Grisel Syndrome

Grisel Syndrome in Dictionary

According to, grisel syndrome is a form of subluxation that occurs in the spine area of ​​the neck. A subluxation occurs when a joint is incompletely dislocated. In the context of Grisel syndrome, the so-called atlantoaxial joint is affected by the dislocation. In most cases, the cause of the disease lies in a relieving posture, which often results from inflammatory processes in the area of ​​the throat or pharynx.

What is Grisel Syndrome?

Grisel syndrome is referred to by some doctors with the synonymous disease name Watson-Jones disease. The disease was first described by a Frenchman, Doctor Grisel. As part of the disease, the affected patients adopt a relieving posture of the spine in the neck area.

In the majority of cases, the triggering factor of Grisel syndrome is an inflammation in the pharynx, nose or throat. The hallmark symptom of Grisel syndrome is subluxation of the spine of the neck. In particular, the so-called atlantoaxial joint is affected by the incomplete dislocation that occurs during the disease.


The causes of Grisel syndrome are comparatively well researched and known. In most cases, the disease develops as a result of trauma. Various factors come into question, for example inflammation of soft tissue in the nose, throat and throat area or inflammation of the tonsils. In addition, diseases of a rheumatic nature come into consideration as a potential cause of Grisel syndrome.

In some patients, the disease also develops after surgical interventions in the relevant area, for example after surgical removal of the tonsils (medical term tonsillectomy). In the majority of cases, the inflammations mentioned are responsible for the development of Grisel syndrome. Rheumatism, on the other hand, is far less common as a cause of the disease.

Symptoms, Ailments & Signs

If a person suffers from Grisel syndrome, a number of complaints and symptoms are typical and occur frequently. This primarily includes a protective posture of the spine in the area of ​​the neck. The cause of this bad posture is usually pain radiating from the neck area.

As a result, there is an incomplete dislocation of the atlantoaxial joint, which is located in the corresponding area of ​​the spine. Since the atlas is displaced to a certain extent and shifted laterally, intense pain occurs in the neck area. In addition, patients suffering from Grisel syndrome hold their heads at such an angle that the incorrect posture is easy to see.

Diagnosis & History

A diagnosis of Grisel syndrome is made on the basis of the existing clinical symptoms and complaints, which are usually checked using various methods of examination technology. If several examination methods show the same results, the Grisel syndrome can be diagnosed with relative certainty. If people suffer from the decisive symptoms of the disease, it is not advisable to wait long for improvement.

Instead, a suitable doctor should be consulted immediately and the symptoms explained to him. Sometimes the GP will refer the patient to a specialist. In every examination, the anamnesis is the first priority. The affected patient describes his symptoms as well as his lifestyle and possible activities that may have contributed to the development of the disease.

Above all, it is important for the doctor to find out about recent inflammations of the throat or pharynx. In this way, a suspected diagnosis can already be made in some cases. When the patient consultation is over, the doctor uses various examination techniques. An examination using X-ray technology is usually obligatory. The doctor focuses on the area of ​​the cervical spine.

Imaging provides important clues to the presence of Grisel syndrome. An MRT examination, which is also carried out in numerous cases, brings certainty. Before finally diagnosing Grisel’s syndrome, a differential diagnosis must be carried out. The doctor checks whether the symptoms are possibly due to other diseases.

For example, Bechterew’s disease, the Klippel-Feil syndrome, tension in the muscles in the neck area and a congenital torticollis are considered. In addition, it is checked whether torticollis is present, whereby the patients have a hearing impairment in one ear and the vestibular system is damaged.


Grisel syndrome causes the patient to experience severe pain. Because of this pain, most of those affected adopt a protective posture, which has a very negative effect on the back and spine. The pain can also spread to other regions, so that the neck can also be affected, for example.

The head is held very askew, as holding it straight would cause severe pain. For this reason, a relatively simple and quick diagnosis is possible, so that treatment can be initiated at an early stage. Without treatment, the pain and discomfort of Grisel syndrome persists and spontaneous healing or improvement does not occur.

It is not uncommon for the severe and permanent pain to lead to restricted movement and thus also to depression and other psychological complaints. The treatment of Grisel syndrome is always causal and depends on the underlying disease. As a rule, medication is used, with no further symptoms or complications. In most cases, the course of the disease is positive.

