Cervical Vertebrae Anatomy


cervical vertebrae
“#atlas #axis #cervical #thoracic #spine #vertebra #bones #perth #tafe #work #anatomy” by fitnessferg is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.
C1 (top left), C2 (top right), Typical vertebra (middle), C7 (down)
VertebraBodySpinous processTransverse process
Typical (C3-6)Relatively small; oval; uncinate process superiorlyBifidHas foramen transversarium, Has anterior and posterior tubercle separated by groove for spinal nerve (large anterior tubercle in C6 called Carotid/Chassaignac tubercle)
Atlas (C1)None; Ring (2 lateral masses connected by anterior & posterior arches)None (has posterior tubercle)Has foramen transversarium; No tubercles
Axis (C2)Has dens (odontoid process)BifidHas foramen transversarium; Has 1 tubercle (posterior)
C7Larger; uncinate process superiorlyUnifid (longest – vertebra prominens)Has foramen transversarium (may be small or absent; transmits vein only/doesn’t transmit artery); Has 1 tubercle (posterior)

Joints or Articulations

JointArticulationsJoint typeFunctions
Atlanto-occipital (X2)Superior facets of lateral mass (C1) + Occipital condyles (Cranium base)Condyloid“Yes” nodding (flexion-extension)
Atlanto-axial (X3)Lateral = Inferior facets of lateral mass (C1) + Superior facets of C2
Medial = Dens (C2) + Facet for dens (C1)
Lateral (Plane)
Medial (Pivot)
“No” movement (rotation)
OthersBetween vertebral arches (Zygoapophyseal/Facet X 2) = Inferior facets of superior vertebra + Superior facets of inferior vertebra
Vertebral bodies (Intervertebral X 1) = 2 vertebral bodies articulated by a “disc”
Vertebral bodies (Uncovertebral/Luschka X 2) = Uncinate process of inferior vertebra + Inferolateral aspect of superior vertebra
Zygoapophyseal (synovial)
Intervertebral (symphysis/fibrocartilaginous)
Uncovertebral (pseudojoints)
Flexion, Extension, Rotation


  1. Supraspinous ligament (Liagametum nuchae): Runs between tips of 2 spinous process
  2. Interspinous ligament: Between 2 spinous processes
  3. Ligamentum flavum: Connects the laminae of adjacent vertebrae
  4. Intertransverse ligaments: Run between adjacent transverse processes
  5. Anterior longitudinal ligament: Between 2 vertebral body (not attached to disc) from sacrum to C2
    • C1-C2: Anterior atlantoaxial membrane
    • C1-Oc: Anterior atlanto-occipital membrane
  6. Posterior longitudinal ligament: Between 2 vertebral body (firmly attached to disc) from sacrum to C2
    • C2-Foramen magnum: Tectorial membrane
  7. Apical ligament: Connects apex of dens of C2 to foramen magnum (anterior aspect)
  8. Alar ligaments: Connects dens of C2 to foramen magnum (lateral aspect)
  9. Cruciate liagments: Vertical ligaments (Dens to occipital bone and body of C2) + Transverse ligaments (Dens to arch of C1)

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