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Hi everyone,

I have known problems/history of lumbar spine problems, including surgery, however, I have had some flare-ups of severe neck and shoulder pain over the past few years, though I've never had my cervical spine checked out yet. Right now I just cannot afford it.

I have found that I have to sleep or lay down with my neck bent forward a bit. It cannot be straight, and absolutely cannot be bent back at all. The times my neck has been bent back slightly, like during sleep, I wake up with both arms and hands completely numb (though I was not sleeping on them). It would take quite a while for the numbness to go away. Since last year, I've also had several episodes of waking up (and one time during the day) with a large circular area on my right check totally numb, as if I was given a shot of novacaine. This, too, seems to take several hours to go away, once I'm up and about. The time it happened while awake during the day, I had been looking up at a computer screen. Once I was done, the numbness went away.

Has anyone had one or both cheeks go numb like this? I had told my PM about it and he said there are nerves that come off the spine at the base of the neck and back of head that could do that. He also mentioned the trigeminal nerve...but I told him the same, I cannot get an MRI right now, I cannot afford it.

Also, if my head is straight or slightly bent back, and I cough or sneeze, a few times I felt sharp pain down my left arm & into my left middle finger. Come to think of it, I have had deep, achy, almost sharp pains in some fingers on my right hand in the past which would wake me up at night. Now I am wondering if that was nerve pain. When I told my Rheum about it, he looked at my fingers and just said he didn't see any swelling..that was that. Another weird thing that happens when I cough/sneeze with head like this is both of my upper arms get completely & suddenly weak and feel as if someone is squeezing them. That's the best way I can describe it. I also get a deep ache during this down both arms (from neck, through shoulders, through bicep areas).

To me, it is eerily seeming like I might also be getting cervical stenosis, but I am not sure. I had severe lumbar stenosis with neurogenic claudication in both legs...and what I feel in my arms seems a little similar.

Does anything of this sound familiar to anyone?
Looks like you've been having these problems for awhile and a shame that you can't get that MRI so you know exactly what is going on there. I'm sure you are right about suspecting cspine.

I get same thing only different. (I knew you'd like this one). When I sneeze, I get pins and needles from elbows down, knees down, and not always pain in neck. I wake up every morning with fingers that don't work for a few minutes; I talk them into it. Arms go to sleep frequently when laying down too. Different levels in cspine will cause different problems, right?

I have had pains going into ears but is intermittant. At the moment, they are plugged right up and I don't know why. I'm not sure about your 'cheek' comment. Pain in hands can be spine/arthritis starting up in the hands. Both combined are unpleasant.

It's very common to have problems in cervical and lumbar areas, from what I am seeing here and experiencing.

Even without the cervical MRI, it sounds like you have an idea what's going on because of your past experience. There are some very experienced people on this board who can help you but they might not want to 'venture' without MRI results of the cervical spine posted here.

Hope you get some answers,
choc
Thanks for the replies, everyone! Ehhh, yep, after seeing these replies, I guess it confirmed my suspicions a bit more. Of course I know I need to have imaging done, but I just have to wait for now. I've been in worse shape before, so I guess I can handle it for a bit.

Jenny: Yes, I do have a lot of problems walking, which I've always attributed to my lumbar spine, sacral area, and hips. I do have to walk with my feet farther apart and I am also very stiff. I wouldn't they are quite baby steps, though sometimes my pain is so that I have to shuffle, but I certainly cannot walk normally (though at least I can walk much better than before my lumbar spine surgery). Also, yes, I do drop things constantly! I've even picked up cups of hot coffee and soup out of the microwave, only to have it just fall out of my hand and burn the heck out of myself. The dropping things is not constant, though, meaning I do not drop everything, but it does happen quite a bit. I know you were not meaning to scare me and I have read that it can cause paralysis in the c-spine. I had a co-worker who ended up losing function of one hand, then her arm, next thing you know, she was having trouble walking, too. For a while, her doc figured she had carpal tunnel!! Then she finally had an MRI and was found to have a huge disk herniation that was compressing her cord and she had to have surgery right away. I know it can be dangerous and I do worry about it. I used to only get neck pain & other symptoms a few times here and there, but over the past 7 months or so....it's been slowly getting worse. Plus some of the symptoms I'd never had before. I also get shocks down my neck. Like one time, I flipped my hair back (I have really long hair) and I got such a zap down my neck, my arms dropped to my sides and It was so weird, I couldn't really move them for several seconds, then I had what I think is really bad nerve pain down through my middle finger and that pain lasted for several days. I know something is amiss in there, that's for sure.

