Cervical disk pathology in patients with multiple sclerosis: two case reports.
ABSTRACT A patient with multiple sclerosis (MS) may be seen by a physical therapist for evaluation before the MS diagnosis is definitively made, after a relapse, or during a progression. The diagnosis of MS should be part of the differential diagnosis if the symptoms of a patient with neurological issues fit the pattern of a progressive disease. Multiple sclerosis can affect any part of the central nervous system. Cervical pathology can be confused with relapsing symptoms of MS. The purpose of this case report is to demonstrate how easily cervical pathology can be overlooked in a patient with MS.
Two case reports of patients with relapsing MS are presented. Both patients were referred for physical therapy after not responding to standard treatment with intravenous methylprednisolone. One patient reported multiple falls and complained of increasing cervical pain and spasm, fatigue, bouts of diplopia, and difficulty ambulating. The other patient complained of headaches, visual disturbances, and cervical pain with radicular symptoms. Contrast magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) did not reveal new MS lesions or the extension of old MS lesions. The cervical herniations in the first patient, not previously documented, were old. The bulging disks in the second patient, seen in a previous study, were unchanged. The MRI findings did not support the diagnosis of acute inflammatory MS or acute cervical pathology.
Both patients responded to physical therapy intervention once the cervical symptoms were directly addressed. As the cervical pain and spasm decreased, the relapsing MS symptoms of dysmetria, balance disturbance, and ataxic gait began to diminish. In both patients, eye function was slow to recover, with persistent impairment. Both patients returned to their premorbid activity and socialization level.
Cervical disk disease should be considered in the differential diagnosis when a patient with MS has a history of trauma and displays abnormal postures, spastic weakness, and changes in pain complaints. In these 2 cases, treating the cervical pathology in addition to the MS symptoms provided the most effective approach for functional improvement.