What is a cervical instability?

If you have heard of a cervical spine instability for the first time now you are right here.

We are talking about instability if the vertebra can move more than their normal range of motion because of mechanical problems or ligament laxity.

The cervical spine itself is a very complex system and consists of many ligaments, tendons, intervertebral discs, capsules and a deep stabilizing musculature and a moving surface musculature. At all these levels, problems can occur (see category Anatomy).

Of a “Head joint instability” (mainly used in Germany) is spoken when the head joints are not stable anymore. There is an upper and a lower head joint. The upper head joint is between the skull and the first cervical vertebra (Atlas) and the lower head joint between the first cervical vertebra and the second cervical vertebra (Axis). There, the main rotation of the head takes place, which explains why problems ocure there frequently.

You probably will hear “cranio-cervical instability” more often. A cranio-cervical instability (or CCI) describes an instability between the head (cranium) and the first vertebra (Atlas). Additionally there is something called atlantoaxial instability, which means the instability is between Atlas and Axis.

The cervical spine is very mobile and has to carry a large load. Because of that fact it can come to injuries easily.

Because the blood supply of ligaments, tendons and capsules is very poor, the healing process at these levels is very complex and difficult. Very often damages are discovered too late.

An early sign of instability can be a recurring cracking of the region concerned. Depending on the affected spinal segment and how bad the damage is, it can cause a variety of neurological symptoms, varying from mild headaches to live threatening events like breathing stops or black outs.

Probably the most common cause is a whiplash injury like a car accident. But also accidents at sports or housework are enough to cause a damage.

If you believe you may suffer from an instability of the cervical spine, please have a look at the category causes and symptoms. If you recognize yourself there again, feel free to contact me or search the forum for more detailed information.

It is a hard and long road to the final diagnosis so we may like to go that way together.