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Old 06-19-2012, 11:20 PM   #1
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Cervical foraminal stenosis?

Hi, first off gotta say I love this board. Very helpful.

For over 20 years I have endured a recurring upper back problem. When it hits me, its a sharp shooting pain that runs parallel with spine in the upper back, along side the shoulder blade, and up the neck. Needless to say it incapacitates me for a few days. Any movement, cough, sneeze, sends me reeling in acute pain. But after a few days or a week it would subside. I have always thought it might be a pinched nerve, but never had it checked out. Docs no little about the back, in which they could help you. I have always thought this, thus the reason why chiropractors, physical therapist abound. I know this is crazy thinking, but there is some truth to it. If docs were so good in treating back ailments, the others would be out of business.

I have found raising some dumbells overhead, and jumping in the whirlpool has helped to relieve and shorten the stay of symptoms. But this last bout I'm having is lasting almost 4 weeks and I can't take it.

Been having some dental work recently, and the Vicodin prescribed has helped with the pain in my upper back, and now running down one arm. This is a new symptom. And it' was time to check it out. Before going to the emergency room I looked online and found this........

" The most common sign of foraminal stenosis is pain in the upper back, neck or shoulders, according to the Mayo Clinic. This pain may occur occasionally with certain activities or it may be chronic. Pain can range from dull andachy to sharp and burning. In more severe cases, the pain can extend into the hands andfingers. This occurs because the sensory nerves that bring information back to the spinal cord are compressed as they enter the spinal column. This compression causes the brain to sense pain that seems like it originates from the shoulders, arms or hands. This pain can be made worse by bending your neck away from the side that is giving you the most pain"

This is my symptoms to a tee. And makes the most sense. And when I told the ER doc, he didn't disagree, and referred me to a neurologist.

I go tomorrow. I'm hoping it can be managed like before with a little workout, and a little medication.

What I would like to know is if anyone here, has had this really sharp, stabbing pain along side the shoulder blade and up the neck? Cause I haven't ran into anybody with my symptoms in the 20 years I have had this. I have read people having pain across the back, which is weird, across the spine? Mine runs up and down the upper back. I have no lower back problems.

 
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Old 06-20-2012, 05:09 AM   #2
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Re: Cervical foraminal stenosis?

Not me.... but a lot of people here have posted about upper back pain. You're seeing a neurologist, though, which is the best thing to do.

 
Old 06-20-2012, 12:56 PM   #3
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Re: Cervical foraminal stenosis?

I have had cervical and lumbar issues now for 24 years. My 2nd surgery was for foraminal stenosis. Surgery was done in 1995. From what I recall I was having neck pain but also had pain into my shoulder areas. I think from what I recall I had mostly left sided pain.

I also have had stenosis in the lumbar spine. But recently I have compression and weakness at the C6/7 levels. They used the term myelomalacia or softening of the spine. You can see on the MRI films a narrowing of the spine. And with this the pain i get goes from radiating pain into the shoulders; arm weakness; tingling type of feeling into the hands. So I have had a variety ot symptoms.

Hope this gives you some information that you are searching for.

 
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ohbaby136 (06-21-2012)
Old 06-20-2012, 03:28 PM   #4
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Re: Cervical foraminal stenosis?

I have left sided pain in the shoulder blade area and get spasms that pull my shoulder back when I reach forward. And I know it's my neck. It will eventually hit the right side as well if the MRI's are right. All depends on which nerve is compressed and how badly.

I do exercises to stop the spasms and take a muscle relaxer if necessary. I've already had 2 major neck surgeries and don't want another right now. The problems keep coming back!

Jenny

 
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Old 06-21-2012, 10:39 PM   #5
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Re: Cervical foraminal stenosis?

Quote:
Originally Posted by jennybyc View Post
I have left sided pain in the shoulder blade area and get spasms that pull my shoulder back when I reach forward. And I know it's my neck. It will eventually hit the right side as well if the MRI's are right. All depends on which nerve is compressed and how badly.

