upper arm. It has nerves that connect to the forearm and the thumb-side of the hand.
C7 nerves connect to your triceps on the back of your arm, and also assists with wrist extension. The C7 nerves extend all the way down the back of the arm and into the middle finger.
The cervicothoracic junction, or the C7-T1 spinal segment, is where the C8 nerves exist (even though you don’t have a C8 vertebra). These nerves help control the hands and grip. These nerves extend to the forearms and pinky-side of the hand.
Taking Care of Your Cervical Spine
The cervical spine protects the nerves that control most of your upper body. For this reason, it’s vital to make sure you’re well-aligned and address any pain or nerve issues as soon as you notice them. A visit to a chiropractor regularly can help, especially if you’re more prone to the aches and pains of tech neck.
Contact Senara Health and Healing Center & Spa in Peoria today to schedule an appointment with a chiropractor and learn more about how to protect your cervical spine.