The neck, also referred as cervical, is a part of the body that joins the head with the trunk. The neck bears the weight of the head and its flexibility helps the head to turn in different directions. A protrusion is present in the front and midline of the neck, called laryngeal prominence or “Adam’s apple” that is made up of thyroid cartilage. Below this thyroid cartilage, appears a ring of cricoid cartilage. You can feel the trachea and isthmus of thyroid gland between cricoid cartilage and the supersternal notch. Also present is a hyoid bone between the chin and Adam’s apple.
The side of the neck has a quadrangular area that is enclosed superiorly by the mandible and mastoid process and inferiorly by the clavicle. The quadrangular area is anteriorly and posteriorly joined to the midline front of the neck and trapezius muscle.
The cervical spine
The neck region is comprised of 7 cervical vertebrae (C1-C7). The cervical portion of the spine is slightly curved forward and is called the cervical lordosis. Cervical vertebrae have some irregular features that are different from other regions of the spine. C1 vertebra is called atlas and is comprised of 2 concave superior facets that are joined with the occipital condyles of the skull to provide flexion and extension movement to the neck. C1 lacks a vertebral body and spinous process. C2 is called axis and has conical projections in the vertebral body that articulates inside the atlas. This atlanto-axial joint helps in the rotation of the neck. The C2 to C7 vertebrae possess foramina in each of the transverse processes, along with bifid spinous processes except for C7. However, C7 has nonbifid and a lofty posterior spinous process that can be felt at the base of the neck.
The vertebral artery moves inside the foramina of the transverse processes whereas the spinal cord is located in the spinal canal (17 mm) made by the vertebral arches.
The front of the neck is comprised of suprahyoid, infrahyoid and anterior vertebral muscles. The superahyoid muscles include digastrics, stylohyoid, mylohyoid, and geniohyoid muscles. The infrahyoid muscle includes the sternohyoid, sternothyroid, thyrohyoid, and omohyoid muscles. Further cervical vertebrae are surrounded by groups of muscles that can be categorized as:
- Anterior vertebral muscles: Comprised of longus colli, longus capitis, rectus capitis anterior, and rectus capitis lateralis, present in front of the spine
- Lateral vertebral muscles: Comprised of scalenus anterior, scalenus medius, and scalenus posterior, located at the side of the spine
- Suboccipital muscles: Comprised of rectus capitis posterior major, rectus capitis posterior minor, obliquus capitis inferior, and obliquus capitis superior; located at the back of the spine
- Suboccipital triangle
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In addition, a superficial and broad muscle, called platysma muscle is present as a pair, on either side of the neck. Other muscles include sternocleidomastoid muscles, present on the side of the neck, which arises with 2 heads from the sternum and clavicle; and the trapezius muscle arising from the spinous processes of the cervical and thoracic vertebrae that inserts on the spine at the scapula and acromion.
Arteries and veins of the neck
The main arteries in the neck are the common carotid arteries, present on either side. It is further divided as external and internal carotid arteries. The external carotid artery supplies the exterior of the head, face and the neck whereas the internal carotid artery supplies the cranial and intraorbital fillings.
The main veins of the neck are the external and internal jugular veins that collect the blood from the head and face region.