The Craniovertebral Junction is shortly called CVJ. It is comprised of occiput, atlas, and axis. The CVJ disorders are diagnosed by magnetic resonance (MR) imaging studies of the brain. To be precise, it is the abnormalities of the bones that join the head and neck. Some People may have this disorder from birth, while others may have it due to injuries or disorders that happen later. The most common symptoms are severe neck pain and headache, but if the spinal cord or brain stem is affected, some people may have symptoms including weak muscles, impaired vision, pressure on the brain, difficulty sensing vibration, pain, and high temperature. Medical experts make thier diagnosis based on symptoms, computed tomography(CT), or magnetic resonance imaging(MRI). To relieve pressure on the nerves and brain, medical experts use traction the head, then immobilize the neck. In case of severe pain, surgery is sometimes needed.
The symptoms of craniocervical junction abnormalities can happen after a minor neck injury. The symptoms may vary by degree of compression and by structures affected. The most common symptoms are neck pains along with a headache that starts at the back of the head. Coughing or bending forward can increase the pain. If there is any pressure on the spinal cord, the legs and arms may turn weak, and people may face difficulty in moving them. Some maybe not feeling sensation in their legs. When they bend their neck forward, they may experience a tingling sensation at their back neck. Rarely, people become less sensitive to pain and temperature in their hands and feet. Too much pressure on parts of the brain can affect eye movements.
A craniocervical abnormality is diagnosed when patients have severe pain in the neck region referable to the lower brain stem and cerebellum. If symptoms become worse, patients should see a medical expert immediately. Immediate diagnosis and treatment are essential and can sometimes prevent permanent disability. Medical experts suspect a craniocervical junction disorder if someone has neck pain or headache at the back of the head, in addition to issues that are usually caused by pressure on lower parts of the brain. The diagnosis can be confirmed by MRI, imaging test, and CT. If the pain appeared suddenly, an imaging test needs to done immediately. Normally, CT shows bone better than an MRI and can be done easily in an emergency. In case, if CT and MRI are unavailable, plain X-rays are taken.
If the abnormalities are causing pressure on the nerves and brain, medical experts try to reduce the pressure by manipulating the head into different possible positions. This kind of treatment may reduce pressure. When the structures are realigned, the neck and head are immobilized. If the pain or problem is due to a brain tumor or radiation therapy, you can use a rigid neck brace to support the neck movement. If the problem is due to Paget’s disease of bone, the doctor may prescribe drugs such as bisphosphonates or calcitonin to increase the bone density.