Duration | Acute cervical syndrome


According to current guidelines, one speaks of an acute cervical spine syndrome if the symptoms last for a maximum of 3 months. As soon as the symptoms last longer than 3 months, the cervical spine syndrome is classified as a chronic form. A relevant indication for the classification of cervical spine syndrome based on duration is that “non-specific neck pain” is considered acute if it lasts for a maximum of 3 weeks.

This means that neck pain is considered acute only after a diagnosis of “cervical spine syndrome” up to a maximum of 3 months and not 3 weeks. The duration of the individual complaints can vary individually within these 3 months. Symptoms can manifest themselves within a period of only a few minutes up to hours and days.

Depending on how often the symptoms occur, the acute cervical spine syndrome can be very stressful. Thus, some of those affected complain of daily pain, sensory disturbances or blockages, which are accompanied by a restriction of movement. Mild progressions possibly describe phases in which the symptoms are less intense or hardly pronounced and break out again due to certain trigger factors.


The most common causes of acute cervical spine syndrome are injuries to the cervical spine such as fractures or whiplash injuries, which often occur in car accidents. Accidents can also lead to acute vertebral joint blockages, which manifest themselves in painful restrictions of the rotational or tilting mobility of the cervical spine. This pain can also radiate into the shoulder or arm.

This leads to additional tension of the cervical spine muscles, so that after the release of the vertebral blockage, a tense muscle can remain for several days and also cause pain. Other causes can be wear-related (see: Degenerative spinal disease). This wear and tear can be caused by damage to the intervertebral discs (disc protrusion of the cervical spine, disc prolapse of the cervical spine), by disruption of the vertebral joints or by the loss of the function of retaining ligaments (ligamentous insufficiency).

In addition, congenital malformations such as a block or wedge vertebra or growth disorders can promote cervical spine disease. Inflammatory diseases (e.g. ankylosing spondylitis, infectious diseases), bone loss, primary tumours (e.g. plasmacytoma) or bone metastases can also lead to cervical spine disease.

In an emergency, such as an acute cervical spine syndrome caused by an accident, the following things should be considered: There are several possibilities for the therapy of an acute cervical spine syndrome. One of them is conservative therapy with medication. The drugs are intended to support the physical therapy and serve to alleviate symptoms.

Various painkillers are used, which on the one hand reduce the pain, but also partly counteract any inflammation. These include the common medications such as paracetamol and ibuprofen. Heat applications can also be used to alleviate the symptoms.

Fango and mud packs, red light, hot air or a heating pad work quite well especially in acute pain conditions. A neck tie can be used to immobilise the patient for a few days and relieve the pain. After a cervical spine syndrome, physiotherapy (physiotherapy) is of great importance for pain relief, muscle relaxation and targeted muscle building, especially in the rehabilitation phase.

It includes massages, careful traction of the cervical spine, isometric exercises to strengthen the cervical muscles and learning how to behave in everyday life in a way that is suitable for the back. Excessive movements should be avoided so as not to irritate the nerve roots too much. .

In manual therapy, manipulations with axial pulling direction (in the direction of one axis) are primarily used. The focus is not only on the treatment of the vertebrae, but also of the intervertebral discs. Short, strong stretching results in a reduction of the pressure acting on the intervertebral discs.

The stretching of the cervical spine for causal pain therapy can be done either manually or with equipment. A gentle, well-dosed traction is possible with the so-called Glisson’s loop. In therapeutic local anaesthesia, a long-acting local anaesthetic is injected into the cervical muscles or near the nerve exit points.

This temporarily blocks the nerves and thus the transmission of pain. In addition to the therapeutic measures listed above, it is advisable to ensure regular exercise and avoid incorrect posture. This helps to prevent a cervical spine syndrome.

  • Call emergency doctor
  • General measures: Calm and/or cover patients
  • Flat storage (if necessary stabilization of the cervical spine by means of a neck brace). The patient should remain lying down until help arrives. – Control of blood pressure and pulse