Acute cervical syndrome


The area of the cervical spine (cervical spine) comprises vertebrae 1 to 7. cervical spine or cervical syndrome is the term generally used to describe the complaints that originate in this area. A distinction is often made between acute cervical syndromes and chronic cervical syndromes. If the complaints last longer than 3 months, they are called chronic cervical spine syndrome.

Acute cervical spine syndromes are usually caused by injuries caused by sudden overstrain. These include, for example, injury to the cervical spine in traffic accidents, the so-called whiplash injury to the cervical spine. Acute cervical spine syndromes can also occur during heavy physical activity or exposure to draughts.


The cervical spine syndrome can be classified according to different criteria. One possibility is to classify according to its course. If the complaints last longer than 3 months, it is called a chronic cervical spine syndrome.

In comparison to the acute cervical spine syndrome, in which the pain is limited to the spine, no specific pain point can be given for the chronic course. The cervical spine syndrome can also be classified according to pain radiation: The radicular cervical syndrome affects the nerve root (Latin: radix) and radiates along the affected nerves. The pseudo-radicular cervical syndrome, on the other hand, does not affect the nerve root and manifests itself in headaches, dizziness attacks and hearing and swallowing disorders. If the lower part of the cervical spine is affected, the pain may also radiate into the arms. Another possible classification of the cervical spine syndrome is according to the location of the pain:

  • Localized cervical syndrome
  • Pseudoradicular cervical syndrome
  • Radicular cervical syndrome
  • Upper cervical syndrome: pain in the area of the first or second cervical vertebrae
  • Middle cervical syndrome: pain in the area of the third, fourth or fifth cervical vertebrae
  • Lower cervical syndrome: pain in the area of the cervical vertebrae 6,7 or 8.


In acute cervical spine syndrome, a distinction is made between general and specific complaints, which depend on the extent of the damage to the cervical spine. The general pain includes local knock/pressure pain over the spine, pain when the cervical spine is hyperextended and pain intensification when the head is moved. Regardless of the location of the damage, headaches, dizziness, visual disturbances and sensory disturbances in the arms can also occur.

The blockage can be both the cause of an acute cervical spine syndrome and a symptom. The latter is mainly favoured by a preceding whiplash injury, which is considered a frequent cause of the acute cervical spine syndrome. In addition, degenerative processes associated with the acute cervical spine syndrome can also trigger a blockage.

Also the permanent strain on the cervical spine can provoke the occurrence of a blockage. Due to the blockage, affected persons suffer from limited mobility. Especially the rotation, stretching and bending movements are reduced in their extent.

In technical jargon, such a restriction of mobility caused by a blockage is also known as “segmental dysfunction”. A further aspect worth mentioning is that the blockage can reinforce itself in the context of an acute cervical spine syndrome. Since the blockage is accompanied by severe pain, affected persons often adopt a relieving posture (torticollis).

The result is extreme tension, which ultimately prevents the blockage from being released. Other typical symptoms that occur with any blockage in the context of a cervical spine syndrome are sensations of discomfort in the upper extremities, such as a tingling or numbness. Furthermore, irritation or damage to some nerves can cause dizziness, visual disturbances and swallowing difficulties.