Well, I will look into the hospital thing and see how much their MRI costs, otherwise I have to wait until I get insurance again.
aw yes, hair flipping; I haven't hair flipped in so many years due to this cspine horror. Had to change hair styles and found something I am happy with that isn't terribly short, yet noflipping involvement. Also, after 6 years, I don't flinch, startle outwardly or respond to anyone who says, 'quick, look at.....' Immediately, I learned to turn mostly from the waist with neck tucked. This works well while driving. So you will learn what moves you can make to minimize pain and don't listen to comments about how you aren't using certain muscles as you do what you have to do to avoid those crippling electric shock-like pains.

After so many years of pain, numbness, tingling and electric shocks, it all starts to 'minimize' and arms and legs and other nerve pathways just go numb with a pain mix. You mix that with the inability to grip, or trust grip, and your primary concentration becomes focusing on the job you are doing, instead of getting the job done while thinking of other things like you might be used to. If you are not fully focused on the task you are doing, the clumsiness and confusion can multiply, resulting in frequent frustration and possible feeling of inability to cope. I haven't noticed your age, but unless you are in your 80's, it's pretty hard to wrap your brain around it on a day to day basis.

Why am I telling you this? Because people who lack either the funds or medical care available might want to know what might happen and that they are not alone and yes, you might feel like you can survive the pain. It's what happens when the pain becomes not the same that is a serious concern as others will tell you on this board.

So it costs $400 here for cspine MRI if we don't wait the 3-6 month, dr descretional wait. Here, nothing is done until paralysis is iminent. That's what's ahead for some of us unless we buck ($) up and get out of here for surgery. I'm sure you are aware of the expense and aftercare and so on that would be compounded if you don't even live in the States.

So I empathize with what you are going through and I have been enduring the pain with little more than arthritic tylenol, which does very little for one whole hour.

I have S and L complications as well and the two can make things seem unbearable at times. So I understand the position you find yourself in and hope that you quit dropping coffee on yourself and worse and are able to adapt to what you are willing to 'tough out.'

blunt but sincere,
choc
I have the same problem in the mornings. I shuffle & limp instead of picking up my feet, cant pick them up if I tried. Its strange that surgeons dont ask you a whole lot about the lower extremities when focusing on the cervical. As of the past month I have also had big problems with bending my knees. Can be very painful to bend down or to get back up after bending down.

As for the shuffling/limping it usually improves after moving around abit.
I will ask my surgeon about the shuffling problem as I have my appointment tommorrow.
I also tend to sleep in the fetal position, everything bent including the neck. My PTs have told me to try to use 1 pillow only & a cervical pillow, not sure how you sleep or how many pillows you use. Weeks before surgery my pain & symptoms shot way up & my surgeon ask me to try using a collar to stabalize the neck. I know you can pick up the soft collars for a decent price. I am trying to think of things that were suggested for me to try. I feel really bad for you with no insurance & I know this is a problem & a fear for alot of people. I will keep you in my prayers, Sammy
Chocolate - I live in NJ and all my other MRI's have cost around $1500, though when I've gotten my past ones (on my hips, my lumbar spine, sacro-iliac, and ankle) I had insurance at work, so it cost my nothing. My company went under and I've been unemployed for a long time, though just recently found work, but will have to wait until August to get insurance again. However, I am not even sure how the plan is or how much I might have to pay, etc...yet. And that's another story, trying to work full-time with all this pain. Even though I take several meds, sitting kills me. Yesterday my neck got pretty bad and I couldn't even sleep last night, ughhh. But I know all of you know exactly how that feels.

