Houston Methodist. Leading Medicine

Neck FAQ

Question:

My brother was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease about two years ago. I notice he has trouble lifting his head up. His chin is on his chest, and he can no longer look at me when we are talking. Is this a common problem?

Answer:

Dropped head syndrome as you just described it is a problem caused by a variety of neuromuscular disorders. Parkinson's is one of them. Others include myasthenia gravis, spinal muscular atrophy, and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).

With Parkinson's, there is a movement disorder. The person hasn't lost the ability to move, but there is a problem with activating movement and loss of automatic movements. Everyday, automatic movements like turning, walking, or lifting the head diminish.

Freezing is another problem with Parkinson's. The person suddenly stops moving in the middle of an action. The foot gets stuck to the floor or the chin gets stuck on the chest. It's not clear exactly what causes this problem. There are many different theories. It occurs most often as the disease progresses suggesting degeneration of the neurologic system.

There is no cure for the movement disorders in people with Parkinson's. Physical therapy may help your brother learn strategies to improve movement. The therapist can teach him ways to improve smooth, coordinated movement. Sometimes something as simple as body rocking, clapping the hands, or jerking the eyes in one direction can help them get unstuck and moving again. Kinya Nakanishi, MD, PhD, et al. Cervical Myelopathy Caused By Dropped Head Syndrome. Case Report and Review of the Literature. In Journal of Neurosurgery: Spine. February 2007. Vol. 6. No. 2. Pp. 165-168.

*Disclaimer:* The information contained herein is compiled from a variety of sources. It may not be complete or timely. It does not cover all diseases, physical conditions, ailments or treatments. The information should NOT be used in place of visit with your healthcare provider, nor should you disregard the advice of your health care provider because of any information you read in this topic.
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