The seven bones of the cervical spine that make up the human neck are known as C1 through C7 from top to bottom, according to Healthline. The vertebra closest to the skull, or C1, is known as the atlas, and the vertebra directly below the atlas is called the axis.
The seven cervical vertebrae are the smallest backbones in the human body, and the vertebra closest to the skull is the smallest of the seven neck bones. Each cervical vertebra has a cervical disc between it, and these bones support the head. Muscles attached to these vertebrae rotate, flex and extend the neck, notes Spine-health.com. The atlas and axis are specialized vertebrae that help rotate the head side-to-side, whereas the other five cervical vertebrae more closely resemble larger vertebrae further down the spine.
The seven cervical vertebrae protect the spinal cord as it protrudes from the brain. The Longus colli muscle lies between the vertebrae and the rest of the neck. This muscle extends into the upper back and helps move the neck and keep the neck stable. The Longus colli is the muscle injured most often in a car accident involving whiplash, notes Healthline. Three other muscles connect to the neck vertebrae to help move the neck, head and back.