Tongue spasms. Horrible pain. Help!
April 12, 2008 5:08 PM   Subscribe

I regularly sprain my tongue. It happens often enough (and is painful enough) to make me curious about how and why this happens, and if it can be prevented. I have never met anyone else who experiences this.

I have frequent episodes where it feels like my tongue spasms or is sprained. Pain is sudden and sharp, and it always on the left side, running from my ear down to my neck, and makes it impossible to speak. It makes my mouth and eyes water and pain lasts about five minutes after the spasm. One trigger is yawning, but the other day it happened when I was pulling a heavy book cart. Is this epilepsy, or a neuro problem? I am not low on potassium and don't get dehydrated, which I know can cause muscle sprains, generally. Can't find any info on the web. If I can't do anything about it I'd still like to know what is happening, because it's the weirdest thing.
posted by wowbobwow to Health & Fitness (12 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
You're not alone. Happens to me very occasionally, maybe 5-6 times a year. It's just a muscle spasm. I can induce almost exactly the same feeling in my foot and calf muscles at will by stretching my toes all the way up, then all the way down.

Ow! Shouldn't have done that...
posted by Pinback at 5:46 PM on April 12, 2008 [1 favorite]

I get something similar but not nearly as bad (I recover in less than a minute). I always figured it as a muscle cramp somewhere in the jaw.
posted by nanojath at 6:00 PM on April 12, 2008

Best answer: Wow, glossopharyngeal neuralgia. They always told me someday I'd see a case of it. Didn't think it'd be here.

At least that's what it sounds like. Definitely see a neurologist - if it's really GN, he'll probably be tickled pink. It's quite rare.
posted by ikkyu2 at 6:00 PM on April 12, 2008 [10 favorites]

not just you-it once happened to me drinking an In-N-Out milkshake. Really.
posted by neilkod at 6:00 PM on April 12, 2008

Response by poster: ikkyu2 - Fascinating! The Medline and NIH write ups perfectly describe how it presents for me. I just so happen to be getting a physical next week, so I'll be sure to mention it. I found this tidbit via Medline which makes a lot of sense:

When these causes [lesions & tumors] are eliminated it is often found that a small blood vessel compressing the nerves as they exit the brainstem is the underlying etiology.
posted by wowbobwow at 6:12 PM on April 12, 2008

When you were a little kid, were you ever told that you had a speech defect, even though your speech progressed at a normal pace? Did you lisp, mumble or mispronounce words?

My tongue is so short that I can't really stick it out the whole way. It's called ankyloglossia. If you're not sure, just ask your dentist next time you go in for a cleaning. She'll be able to give you a ballpark estimate on how long your tongue is in comparison to others.

Every once in a while, I experience the symptoms you're describing, and it's because of the ankyloglossia. If they caught it early, as they did with my younger brother, they would have snipped that fleshy attachment under my tongue, and that would have corrected the problem.
posted by freshwater_pr0n at 6:13 PM on April 12, 2008

Response by poster: info link via merck
posted by wowbobwow at 6:20 PM on April 12, 2008

Is this really glossopharyngeal neuralgia? Like Pinback, when this happens a few times a year (I can do it at will if I have my head turned while I yawn), I get that shooting pain in the left side of my jaw and figure it's just some kind of muscle spasm. Does GN feel like a charley horse in the neck, or something more complex than that, as googling GN seems to suggest?
posted by anildash at 6:20 PM on April 12, 2008

If glossopharyngeal neuralgia feels anything like trigeminal neuralgia, you'd know it if you felt it. Like kill-yourself-to-make-it-stop pain.
posted by Justinian at 6:46 PM on April 12, 2008

The mechanism is thought to be similar, Justinian, but the pain is not described as being as severe as that from trigeminal neuralgia.

That "blood vessel compressing the nerve at the cranial exit" is sure hotly debated. People get operated for these conditions and photographs are taken and academic types sit around and swear at each other based on whether they think the blood vessel that was moved could possibly have been big enough or in the right position or pulsatile enough or blah blah blah ad nauseam. The pain from trigeminal neuralgia is nothing compared to having to sit through that argument for the sixth or sixteenth time.
posted by ikkyu2 at 6:51 PM on April 12, 2008 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Does that debate have any basis on failures of the MVD procedure? Is there anything in the literature about surgical success rates for this? I'm not interested in that, personally. I'd rather keep the GN (if that is what I have) than have someone cracking open my transcondylar area, or whathaveyou.
posted by wowbobwow at 7:36 PM on April 12, 2008

Well, if the MVD always worked, there'd be no debate, that's certainly true.

MVD is last-line for people who are totally disabled, and usually is done for TN, not GN. Medication treatments are tried first and have a pretty good success rate.
posted by ikkyu2 at 8:26 PM on April 12, 2008

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