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Spinal Cord Disorders Message Board

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Hi Spimo,

My story is kind of weird. For the LONGEST time, my left hand has been pretty numb most of the time, and VERY numb some of the time. (My right hand numbs up on me pretty often, too.) Then, several months ago, my left ARM started acting up. Sometimes, there was numbness, sometimes pain, sometimes weakness. I attributed it all to the MS.

The numbness was getting worse, so when I saw my neurologist in August for my regular MS 3-month follow-up, I mentioned it to him. He told me that not everything is from the MS and told me to come in for an EMG; he wanted to test me for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. I scheduled an appointment for the EMG and had the test on Aug. 21. (It's not often that you go for a test and hope it turns out positive, but this is how I felt; I figured that CTS was fixable, whereas numbness from MS wasn't.) Anyway, before I left his office, he told me that sure enough, I had a pretty bad case of CTS in both hands, worse, of course, in the left. I left his office feeling pretty good.

A couple of weeks later, I had my regular visit with my internist. I asked him how long after one started splinting for CTS should it be before improvement could be noticed. He said, "Not long." Well, not only was the CTS not improving, but it seemed that the numbness in the left arm was getting worse!! The doc suggested I look into surgery for the CTS, and I agreed and put it on my schedule to call a doctor for that. But I never got the chance.

On Sept. 4, I had to carry VERY heavy cases all over one of the campuses where I teach. (That's another story--a long one. It can wait for another time.) Anyway, by the time I got to my classroom, I was in a lot of pain. By that night, I couldn't lift my left arm all the way above my head. By the night after that, I could raise it even less, and by the next day, it was virtually paralyzed. I called the neurologist and got an emergency appointment for Monday evening (9/9). He examined me and then told me to get an MRI and to come in for an EMG. After getting the MRI results that Friday (9/13), he asked me when the EMG was scheduled, and when I told him it was for 9/18, he said, "Come tomorrow instead." On Saturday, the EMG showed that my arm was DEAD! The MRI report showed SEVERE compression of the nerve root at c4/c5. He told me to see a surgeon. I called on Mon. 9/16, saw her on 9/17, and had the surgery on 9/19. No time to react! Apparently, the compression was so severe that they were afraid of permanent paralysis.

So for me, Spimo, what I thought was MS was really a cervical problem, compounded by MS AND CTS. I had a triple whammy! But the MRI confirmed that it was definitely cervical--remember, MS symptoms are caused by lesions in the BRAIN.

Funny thing is that I started wondering if I really had MS after all. Many of the MS symptoms DID disappear after the surgery, and as you said, the symptoms are SO similar. I asked the neurologist about this in November, and he assured me that I still do have MS. (Remember, I had the positive MS tests to prove it!) It's just that the Avonex is working! (Silly me, I was kind of happy when my leg started burning again. It's not that I WANT MS; I just didn't want to think that I was living with a misdiagnosis.)

My suggestion to you is to make sure that a cervical problem definitely DOES exist, but then, before you have surgery, get a second (and even third) opinion. Some cervical problems might not require surgery; they might be treatable in other ways. Also, speak to your MS neurologist about this. Make sure he communicates with the neurosurgeon, and don't agree to surgery unless he agrees, too.

Well, Spimo. I hope I've helped. Please keep me informed. Best of luck.


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