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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,
Hi Baybreeze....welcome to the world of cervical stenosis! You give a great picture of what it's like and since you've already had it in your lumbar spine, the neck is most likely the same thing.

A couple of questions....are you having any problems walking like a need to walk with your feet farther apart that usual or a stiffness that makes you take baby steps? Are you finding your hands are "clumsy", that you drop stuff all the time?

If you've answered yes to either of those questions then you need to look at seeing a neurosurgeon.....and you'll need that MRI. Those are loss of function problems and you are headed for paralysis. You may not have the money or insurance right now but if you don't get something done, unlike the lumbar spine where you risk problems in your legs, the neck will paralyze EVERYTHING from that level down. So say you look up at the sky suddenly and you cut off the blood supply to your spine at C6, you are instantly paralyzed from the waist down and both hands and wrist. Above C5...paralysis includes the diaphram and you stop breathing.

So until you can see a doc, I'd advise you to be very careful about bending your neck at all. And be extremely careful about driving as a fender bender can be life threatening.

Sorry to sound so doom and gloom but I was there 2 years ago and almost lost my life. Ended up having to battle back from partial paralysis and brain damage. And I'll be battling the rest of my life. I wouldn't wish this on anyone!

So please be careful and see a doc even if you can't afford the MRI. Many hospitals have a sliding fee scale for those without insurance so you might want to look into it. Even a much cheaper CT scan may show just how bad it is so you could do that first. And if you start to get a feeling that you are going numb from the neck down(as I did)get to the ER and money be's your life at stake.

good luck and very gentle hugs...................Jenny
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'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.
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 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.
Okay Baybreeze...we've all been helping Choc keep herself safe until her MRI this week(how long have you been waiting, Choc...a couple of months?) and we can help you until the August insurance upgrade. I had one of those cheap insurance policies too and it is worth it. Otherwise, you could end up with insurance and unable to use it for a year. That was wise of you.

Get yourself a soft collar. Anyone can buy one at the drugstore. I use it to help relive muscle spasms in my neck while up and turn it around when my neck starts to keeps your head pitched forward but still supports. I like it backwards better than forwards. Try some on and see what feels good in both positions but especially backwards. Also reminds you to watch your neck.

Prior to my neck surgeries I actually slept on a rolled up towel. Not under my neck but as a firm support that kept my head even with the rest of my spine and I slept mainly on my sides. Pillows were just too soft and undependable. The towel I could bend into different shapes to support my head while avoiding tender areas like ears.

My doc had recommended a hard collar for going in the car but many states prohibit driving in a hard collar and you have to have them fitted. So try to cinch the soft collar fairly tight when driving to protect you in case of an accident. You can get all sorts of little mirrors that attach to your regular mirrors to help you see behind you. I can't turn to the left so I have major blind spot problems. I'm now considering going with an extra wide rear view mirror. Check any auto supply store for the mirrors. And make sure your head rest is correctly adjusted to stop your head from going backwards.

You can make it to August if you just become very aware of taking care of yourself. I went numb from the neck down in January and had my MRI in Feb. I saw the first back doc in March and they tried an epidural injection in May. IT made things much worse. I decided to see my neurologist in Boston(I'm in CT.)and saw her in July. Saw neurosurgeon #1 in late July and then neurosurgeon #2 in late August. First surgery was late Sept. So I was 9 months from injury to surgery and was apparently pretty bad as my surgeon had a 4-6 month waiting list for surgeries and got me in 4 weeks after seeing me. That's fast for him....when I needed the emergency surgery it still took 8 days to get in. He knew I was well educated in what was wrong and what I had to do. And I HAD to stop some of my meds or risk bleeding too much.

So you do have time if you want to wait. Your new insurance may just have that pre-existing clause and without that extra insurance, you'd be screwed.

So you must be down in central NJ? Or southern? I was born in Orange and raised in Chatham until age 7. My family is long time residents of the since 1620. Original Dutch settlers in NYC.

I'll do some research for you and see what I can find but I know you want to see your doc in Philly so I'll look there too. I drive 2 1/2 hours to Boston for the excellent care and I'm glad to hear you looked for good care as well where you are. But we might be able to keep you going until the good insurance kicks in and then you won't have to look elsewhere. Just gives you peace of mind should you need help.

And here's something to check into....does your little health insurance policy cover a trip to the ER? Mine did. If you have another of those episodes of Lhremitte's, if you go to the ER you might get an MRI done then and it might be covered. Check. When I went to the ER with an inability to urinate I ended up with both cervical and lumbar MRI's and both were fully covered under my ER coverage. Might be another route.

In the meantime, we'll get you through. Choc, Sammy, myself and others of the "cervie group" are pretty good at sharing ideas to keep you going until you get to where you need to be.

gentle hugs..............Jenny:wave:
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. 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 really does help one's spirit and help one get through tough times! I truly do appreciate it!
Hey there Baybreeze...been off for a couple of days enjoying a surprise visit from my granddaughter.

I also can't stand anything around my neck but sometimes you just have to swallow it and do it. Cervical spine surgery usually means a collar of some kind for some amount of time.

While you are waiting for your insurance to kick in a couple more suggestions. If you decide to try a collar, use it at home and in the car but not at work. If you think it will help at work, just tell your employer that you've got some muscle spasms from working out to vigorously. Everyone knows someone who been a "weekend warrior" and over done it.

But I want to give you a couple of warning signs that mean you made need to speed things up. Both involve the blaader and bowels. If you find yourself having trouble holding either, time to consider making an appointment with a doc who can order the MRI for the day you get the new insurance(and an appointment with a spine surgeon to interpret it...that can take months. That's what I did...set up my MRI and neurosurgeon app't for June 3rd as I started Medicare on June 1st and I didn't have the $ for the deductible and the NS was out of network. My NS usually takes 4-6 months to get an appointment).

The other thing is if you find you can't go...either way. That is a true emergency and needs an ER. Cervical and lumbar compression can both cause it(thoracic too). And it can become permanent if not treated immediately. So that's when you say....forget about the money. A life with catheters and no bowel function is tough. My brother-in-law has a stroke in his spinal cord and lost these functions and all the infections and other problems ended up cutting his life short. Not time to think of $$$$.

So hang in there......gentle hugs.............Jenny
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 bladder always felt so full. And do you know when I got a nerve block and 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 seems to help me from going so much. I do not have major sciatic right now, but do have my neck 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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