Can a Neck Injury Cause MS Symptoms?
I was doing some research on the internet about the occipito-atlanto junction and I came across your website and this article.
However, the first article I read was entitled: “Adjusting the Occiput on the Atlas,” by Marc Heller, DC.
From 1968 to 2017
I’ll try to make a long story short here by explaining how I received a head and neck injury in 1968 and how on March 2, 2017, I may have self-adjusted my own occiput on the atlas. As a result I’ve been experiencing a gradual lessening of negative physical symptoms ever since.
In 1968 I was playing defensive back on my high school football team. I made a tackle and injured my neck. The effect was as if I ran head first into a wall and crunched my neck down onto my neck and twisted it at the same time.
I was out for the rest of that game, but continued practice and started in the next game. The coaches thought I probably just sprained my neck.
However, after that I had chronic pain on the right side of my neck just under the skull area. I did visit a medical doctor about a year after the injury, because of the pain and I noticed I sometimes had tingling or numbness in the fingers of my right hand.
According to the x-rays the doctor said I may have had a whiplash type injury, but he didn’t see anything that should be causing the pain or neurological symptoms.
After that I experienced chronic neck pain and began visiting chiropractors over the years.
Other than the lingering neck pain I didn’t notice any other symptoms until 1985. One morning I was walking down the hallway and stumbled toward my right and bumped into the wall. I continued walking, but then bumped into the wall again.
When I sat down to eat breakfast and moved my hand to grab the milk carton on the table, I noticed my right hand and arm swung off toward the right side. I realized I was having a neurological problem.
I began seeing my family doctor and tests were started. I also began having severe bouts of vertigo. Eventually, in 1986, I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS).
My symptoms have always affected the right side of my body the most. For example, early on I lost the fine motor skills in my right hand and had to learn to write left handed.
I also began with a mild foot drop and within a couple of years was wearing an ankle-foot-orthotic (AFO) to help mobility.
The right side of my body is slower. I can’t tap my right fingers or right foot as fast as my left. Thus, it feels like the whole right side of my body is slower and clumsier.
My symptoms always seem to get a little worse each year, with intermittent flare-ups of extreme vertigo and nausea.
I’ve stayed in pretty good physical shape ever since high school by regularly working out with weights and doing cardio exercise. I have also performed basic yoga stretching movements since around 1971. In addition, I’ve used inversion therapy on a regular basis since the early 1980’s.
I’ve also been using a good neck traction device off and on for the last few years.
After my injury it always felt like my skull was pressed down on a nerve. I’ve had chiropractors and an osteopath work on that area and I did receive definite relief, but I think the skull has been stuck ever since 1968.
By 2017 my symptoms had progressed to the point where I had fairly severe spasticity on the right side of my body. My right leg has to be “dragged” along and I no longer have any kind of a normal walking gait.
My neck, right shoulder, back, buttocks, etc. are all tighter than the left side. This causes pain and mobility issues. For at least 5 or 6 years now my right ear has felt “plugged up” and I have ringing and hissing there as a constant background.
On March 2, 2017 I was doing some of my morning stretching exercises. In one particular exercise I lay on my back with my arms folded across my chest.
I pull my feet up under my legs a bit and then I roll—first to my left—stretching out that shoulder—and then move the same way to the right side.
However, this time, as I moved right I could feel where my skull seemed to be pushing down on my trouble area. It’s a very specific spot where all my pain and neurological problems seem to stem from.
I was still arching up on my right shoulder and then I started pressing my head down onto the carpet a little more firmly. It was like I was trying to apply pressure on my skull to push it up and at the same time I was trying to stretch the neck away in the other direction.
The image I had in my mind was like when you use a bottle opener to pry up the small cap on a soda bottle. I felt like I was so close to just lifting that skull a little.
I put quite a bit of pressure there--probably more than a physician would advise.
And then I felt and heard it. The noise was internal and external like when a chiropractor makes a beneficial adjustment. For a split second I was concerned, because I didn’t know if that was a positive or negative effect.
However, right away I felt like maybe the source of a lot of my problems had been relieved. It felt like my skull actually moved off whatever it was pressed up against.
Right away there a noticeable reduction in pain and the spasticity seemed to slack up a little. I won’t go into more specific details at this point, but I thought this might be a good case study for chiropractors. If you’re interested I’ll add some progress reports if they develop.
It’s now April 14, 2017 and I’ve noticed that when I ride the exercise bike at the gym my right leg feels less clumsy and seems to move a little faster. I still don’t notice any improvements in my walking ability.
The conservative answer is that you have two different and unrelated conditions; one in your cervical spine and the other neurological.
Because they both can do producing overlapping symptoms such as the numbness and tingling in your hand in the early stages of the MS it could well have been confusing for all clinicians, and you too.
I'm sure you won't remember now and I very much doubt if there are any medical records going back fifty years, but had those symptoms come from your neck you would have had a positive upper limb tension test, and a Spurling's sign. If they were negative, then there would have been suspicion that there was something else going on. An increased reflex in the arm would have confirmed this.
At this stage I guess it's wait and see; hopefully you continue to get improvement of your symptoms. One small caution is to resist the temptation to start clicking your occiput in the manner described on a regular basis; too much manipulation of the joints makes them hypermobile and unstable.
Please keep in touch, and let us know how things progress; this would certainly make an interesting case study for your chiropractor.