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Old 01-15-2011, 11:33 AM   #1
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Cervical nerves and numbness

About 10 days ago I sneezed and when I did, a strong bolt of electricity went down both arms. Afterwards only the muscles in my forearms hurt, but by the next day I started having numbness in both arms and legs, no pain. I haven't had a mri in a few years and know that I have a bulging and herniated disc at c5 and c6 level. I went to the doctor yesterday and he said because i wasn't experiencing any pain that it was probably nerve irritation and put me on prednisone. I was diagnosed with ddd approx. 13 years ago and also have arthritis of the spine and spinal stenosis. I guess what bothers me the most is that I have never experienced numbness to this degree before. It's from my feet all the way to my buttocks in both legs...left is worse and in both hands. Also have a nervy sensation in legs...like my nerves are on edge. I'm having difficulty walking and balance issues with this. How likely is it that this is just nerve irritation and not anything more serious? How long before it returns to normal in most cases? I'm presently unemployed as of last summer and without health insurance which really frightens me if this is something more. Any feedback is appreciated.

Thanks,
Becky

 
Old 01-15-2011, 12:41 PM   #2
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Re: Cervical nerves and numbness

Hello,

I'm sorry that has happened to you, it sounds all too familiar. I am not really sure if the cervical disc could affect your legs, though, I suppose it could if it's compressing your spinal cord. I actually have a massive herniation and stenosis at C5/6 (and other areas). My symptoms are similar to yours, except I also get pain. Mind you, nerve problems can present in several different ways and they don't all have to be present. One can have a compressed nerve (or cord) without any actual pain; you could have just numbness, just tingling, just pain, weakness, etc, or a combo of any of them.

My C5/C6 issue is compressing my spinal cord, though I don't think it's affecting my legs. (My lumbar spine issues are definitely affecting my legs, though) One time I got out of the shower and flipped my hair back. My arms were up and out to the sides a bit. When I flipped my hair, OMG, I also got a severe electric shock down the back of my neck and both arms actually just fell down and flopped to my sides. For a few seconds, I was unable to move them. I also felt sharp pains in my fingers on both hands and the insides of my upper arms felt as if someone was squeezing the insides really hard. I have to keep my head bent forward a bit and be very careful how I position my head. I've already been told to see a neurosurgeon myself for this. I'm not a doctor, so I can't give you any medical advice except that I think you should see a different doctor. There are some things our body does that can cause more force on the spinal cord & nerves, which when you have a herniation, can make it worse while you're doing it - some examples are coughing, sneezing, laughing.

I think you should see another doctor as it's possible you might myelopathy. Perhaps your disc herniated more when you sneezed and could be impinging your cord, causing all those symptoms. Maybe even a neurologist and/or spine specialist. I think you probably need to have a thorough neurologic exam especially since your numbness is quite widespread. Myelopathy can produce limb weakness, spasms, numbness, etc. Now don't quote me on this because I'm not a doctor, but I believe that too much pressure on the spinal cord for too long could cause permanent damage.

What type of doctor did you see for it? Was it a GP? I really, really, think you should see someone else. I do, however, know the bind you're with being unemployed w/o insurance as I was in the same situation for a year and 1/2. During that time i couldn't get my neck checked out either b/c I couldnt pay for it. Now I have a job w/ insurance (though I'm still going broke from it b/c it's an 80/20 plan). You might want to check w/ your local agencies about possible charity care or something similar. If you need to take any meds, definitely check into all the prescription assistance programs out there. I have used them before.

 
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Old 01-15-2011, 01:02 PM   #3
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Re: Cervical nerves and numbness

I would agree with the other poster. When you have that kind of numbness come on so suddenly, it needs to be checked out. Saying it is "just nerve irritation" minimizes what could be going on. Obviously there is nerve irritation, but WHAT is causing it? It probably is something that you can afford to "watch" but it would be better if you could get a MRI or some sort of imaging that would show whether you have ruptured a disc or some such event.

 
Old 01-15-2011, 01:12 PM   #4
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Re: Cervical nerves and numbness

Thanks Baybreeze for your reply. I went to see my GP and he said he wasn't that concerned since I wasn't in any pain and the fact that i could move my head without any problems, but the widespread numbness, especially in the lower extremities and the fact that it isn't getting any better concerns me. If it was a little tingling I probably would just take his advice and not let it worry me, but it isn't and he is just a GP and not a specialist. I did check on assistance yesterday and his office is going to refer me to them. Is this something that a neruologist or an orthopedist should look at? I hope they order an mri where we can see exactly where it's coming from...i'm sure they will. After this happened and i started researching it on the internet, and the fact that it shouldn't go on too long because you can get permanent damage from it, scared me...and since i have no insurnace at the moment, that really scared me, and the fact that I'm divorced and live alone is another reason. If it's a never impingement and can be fixed before anything more serious arises, i'd rather go ahead and do it as soon as possible
The C5-C6 disc had been giving me pain for about a month to 6 weeks prior to this happening, but I would have "flair-ups" from time to time and usually the pain would go away after a while. I just think that something is hitting a nerve, or that's what it feels like to me...i've never had this happen before and i've had back issues for 15 years if not longer..definitely something going on.
Thanks again for answering some of my questions...it's always nice to hear from someone who has similiar problems.