When should you go to the doctor?

Since Grisel syndrome is associated with very specific symptoms and complaints in most cases, it can be recognized and treated at an early stage. Treatment by a doctor is always necessary, as this syndrome does not heal itself and in most cases the symptoms worsen. A doctor should be consulted if there is severe pain in the neck or spine.

The pain can also radiate to neighboring regions of the body. Furthermore, those affected often adopt a relieving posture in order to reduce the pain. This bad posture is usually obvious, so that other people can point out the Grisel syndrome to those affected.

If the pain persists for a longer period of time and is not associated with any special activities, an orthopedist should be consulted. If the pain is very severe or in an emergency, you can go to the hospital. As a rule, Grisel syndrome can be treated well.

Treatment & Therapy

Various technical treatment approaches can be considered for the treatment of Grisel syndrome. In principle, however, the measures are based on the underlying cause, which sometimes differs in individual cases. The first goal of treating Grisel syndrome is to treat the underlying disease.

In some cases, the affected patients are given so-called analgesics. In the majority of people, conservative methods of therapy show relatively good results. If abscesses form, they are usually surgically removed.

An early diagnosis of Grisel syndrome enables treatment to be started quickly, so that the healing process of the disease or the underlying causes is accelerated. In this way, the quality of life of people suffering from Grisel syndrome is significantly increased.

Outlook & Forecast

Grisel syndrome can be treated well. If the movement restrictions and pain are assigned to a cause at an early stage, an individual therapy can be initiated, which will quickly subside the symptoms. The prospect of a quick recovery is good if the patient has no previous illnesses and responds well to drug treatment.

Any tension or muscle pain can be relieved just as effectively with physiotherapy and physiotherapy. If Grisel syndrome is diagnosed and treated in its early stages, the symptoms subside completely within a few days to weeks. Long-term effects or serious complications usually do not occur.

The prognosis is worse if there is no or insufficient treatment. Then the symptoms described increase in intensity and significantly restrict the affected person. Quality of life and well-being decrease as the disease progresses and mental illnesses can develop.

In individual cases, abscesses can form that have to be surgically removed. If the growths are localized on the spine, paralysis is also possible. However, the prognosis is generally positive. Grisel syndrome usually progresses very slowly and can be clearly diagnosed based on the symptoms and then treated effectively.


Prevention of Grisel syndrome is possible by observing and avoiding the causative factors. In the case of inflammation in the neck area, prompt therapy is required in order not to promote the development of Grisel syndrome. The same applies to rheumatic diseases.


Follow-up care for Grisel syndrome usually proves to be relatively difficult because the syndrome cannot be fully treated. The patient is therefore primarily dependent on a medical examination in order to prevent further complications and alleviate symptoms. It cannot be universally predicted whether complete healing is possible.

The therapy depends very much on the underlying disease. The affected person is usually dependent on taking medication. It is important to ensure that it is taken regularly, although interactions with other medicines must also be taken into account. In case of doubt, a doctor should always be consulted.

The symptoms of Grisel syndrome can often be limited relatively well with the help of medication. In some cases, however, abscesses form, making surgical intervention necessary. The person concerned should always rest after such an operation and protect the body.

Strenuous activities or sporting activities should be avoided in order to accelerate healing. In general, a healthy lifestyle with a balanced diet also has a very good effect on the further course of the disease. The life expectancy of those affected is usually not reduced by Grisel syndrome.

You can do that yourself

The actions people with Grisel syndrome can take themselves depend on the underlying cause and the type of medical treatment. Basically, the most important measure is to comply with the doctor’s instructions regarding the prescribed medication and any physiotherapeutic exercises .

If abscesses form, adequate hygiene must be ensured to avoid inflammation. If the pain is severe, the doctor will usually prescribe a painkiller. Occasionally, a milder herbal supplement can be used to reduce neck pain and inflammation. However, this should first be discussed with your doctor.

If the Grisel syndrome persists despite these measures, a doctor’s visit is indicated. In most cases, an operation then has to be performed. After an operation, bed rest and rest apply. The neck and neck area in particular must be protected, as there is a certain risk that the wound will open again.

For this reason, it is advisable to support the neck with the help of a pillow or a neck brace. In addition, a doctor must monitor the healing process and ensure that the drugs used do not cause any side effects or interactions.

Grisel Syndrome