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How is the neck structured?

Your neck and back are made up of a column of bones stacked one on top of the other (the spinal column). The bones that make up your spinal column are called vertebrae. They help to support your head and protect the spinal cord – the main nerve that links nerves throughout your body to the brain.

Structure of the head and neck

The top seven bones of the spinal column are called the cervical vertebrae, and these form your neck. They’re linked together by facet joints, which, together with your neck muscles, allow you move your head in any direction.

Between the bones are discs of cartilage known as intervertebral discs. At the level of each disc, nerve roots branch out from your spinal cord, passing through an opening in the side of the spine. The nerve roots in the neck join to form the nerve trunks that run into your arms. Impulses travel along these nerves, sending sensations such as touch and pain to your brain and messages from your brain to your muscles.

Four arteries carry blood from your heart to your brain. Two of these run inside the bones of your spine and supply the part of the brain that controls your balance (the cerebellum). All four arteries connect to your brain.

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