There are different kinds of head and upper cervical disorders that are also known as:
- Upper neck disorders
- Craniovertebral junction – CVJ – abnormality
- Craniocervical disorders
Some are present at birth while others are developed later in life. Whether congenital or acquired, they share many of the same symptoms.
Where your skull and spine meet is where upper cervical disorders take place. Neck pain along with headaches along the back of the head are the most common symptoms. People with craniocervical disorders often experience neck pain and headache in combination and symptoms worsen with head and neck movement. Even just a sneeze or cough can cause pain. Neck pain can also spread to the arms if spinal nerves are compressed.
Spinal Cord Compression
The more complex upper cervical disorders involve spinal cord compression. When the spinal cord gets compressed, nerve problems can happen that make daily function a challenge.
With spinal cord compression, neurological symptoms can present like:
- Weakness in the arms, legs or both
- Loss of sensation and awareness of the limbs called positional sense
- There can be an electrical/shooting pain or tingling running down the spine and into the legs when pitching the neck forward called Lhermitte sign
- Hot and cold sensational loss in hands, feet or both
- Reduced sensation of pain
Other Symptoms of Craniocervical Disorder
Some disorders have their own set of symptoms.
- Change in neck appearance
- Reduced range of motion
There are abnormalities like:
- Basilar invagination
All of these can cause malformation and physical changes in the neck. The neck may appear short, webbed, or twisted. There can also be a limited ability to move the neck.
Symptoms can also be caused by brain and cranial nerve pressure
Conditions like platybasia, basilar invagination, and craniocervical tumors can place pressure on the brain stem and the cranial nerves around it. If this happens the following symptoms can occur:
- Eye issues like abnormal eye movements and double vision
- Throat and speech problems like hoarseness, slurred speech, and swallowing problems
- Loss of coordination
- Sleep problems like sleep apnea
Vertigo Faint Feeling
Some individuals could experience a set of symptoms that don’t occur too often called vertebrobasilar ischemia.
This happens when the head position changes placing pressure on the cranial arteries and cutting off the blood supply.
The result is:
- Feeling faint
- Vertigo or a dizzy spinning sensation
Syringomyelia is a fluid-filled cyst known as a syrinx that forms inside the spinal cord. If the cyst grows, it can damage the spinal cord causing painful neurological symptoms throughout the body that include weakness, and numbness. In extreme cases loss of ability to feel heat or cold in the neck, hands, and possibly throughout the spine. The hand muscles can become paralyzed.
Quality of Life with Upper Cervical Disorder
While some individuals have no symptoms associated with a craniocervical disorder, others experience intense pain and neurological dysfunction. There are treatment options that can help you successfully manage and eliminate symptoms.
When headaches present it usually means there is a misalignment in the cervical spine. This is often combined with tight muscles in the neck, shoulders, and surrounding area. Pressure on the nerves can cause sharp shooting pain along with a continual dull throbbing sensation.
A chiropractor will assess the area and then move forward with an adjustment to relieve the pressure and pain. Chiropractic medicine does not just focus on relieving symptoms but finding the root cause and correcting the problem. In addition, the chiropractor will take the time to educate you on the importance of diet, exercise, stretching, and making healthy lifestyle choices.
Whiplash Massage Therapy
The effectiveness of chiropractic care for headaches has been proven by many research studies. Chiropractic is not only excellent for treating headaches, but is gentle, non-invasive, does not require medications, and is known for being free of side effects.