What you should know about

Positional Cervical Cord Compression (PC3): 

Clinical Findings

Pacific Rheumatology Associates Inc PS

4300 Talbot Road South, Suite 101

Renton, Washington USA 98055


PC3 Clinical findings

No specific feature characterizes PC3, but some features are very common.  PC3 activates the autonomic nervous system (sympathetic) in animal models and is a presumed cause of widespread referred pain in humans.  Pain can be variable and confusing to both patients and clinicians.

Many patients note pain with the neck extended, as in a hairdresser's sink or dentist's chair, looking up at stars or fireworks, overlooking reading glasses to view a computer screen or bicycle riding (not recumbent).  Fatigue is common as is alterations in autonomic function, such as temperature dysregulation, excessive sweating, palpitations, tachycardia, hypertension, gastric hyperacidity, irritable bowel syndrome, bladder dysfunction, restless legs syndrome and bruxism (grinding teeth).

Often, patients note numbness, tingling, pain, headaches and even panic attacks upon waking based on the position of their neck while sleeping. 

PC3 has been identified in 71% of patients with fibromyalgia (FM) and in 85% of patients with unexplained, widespread pain (Journal of Pain 2008;9(7):613-22).  PC3 is not the same as FM, but can activate the autonomic nervous system to aggravate FM and also mimic FM by inducing widespread pain.

It is suspected, but as yet unconfirmed, that PC3 may be commonly found among patients with migraine, chronic fatigue syndrome and whiplash.  PC3 is currently thought to be caused by the aging of a cervical disk and ligamentous  injury, which often occurred many years prior to developing severe pain.