CCJ Instability Update: Rick’s Messed Up Neck

by Chris Centeno, MD /

upper neck instability treatment

When I first met Rick, he was really messed up due to CCJ instability, barely spending two hours a day upright. He eventually progressed to the patient I met this week in Grand Cayman, a man on the mend whose life has been transformed. Let me tell his story.

What Is CCJ Instability and What Are the Treatment Options? 

There are ligaments that hold the head on, and these can be loose or injured. For more information, see my video below:

Rick Sees a Superspecialist

Rick was totally disabled, so he went online and found Dr. Scott Rosa in upstate New York. Scott is a superspecialist in all things CCJ. He has a unique practice that includes advanced upright MRI with the ability to measure the flow of the fluid around the brain and spinal cord. In addition, he also has an unparalleled knowledge of the upper neck and CCJ instability. Rick was diagnosed with damaged upper neck ligaments and referred to our Colorado clinic for treatment.

Rick's Progress

I can't overstate how much the man I first met in 2016 was struggling. He had been a chiropractor in Canada who had been in car crashes. Then after a home refit project, it was believed some of the scar tissue holding together the alar/transverse ligaments likely broke free, leading to severe CCJ instability. When I first met him, he was only vertical about two hours a day, and if he moved too much or had to turn his head, he would be out for the rest of the day.

In addition, just getting Rick on a table for an injection was a challenge. His heart rate would race (tachycardia). This likely happens because of pressure being placed on the vagus nerve by his loose upper-neck bones as this nerve usually acts as the brakes for the heart. Finally, his inability to turn his head also presented barriers to being able to get the procedure completed. Despite that, after several alar/transverse ligament stem cell procedures, Rick is almost back!

His most recent report:

  • He can now stay vertical for most of the day (except for about two hours).
  • When his head pain gets bad from too much looking down or turning, he can rest with 15–30 minutes of lying down, rather than being out all day.
  • His C1–C2 overhang measurements on DMX are down by two-thirds what they used to be.

The upshot? I am amazed by Rick's progress. He's gone from totally disabled to functional. While we have some more work to do, he can now see the light at the end of a very long tunnel!

Category: Spine

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Chris Centeno, MD

Regenexx Founder

Chris Centeno, MD is a specialist in regenerative medicine and the new field of Interventional Orthopedics. Centeno pioneered orthopedic stem cell procedures in 2005 and is responsible for a large amount of the published research on stem cell use for orthopedic applications.
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