Becky

Last edited by beckwall; 01-15-2011 at 01:13 PM.

 
Old 01-15-2011, 01:24 PM   #5
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Re: Cervical nerves and numbness

I would first go to an orthopedic spine surgeon or a neurosurgeon who will most likely order a MRI. At this point, it is more important to diagnose what is causing the nerve problem rather than determining whether or not and where there is nerve damage, which is primarily what a neurologist would tell you from doing a nerve conduction study/EMG.

 
Old 01-15-2011, 02:00 PM   #6
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Re: Cervical nerves and numbness

I totally agree. Nothing we say on here is meant to scare you, but it's your body and it probably is better to have it investigated further sooner than later. My nerve pain in my arms & fingers doesn't occur all the time either. Definitely get the ball rolling to check into assistance and you probably should have an MRI since x-ray can only show bone, fractures, etc, it can't show anything about the soft tissues, discs, and such. It could be that, though you've had the stenosis & arthritis, that the sneeze could have made it worse. It's happened to me many times, it's happened to me while coughing as well. I might have had just a bulge and then whammo, instant herniation. Of course these are just possibilities, you'd have to have it checked out to find the true cause. For all you know, you might even have some compression in your lower spine as well. I certainly do. My lumbar spine is always causing at least some pain. My cervical spine doesn't always cause me pain either. I also get severe flare ups of excruciating pain and symptoms that usually subside over time in both my neck and low back. I can tell you my Pain Management doc is concerned about my C5/C6 and gave me referrals to two neurologists.

My low back always has pain, but it's usually managed fairly with several daily meds, but then I get the severe flare ups out of the blue. This just happened right before Xmas. All I did was walk around in a store for about 15 minutes ( I had a spine injection 2 weeks prior and was feeling pretty good) and on my way out, the pain suddenly started and I could hardly walk at all. It's happened many times before as well. My PM said that it happens to many people. I think maybe I was feeling to well and overdid things.

If you do see a specialist (Hope you are able to) make sure to tell them your full spine history, what you were doing when this sudden flare came on, tell them anything that might make pain OR symptoms worse or better (such as walking, sitting, standing, laying down), and so on. Also try to be as specific and descriptive as you can when you describe your symptoms.

 
Old 01-15-2011, 04:13 PM   #7
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Re: Cervical nerves and numbness

thanks everyone..trust me, i have a long list of spine problems...spinal stenosis, which is to the point of having no real life anymore..can't stand any longer than a couple of minutes without being in excruciating pain, arthritis of the spine and facet joints, bulging and herniated discs and bone spurs. Nothing in particular brings on the flare ups, but usually they come on in the middle of the night..must be the position i'm sleeping in..wake up with pain in the back of the neck that will sometimes last for days if not weeks, then will ease up and go away. Also have connective tissue disease which doesn't help matters much..so there's no telling what's causing it. Actually, i'm more scared of the financial aspect of it rather than what's causing the problem and the "fix" I'm a pretty tough old gal and can handle a lot, so whatever they throw at me, i'm ready to deal with. If it gets any worse or when i get some kind of definite answer as to what's causing this, i'll definitely keep you posted..and thanks for all you've done..

Last edited by beckwall; 01-15-2011 at 04:16 PM.

 
Old 01-16-2011, 01:12 PM   #8
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Re: Cervical nerves and numbness

Hi there, so sorry you are going through this! I too held off getting more agressive treatment with my c5-6 problems until it affected my quality of life to the point that no amount of medical billing could scare me...lol! You definitely need an mri asap, as many of the other posters suggested. It was irresponsible of your doctor to not order another one immediately and prescribe without knowing exactly what was going on. I was having the numbness, burning and pain in my neck, shoulders and arms and ended up having a fusion a week after getting a new mri. I can't stress enough, your health matters most and without a quality of life, quantity is not necessarily all that...lol! Good luck and keep us posted!
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Old 01-25-2011, 05:13 AM   #9
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Re: Cervical nerves and numbness

Hi everyone,
I did go to the emergency room and got an mri of the lumbar spine and they are telling me that the numbness is coming from the stenosis. They said they were going to do a mri of both cervical and lumbar and after telling me it was stenosis of the cervical and lumbar, i asked for a copy of the report. After i got it and read it, they only did the lumbar. I just love the way they can diagnose cervical stenosis without imaging...amazing...lol
Any way, I'm still numb from the waist down and hands are too..still the same, no changes, so I guess I'll have to wait til I can get in to the clinic which won't be for another 6 weeks. This is the first time I've been without insurance for a long time and you never know just how important it is to have it until you're without it..
Thanks everyone for your responses and advice. I really do appreciate it.

