What is a cervical instability?

Is this the first time you have heard of cervical spine instabilities? Then you are right here.

If the cervical vertebra can move further than their normal range of motion – because of mechanical problems or ligament laxity – it is called an instability.

The human cervical spine itself is a very complex system, and consists of many ligaments, tendons, intervertebral discs and capsules.  Furthermore, there are mostly stabilizing, deep lying muscles, and muscles on the surface that move the spine. Problems can occur all along those structures (see category anatomy).

Instabilities in the upper cervical spine are either between cranium and C1 (atlas), which is called cranio-cervical instability (CCI); or between C1 and C2 (axis), which is called atlanto-axial instability.

Injuries of the cervical spine can occur easily because it is very mobile and carries a large load (the head). Moreover, the blood supply of ligaments, tendons and capsules is poor, so the healing process is difficult and rather slow. Injuries, especially on ligaments, are discovered too late in many cases.

An early sign of instability may be a recurring cracking of the concerned region. Depending on the affected spinal segment, and how badly the injury is, it can cause a variety of neurological symptoms: from mild headaches to life-threatening events, like breathing issues or drop attacks.

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 prefer to go that way together.