Your neck starts at the base of your skull and connects your cervical spine (the seven vertebra that make up your whole neck) to the thoracic spine (your upper back). The anatomy of your neck is an impressively designed construction of bones, muscles, ligaments, tendons, and nerves. Because of this construction, your neck is an area of the body that is delicate yet strong and surprisingly flexible. These factors are what allow you to turn your head in almost any direction, and it is what can be heavily influenced by outside forces such as stress or trauma, leading to neck and back pain.
The Roles and Functions of The Cervical Spine
Your neck, or cervical spine, has several functions and serves the following roles for your body:
- Supporting the head. Like Atlas, your neck has quite the weight to bear – approximately 10 to 13 pounds. Your head may seem surprisingly heavy, but your neck manages to hold the weight while allowing for major flexibility such as rotational, forward, backward, and side-to-side movements. When your posture is poor, and your head leans forward too much while sitting or standing (or playing on your smartphone), your neck must compensate for the shift in the weight. This undue stress is what commonly leads to chronic neck pain.
- Controls blood flow to the brain. Vertebral foramen, or openings in the vertebra, allow for arteries to pass through the spine and deliver blood flow to the brain. When your neck is out of alignment, and the vertebra are not properly lined up, these openings can become smaller or pinch the arteries, reducing the blood flow to your head
- Protects the spinal cord. The spinal cord is a collection of nerves that run from the brain, down the spine, and connects to points all over the body. The spinal cord is responsible for the communication between body and mind. A misalignment in the cervical spine can disrupt the body’s messages or the brain’s response, causing a rippling effect throughout the body. This miscommunication may manifest as neck, back, or limb pain, or it may manifest as other issues.
Seeing a chiropractor on a regular basis is much like getting your air conditioner tuned up or having your mechanic perform routine maintenance according to your car’s manual. Chiropractic care of your spine ensures that your spine is properly aligned and that your body is healthy.