Neck-tongue syndrome (NTS) is defined as neck and/or head pain accompanied by ipsilateral dysesthesia of the tongue with sudden rotation of the head. Proposed causes include compression or irritation of the C2 nerve root as it courses behind the atlantoaxial joint or hypertrophy of the inferior oblique muscle. The primary purpose of this case report was to describe the conservative physical therapy treatment of a patient with uncomplicated NTS. The patient was a 13-year-old girl who reported insidious onset of sharp pain in the neck, numbness/tingling of the ipsilateral tongue/face, and tinnitus with cervical rotation. Symptoms occurred several times a week for approximately 10 seconds. Examination revealed impaired function, increased forward head posture, decreased cervical range of motion, and positive neurodynamic assessment. The patient’s treatment included manual therapy and exercise for postural stabilization. Following 8 visits, pain of the neck and tongue numbness had resolved. Score on the Patient-Specific Functional Scale (PSFS), cervical range of motion, and posture had also improved. At the 22-month follow-up, infrequent, momentary symptoms in the neck and dysesthesia of the tongue were reported. The PSFS remained the same. Objective measures were normal.
This case report describes the physical therapy management of an individual with NTS. The management strategy followed a protocol similar to that used for cervicogenic headaches, due to the involvement of the upper cervical spine with both NTS and cervicogenic headache and the lack of evidence for the treatment of NTS.