Don’t push your dystonia!

 Push up and Press up have became part of the life of young adults…

Dr MH Marion explains why weight lifting is not advisable in cervical dystonia patients…

 

Don’t push your dystonia!

 

1-Push up and Press up have became part of the life of young adults. Going to the gym is a healthy and an advisable way of keeping fit in a urban society, which expect us to be sitting all day long in front of a computer and to be in full shape for climbing mountains.

However, it’s more recent that weight lifting to reinforce selectively muscle strength and to modify body shape is part of the routine of ordinary people, who are neither athletes, nor body builders.  Weight lifting can quickly be part of the life style, with addictive personal challenges to lift heavier and heavier weights.

2-Cervical dystonia is a neurological condition, affecting young adults, resulting in an unbalanced activity of the neck muscles. Some muscles are hyperactive, and inhibit their counterpart on the other sides (reciprocal inhibition); for instance a patient with an involuntary rotation of the head to the right (right spasmodic torticollis) will have a large , hyperactive left Sterno-Cleido Mastoid muscle and a thin right Sterno-Cleido-Mastoid muscle. For a better understanding, read the blog “What makes my head turn?”.

The treatment of cervical dystonia is based on Botulinum injections, which correct this disequilibrium by relaxing the hyperactive muscles and on physiotherapy by reinforcing the inhibited muscles.

3- Is weight lifting contra-productive in patients with cervical dystonia?

I had the opportunity to treat few patients with cervical dystonia who were adept of weight lifting practice. These patients require larger doses of Botulinum toxin, even if the small number of cases doesn’t allow any scientific conclusion. This could explain by the fact that the exercised muscles became larger and stronger.

But the question is which exercises have an impact on the neck muscles and are some exercise worst than others, by targeting neck muscles involved in the dystonia?

I had the opportunity to discuss resistance training exercises with a specialized exercise instructor , Mr Rajah James who gave me a reference book “ Strength training anatomy” from Frederic Delavier. Every resistance training exercise is analysed in terms of functional anatomy with detailed illustrations of which muscles are targeted for each exercise. It’s an amazing book full of details and drawing, that I will strongly advise to anybody interested in exercising against resistance.

4-. Exercises to avoid at any cost:

The neck muscles are involved in the erect posture of the neck, in another words keeping the neck straight; any weight lifting will tense the neck muscles to stabilize the neck during the effort.

More specifically, shoulders muscles such as Trapezius and Levator scapulae elevate the shoulder but also are involved in the rotation, lateral flexion and extension of the neck.

Lateral Arm Raises and Shoulder Shrugs (Machine and Dumbbells shrugs), have to be avoided at any cost; they both reinforce the Trapezius in his upper and anterior part and in addition the shrugs reinforce the Levator Scapulae.

Back Press, Front Press, and Dumbbell Press are reinforcing the Trapezius muscles in its upper part.

 Therefore I advise strongly against any weight lifting exercise in case of cervical dystonia;it can worsen the dystonia by reinforcing the dystonic muscles and increase the muscle unbalamnce and also it can partially compromise the effect of the Botox injections.

5- Physiotherapy for cervical dystonia

The retraining of the cervical muscles, which are becoming less active because of the dystonia, and the stretching of the overactive muscles are a very important part of the treatment. Jean-Pierre Bleton in Paris has written extensively about his original approach of physiotherapy with dystonic patients.

Frederic Delavier: Strength Training Anatomy

http://ebooksfreedownload.org/2011/04/strength-training-

Jean Pierre Bleton : Role of the physiotherapist in the treatment of dystonia

http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=haKD-PjEJ3MC&pg=PA223&lpg=PA223&dq=jean+pierre+bleton&source=bl&ots=yHGkDzRaN3&sig=VhFnlNAlPGqNlnuo7ieIMKR8yjY&hl=en&sa=X&ei=X9FXT42IDsSg8QOc2Mj-Dg&sqi=2&ved=0CFoQ6AEwBg#v=onepage&q=jean%20pierre%20bleton&f=false anatomy.htm

 

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The Bali’s dancers head posture in patients with neck dystonia.

Sometimes the analysis of the posture of a patient with cervical dystonia can be tricky; For instance the horizontal translation of the head is a movement that the dancers from Bali can do side to side so graciously. For us European it’s far from natural to dissociate the movement of the head from the neck in a side to side shift. Dystonic patients sometimes have their head shift to one side ….