I do exercises to stop the spasms and take a muscle relaxer if necessary. I've already had 2 major neck surgeries and don't want another right now. The problems keep coming back!

Jenny
Tell me about it. Mine has been recurring for 20 years. 2, 3 sometimes 4x a year. Usually when the seasons change. Hot to cold and visa versa. The bouts last a week to ten days normally. I take off work the first 3 or 4 days. By then I have some mobility back and the pain is tolerable. But those first few days I'm an invalid. The slightest move or cough, sneeze, blink of my eyes sends me reeling. Not really when blinking, but practically everything but. The pain is really sharp at first, then later in the week I'm more or less protecting the side thats hurting, not making any sudden moves and such. And so by then the pain is more dull and annoying than excruciating. Then when I return to work, I find it helps in loosening it's hold on me.

But this bout I'm having now,... won't let go. It's going on a month now, and is aggravating the hell out of me. Plus this new symptom of the pain running down the arm is not letting me get a good nights sleep.But since this new symptom appeared, I finally figured out what I have. Now I have to convince the docs. Been to 2 ER's in the last 3 days, and still haven't had a MRI, or even a referral to see a neurologist. Can't even get the right med that works for me. They just love to give you a cocktail of drugs when all I need is Vicodin.

Is the pain very sharp for you guys and girls at first. Like a paper cut sharp, where you pull back and screech. But instead of a piece of paper it's a six inch dagger between the shoulder blades?

Thanks for the replies.

Last edited by ohbaby136; 06-21-2012 at 10:41 PM.

 
Old 06-22-2012, 12:16 AM   #6
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Re: Cervical foraminal stenosis?

Hello ohbaby136 -

I am sorry you have been dealing with this issue for so very long. Makes it that much worse when you don't know the cause.

Do I understand correctly that you have sharp, burning pain roughly in the area between your scapula and spine? You mentioned pain in your arm as well, what areas of your arm does it affect? Does your pain radiate across the shoulder and into the upper arm? What about any muscle atrophy or weakness around your shoulder blade?

Although mine presented like a cervical spine / nerve problem, multiple MRI's were fairly unremarkable. After 3 years of relentless doctors appointments, specialists and rounds of PT, massage, Chiro, nerve blocs etc. I finally got the proper diagnosis. It turned out to be an unusual injury and difficult to diagnose. The pain was very much coming from my neck, but not from the spine.

If you don't mind sharing a little more specifics, I'll be happy to compare symptoms and hopefully help you with your quest to figure this out. You may be suffering from the same nerve "injury" I had many years ago?! It was such a nightmare for me - I would love to help someone else resolve this mystery pain.

Take Care. ABQpam

 
Old 06-22-2012, 01:41 AM   #7
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Re: Cervical foraminal stenosis?

Well share pam. Don't keep it a secret. I wanna google it.

Actually, I hope what I got is not what I suggested. Although the symptoms are there, there might be other conditions with similar symptoms, that I haven't stumbled upon. This foraminal stenosis is not something I look forward to having. There aren't many options in treating it, I would like to choose.

Before this particular bout. I wouldn't have thought anything. I would have chalked it up to my bad back, take some meds, lift the weights, and whirlpool. But it's gone way too long this time, and with a new symptom (arm pain) to boot. My arm is not weak, and it only hurts in a couple of spots. Near the elbow, and top of the forearm. 2 weeks ago I did have pain in what seemed like the joint of the shoulder. It almost like that pain in the shoulder traveled to the spots in the arm. Cause my shoulder pain is gone. All the while my pain between the spine and the scapula that runs up the lower neck has continued uninterrupted.

One symptom I don't have is tingling. Unless you count waking up with your arm asleep.

