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Cervical spine

Learning objectives

After completing this study unit you will be able to: 

  1. Locate and name each cervical vertebra. 
  2. Identify the bony landmarks and articular surfaces of the cervical vertebrae. 

Watch video

The cervical spine consists of seven vertebrae named sequentially in a superoinferior direction, C1-C7.

There are three atypical vertebrae in the cervical spine. The first (C1) and second (C2) cervical vertebrae are known as the atlas and axis, while the seventh vertebra (C7) is named the vertebra prominens, due its elongated spinous process. The rest of the cervical vertebrae, C3-C6, all have a similar anatomical structure and are therefore classified as typical vertebrae.

Find out more about the cervical vertebrae in the video below!

Take a quiz

That’s a lot to learn and it can be hard to take it all in. Why not try out a quiz to help consolidate your knowledge.

Want to challenge yourself even further? Then try out this fully customisable quiz on the elements of the spine.

Browse atlas

Explore the seven cervical vertebrae and their associated landmarks in the gallery below.

Now that you are familiar with each vertebra, let’s take a look at the associated joints and ligaments of the cervical spine.


Key facts about the cervical spine
Structure Seven cervical vertebrae
: C3-C6
: C1, C2, C7
Typical vertebra Body, arch (pedicles and laminae), spinous process, transverse processes, superior and inferior articular processes and their articular facets
Atypical vertebra Atlas (C1): Anterior arch, posterior arch, lateral mass, transverse process, vertebral canal
Axis (C2)
: Vertebral body, dens axis, pedicle (x2), transverse process (x2), lamina (x2), spinous process
Vertebra prominens (C7)
: All features as in typical vertebra, except that the spinous process is longer and not bifid and the body is larger

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