Cervical spine instability happens when painful, excessive motion of vertebral bodies within the cervical spine, in relation to one another, causes imbalance in the cervical, or top-of-spine region. Cervical spine instability causes patients to feel as if the neck and upper spine are moving more than the bones, muscles, and ligaments can properly hold. When a patient’s head moves too much, they feel pain and tend to “catch” the motion to reduce the pain. Muscle spasms in the neck are also common, as they work overtime to try and prevent the painful motion.
Non-surgical treatments are typically enough to reduce or end the symptoms of cervical spine instability. Non-steroid, anti-inflammatory medication, along with physical therapy and prescribed exercise regimens, often work well to treat the condition. Chiropractic manipulation is not recommended, as the vertebrae move too much and increase vertebral motion.
If the patient does not improve through non-surgical methods, surgical intervention to end spasms and instable motion may be necessary. A common anterior surgery that stabilizes and fuses the cervical spine is most likely the course of treatment at this juncture.