The part of the body that supports the head and serves as a passageway between the head and brain and the body. The neck contains many important structures: the spinal cord (which carries nerve impulses to and from the brain); the trachea (windpipe); the larynx (voice box); the oesophagus; the thyroid and parathyroid glands; lymph nodes; and several major blood vessels. The upper 7 vertebrae of the spine are in the neck; a complex system of muscles is connected to these vertebrae, the clavicles (collarbones), the upper ribs, and lower jaw. Neck disorders include torticollis (wry neck) in which the head is twisted to one side. Fractures and dislocations of vertebrae in the neck and whiplash injury can injure the spinal cord causing paralysis or even death (see spinal injury). Any condition causing swelling in the neck may interfere with breathing or swallowing. Degeneration of the joints between the neck vertebrae may occur due to cervical osteoarthritis, causing similar symptoms to those of disc prolapse. In ankylosing spondylitis, fusion of the vertebrae may result in permanent neck rigidity. Cervical rib is a rare congenital defect in which there is a small extra rib in the neck. Neck pain of unknown origin is very common. As long as neurological symptoms (such as loss of sensation or muscle power) are absent, the condition is unlikely to be serious and usually disappears within a few weeks.


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