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Help with "chicken neck" post treatment?

needhope1
Posts: 29
Joined: May 2009

Well at least that is what my husband calls it...He is about 4 months post treatment for stage IV tonsil cancer, he went through surgery, 2 months of chemo, 2 months of radiation.

He is slowly getting back to "normal", but he is complaining of this "chicken neck"--hanging, flabby skin under his chin. His surgeon said it is from the radiation. The doctor said to keep stretching his neck muscles and massage the neck line to get it to get back to its normal firm state.

Has anyone had this happen? Are there exercises that one can do to speed up the toning process? Or in time will the neck get back to normal?

I saw an infomercial that sells a neck toner, do you think something like this will help?

http://www.asseenontvguys.com/index.asp?PageAction=VIEWPROD&ProdID=111

Thanks friends for any advice!

SASH's picture
SASH
Posts: 290
Joined: Apr 2006

Radiation does strange things to the body. Makes things tight where you don't want, loose where you want tight, etc. Before investing in that device talk to doc as that motion might not be the right one he needs. Ask doc if he things physical therapy or a therapeutic massage might help and if so see if he can recommend someone to do this type of work. You only want experienced people playing around in areas that have been affected by the treatments.

Skiffin16's picture
Skiffin16
Posts: 8199
Joined: Sep 2009

Actually I think the correct terminology for here is Turkey Neck...or so I've seen, LOL.

I also have that, I'm seven months post radiation. If you find something good let me know. I've seen several posts on causes and conditions, but not much of anything on a sure way to help it. From most of what I gather it's related to lymphatic fluid retention due to damaged paths as a result of the radiation. I've seen it called lymphadema swelling also....

From what I gather, there are various methods of massage to help, although I haven't found specific method. Most of what I read says the fluid will eventually find new paths for drainage and relieve some of that swelling. I do believe mine is not as bad as it was the first few months after treatment, or I'm just getting used to it.

I know I think it's getting better, my wife thinks it's the same...LOL.

Like I said, if anyone has something to offer, chime in, I'm interested as well.

John

Landranger25's picture
Landranger25
Posts: 208
Joined: Nov 2009

When I asked my ENT about it he said it was fluid looking for a new way home. Like John says, the radiation damaged the pathways and needs to find new ways to get out of there. I agree with the stretching and exercising. Part of my morning shower routine now. Also include opening jaw as wide as possible as that all got blasted as well. Good luck.

Mike

needhope1
Posts: 29
Joined: May 2009

TURKEY NECK! Now that makes more sense...! Thanks John! And thanks to everyone for the advice and information.

We are going to meet with my husband's oncologist tomorrow, will let you know what he says to do about the turkey neck problem!

MarineE5
Posts: 783
Joined: Dec 2005

I echo what Sash, John, and Mike mentioned. I would hold up on the purchase of that neck pump thingy. As mentioned the radiation plays havic on our necks, especially if we have any lymphnodes removed with surgery. I had a radical neck disection with 30 some lymphnodes removed.

A simple exercise that I was instructed to do by my Cancer Physical Therapist is this.

Sit or stand keeping your shoulders still. Keep your mouth shut and look directly up at the ceiling as far as you can and hold for a 10 count. Then look to your left as far as possible and again for the 10 count. Do the same for the right side. Then look forward and then tilt your head to the left as if you are trying to touch your left ear to your left shoulder, again for the 10 count. Do the same for the right. Do this a few times a day.

The Therapist did show me a gentle massage to do, which would be easier to show than to explain. They can show him this massage. I used Keri lotion on my neck also. I would put alittle on my fingers and started under my chin and made small circular motions under my jaw and worked slowly along the jaw line on my neck and worked toward my ear. This helps move the lymphnode fluids. We are lucky in a way as gravity helps drain the fluids toward our feet if we do a good bit of walking.

The lymphnode fluids do return to the neck area if we do any heavy lifting, exercise, etc.

I hope this helps alittle bit.