Jenny - I will definitely never flip my hair again, OMG!! I also have to be careful about moving my neck too fast. It's a project trying to back up my car b/c I cannot twist my low back at all and it's getting harder and harder to twist my neck to see. You should see me driving..I am always checking my rearview, especially when at a light or turning to try to see if someone behind me is coming up too fast so I can try to get out of the way. I am soo paranoid about getting hit.

I know what you mean about the pre-existing conditions. Here is the thing, though. I do have some extremely basic, cheap insurance that I've bought just for that reason...to avoid the possibility of not get treated for so long for my pre-existing conditions whenever I got a job w/ insurance. In NJ, that is the law. If you keep yourself covered somehow, it is illegal for the insurance companies to not cover you for somethign pre-existing. Of course, this cheap plan was very difficult while unemployed and left me with not a dime extra. It does not cover any x-rays or MRI's or other tests, it's not even comprehensive. It hardly covers anything, which irks me because I could have saved that money over time to pay for an MRI now!

Someone asked how old I am....I just turned 40 a few months ago. My low back problems all started when I was around 33 and progressed very quickly. My neck problems started in 2006, if I remember correctly, though it was only sporadic. Now, of course, it's getting worse over time. I do not think I have a teaching hospital nearby. Maybe RObert Wood Johnson might be one? But that is at least an hour away, although, my lumbar spine surgeon was farther away. I went to Philly and would definitely use the same surgeon on my cervical spine if it comes to that.
I am the worst when it comes to sleeping, all over the place & my husband said he has found me in the strangest positions. My old PT informed me that although alot of people sleep in the fetal postion its not good for the neck at all. Thats telling that your neck feels better in the forward postion. Must be taking pressure off of something in some way.
I have noticed alot of people like the heat & although it will help me at times ice always brings me more relief. Ended up with ice on last sunday. Was out for awhile & my neck was triggering off a whopper of a headache. I kept rubbing & rubbing it & the minute I got home I went for the ice pack. When it gets like that pain meds just dont cut it.
I wore the patches for the longest time & am going to try them again for my shoulder just to see if they will help.
Because the ice tends to give me relief, especially in the neck, I know there has to be inflammation going on in there. I'll use moist heat in the mornings just to help get the neck moving abit more.
I really do feel for you as I know any cervical problems are tough to deal with & not knowing exactly whats going on is x10 worse. Perhaps giving the collar a try will help, we can hope.
Wanted to mention to try to limit any activities that will keep the neck bent in any up or down postion for any length of time. This is another thing I was told by different therapists, before & after fusion, & of course any lifting. Sammy
Thanks so much everyone, for the support! I will definitely look into the collar, especially after today. OMG, my neck is almost unbearable today! Perhaps the weather here might be contributing to it because almost every single day it's been humid and cloudy, like it's going to rain....or it does rain. I feel like I live in England or Washington with this weather, it just doesn't go away and the forecast shows the same for the next 5 days, UGHHHH! I was trying to keep my neck more straight today and bent forward a bit on & off, but it is just killing me. I know what you mean about the headaches because I have a nasty one today. It started from my neck, then spasms started which spread around my neck and throat and the pain went up the back of my head and created such a headache. This has happened to me many times before, as well. I tried a pain patch and a menthol patch on my neck today, but it didn't help at all. It's awful.....headache, all these spasms, plus my head feels like it's way too heavy for my body...does that sound familiar? I wish I could take it off for a while to relieve the pressure, or sit there pulling my head upwards or something. I am so utterly exhausted today from all of this. But I know you all probably know what I mean.

With heat and ice, for myself, anyway....I have found heat to soothe my spasms somewhat way more than ice. When I use ice, it gets extremely uncmfortable for me :::shrug:::. Same thing happened to me with my lumbar spine. At least my chair at work is pretty adjustable and my desk is great, so that probably helps a bit, though not enough to keep the pain away.

Speaking of rolled up towels.....that was the first thing I had tried but then I found a great u-shaped cervical pillow with some sort of buckwheat filling, which is moldable. This seems to work best for me. For my pillows, I always adjust the amount and types of pillows. Sometimes I just need 1 down pillow with my cervical pillow on top. Other times I need to elevate my upper body, so I put my cervical pillow on top of a few other pillows or I use my mattress genie to elevate my upper body. The mattress genie really comes in handy for me!

