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Can Neck Problems Cause Neurological Problems?

Can Neck Problems Cause Neurological Problems?

Most often, people experience neck pain and headaches, but when it affects the spinal cord or the bottom part of the brain (stem of the brain), individuals may have trouble sensing motion or vibration, discomfort, and temperatures, and could have dizziness, weak muscles, vertigo, and blurred vision.(5)

Cervical spondylolysis corresponds to the absence of part of the vertebra located on its posterior side.

More frequent at the lumbar level (5% of the population), spondylolysis is rare at the cervical level. Of still unknown but probably congenital origin, this pathology corresponds to the absence of part of the vertebra located on its posterior side (vertebral isthmus). At the cervical level is the 6th vertebra that is most often involved (74% of cases). However, the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th vertebra may be affected in turn. Spondylolysis is sometimes accompanied by a spina bifida, in other words, a stripping of the meninges or the spinal cord due to the absence of bone cover.(1)

Who Is Affected By Cervical Spondylolysis?

The genetic transmission of spondylolysis is linked to sex. Spondylolysis is exceptional in women.(2)

What Are The Symptoms Of Cervical Spondylolysis?

Cervical spondylolysis is most often asymptomatic. Spondylolysis is often discovered fortuitously during a cervical x-ray, following an accident for example, or chronic neck pain. Elsewhere, cervical spondylolysis results in occipital headaches or pain that follows the path of the nerve roots located around the vertebra concerned. More rarely, the disease can manifest itself as sudden paralysis when the vertebra moves. It is a spondylolisthesis.

Neck Stiffness: The most obvious symptom is pain and stiffness in the neck. Driving, reading, or even bending your head to look at messages on your phone can cause neck stretching or nausea.

This pain often extends to the extremities: it is, therefore, common to feel some numbness and weakness in the arms, hands, fingers.

Headache: The headache also appears. Some people can get dizzy, even losing their balance. Another particular detail: you can hear “internal” sounds. As if something “creaks” in the neck.(2)(3)

How Is The Diagnosis Of Cervical Spondylolysis Made?

Conventional radiographs are sufficient to confirm the diagnosis. The radiologist for diagnosis and the surgeon to consider surgical treatment or when there is a neurological complication.

The radiographs of front, side, and three-quarters of the cervical spine used to highlight the bone defect. Dynamic images of the spine (in motion) are necessary to assess the stability of the lesion. A spine scanner or even an MRI may be necessary to clarify the diagnosis or the existence of a neurological risk.(4)

What Are The Main Treatments For Cervical Spondylolysis?

No treatment is necessary when incidental discovery spondylolysis is not accompanied by any symptoms of instability. In the case of pain, analgesics are sufficient.

When spondylolysis is accompanied by a risk of paralysis of the lower limbs or significant instability, surgical consultation is essential. Surgical fixation of the affected vertebra may be indicated.(4)

Can You Play Sports With Cervical Spondylolysis?

The practice of sport is possible if the lesion is stable and asymptomatic. It is recommended to avoid contact or violent sports when cervical spondylolysis is accompanied by instability or spondylolisthesis. Finally, spondylolysis exposes the rest of the vertebra concerned to a fatigue fracture by an overload phenomenon.

What Are The Risk Factors For Cervical Arthritis?

Cervical osteoarthritis mainly affects people over 40 years of age. Repetitive strain injuries in the cervical area increase the risk of osteoarthritis at this level, such as cervical spine malformations, having suffered a trauma (such as whiplash), or people with a profession seeking this area of the spine.(6)

Prevention Of Cervical Spondylolysis

When you have already experienced a neck pain attack, it is strongly advised to practice physiotherapy, to prevent recurrences. The physiotherapist can prescribe suitable exercises for stretching and bodybuilding, as well as learning to have hygienic movements and postures depending on the profession.

Working in front of a computer requires excellent ergonomics, for example, so as not to stress the neck area too much.(6)


  1. Luo M. Arthritis Relief and Remedy Method. Google Patents; 2018.
  2. Ahmed SB, Qamar A, Imran M, Usmani A, Mehar Y, ul Haque S. Cervical Spondylosis; An Inevitable But Preventable Catastrophe. 2019.
  3. Bai J, Yu K, Sun Y, Kong L, Shen Y. Prevalence of and risk factors for Modic change in patients with symptomatic cervical spondylosis: an observational study. Journal of pain research. 2018;11:355.
  4. Robinson J, Kothari MJ. Treatment and prognosis of cervical radiculopathy. UpToDate, Waltham, MA.(Accessed on August 21, 2019.). 2017.
  5. Winland-Brown JE, Bedard L. Neurological problems. Family Practice and Adult-Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner Certification Examination Review Questions and Strategies. 2017:157.
  6. Metzger RL. Evidence-based diagnosis and treatment of cervical spine disorders. The Nurse Practitioner. 2019;44(8):30-37.

Also Read:

Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:May 13, 2020

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