Purpose: To assess the integrity of the transverse ligament and cervical stability.
Test Position: Supine, hooklying.
Performing the Test: Place one hand on the occiput with the index finger on the space between C2 spinous process and occipital protuberance (where the posterior arch of C1 lies). Place the other hand on the forehead. Lift the head straight up in a vertical plane (not flexion, more of a protraction motion). The test is positive if the patient experiences some feelings of weakness, dizziness, numbness, nystagmus, or an odd feeling in the back of the throat. There is normally a firm end-feel.
Diagnostic Accuracy: Unknown.
Importance of Test: Whenever a you encounter a patient that has neck pain as a result of trauma or cervical instability, you should always inspect the integrity of the transverse ligament before any other exam measures. The transverse ligament is responsible for keeping the anterior facet of the atlas against the dens of the axis. It attaches on the medial side of each large, lateral process of the atlas with the anterior side of the middle part touching the odontoid process. This creates a wide space in the vertebral canal for the spinal cord to pass through, posteriorly. When the transverse ligament is damaged, the atlas can slide forward on the dens, decreasing the size of the vertebral canal for the spinal cord to go through. This can result in neurological symptoms, such as pain, weakness, a lump in the throat, etc. In this compromised position, any movements can impinge upon the spinal cord and cause potentially irreversible damage. The supine transverse ligament stress test works to reproduce symptoms in an instability patient, because the test works to decrease the space of the vertebral canal by pushing the atlas anterior on the axis. This motion is normally blocked by the transverse ligament. The Sharp-Purser test should be performed before the Transverse Ligament Stress Test, because the Sharp-Purser test works to reduce symptoms, while the Transverse Ligament Stress Test works to reproduce symptoms. (“Clinical Testing for the Craniovertebral Hypermobility Syndrome”).
Note: tests should only be performed by a properly trained health care practitioner.