Stephen J. Schueler, M.D.

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Spondylosis of the Cervical Spine Anatomy

To better understand cervical spondylosis, it helps to understand the anatomy of the cervical spine.

The cervical spine is the upper portion of the vertebral column. The vertebral column starts under the skull and continues to the buttocks. The cervical spine is an upright row of seven stacked bones or vertebra.

Bones of the cervical spine:

  • The vertebral column
  • The cervical spine

The front of each vertebra is a round, solid cylinder of bone. Between each pair of vertebrae, a disk attaches to the bottom of the vertebra above it, and to the top of the vertebrae below it. The discs act as rubber cushions between the vertebrae. In addition, strong ligaments and muscles hold the vertebral column together.

Anatomy of the vertebrae and disks
  • The vertebral disks
  • View of disks and ligaments

The back of each vertebra is an open ring of bone. Because the vertebrae are stacked on top of one another, the open rings form a tube that surrounds the spinal cord. The spinal cord is a thick bundle of nerves that starts at the bottom of the brain and continues down the spine. The spinal cord carries messages between the body and the brain. Nerves branch off of the spinal cord between each of vertebrae.

Anatomy of the disks, nerves, and spinal cord:
  • Disks and nerves
  • Spinal cord

Last Updated: Nov 3, 2008 References
Authors: Stephen J. Schueler, MD; John H. Beckett, MD; D. Scott Gettings, MD
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PubMed Spondylosis of the Cervical Spine References
  1. Jacobs WC, Anderson PG, Limbeek J, Willems PC, Pavlov P. Single or double-level anterior interbody fusion techniques for cervical degenerative disc disease. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2004 Oct 18;(4):CD004958. [15495130]
  2. McCormick WE, Steinmetz MP, Benzel EC. Cervical spondylotic myelopathy: make the difficult diagnosis, then refer for surgery. Cleve Clin J Med. 2003 Oct;70(10):899-904. [14621236]
  3. Roh JS, Teng AL, Yoo JU, Davis J, Furey C, Bohlman HH. Degenerative disorders of the lumbar and cervical spine. Orthop Clin North Am. 2005 Jul;36(3):255-62. [15950685]
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