With stability being sacrificed for mobility, the cervical complex is rendered more vulnerable to both direct and indirect trauma.
The cervical complex can be the source of many pain syndromes, including neck, upper thoracic and periscapular syndromes, cervical radiculopathy, and shoulder and elbow syndromes.1 These syndromes may result from a vast array of causes, ranging from acute minor sprains to chronic degenerative changes.2
Neck pain usually resolves in days or weeks, but can recur and become chronic. Due to the proximity of the temporomandibular joint (TMJ) to both the craniovertebral joints and the cervical spine proper, dysfunction of this joint must always be given consideration when examining this complex.
The cervical complex consists of the craniovertebral joints, the cervical spine proper, and the TMJ. The craniovertebral joints connect the cervical spine proper to the head.
The two major ligaments of the craniovertebral joints are as follows:
- Transverse: retains the odontoid process in contact with the anterior arch during cervical flexion and extension.
- Alar functions to limit rotation of the craniovertebral region at C1–2.