 
Old 01-25-2011, 08:14 AM   #10
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Re: Cervical nerves and numbness

Beckwell, I really don't think you should wait six weeks to be seen. I dont want to scare you witless, but the fact is that you live alone and should you fall or something you might not be able to get up. Then too, the amount of numbness you are experiencing is a strong indication of spinal cord compression. Remember that this is speculation on my part, but you need to be aware of the possible seriousness of this problem. In my opinion, waiting 6 weeks is just not wise. Please make some calls and explain that you really need to be seen ASAP and if that doesn't work, go to the ER again and ask if they have a spine specialist on call that could see you.

Please, please, stay in touch with us and let us know how you are doing. I really am concerned.

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Old 01-25-2011, 10:11 AM   #11
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Re: Cervical nerves and numbness

Beckwall.....sorry I didn't see this earlier...most of us cervical folks hang around on the Spinal Cord Disorders board.

You perfectly describe compression of the spinal cord at C6. Were you to sever your cord at C6, you'd be paralysed from the waist down and your hands.

But all you have is numbness and some dysfunction of the nerves as in the balance problems but from what you've said, you can walk and use your hands, although with problems noted. Am I correct?

This is pretty diagnostic of something having contacted your cord and in this case, a good sneeze/cough(even straining to have a bowel movement) can propel a herniated disk into the cord.

This may resolve with time but it sounds as if you will need something done to prevent it from happening again. Believe it or not, your cord can take a lot of compression. Normal thickness is 10-11mms and I was crushed down to 6mms at several levels and got back use and got rid of all numbness with surgery. And one doc told me to wait even longer that it could take more.

I did have one episode where, after riding Amtrak for a day(bumpy!) that my feet disappeared....so numb I could not feel them touching the floor. I had to look at them to make sure they were on the floor. And of course, walking was near impossible. That bumpy ride had bruised my cord. Once the bruising/swelling went down, the feeling returned...well, most of it. They were already partially numb. I suspect you will find the same thing...that it will get better after a while. Steroids reduce swelling in the cord.

Are you finding that you are dragging either of your feet when walking? Are you dropping things you try to hold on to? Have you lost the ability to hold your urine or stool or the converse, can't go? Can you still sign your name?

These are signs of nerve dysfunction that are important.

You have questions, just ask. I not only had severe DDD in my neck that required surgery from C3 to C7 (non fusion surgery for stenosis), 3 months afterwards, I had the ligaments let go(old injury) and I dislocated 5 vertebrae and broke 3 of them and ended up with partial paralysis. Left side was pretty well useless and right side was mixed. Was fused from C3 to T1 and got back 95% of the lost use and feeling.I had all of the above problems I listed as important. And I got all of them back.

So your spine can take a lot and I suspect that you just have a bruise right now but your stenosis is getting worse and will need some treatment soon. But don't panic. You have some good signs too.....you are typing and that means the hands still work(unless you use voice recognition software). I couldn't do that. I couldn't cut my meat or pick up a cup of coffee. Or sign my name.

Your doc is wrong in that no pain doesn't mean no problems. I had no pain prior to my first surgery....I was slowly going numb from the neck down. A total lack of pain can be worse than lots of pain.

Let me know if I can help....................Jenny

 
Old 01-25-2011, 08:02 PM   #12
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Re: Cervical nerves and numbness

Thank you all so much for your replies to my posts. So far the pain is minimal except for the nerve pain and sensations which bother me the most. I'm still numb and tingly from the lower waist down and also the hands. I can still walk and write, but with difficulty. My gait is really off, can't walk heel to toe with right foot, it hits flat footed. The right knee keeps giving way, knee keeps bending back. I don't drag the foot except when getting out of the car and i can't lift it up good to get out. The nervey sensation is worse on the left side and also the left hand and forearm are really cold. I'm having spasticity in the right leg from the hip down the hamstring upon standing and also at night when in bed. The muscles spasms while sleeping have gotten better since I started taking flexeril at bedtime.