The Bali’s dancers head posture in patients with neck dystonia.

The horizontal shift of the head.

Sometimes the analysis of the posture of a patient with cervical dystonia can be tricky; For instance the horizontal translation of the head is a movement that the dancers from Bali can do side to side so graciously. For us European it’s far from natural to dissociate the movement of the head from the neck in a side to side shift. Dystonic patients sometimes have their head shift to one side without a lateral tilt and complained of limitation of their active head and neck movements in daily life. How to analyse this dystonic posture is very important when treating the patient with Botulinum toxin injections.

Professor Reichel from Germany kindly sent me 2 weeks ago the latest English version of his book: Therapy guide spasticity-dystonia, which is a very comprehensive and practical guide of the use of Botuinum toxin in these spasticity and dystonia and reflects his vast clinical experience in these fields.

He illustrates in details the horizontal shift of the head with the underlying principle that the role of the muscles in head and neck posture depends of their insertion either on the cervical spine ( Levator scapulae, Scalenius) or on the head itself , mastoid, linae nuchae ( Sterno-cleido-mastoid, Trapezius, Splenius capitis).

The horizontal shift of the head to the right for instance will occur if at the same time the head is tilt to the left and the neck to the right. Prof Reichel uses the terminology of left laterocaput and right laterocollis.

The right levator scapulae and the right scalenius are responsible of the right laterocollis and the left Sterno-cleido-mastoid muscle, the left cervical portion of the Trapezius, and the left Splenius are responsible of the left laterocaput.

 

It seems complicated to follow but it’s quite obvious when examining the dystonic patient with the Bali’s dancer head posture.

But is this posture a primary dystonic posture or the results of an adaptation of the patient ‘s neck posture with a left laterocaput in order to keep the eye line straight when looking in front? There is a reflex loop between eye movement and neck muscles (the cervico-ocular reflex- COR), which with other reflexes prevents visual slip during head and body motion. But this reflex had been found weak or absent in cervical dystonia.

There is still a lot of unexplained observation in dystonia. Fortunately it does not stop neurologists to treat their patients with cervical dystonia with Botulinum toxin injections, based on a careful analysis of the posture.

Dr Marie-Helene Marion

Therapy Guide Spasticity: Dystonia (Uni-Med Science) G. Reichel

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Therapy-Guide-Spasticity-Dystonia-Uni-Med/dp/389599779X

Cervico-ocular function in patients with spasmodic torticollis

R Stel, M Gresty,T Metcalfe, AM Bronstein.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1014296/pdf/jnnpsyc00499-0049.pdf

 

What makes my head turn?

What makes my head turn? Find out with Dr Marion, neurologist which muscles of the neck are responsible of turning the head on one side in neck dystonia

What makes my head turn?

The neck muscles involved in the involuntary posture in cervical dystonia need to be identified for Botulinum toxin injections and physiotherapy. Here are some hints.

See the sketche below.

The head is placed on the top of the cervical spine and can pivot about 90 degrees on both sides. The pivot of the head is possible if one neck muscle is pulling forward and if another one on the other side is pulling backward.

The Sterno-Cleido-Mastoid (SCM) muscle

is the muscle pulling forward and rotating the head to the opposite side (right SCM turns the head to the left).

The Splenius Capitis

is the muscle pulling the head backward and rotating the head to the same side (left Splenius turns the head to the left).

The SCM muscle is a long superficial muscle easy to palpate on the front of the neck, and the Splenius is a deep muscle, difficult to palpate, behind the ear.

The shoulder muscles

In addition, there are 2 muscles which are both neck and shoulder muscles: the Levator scapulae and the Trapezius ; both lift up the shoulder, but the Levator scapulae is a deep muscle,   responsible for the posture “shoulder up and forward “ and works with the Splenius  in turning the head to the same side (the left Levator Scapulae will contribute with the left Splenuis to the rotation of the head to the left, )

The Trapezius is a superficial muscle and can contribute to the rotation of the head to the opposite side, working together with the SCM (the right Trapezius will contribute with the right SCM to the rotation of the head to the left).

These muscles are the most frequent targets for Botulinum toxin injections to control the dystonic rotation of the head. The palpation of these muscles is important, as dystonic muscles feel more bulky under the fingers.

It may sound complex but looking at the drawing should make it simpler to grasp…

Marie-Helene Marion

London BTX centre