Face / Head / Neck

Headache in Atlantodental Osteoarthritis

What is atlantoaxial osteoarthritis?

Atlantoaxial osteoarthritis is osteoarthritis of the joint between the two upper vertebrae in your neck (called the 'atlas' and the 'axis'), which may cause cervicogenic headache.

Causes

The most common cause is osteoarthritis between the dens (a bony projection of the axis) and the front of the atlas. The osteoarthritis can be caused by wear and tear as you grow older, or in rare cases after a severe inflammation of the throat.

Signs and symptoms

The headache is usually located at the back of the head, but may radiate to the front. The pain may occur during sleep, or after the patient has held his or her head in the same position for a long time. It may be very difficult or even impossible for patients to turn their head.

How is atlantoaxial osteoarthritis diagnosed?

The diagnosis of headache due to atlantoaxial osteoarthritis is based on the pattern of the patient's symptoms. If you visit our clinic because of headaches and you have atlantoaxial osteoarthritis, you will always be given a neurological examination to exclude other possible causes of the pain. In addition, the doctor will test the mobility of your neck and shoulder, to see whether certain movements are restricted or painful. The doctor will also feel your neck to see whether pressing on any of the vertebrae causes pain.

Do I need additional examinations?

  • Diagnostic examination for other non-physical factors important for your pain, have already been done by yourself trough filling out your pain questionnaires.
  • An X-ray of your neck will always be made, to exclude other causes of your pain.
  • In addition, you will get a CT scan of part of the skull and the upper cervical vertebrae to show whether you actually have atlantoaxial osteoarthritis.

What are my treatment options?

Multidisciplinary Treatment

Depending on the cause of your pain, your pain specialist will decide whether or not to embark on physical treatment. Based on the results of the completed pain questionnaire, additional examinations can be carried out and, apart from physical treatment, other methods of treatment will be suggested.

Non-physical Treatments

If the results of your pain questionnaire are abnormal, your pain specialist will offer you one of the non-physical treatments listed below:

Physical Treatments

Medication

Other Treatments

Interventional Pain Treatments