I don't know if it would do me any good to go back to the emergency room, since they didn't listen to me the first time and only did the mri of the lumbar. Besides, they told me they couldn't do anything for me unless I had lost control of my bladder and bowels, which so far are ok. I live in Tennessee and there isn't a doctor in town that will touch you without insurance or payment up front, which I have neither since I lost my job back last summer. I can only hope that my symptoms dont get any worse until my appointment at the clinic in 6 weeks, which at that time, it will be 9 weeks since this happened.

I want to thank everyone who has answered my questions, and please pray for me that I can hold out for 6 more weeks. Everyone's concern as touched me and I am genuinely thankful for your kind words.

Last edited by beckwall; 01-26-2011 at 04:14 AM.

 
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Old 01-25-2011, 08:35 PM   #13
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Re: Cervical nerves and numbness

My perspective....don't wait. See an Orthopedic Spine Surgeon and/or Nuerosurgeon as soon as possible (I personally prefer OSS). I woke up one morning and did a big stretch and "ping" nerve pain. My PCP didn't think it was serious so he gave me Percocet but my husband's ENT doc saw me rubbing my arm months later when my hubby was being prepped for a tonsillectomy. He immediately sent me to a new PCP, who sent me for an MRI, which got me to a surgeon for disc protrusion that needed surgery. But the pain had been going on for a while and I never did regain feeling in one finger. So with a history of DDD it seems like an MRI would be good and then get the results yourself even if the PCP doesn't think it's anything to worry about.

So a good ENT saw what my PCP at the time refused to even consider. Thank goodness my husband had his tonsils out as it sent us on to a great new PCP.
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Old 01-26-2011, 04:21 PM   #14
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Re: Cervical nerves and numbness

If it gets unbearable, please go back to the ER. Hopefully there will be different docs on and they will look into it further with a cervical MRI. I ruptured a disc and did not get help for it until 4 months later and it took me over a year after surgery to get complete use of my right leg without too much drop or pain. I was fortunate, because although it is not as strong as my left leg now, I can still use it! Good luck to you sweetie!
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Old 01-26-2011, 05:00 PM   #15
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Re: Cervical nerves and numbness

Hi Beckwall.....it's easy for us to say see someone right now but if you have no insurance, then you have fewer options and I'd take a spine clinic over an ER unless you have to.

While you wait it out, you can get a soft neck collar at any drug store. Find one that feels good and use it if for nothing more than to remind you to not look up or way down or turn your head too fast. Wear it 24/7if you can. Tipping your head back to look up at the sky is the worst position for your neck...a real no-no.

Losing control of the bowels and bladder is the big thresh hold for spine problems. But it's a 2 way street.....it's not just that you can't go but if you have trouble holding it too. And it doesn't have to be that you wake up wet but even if you find that you have to run to make it is considered trouble starting. Report it to the clinic if you start to have trouble holding your urine until you get to the toilet.

Not all hospitals have neuro spine surgeons or orthopedic spine surgeons on staff and if you do need an ER, make sure you go to a hospital with one of these docs on staff. You can do an internet search to find out which ones do and which ones don't. The 2 closest to me don't so I go further for my neck.

I had to wait 27 days to have a broken and dislocated neck fixed so you can wait as unpleasant as it may be. I was determined that my very excellent doc would do the surgery and no some yahoo at the local hospital. I used my soft collar and was extremely careful. I took muscle relaxers and pain meds as needed. I treated my neck as if it was broken and it turned out.....it was.

Hang in there. I understand the insurance problem and your need to wait. Having major financial problems hanging over your head or even threatening is bad enough along with the neck problem. If nothing gets any worse, you should be okay but if it does, go to the ER with a hospital that does spine surgery. Anywhere else will just send you home. And remember that the bladder situation is key...if it gets so you can't go or can't hold it, then it's time to make some noise...first let the clinic know so they might be able to get you in ASAP or head to the ER...especially if your bladder just lets go.

We had someone on the Spinal Cord Disorders board who woke up wet one day and they still had her wait for 2 weeks before surgery. Only happened once more and then everything got fixed just fine.....no permanent damage at all. She was really bad and she came through it just fine.....so don't panic. And she's not the only one who had it that bad and came out fine.

Hang in there and take very good care of your neck and you'll be okay. Goes against what everyone else says but I know the problems with no insurance. You do what you have to do as best as you can. But know that if things get to the point where you "might" be developing a serious problem(the bladder thing), they will take care of you. All public hospitals have to care for you if you are in danger of permanent damage or they don't get federal funding. It's just waiting until you have the symptoms of possible permanent damage developing. Hopefully that will never happen and you'll get better and better until you can see the docs at the clinic.

hugs...........Jenny

 
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