Symptoms and Treatment of Klippel-Feil Syndrome


Klippel-Feil syndrome is a rare skeletal disorder that causes neck pain. The condition occurs when two or more spinal bones in the neck fail to separate during early fetal development. Even though this congenital condition is present at birth, individuals often don't become aware of the symptoms until they are older, according to the National Organization for Rare Disorders.

Unless symptoms become severe, neck surgery may not be necessary. Some people are able to manage the neck pain with medications, physical therapy, and chiropractic treatment. However, because the range and severity of symptoms and related medical conditions vary, treatment is individualized depending on what form the disorder takes.


Symptoms of Klippel-Feil syndrome that present themselves during infancy may include a short neck, cleft palate, webbed fingers, low hairline, and limited ability to move the head and neck. Even if symptoms are not severe early in life, they can progress and become more serious later on. Other conditions related to the syndrome that may occur include:

  • Neck, shoulder, and arm pain
  • Problems with renal function
  • Neurological complications
  • Heart defects
  • Respiratory problems due to abnormal rib development
  • Scoliosis, spina bifida, or other spinal deformities


While some people with the syndrome may have a shorter life expectancy due to related health problems, the prognosis for many is good if they receive treatment early on. However, individuals need to avoid activities that could lead to neck injuries. Your doctor or chiropractor may also recommend exercise, wearing a cervical collar, or taking nutritional supplements that help repair disc cartilage. Your chiropractor can offer tips on diet and nutritional supplements depending on your symptoms.

A chiropractor also may use flexion-distraction manipulation to treat the condition. With the use of a special instrument to apply flexion, this technique treats the discs and joints adjacent to the fused vertebrae. Reducing disc herniation relieves pinched nerve pain, which can help you regain mobility in your head and neck. Prior to flexion-distraction manipulation, your chiropractor may apply hot moist packs and low-volt galvanic stimulation to increase blood flow to the area and relieve pain.

If chiropractic care or physical therapy to strengthen the muscles that support the spine fails to stabilize the spine, your doctor may consider surgical intervention to improve range of motion and prevent further spinal degeneration. Although doctors normally try to avoid recommending an invasive spine surgery, sometimes it becomes necessary. As degenerative changes to the cervical vertebrae put pressure on your spinal cord, you may need surgery if you are in severe pain and pain medications and other treatments have failed to offer relief.


30 June 2015

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