Cervicocranial Syndrome – Headaches, Earaches and Neck Pain

neck pain rheumatoid arthritis atlantoaxial subluxation

Atlantoaxial subluxation from rheumatoid arthritis can lead to cervicocranial syndrome, headaches and neck pain.

You might have just snuck a look at your medical records after years of neck pain and discovered that your doctor believes you have cervicocranial syndrome. Also known as Barre-Lieou syndrome and posterior cervical sympathetic syndrome, this disorder can be a cause of headaches and neck pain, vertigo, dizziness, facial pain, and even sinus pain, but what is cervicocranial syndrome and how is it treated?

Pinched Nerves and Neck Pain

Cervicocranial syndrome symptoms are usually neurological in nature and are thought to be a result of misalignments in the bones of the skull, and in the cervical spine. These abnormalities of skeletal structure result in pressure on the nerves and may be a sudden occurrence following traumatic head and neck injury or a gradual development causing pinched nerves due to arthritis. Congenital abnormalities may also cause posterior cervical sympathetic syndrome, as can whiplash, rheumatoid arthritis, or adverse postural changes due to repetitive strain or even a sedentary lifestyle.

Neck Pain, Earaches and Headaches

Neck and ear pain, chronic sinusitis, allergies, or tinnitus may alert a physician to the possibility of symptoms being due to cervicocranial syndrome. Cephaelea (headache), otalgia (ear ache), dysphagia (difficulty swallowing), and even pain in the carotid artery can all be neurological symptoms of Barre-Lieou syndrome. A dull chronic throbbing at the base of the skull is commonly described by patients, and the symptoms may be made worse by movement of the head and neck.

Spinal Manipulation for Chronic Headaches and Neck Pain

Chiropractic treatment may be advised for cervicocranial syndrome but there are risks to consider, especially if the carotid artery is involved in the condition. Acute trauma to the spine may result in arterial dissection and stroke, particularly if an underlying condition is present. Experienced chiropractors will, in most cases, examine patient medical histories and the results of imaging (MRI or X-ray) prior to performing any spinal manipulation. Subtle manipulation of the cervical spine and head may aid in realigning bones that have strayed out of position and some chiropractors also recommend adjunct therapy including postural training, neck stretches, and trigger point therapy.

Treating Cervicocranial Syndrome

Many patients with cervicocranial syndrome remain unaware of their diagnosis and consider themselves to have neck pain and headaches, or other symptoms, as isolated incidences or due to arthritis. Pain medications can help provide relief from the condition but some patients may be better helped through surgery to correct subluxation of the cervical spine and decompress spinal nerves. Those with such a condition need to be especially careful not to incur additional trauma to the neck or head as this could result in severe and permanent nerve damage or even spinal cord injury.

If years of football practice, childrearing, manual labor, or craning over school text books has resulted in head, neck and ear pain then it might be time to ask your doctor about cervicocranial syndrome and available treatments to relieve pain from pinched nerves in the neck.

3 replies
  1. Teresa
    Teresa says:

    I have cervicocranial syndrome and sympothetic nerve blocks work well for me. Those paired with chiropractic is the only way I can properly live my life.


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