Jenny - thank you so much for your offer of help, that's very nice of you! But I do know that we here tend to like to help others in any way we can and the same goes for me. My insurance supposedly covers an ER visit, however, the co-payment is $500!!! Of course I do not even have that right now. Like I said, i have dealt with unbearable lumbar pain before and somehow still went to work every day (because I am VERY stubborn and needed the money). Many days I was literally in tears all day and/or my boss would beg me to go home early. A few times I did, but I really needed to work. Somehow I got through it, so I will get through this I am sure. But...it is still awful with the pain and spasms! I actually try to zone out here and there and find myself doing deep breathing. I will look into the collars, but I am a bit apprehensive, only because I just recently started a new job. I know the sitting at the computer is contributing to my problems (both lumbar and cervical) but there's no way I can work doing any kind of physical activity. Since I need to work to support myself, an office job is the only way to go for me.

Thank you, again, everyone, for the support and kind words.....it really does help one's spirit and help one get through tough times! I truly do appreciate it!
Baybreeze, sorry you are in so much pain while at work all day. I know what it's like when your head is way to heavy, like your head is teetering on the wrong neck and about 20 lbs too much. Just leaning on your wrist to take the pressure off for a few moments makes you realize just how heavy your head really is, and how badly we need a decent support system to hold it up.

I wasn't able to wear any collars due to the problem greatly affecting the front and swallowing--the added pressure gives a choking sensation. So I am curious as to whether you have that problem as well. This might indicate that you are losing the natural curve of your neck, among other things. Am also wondering about those travel type collars you just wear around the back of the neck that you see people wear in cars/flights? I haven't tried that yet. Or can you pick up a bag that you heat up and wear it on there for a few minutes on a break, all slouched back (legs up), with your head on the back of the chair with the weight off your neck? Could be worse for your employer: bringing a cot to put beside your desk might be more of a no-no than trying to work with things a little.

I know when you can't find a comfortable position and in all that pain like you want someone to pull your head off, that there might be a tendancy to reef it all over the place to 'stretch' it out. But I'm sure you have found out by now that it can make the pain and spasms worse, yet it seems like that's what it needs. Seems like there's no pleasing the neck and the added frustration tightens it up more.

Good thing you already have a good dr lined up for when you are ready. That's some of the battle right there.

I am glad that you have had so many wonderful posts here and it can be really comforting knowing you aren't alone.

Hoping the time flys by for you and you get relief,
choc
Yea, I don't think I would want to wear a collar at work, only because I was out of work for so long, just started a new job finally, and it's nerve-racking when you have pain and/or disabilities. I am trying my very best to hide my pain and not tell anyone my physical problems, although people can still see that something is wrong, b/c I don't walk normal.

As for the bladder, I have had times where I had severe sciatica down in L5/S1 and suddenly developed awful bladder problems. If I remember correctly, at first I could hardly go to the bathroom. Then I started having to go more and more and it got totally ridiculous to the point I was going every 15 minutes or so....ROUND the clock! I couldn't sleep at all due to this. And it was just very little dribbling...my bladder always felt so full. And do you know when I got a nerve block and steroids....it stopped. So I don't think it was a coincidence, I think it was due to my problem. I had another herniation, plus I had a piece of scar tissue or disk tissue stuck in the lateral recess jamming my nerve in there. THat was horrible. You know what I noticed, also? Since I've been taking Lyrica....it seems to help me from going so much. I do not have major sciatic right now, but do have my neck problems....plus I still have OA and facet arthritis, plus I recently fell onto my back! Then...I get my LYrica through prescription assistance..but I just had to wait for my renewal for almost a month! I had none to take and my nerve pains got worse, plus all of a sudden I found I was going to the bathroom a lot more, though not like when I had that severe sciatica. I just got it the other day, so I am hoping it will calm down my bladder again....I shall see.

Jenny - I hope you had a wonderful time with your granddaughters!





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