My Best to Both of You and Everyone Here

Tanager75
Posts: 87
Joined: Aug 2009

I noticed my neck seemed to be flabby too. I figured it was another side effect. At about 5 months now my neck is back cose to normal. I think time and my body recalibrating got me back to closer to where I was before rads and chemo.

peace mark

CajunEagle's picture
CajunEagle
Posts: 365
Joined: Oct 2009

The Physical Therapist has me doing a motion of using my hands to gently push the fluid from my flabby neck......up over my ears.....and down to the chest area. Seems to work fairly well. I also use something called a "Face Caddy". You can look it up on-line. The funny part of this lymphodema thing is that all my doctors (5 of them) all say something differently as to when it will go away. Two of them say it never will. But, I will use that excercise shown above. Thanks alot.

ratface's picture
ratface
Posts: 1262
Joined: Aug 2009

I have a very bad case of the turkey neck. I have been going for lymphedema massage for about a month now and it seems to help for the day but then reverts back to the turkey neck. Personally I think it will take a long time for this to subside if it ever totally clears up. You can find lymphedema massage therapist at some hospitals in the rehab centers. Some may be in the wound care centers. Lymphedema therapist also have an online site where you type in your zip and it finds the nearest therapist.

My therapist explains lymphedema like this: The lymph fluid drains by gravity. There are no muscular structures to move it along. Mine has a very hard center to it and she claims this is the protein left behind that is accumulating causing a lump. After therapy I can feel it soften up. The fluid must have somewhere to go so the lower extremities are the first massage points. As room is made lower down the lymphatic channel she moves up with the massage moving from lymphnode cluster to cluster finally moving the facial and neck fluid along.

The massage is very superficial as the lymph nodes are very close to the skin surface. Her analogy of the system is one of where prior to surgery and radiation the fluid traveled through highways and is now learning to travel on small trailways. My fluid will pool in whatever direction I sleep. Sleeping on your back is best but I cannot do that. Physical exercise will actually make it worse so be careful with that gizmo on TV.

I am currently looking into purchasing a product made by solaris corporation in Wisconsin. They make a compression garment for the head which is worn during sleep. I have heard other HNC patients obtained positive results with this garment. It is expensive, in the range of $500 with most of that not covered by insurance. The garment can be viewed at their site which should be easy to find.

Time may indeeed heal this wound but it may be awhile. Good luck to the rest of you with the same affliction.

MarineE5
Posts: 783
Joined: Dec 2005

Ratface,

Just curious, have you tried any foam wedges to elevate your head and neck above your heart level ? I was instructed to either use one or two extra pillows or purchase a foam wedge. I found that the foam wedge worked better for me. The main thing is to get our neck up above the heart.

My Best to You and Everyone Here

ratface's picture
ratface
Posts: 1262
Joined: Aug 2009

I have the thinnest pillows you ever saw. Paper thin!! I absolutely can not sleep on my back as I toss and turn all night. I have bought new pillows twice and took them back once and as we speak have a hundred pound weight on one trying to make it thinner. My neck hurts if I am not laying with my spine flat. It is my fault but I refuse to sleep on my back.

MarineE5
Posts: 783
Joined: Dec 2005

I know of what you speak. I am also a side sleeper, didn't much care for laying on my back all the time. I used the foam wedges for roughly 2 years. Problem was, I would always work my way onto my sides during the night. My back would then be at a 45 degree angle on the left or right side when I woke up. Over time, my back hurt more then my neck.

So then it became, which was the lesser of the two evils. I figured I could get my neck to not hurt much during the day by doing the massage and stretching exercises verses taking pain pills for a sore back. A balancing act to try and get to our normal selves once again.

My Best to You and Everyone Here

needhope1
Posts: 29
Joined: May 2009

I also saw the Solaris neck compression product, I wondered why it was so expensive? Could it be that much better than the ones I saw for $50? Just curious.

Thanks for your info!

needhope1
Posts: 29
Joined: May 2009

We met with the oncologist this morning and thank goodness, my husband's scans and bloodwork look good. He is arranging for my husband to see a OT who specializes in lymphedema massage to help with the turkey neck. He also mentioned the compression garment for the head which he said is worn during sleep. Hopefully this will help. After hearing all of your sound advice and from the oncologist I understand that the TV gizmo thing that I mentioned in my original post would definitely be the WRONG thing to use!

Thanks again!

Skiffin16's picture
Skiffin16
Posts: 8199
Joined: Sep 2009

So out of curiosity, what did he say when you asked him about the Turkey Neck Syndrome, LOL.....

needhope1
Posts: 29
Joined: May 2009

The oncologist understood the difficulties with the turkey neck...He said to see a OT who specializes in lymphedema massage to help with this issue. He also mentioned the compression garment for the head which he said is worn during sleep. Really hopes this helps!

ratface's picture
ratface
Posts: 1262
Joined: Aug 2009

Just updating on my massage therapy. I'm now about two months into it and honestly at first thought I was wasting my time but have since changed my mind. It seems just last week things started to get better and the massage is working. The turkey neck is much softer now and we think it has begun to drain on its own. Crossing my fingers here that it will continue past the thearapy.

