Stephen J. Schueler, M.D.

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Injury of the Neck Anatomy

To better understand neck injury, it helps to understand the anatomy of the neck and cervical spine.

The neck contains many important structures. The trachea, esophagus, spinal cord and large blood vessels run through the neck.

The neck also contains 7 stacked spine bones called vertebrae. This column of bones starts under the skull and continues to the upper back.

Bones of the cervical spine:

  • Bones of the cervical, thoracic and lumbar spine
  • Cervical spine side view
  • Cervical spine back view
  • Cervical spine front view

Inside the spinal column is a tube for the spinal cord. The spinal cord is a thick bundle of nerves that starts at the bottom of the brain. It carries information back and forth between the body and the brain.

In between the vertebrae are the disks. The disks act as rubber pads in between each vertebrae of the spine. Each disk attaches to the bottom of the vertebra above it, and to the top of the vertebrae below it. Strong ligaments and muscles hold the vertebral column together. All of these structures support, surround, and protect the spinal cord.

Anatomy examples:
  • The vertebral disks
  • Spinal nerves exiting the spinal column in the neck
  • Spinal cord and nerves
  • View of disks and ligaments

Last Updated: Nov 4, 2008 References
Authors: Stephen J. Schueler, MD; John H. Beckett, MD; D. Scott Gettings, MD
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PubMed Injury of the Neck References
  1. Croft AC, Herring P, Freeman MD, Haneline MT. The neck injury criterion: future considerations. Accid Anal Prev. 2002 Mar;34(2):247-55. [11829295]
  2. Hoffman JR, Wolfson AB, Todd K, Mower WR. Selective cervical spine radiography in blunt trauma: methodology of the National Emergency X-Radiography Utilization Study (NEXUS). Ann Emerg Med. 1998 Oct;32(4):461-9. [9774931]
  3. Joslin CC, Khan SN, Bannister GC. Long-term disability after neck injury. a comparative study. J Bone Joint Surg Br. 2004 Sep;86(7):1032-4. [15446533]
  4. Kasch H, Stengaard-Pedersen K, Arendt-Nielsen L, Staehelin Jensen T. Headache, neck pain, and neck mobility after acute whiplash injury: a prospective study. Spine. 2001 Jun 1;26(11):1246-51. [11389391]
  5. Kerr D, Bradshaw L, Kelly AM. Implementation of the Canadian C-spine rule reduces cervical spine x-ray rate for alert patients with potential neck injury. J Emerg Med. 2005 Feb;28(2):127-31. [15707805]
  6. McIntosh AS, McCrory P. Preventing head and neck injury. Br J Sports Med. 2005 Jun;39(6):314-8. Review. [15911597]
  7. Nederhand MJ, Hermens HJ, IJzerman MJ, Turk DC, Zilvold G. Chronic neck pain disability due to an acute whiplash injury. Pain. 2003 Mar;102(1-2):63-71. [12620597]
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