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In Depth: Neck

Although the skin of the neck contains the same amount of nerve endings as other areas of the body, it is considered an erogenous zone, an area of heightened sensitivity. The word “erogenous” means “love giving.” That’s why people pay special attention to the neck and area near the collarbone when being intimate.

The neck is the start of the spinal column and spinal cord. The spinal column contains about two dozen interconnected, oddly shaped bony segments called vertebrae. The neck contains seven of these, known as the cervical vertebrae. They are the smallest vertebrae in the body.

The spinal column extends from the base of the skull to the pelvis. It protects and houses the spinal cord — the long bundle of nervous tissue that transmits neural signals to the brain and rest of body — connects to the brain. It runs from the back of the head to the small of the back.

The laryngeal prominence, more commonly known as the Adam’s apple, is a noticeable external neck feature. It is typically more prominent in men than in women. The thyroid cartilage that makes up the body of the larynx, or voice box, creates the prominence, and it develops during puberty. The Adam’s apple is more prominent in men because the cartilage meets at a 90-degree angle; in women, the angle is typically 120-degrees, so the protrusion is less noticeable.

Speech is possible due to structures in the neck. The larynx houses the vocal cords. The larynx generates sound by coming together to produce vibrations. Its movement also manipulates pitch and volume.

The larynx is located where the pharynx, the back of the mouth and nasal cavity, divides into the trachea (the tube that carries air to the lungs) and the esophagus (the tube that carries food to the stomach). That branch occurs near the base of the neck near the collarbones. 

Some health problems that can affect the neck include:

  • Neck pain
  • Whiplash
  • Herniated disc
  • Muscle sprain
  • Acid reflux disease
  • Laryngitis
  • Airway obstruction
  • Vocal cord polyps
  • Throat cancer

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