The short version: After truly excruciating pain last weekend, a course of steroids and pain killers has started to get things under control this weekend. I’m hoping that in another week or so and I’ll be ok again.
Two weeks ago I was recovering from surgery really well. One day I told my wife at the end of the day that I hadn’t thought about my neck or back at all and hadn’t taken a pain killer in three days. All the various aches and pains had pretty much dissipated.
Then two days later something happened. And last Thursday something else happened. The pain was in all the same places I had it before surgery—under my right arm, in my right shoulder blade and shoulder, shooting down by triceps, at my elbow and in my hand. But qualitatively it was very different. Instead of occasional burning, shooting and tingling stuff, it was throbbing and aching constantly. I was in agony with the worst pain I had experienced in years. I was taking narcotics more than once a day for the first time ever.
The only good news is that the weakness in my grip which resolved after surgery had not returned.
I talked to the surgeon. He said get an MRI and start taking steroids to control the inflammation
The MRI showed no new problems. The surgeon concluded that most likely I had somehow aggravated by my musculature with some random movement causing inflammation, pressure on nerves, and then spasming. He thought a course of steroids would relieve the inflammation and pain in a week or two and then I’d be ok. And if not, that meant there was some structural issue creating pressure on the nerve at C7-T1. He said he might have to do an anterior cervical surgery which would enable him to find it.
Luckily things are moving in the right direction. Streoids and Naprosyn are helping with pain. And I finally found a way to sleep that reduces pain and stress allowing me to heal at night. So things seem to be resolving and hopefully will fully resolve by the end of the week. If I need it to help the process along, I’m also going to get a steroid injection in cervical spine.
Then when I’m feeling good again, I’m going to go back to PT to try to help the process of both reducing any remaining muscle spasm and strengthening by neck, back, and arm so that I’m less likely to set the problems off again in the movements of daily life.
1.Aside the pain and exhaustion it causes, what’s really annoying me is that I have not been able to play my trumpet. (Even if I could stand the sound of the plastic one I bought, I’m afraid to put any pressure on my neck or back now.) I really miss playing. And It’s going to take months to get my chops back in shape again
2. Sorry to hear about your sister. I’ve done all that stuff-ice, heat, some type of topical medication and PT- and it helps sometimes. And then sometimes–luckily not often for me– almost nothing will stop the pain.
I don’t get any allergic reaction to steroids. But they are not good for my blood pressure or blood sugar. They make it hard to sleep sometimes. And they make me feel weird!!
I’ve been using medical marijuana for a couple of weeks. One kind tends to help inflammation another with sleep. And the sleep inducing one helps counter the effect of the steroids.
3. Thanks, Kay Bogdan I’m trying not to blame my mom, from whom I inherited this condition! Actually I have to give her credit. She lived with this for almost two decades when the surgical techniques were not advanced enough or available to help her. I didn’t quite realize what a trooper she was.
4. M Jonathan Garzillo Thanks. The consensus among the neuro-surgeon who operated on me, the now retired orthopedic surgeon in the past who has been advising me, and my sports med doc. They al think think is a temporary setback.
One of the weird things about this episode is that the locations of the pain are the same but the quality of them is so different–and worse.
No one has spelled it out to me in this way, but the impression I’m have is that after getting some relief from the impingement on the nerve at c7-t1, the nerves going down my back, arm, wrist, and hand were gradually recovering and leading to the the shooting, burning, and tingling pains to gradually disappear. Then, whatever set off this recent episode–perhaps some kind of muscle strain caused spasming that again caused impingement on the same nerve which set off those recovering areas but in a different way. And now, that the steroids are reducing the inflammation and impingement, they are recovering.
Does this make sense?
5. Thanks for saying yes that there is more than one way to impinge a nerve, Jonathan. I really appreciate the good advice you have given me–when prompted! This stuff is not totally easy to understand for someone with no medical training…or even for my wife, a psychiatrist who still really knows internal medicine but hasn’t serious thought about spine and muscle issues in almost 40 years!
From:M Jonathan Garzillo It’s tough for us to understand, and we do it all day. Musculoskeletal diagnosis is a very grey thing, more so than most of us tend to admit. More often than not, the frustration a patient feels that they’re not quite 100% sure what’s going on with their pain is a frustration we share.
6. Agatha Andrews Yes, especially after I had such immediate relief after the last surgeries this was disappointing and scary. I was wondering if my luck had finally run out and that I was going to be living with this the rest of my life. Right now, that doesn’t seem to be the case!
7. Midnight upate. I’ve gone without pain killers for about 24 hours. Only taking steroids. Very little pain. Just some tingling in my elbow and some soreness in the usual spots.
Plan is to stay on the current dose of steroids for a few more days than do a gradual taper.