MarineE5
Posts: 783
Joined: Dec 2005

Ratface,

Glad to hear that the massage has finally started to do something for you. I can speak from experience that the massage does work. When I first started it, I would do the massage after breakfast. During the day if my neck started to feel tight along with some stretching exercises and then again after Dinner.

My Therapist stated that the massage should work for 4-6 hours per massage. She said that if I was lucky, that I would only have to do it once in the morning. She was right. The one thing that I can suggest to be aware of is the positions that you are in during the day, be it work or things you do around the house. Anytime that we have our neck below our heart level or do any lifting of a weight that might be over 10-15 pounds, the Lymphnode fluids flow to that area. Hence, some swelling. I have found this to be true and have to massage a little more often during the day. Just wanted to throw that out there for you and anyone else that read this.

My Best to You and Everyone Here

ratface's picture
ratface
Posts: 1262
Joined: Aug 2009

MarineE5

I lift weights regulary. I am trying to get back my strength prior to surgery. My right arm was weakened almost 75% from movement of the accessory nerve during the disection. Is it your understanding that lifting weights makes the fluid flow to what area? Does it flow to the chin head area or the the area where the weight is being lifted?

MarineE5
Posts: 783
Joined: Dec 2005

Hi,

The phyical therapist explained to me that if I were to lift any heavy weights, either trying to strengthen my body or from work ( Shoulder area ). The blood flows to the area being exerted. With the blood flow, the lypmphnode system fluids also flow to the general area of the exertion.

She said to do low weight and a moderate amount of reps, 10-15 reps and about 2 sets. I too lost a good amount of strength on my right side ( shoulder and arm ) after the Radical Neck Disection. I found that the fluid would travel to my neck and face, as we have roughly 100-200 lymphnodes in that area. With the ones removed, the fluid backs up. Until the little lymphnode veins increase in size to help move the fluid, we have swelling. Doing the stretching exercises and the gently massage therapy shown to me by my Therapist, the swelling has been reduced and I only have to do the massage when I over exert myself.

These past few weeks with the snow hasn't been fun. I do have a snowblower, but I still have to shovel some areas. Needless to say, I swelled up like a blowfish. Massages get me back to normal until the next episode. We do have one thing in our favor verses some other cancer patients that have lymphadema problems. We have gravity on our side as there is a lymphnode reservoir located in the general area of our waist. The lymphnode system cycles at 1/3 the speed of our blood flow. When we walk around the lymphnode fluid slowly drains toward the reservior during the day. I worked at a Home Improvement Store and was on my feet allot, so between the massage and walking most of the day, may neck and face would almost return to normal. I hope this helps

My Best to You and Everyone Here

MaryRC's picture
MaryRC
Posts: 114
Joined: Feb 2010

I have that problem now and I havent even had surgery or radiation yet. I asked the doctor if the neck disection I have coming up will tighten it up and she said no. But as long as I get over this stuff, I will be ok with my chicken neck
Mary

ratface's picture
ratface
Posts: 1262
Joined: Aug 2009

Yes my therapist starts massage in the lower abdomen to make room for the draining fluid. My lifting then is not doing too much damage as it is all below the the neck and I am increasing my strength every day. The chicken neck drives me crazy psychologically as it is a swelling of tissue where the cancer is supposed to be gone. It's silly and irrational but it reminds me every time I look in the mirror that this stuff can come back. It's part of head and neck cancer and I know I;m being nuts over it but it helps to go to therapy and have it reduced.

MarineE5
Posts: 783
Joined: Dec 2005

RF,

Time will help with this and after awhile you won't see the puffiness as much in the morning and after some of your activities. It will pop up at times that I have already mentioned. But, you are probably like me and many other people, we want instant results. I found out that this doesn't happen to me any more : ) Not sure how long out of treatment you are. I was about 4-5 months out of treatment when all the tightness and swelling developed. You are on the right road to fix this and I hope it starts to help quickly for you.

My Best to You and Everyone Here

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