How to recover from muscle damage in the neck?
February 2, 2010 9:34 AM   Subscribe

My 58 year old aunt has been suffering from a very strange neck condition for about 2 years now. Her head leans to one side. It looks freaky and she cannot straighten it. Has anyone had experience with this or something similar?

YANMD. The nerves/muscles in the right side of her neck are damaged and weakened. Thus, her head leans to one side. It looks like she is holding it that way, but she cannot straighten it. If she tries to, her head shakes. It's very obvious and she is constantly being questioned about it.

Possible causes (suggested by Dr.): Scar tissues from something unknown; She was hit by a car in the 70's and this may be resulting trauma; She carried a heavy shoulder bag on the damaged side for many years.

She has been seeing a chiropracter and physical therapist for 2 years to no avail and no diagnosis.

The latest treatment suggestion from her Dr. is botox injections directly into the muscle.

I feel terrible, as this is really affecting her social life and mental state.

Does anybody know someone who dealt with this or something similar? How were they able to fix it? I'm open to any feedback. Thanks.
posted by kmavap to Health & Fitness (11 answers total)
Has her Dr suggested going for a MRI (shows soft tissue better than CT) or a CT scan? There are a lot nerves/muscles/CSF/etc in the area affected. What about going to a neurologist, if it is a neurological thing (head shaking indicating stiffness/spasticity?)

IANAD or even in med school, just a grad student with a neurological condition (stroke at birth resulting in hemiparesis) studying zoonotic epidemiology.
posted by carabiner at 9:47 AM on February 2, 2010

It sounds like she has torticollis. There is unfortunately not a true cure, but Botox will help relax the muscles in the neck by stopping their ability to contract. Physical therapy might have a synergistic effect if she can keep it up.
posted by honeybee413 at 9:52 AM on February 2, 2010

Look up dystonia. Go to specialists until somebody at least satisfies her that they understand what's going on.
posted by theora55 at 9:53 AM on February 2, 2010

Are the doctors sure she didn't have a stroke? Seconding the need for a more intensive scan.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 9:54 AM on February 2, 2010

I saw this PSA (with Dixie Carter!), made by the National Spasmodic Torticollis Association just the other night. Looks like their website might be useful--there's a support hotline, etc.
posted by angels in the architecture at 9:58 AM on February 2, 2010

I'm so sorry. I'm not a doctor. I've been burned a couple of times by over-aggressive doctors. From that perspective, please no poison injections, surgery, or anything else invasive until you've seen specialists and gotten second or third opinions. No one should be a guinea pig until/unless they've exhausted their abilities to find someone who can identify the cause and whose work can be confirmed by another competent professional.

For one, I don't like that the Dr. thinks both that there is muscle damage on one side and that the cause is muscles contracting *too much* (presumably on the other side) such that they should be poisoned. Just sounds like the doctor is throwing darts out.
posted by lorrer at 10:01 AM on February 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

Cervical dystonia sounds like a possibility. I'm not an MD but I used to work at a company that made a botulinum product (not Botox), and this is one of the indications they were working on. From the scuttlebutt I heard (not to be confused with data, mind you), Botox and our product both worked pretty well and patients were very happy with the results. So without actually stating any firm facts, I think there's a good chance your aunt's condition can be improved - take heart!
posted by Quietgal at 10:06 AM on February 2, 2010

Thank you everyone! I am cautiously optimistic about the cervical dystonia hunch, because the symptoms match hers exactly.
posted by kmavap at 10:46 AM on February 2, 2010

Agree with honeybee on the torticollis. My son had it and went to physical therapy for it. Now he has complete movement with only a touch of a preference (such as sleeping, etc).

She should get the MRI, get a new physical therapist, possible the botox (don't know much of it). Its' a slow processes. She may need surgery if she has old damage, etc.
posted by stormpooper at 11:04 AM on February 2, 2010

I have congenital torticollis, so my head is naturally tilted. It's not as severe as your aunt's, but I'm throwing my vote in for torticollis. Good luck to her.
posted by Ruki at 1:45 PM on February 2, 2010

Random thought: is she on any medications, specifically muscle relaxants? When I was younger I was prescribed Reglan for an injury, and I had an allergic reaction to it that caused me to lose control of the muscles in my neck. I physically could not keep my head straight. It's fairly uncommon, but it might be worth looking in to.
posted by DulcineaX at 3:11 PM on February 2, 2010

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