A Pain In The Neck


(The pain in the arms and finger numbness starts with the pain in the neck. Image source: Google / Slide Share)

Missed a couple of weeks of blogging, though…

Some weeks ago (or maybe a month), I woke up with a severe pain on my left arm (funny thing was I was unable to pinpoint the exact spot of the pain) and feeling numb on couple of my fingers. It is not the first time this has happened – all blamed on the way I end up sleeping. I had pain and numbness before but it usually goes away when I do some yoga like stretching my back and neck for couple of minutes.

However it was different this time around, it felt different. The pain was greater and longer and it persisted as I was driving and started work. Thinking that I had sprained my neck muscles, I went to see the doctor at workplace, told about the pain and got some medicines for muscles relaxation. But the pain persisted despite medication. The next day, a friend of mind suggested me to go and check on my heart, knowing how a pain in the left arm is usually an indication of heart problems.

It was too painful to continue work anyway and the last doctor that I visited had somehow have not arrived at the clinic. So I decided to take the day off and go and see another doctor nearer to home. She listened to me on the symptoms and immediately said that my pain had nothing to do with the heart (even so she did an ECG check just to make sure) and suggested me to take an X-Ray. She suspected that I had cervical spondylosis and gave me different medication to reduce the pain.

Fearing the worst, I googled the details out…

Spondylosis (from Ancient Greek σπόνδυλος spóndylos, “a vertebra”, in plural “vertebrae – the backbone”) is a broad term meaning degeneration of the spinal column from any cause. In the more narrow sense it refers to spinal osteoarthrosis, the age-related wear and tear of the spinal column, which is the most common cause of spondylosis. The degenerative process in osteoarthritis chiefly affects the vertebral bodies, the neural foramina and the facet joints (facet syndrome). If severe, it may cause pressure on nerve roots with subsequent sensory or motor disturbances, such as pain, paresthesia, and muscle weakness in the limbs.

When the space between two adjacent vertebrae narrows, compression of a nerve root emerging from the spinal cord may result in radiculopathy (sensory and motor disturbances, such as severe pain in the neck, shoulder, arm, back, or leg, accompanied by muscle weakness). Less commonly, direct pressure on the spinal cord (typically in the cervical spine) may result in myelopathy, characterized by global weakness, gait dysfunction, loss of balance, and loss of bowel or bladder control. The patient may experience shocks (paresthesia) in hands and legs because of nerve compression and lack of blood flow. If vertebrae of the neck are involved it is labelled cervical spondylosis. Lower back spondylosis is labeled lumbar spondylosis.

(Source)

Further googling from the internet on cervical spondylosis, I understood more on the situation that I was in and the type of recovery methods available. The problem is with the neck and thus I had to more neck exercise to make the bones to be back aligned.

I got the X-Ray done and the condition confirmed as cervical spondylosis and it was time to see a specialist. I guess it is part of the occupational hazard of looking at a laptop and smartphone that causes this condition. My doctor did mention that this did not happen overnight but it takes time and it is made worse with bad posture. Perhaps age is finally catching up with me.

I made an appointment with an orthopaedic surgeon and it was indeed a short appointment as the source of my pain was obvious. The specialist suggested MRI scan if the physio and medicine does not work but added that in most cases, the problem is treatable – 90% of the time. But I was so much in pain so I was rather eager to start off with my physio and medicine immediately so that I can see my pain coming down as early as possible. After seeing the orthopaedic surgeon downstairs, I was asked to go to the first floor where the physio centre was. Whilst waiting for my turn with chiropractor, I saw a small kid bouncing a basketball and the specialist was timing him and after a short stint, he was advised to how to bounce differently. I later understood that the kid’s left arm was weak and he needs to strengthen them. Damn, I hate to see bad things happen to small kids.

My turn came and I was expecting to do some exercises or bounce couple of balls around but I was proved to be wrong. The chiropractor asked me to lie down on the bed and attached a device to my neck which will stretch the neck bones. It is called cervical traction. I was started off with a 15 kg pull and moving forward the strength of the pull will increase accordingly. To be frank, the cervical traction treatment was indeed very relaxing and I ended up sleeping, only to be rudely awakened up by my wife who was standing close to me and knows me better. Good thing, the chiropractor had left us alone and pulled the curtains to attend to another patient whilst I undergoing the cervical traction which last about 20 minutes.

Once this is done, then there is another treatment to undergo which come closer to a massage than a proper treatment. That takes another 10 minutes but instead feeling less painful, the massage actually rather ticklish than soothing. I was actually laughing in pain. I suppose to undergo physio twice a week and for at least 12 sessions. But considering that I am only free during the weekends, I changed it to treatment once a week which means recovery may be a bit longer.

I spoke to someone else who had the same problem and it took almost 5 months for him to recover. If I use the same analogy, it is still early on my road to recovery. But for now, I still have the pain in the arms and numbness in my fingers and that drains me down quickly at work. It is as if someone had turned me into a long towel and whacked it against a large rock. Sometimes the pain becomes so unbearable that I can’t work and become restless. It has been very tiring at work and when driving for past few weeks now. Drinking a lot of water and some neck exercise helps to reduce the pain but not much sometimes. Holding a wet handkerchief in my left hand helps too.

4 months and counting, sigh.

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