One of the important functions of the cervical spine is to support one of our most important features: our head. Our heads hold our brain, our eyes, and other sensory features.
The spine is responsible for holding up this valuable computer system and for aiding the functions it is responsible for. For example, our neck’s flexibility allows us to move our head almost 180 degrees from side to side. This mobility enhances our ability to observe the world around us through our senses of sight and hearing. The neck is able to give us this flexibility because it is designed in a set of vertebrae. This structure allows us to move our necks relatively freely, as it is not as restricted by structures such as the rib cage or pelvis which constrict movement of other parts of the cervical spine.
However, at the same time, this means that the neck is less protected and more vulnerable to strains. They have even come up with a specific term for when the head gets jolted in a car or other event. This is called "whiplash". Typically, the head "whips" forward and back or side to side giving trauma to the muscles and other structure of the neck.
You can imagine the importance of the brain and spinal cord; they were built encased in bone. The brain itself is protected by our skull and the spinal cord by the vertebrae. For your body to function, the brain sounds signals or messages down the spinal cord and out the nerves to the body. When the neck is strained we can cause muscle spasm, inflammation, and sometimes disc injury which can inhibit or impede these signals from the brain. It is this inflammation that usually causes the most pressure to the nerves. We will typically get a pain response but we can also get something worse. Because the cervical spine is so close to the brain we have that much more nervous system activity. We must keep our neck’s in good shape to help protect the rest of the body.
Image Source: Knowing Your Neck and Cervical Spine
Additional Reading Resources: