Cervical Spine X-Ray Lesson – LMFAO

By Michael Dorausch, D.C.

This post is real simple. The goal is to provide an easy to remember acronym to be used when identifying 5 important parts related to the human cervical spine (neck) as shown on the following x-ray. Landmarks highlighted with red letters identify the parts to be remembered.

LMFAO - Cervical Spine X-Ray

LMFAO – Cervical Spine X-Ray

L stands for Lamina – In the cervical spine, the lamina is thin area of bone that helps create a protective ring over the spinal cord. The surgical procedure involving the removal of lamina is referred to as a Laminectomy. The procedure may be performed in cases when a ruptured spinal disc may need to be removed or when bone spurs are putting pressure on the spinal cord.

M stands for Muscle – When taking x-rays on exceptionally muscular individuals, the seventh cervical vertebrae and first thoracic vertebrae areas of the spine may not be as visible on a lateral film. On the x-ray shown above, only six bones in the neck can be counted. In some cases, having an individual hold an object in each arm (such as a 5 pound weight) while relaxing their shoulder muscles, can help improve viewing of this area on x-ray.

F stands for Foramina – Two nerves exit the spine at each cervical vertebra and they pass through the foramina, one on the left and one on the right. Many people don’t realize nerves exit at each level of the cervical spine. It’s not uncommon that tingling or numbness felt in one’s arms and hands can be the result of pressure on nerves in one’s neck. Foramina is the plural term and neural foramen is the term to identify a single area.

A stands for Atlas – Positioned at the very top of the spine is the first cervical vertebrae, sometimes referred to as C1 or the Atlas. The atlas features two thick bony arches that form a large opening for the spinal cord to pass through. It is the spinal bone located nearest to the brainstem and it is often identified by chiropractors as the most important vertebrae to be in adjustment.

O stands for Occiput – The Occiput is an area of bone located at the base of the skull. It is an important lateral cervical spine x-ray landmark commonly used in identifying location and positioning of the first cervical vertebrae (Atlas). A skeletal abnormality sometimes seen in the upper cervical spine is known as atlanto-occipital fusion, or occipitalization of the atlas.

So there is your anatomy lesson for the day. Go ahead and show your friends how smart you are.

L amina
M uscle
F oramina
A tlas
O cciput

easily remembered as LMFAO

5 thoughts on “Cervical Spine X-Ray Lesson – LMFAO”

  1. Dr. Mike,

    Great, succinct definitions and explanations. As for the acronym LMFAO, would it not be easier to remember:
    FLOAM – For Life, Occiput & Atlas Mesh
    or maybe:
    OALFM – Occiput Atlas Lineup Fixing Much

    Of course the upper cervical gang might appreciate and easily identify with your original choice if associated with this phrase:
    Look, My Freakin’ Atlas is Off!

    Be well,
    Herb Newborg

  2. That was very helpful in memorizing parts of the cervical spine. It is very funny and I will never forget it. Thanks goodness I am young enough to understand what LMFAO stands for… Thanks!

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