The Anatomy of Your Neck

By Savanna Stone
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Your neck is pretty important. Everything that connects your brain to the rest of the body has to run through the neck. You breathe through your neck, your food goes down your neck, blood goes to the brain and face through your neck, nerves reach through your neck so that you can move and feel, your speaking parts are in your neck, your immune system parts are in your neck, your metabolism gland is in your neck, and much much more. So you should take good care of it. Here’s a very quick rundown of all the parts of your neck and how they work:

Bones

The bones1 in your neck are part of the spine called the cervical spine. The cervical spine2 is made up of 7 vertebrae, each a slightly different size and shape. The cervical spine curves toward the front of the body; this type of curve is called lordosis. The lower back also has normal lordosis, whereas the thoracic spine and sacrum have normal kyphoses (curve toward the back of the body). The cervical spine (or neck) protects the spinal cord, a bundle of nerves that run from the brain all the way to the lumbar spine. Each vertebrate has a large hole (the spinal canal) for the nerves to pass through, shielded. The neck supports the 10 to 13 pounds of head that rest on it and has a flexible range of motion. The cervical spine also provides a safe passage for arteries and blood vessels to travel to the brain. 

Muscles

There are 26 muscles in your neck (10 pairs and 2 sets of 3). Together these muscles move your head, stabilize your upper body, help you swallow, elevate your rib cage when you breathe in, and more. Here3 they are: sternocleidomastoid, scalenes, platysma, digastric, omohyoid, sternohyoid, sternothyroid, mylohyoid, stylohyoid, geniohyoid, and thyrohyoid. Why do they make them all sound the same so they are really hard to learn? I don’t know. The muscles in the neck are supplied by cranial nerves, cervical nerves, and the branches of those nerves. These nerves and muscles together control movement.

Nerves

In the cervical spine, there are 8 pairs (16) spinal nerves.4 Each level of the neck has two nerve roots on each side that branch off from the spinal cord that runs in the middle of the discs (the one we talked about earlier). These 2 types of nerve roots are the ventral root and dorsal root. The ventral root, positioned at the front of the neck, carries motor signals from the brain to the nerves in the muscles. The dorsal root, positioned at the back of the neck, carries sensory signals back to the brain from the nerves in the skin. There’s a lot going on in your neck (there’s a lot more than I’m going to discuss). That’s why if you break your neck, you usually die. 

Arteries

The carotid arteries,5 major blood vessels in the neck, bring blood to the brain, neck, and face. There are 2 carotid arteries in the neck, one on the right and one on the left. And each carotid artery has 2 parts: the internal carotid, which supplies blood to the brain and the external carotid, which supplies blood to the face and neck. These arteries are very important to your life. If something happens with them, you could have a stroke or other issue happen to you and you could die. 

Glands

Lymph nodes,6 also known as glands, are small structures that are part of your body’s immune system. They filter substances to help fight infection and disease. There are 800 lymph nodes throughout the body and 300 of those are in the neck. You can’t feel your lymph nodes unless they are swollen. Lymph nodes are all connected by lymphatic vessels that run throughout the body. Veins and arteries enter and exit the nodes. Apart from lymph nodes, the neck also holds the thyroid gland.7 The thyroid gland looks like a butterfly; it has two lobes joined by a small bridge of thyroid tissue. The two lobes are on either side of the windpipe. The thyroid makes 2 hormones that influence your metabolism and make cells and tissue in your body active. Thyroid disorders are most common among women, but anyone can get a thyroid disorder. There’s a lot of stuff that can happen with your thyroid; that’s all I’m gonna say. 

Larynx and trachea

The larynx8 is the voice box; it lets you speak, and sing, and scream. Air passes through the larynx, down the trachea (windpipe), and all the way to the lungs. The larynx stops food or other unwanted particles from getting into your respiratory tracts (it’s not always successful, but it tries). It’s made of cartilage plates (the front ones are known as the Adam’s apple). At the end of the larynx is the trachea9 which goes down behind the breastbone and then splits into 2 smaller tubes that connect to each lung. The trachea is made of 20 rings of cartilage. Both the larynx and trachea help you breathe, helping you live. 

The more you know. Check out Chirp’s neck collection so that you can take good care of your neck and all the different parts inside of it.


Sources:

  1. https://www.spine-health.com/conditions/spine-anatomy/cervical-spine-anatomy
  2. https://www.verywellhealth.com/cervical-spine-296578
  3. http://cdn2.hubspot.net/hubfs/189659/Neck_Muscles_041715.pdf?__hssc=194883122.4.1493483777452&__hstc=194883122.dc21077a1348929a29b9cc32ac231b49.1490550586156.1493471739666.1493483777452.7&__hsfp=4162655610&hsCtaTracking=2f0f0763-a68e-4bd0-98fd-579be71e789f%7Cd414cce2-4fee-4b83-ad9b-036d31504bed
  4. https://www.spine-health.com/conditions/spine-anatomy/cervical-spinal-nerves
  5. https://www.webmd.com/heart/picture-of-the-carotid-artery#1
  6. https://www.cancer.gov/publications/dictionaries/cancer-terms/def/lymph-node
  7. http://www.btf-thyroid.org/information/your-thyroid-gland
  8. https://www.britannica.com/science/larynx
  9. https://www.webmd.com/lung/picture-of-the-trachea#1