Thomas Moody

Thomas MoodyHow one patient takes shots at staying on top of the pain-and came out ahead

One autumn, it seemed to Thomas Moody's wife, Sarah, that her husband would often turn to her to speak but wouldn't have anything to say after all. It happened only when they were in the car. And Moody himself said he noticed sometimes his head would turn to the right even when he wasn't behind the wheel.

Moody thought he had pulled a muscle while lifting weights; so, he visited his chiropractor who noticed Moody's x-rays showed his neck was turned at an angle. The chiropractor adjusted his neck and back and gave Moody a muscle relaxant, but things got worse: now, he had to concentrate to look forward. He returned to the chiropractor who urged Moody see a medical doctor.

"By December, I was really, really uncomfortable. Looking back, I'm surprised how quickly it was from onset to getting so bad. I would scream with pain when I turned over in bed. It was like a Charlie Horse in my neck."

Moody's shoulder had begun to move upward toward his neck and his head began to droop. A teacher, Moody still taught his classes. But he could barely sit through a meal and couldn't drive himself to work. "Sarah would drive me," says Moody. "I'd teach my class, come home, and lay down on the couch. It was so bad, I'd be screaming out in agony."

His friends suspected it was cervical dystonia, which causes muscles to contract involuntarily leading to repetitive or twisted movements. So, he saw a neurologist who diagnosed Moody with cervical dystonia and began treating him with a muscle relaxant and botulinum toxin, or Botox. Botox blocks the release of a chemical that causes muscle contractions But despite dozens of injections in his neck and shoulder, the shots lasted only six weeks, not the 12 as they were supposed to. The Moodys decided to find another doctor.

"I just happened to pull up Emory's web site, and I saw they had doctors who were not only neurologist, but they specialized in Botox," said Sarah. "I thought this has got to be it." I called in January 2006, and had an appointment in two weeks. I really couldn't believe it was that easy. I thought we'd have to have documentation, a reference, and it would take weeks."

By February 2006, Moody, then 44, was seeing Dr. James Greene. "The first thing I noticed was that he had a method to the madness: he used a machine to identify the most active muscles." He said we were going to start from scratch using the least Botox that would be effective, says Moody. "He told us to give him a year, and by the end of the year he should have Tom back to 80 or 85 percent," says Sarah. " I was skeptical. I thought this was a little ambitious. But it turned out he was exactly right."

"We started off with the most active muscle," says Moody. "The next time we saw him that muscle had quieted down. Then, we went to other areas of the neck. Dr. Greene and I know when he's getting the right nerve. Each time we went back to see him, the treatments lasted longer, and I was benefiting from them more. Sure enough, by the time the year was over, I was at 80 percent. Two years into the treatments we were at 90 percent.  Now, we just stay on top of it." Moody returns for shots four times a year.

"I'm never completely pain free," says Moody. "You have to accept a certain amount of pain with cervical dystonia. And you really can't predict how your day will be. When you're having a bad day, you hope tomorrow will be better. And when you're having a good day, well, you just enjoy it.

And I'll tell you why we like Dr. Greene. He still retains the doctor-patient relationship, but he knows I deal with this with humor. You have to keep a sense of humor. And Dr. Greene is not afraid to laugh or lighten up. I trust him to do what he has to do."

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