Cervical spine is comprised of seven vertebrae and begins at the base of the skull. It is very delicate since the vertebrae are smaller in size, extremely movable and flexible. It also houses the spinal cord, so we have to give it credit for being tough enough to protect one of the most important, neural structures of our body.
Cervical vertebrae are not the same in all species, for example, lizards have rather large ribs attached to these vertebrae, while in birds those ribs are almost completely fused with the vertebrae itself.
In humans, as we`ve said before, vertebrae in the neck are smaller when compared to thoracic and lumbar ones and also posses a “hole” in the transverse processes allowing the vertebral artery to pass though.
Cervical pain is a very common complaint in patients of all ages but it can vary in intensity and cause. Injury, and even fracture, will often occur in car accidents, whiplash is one example of these types of injuries.
Keep in mind that there are other causes of whiplash, you might not even be aware of. Those are:
- Airplane turbulence
- Amusement park rides
- Or even dancing
This is why you need to be extra careful and protect your neck whenever possible.
Another common cause people disregard is poor sleeping position. Old mattress or inappropriate pillow can cause quite a lot of discomfort, check those out before going to see your doctor.
I`m sure you don`t need me to tell you how serious and dangerous a cervical fracture can be, but let`s just go over the basics. If you fracture any one of those seven vertebrae, there is a possibility of
- Severe pain and localized stiffness
- And even death, in worse cases
As you can see, this is not a laughing matter and if you suspect that something is wrong, experience pain and/or swelling, visit your doctor immediately!
Usually, there are two main causes of cervical spine surgery, decompression and fusion surgery. The goal of the decompression surgery is to relieve pressure to the nerves found in this area; and the main goal of fusion surgery is to fuse two or more spinal segments surrounding the painful joint.
Often these two procedures can be combined to achieve relief of the neural pressure (causing pain, tingling and discomfort) and to stabilize the the spine.
Since this is such a delicate and complex structure, I really wouldn`t feel comfortable suggesting any exercises and stretches you can do on your own. It is best that you consult a professional and go from there.
One thing I can talk about is the importance of prevention. You can prevent cervical/neck pain with proper posture (in most cases). We live in a modern age where sitting behind the desk/at the PC is measured in hours. And during those hours we often assume poor posture which can , over time, lead to pain and additional problems.