“The pain could be intense, really intense,” said Galvin. “And that just progressed for about six months … to full-blown dystonia.”
Galvin was diagnosed with cervical dystonia in the 1980s. “Dystonia is one of those conditions that causes muscle contractions, abnormal posture, and it can affect walking,” said Duke neurosurgeon Nandan Lad, MD, PhD. “It can be debilitating to many day-to-day functions.”
For Galvin, involuntary muscle contractions in his neck pulled his chin down to where it nearly rested on his chest, and he’d have to pull it up again. “A minute later, pull down again, and back up, all day,” he said. That caused pain in the muscles in his back and shoulders.
The muscles near his mouth pulled as well. “When you’ve got this neck pull-down, and you’ve got the mouth pulling down as well, it just became tough to talk.”
At first, medications and Botox injections provided some relief. “Eventually, medications start to be less effective and start to wear off,” said Lad. “That’s when patients start to consider surgery as a potential option.”