Types of Vertebrae

The cervical vertebrae are the first 7 vertebrae of the neck.   The first two (C1 and C2) are the axis and the atlas and have unique features associated with their role of holding up the skull and providing a pivot joint around which the skull can rotate.

Unlike the thoracic and lumbar vertebrae, the cervical vertebrae have two additional openings on the transverse process.   This can make them easily identifiable from other vertebrae.  All three of the vertebrae follow the same basic pattern:  the spinous process extends outward, creating what can be felt (and sometimes seen) the spine.  Each of the vertebrae also has a transverse process that extends laterally from the body.


1 = spinous process |  2 = transverse process  | 3 = vertebral foramen  |  4 = body

The last of the cervical vertebrae, known as C7, has a large spinous process that is not bifurcated as it is on the other cervical vertebrae.  This process is often visible on the skin’s surface.  This particular bone (C7) is also called the “vertebra prominens.”



C2-C6 has bifurcated spinous process