3or4 years ago I did have a bout with arm weakness though. And have never connected it to my back going out. I don't think my back was out at the time. But it was definitely strange. I reached back with my arm to signal for the bus to stop to get off., and such a simple move I've done a hundred times, caused something to go wrong in my shoulder. For months I had weakness in that shoulder. Couldn't raise my hand over my head. It slowly improved in time, so I never had it checked out. But that was strange. And never connected it to my back problem.

The usual pain in my upper back and neck feels like its the muscle thats there that runs from your lower neck down to,... right beside the lenght of the scapula down to the middle of the back. I pound that spot against a corner wall. I lean against a corner and gently bounce my back against it, to massage that muscle. It brings much needed temp relief. That muscle is always tight when I have these episodes. So I'm told by who ever is rubbing. I wouldn't really say burning, much more like sharp stabbing if I move the wrong way. Later on it is dulled some what, but very irritating and aggravating.

Last edited by ohbaby136; 06-22-2012 at 01:46 AM.

 
Old 06-22-2012, 09:20 AM   #8
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Re: Cervical foraminal stenosis?

ohbaby-

I was reluctant to share my nerve "injury" saga as this is a spinal cord disorder forum and I would never want to steer anyone away from a serious spinal issue that needs treatment.

That being said, your description does indeed sound quite similar to mine. My pain and problems started after an auto accident & whiplash injury. (Although the surgeon said it does not require a traumatic injury for this to happen). It too was intermittent at first, but became my constant companion before it was figured out. The burning, stabbing pain along side of the scapula was my biggest complaint.

Ultimately I traveled 600 miles to see a Neurosurgeon my SIL was working with (she is a surgical nurse). After 3 days of EMG's and nerve conduction studies, I finally had a diagnosis. Dorsal Scapular Nerve Entrapment.. I have never done a google search on ths, as it was long before the Internet came to be.

In my case, this nerve was trapped and being compressed by the anterior and medial scalenes muscles. To the point that the NCS showed significantly slowed nerve impulse time when comparing the Left side to the Right. This had also caused a considerable amount of muscle atrophy in the scapula region - specifically the Rhomboid muscle, which was clearly reflected in the EMG tests.

The wonderful neurosurgeon who figured this out made arrangements for the surgery in my hometown. The 2 hour surgery consisted of decompressing that portion of the dorsal scapular nerve that passed through those scalene muscles. I woke up from the surgery PAIN FREE. What a relief!

It took a couple of months for the nerve itself to heal and test normal on NCS. And I did require extensive PT to regain the muscle loss and disfunction.

As I said earlier, this injury very much presents like a cervical spine problem and is not a common diagnosis - although not rare. I can't express the pain, anguish and frustration this caused me. I cried every time a doctor said they didn't know what was causing the pain and cried louder when they didn't believe I even had any pain or injury. I endured the entire 3 years with no pain meds. Ugh!

So, ohbaby now you have my story and 2 cents worth. It is at least worth exploring this as a possible explanation for your pain. I do hope you get that referral soon. I would suggest a neurosurgeon over a neurologist.

Hope this is helpful for you. Good Luck.

Pam

 
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Old 06-22-2012, 12:14 PM   #9
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Re: Cervical foraminal stenosis?

Thanks Pam for sharing.

One of my biggest fears is what you went through in trying to diagnose the problem. I don't have much confidence in docs to begin with.

 
Old 06-22-2012, 02:46 PM   #10
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Re: Cervical foraminal stenosis?

Another thing with my condition is that it's not always on the same side. Sometimes it's on the right side of the spine, and another time on the left side. But never both sides at once.

Anotherthing is it is generally brought on by some movement. And while I have it, I could usually find some position where it doesn't bother me. So I'm saying, I'm generally in pain when I move or in bad posture or something. I can usually find some position in bed where it doesn't hurt. But with the arm feeling pain this time, its nearly impossible to find that position in bed without pain.

That's why its so frustrating this time, because I can't find a comfortable spot, in order to relax and possibly let the condition heal or what have you. Instead, I'm always tense and not giving it a chance to heal, or take its course.

