Uncovertebral Joints

Original Editor - Rachael Lowe Top Contributors - Rachael Lowe, Kim Jackson and Lucinda hampton

Description

Luschka joints are small synovial articulations, measuring 2 × 4 to 3 × 6 mm., situated between the five lower cervical vertebral bodies. They are located anteromedially to the mixed nerve root and posteromedially to the vertebral artery, vein, and sympathetics as these pass through the vertebral foramen. They participate with the disk and vertebral body in the formation of the anterior wall of the foramen. Upon separation of the vertebral bodies, upon the upper surfaces of their posterolateral aspects, convex spur-like ridges, consisting of spongy bone and covered by cartilage, are the uncinate process. On the corresponding undersurface of the vertebral body are concave areas, also covered by cartilage. These two structures come into apposition and are covered by synovial membrane to form the Luschka joints.[1]
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Joints of Luschka (the uncovertbral joints) are rudimentary at birth and develop and evolve with age[2].  As the intervertbral discs become degenerative, these projections approximate with the body of the next highest vertebra resulting in degenerative joint changes and forming the uncovertbral joints.

Articulating Surfaces

Formed between uncinate processes below, and the uncus above.

Motions Available

They allow for flexion and extension and limit lateral flexion in the cervical spine.

Function

Thought to reinforce the intervertebral disc posterolaterally and therefore provide protection for structures at risk of disc herniation.  

Prevents posterior linear translation movements of the vertebral bodies.

Important in providing stability and guiding the motion of the cervical spine[2].

Pathology

Osteophytes on the uncinate process resulting from uncovertebral arthrosis may compress both the spinal nerve root and the vertebral artery as they pass through the intervertebral and transverse foramina, respectively.

The articulations have also been found to precipitate torticollis when edematous and be acutely damaged in severe head and neck injuries[2]

References

  1. RSNA Joints of Luschka Available from: https://pubs.rsna.org/doi/10.1148/66.2.181 (last accessed 28.1.2020)
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Hartman J. Anatomy and clinical significance of the uncinate process and uncovertebral joint: A comprehensive review. Clin Anat. 2014 Jan 22. doi: 10.1002/ca.22317.