Symptoms of Craniocervical Junction Disorders

Symptoms of a craniocervical junction disorder usually start with headaches and pain at the back of the head. These symptoms tend to worsen with movement of the head and neck, such as when coughing or bending forward. Activity particularly neck flexion will exacerbate symptoms. Wearing a rigid cervical collar may be a method of determining if the excess motion in this region is contributing to symptoms.

Some of the most complex cases of upper cervical disorders cause spinal cord compression. Whenever your spinal cord is compressed (pressed or squeezed together), nerve-related problems can occur that make functioning in daily life a challenge.

Symptoms of spinal cord compression include:

  • Weakness in your arms or legs
  • A loss of awareness of your limbs
  • A feeling of electric-like pain or tingling moving down your spine and into your legs after bending your neck forward
  • A loss of the ability to feel heat and cold in your hands or feet
  • Reduced ability to feel pain

Symptoms caused by brain and cranial nerve pressure include:

  • Unusual eye movements and double vision (when you see two images of the same thing)
  • Throat and speech problems, such as voice hoarseness, slurred speech and difficulties swallowing
  • Loss of coordination
  • Sleep problems, such as sleep apnea
  • Vertigo, feeling faint (weak or dizzy)

Our Care Team

  • Vice Chairman for Academic Affairs
  • Associate Professor of Neurological Surgery, Pediatric Neurosurgery
  • Associate Residency Director
Phone: 212-746-2363
  • Hansen-MacDonald Professor of Neurological Surgery
  • Director of Spinal Surgery
Phone: 212-746-2152
  • Orthopedic Surgeon
  • Director, Orthopedic Spine Surgery
Phone: 212-746-1164
  • Assistant Professor of Neurological Surgery
Phone: 646-962-3388

Reviewed by: Jeffrey Greenfield, MD, PhD
Last reviewed/last updated: March 2022

Weill Cornell Medicine Brain & Spine Center 525 East 68 Street, Box 99 New York, NY 10065 Phone: 866-426-7787