I need to learn more about back anatomy cause I can't understand anything I'm reading about the various back conditions.

 
Old 06-22-2012, 10:14 PM   #11
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Re: Cervical foraminal stenosis?

I completely understand the lack of confidence in doctors. It took me a long time after my fiasco to have any faith in doctors. Actually I still have trust issues with them.

Have you had any imaging done - X-ray, CT, MRI ? You need to find out what is the generator of your pain. Do you have a general doctor you see regularly? (Oh duh...probably not since you don't have much confidence in doctors)

You mentioned exercise, was this just at the gym or have you been to PT for this problem? If movement makes the pain worse and you can't get comfortable - you've got to do something! I hate to see you continuing to suffer with this pain. It is draining physically, mentally and emotionally.

People on a forum aren't doctors - we can't diagnose you, nor are you likely to figure it out from reading symptom lists on the Internet. I imagine you are already finding that your symptoms fit many different conditions. There is a wealth of knowledge and experience on this forum and I find everyone to be very compassionate and supportive.

So, even though you are skeptical of doctors, you really are going to have to trust one (or many) to get a diagnosis. Then you can educate yourself about your issue and the treatments that are recommended. I do far more reading and research on my medical issues than I want to. But we have to be our own advocates to know we are getting the medical care we deserve.

Take care and please keep us updated on that doctors appointment you will be scheduling on Monday.

 
Old 06-22-2012, 11:19 PM   #12
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Re: Cervical foraminal stenosis?

Will do. The appointment is with a neurologist. I think I mentioned earlier I have been to the ER twice this week, but they would not give me a MRI. They did take an X-ray, but it was of my chest. I was so nervous there. Here I am in pain, looking for meds and an MRI, and they're testing for everything but. I'm thinking I go in with a back problem, and come out, with god knows what. But fortunately, blood, EKG, chest X-ray, all went well. Docs at the ER said the neurologist would schedule the MRI. And I didn't leave the ER's empty handed. I found 2 new friends there, Vicodin and Percocet.

Yes, your correct, I have no primary,.. thus the hospital visits. I might get one at the hospital clinic. Have an appointment 7/2/12.

My insurance set me up with the neurologist on monday, and a pain management on 7/7/12.

I tried everything to stretch and loosen thinking it was just a muscle spasm previously. And when that didn't work, I pick up a dumdbell to see if I could strain the muscle more. I basically said what the hell, can't get any worse. And low and behold, raising it over my head (10 reps) actually helped. Cut the pain to a minimum. I was in shock. So whenever it flares up, I do a light workout. Doesn't work nearly as good as when I first tried it. But this kinda reaffirmed that it was a muscle problem. Now ofcourse with the new developments, I'm not so sure.

Will see what happens after the MRI.

Last edited by ohbaby136; 06-22-2012 at 11:36 PM.

 
Old 06-23-2012, 12:52 AM   #13
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Re: Cervical foraminal stenosis?

oh baby-

GREAT NEWS that you finally have appointments scheduled! I'll cross my fingers that the neurologist will indeed order an MRI and get the ball rolling for you. Happy your EKG, X-ray and blood work came out fine. Often the process of elimination helps narrow down the real problem.

I'm not sure how or why you lifting weights helped your problem early on?! Just make sure you share this info with the doc. We have to give them as much help as we can (LOL) - it's all part of the dx process.

Nobody should have to suffer with pain, glad you found some relief with the pain meds. Most of us rely on them in order to have some quality of life other than on the couch or in bed. Hopefully your PM doctor will offer comprehensive pain management. I currently get facet injections in my neck every 4-6 months combined with some neuromuscular therapy and various meds. I'm having increased pain and odd new symptoms, so back on the medical bus for me.

I'm truly happy you are finally on a path to treatment. Look forward to hearing about your progress.

Pam

 
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