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    Old 06-14-2009, 08:00 AM   #1
    Baybreeze
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    Finger, Arm, and Facial Numbness

    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?

     
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    Old 06-14-2009, 04:46 PM   #2
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    Re: Finger, Arm, and Facial Numbness

    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

     
    Old 06-14-2009, 07:02 PM   #3
    jennybyc
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    Re: Finger, Arm, and Facial Numbness

    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 damned....it's your life at stake.

    good luck and very gentle hugs...................Jenny

     
    Old 06-15-2009, 04:06 AM   #4
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    Re: Finger, Arm, and Facial Numbness

    BB, Although noone can say without testing to confirm but it sure sounds like somethings going on in your cervical. I have the cervical & lumbar.
    My surgeon told me the first appointment when the cervical has problems its not uncommon for the lumbar to follow. I'm sure the reverse can be true. Thats exactly how I describe my pain, deep, especially in to shoulders.
    I am wonder as Jenny suggested if you can get another test done that may show if & where you are having problems, other then an MRI. CT, discogram?
    I know my insurance has to approve an MRI & I had a bugger of a time getting the first one done. Although I had an MRI it only showed problems at the C5-6 level but during surgery C4 & C7 were found have problems to. I have the same with my hands, always awful in the mornings.
    I hope you can manage some type of testing as I know its stressful when you dont know whats going on in there. Good luck, Sammy

     
    Old 06-15-2009, 04:33 PM   #5
    Baybreeze
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    Re: Finger, Arm, and Facial Numbness

    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.

     
    Old 06-15-2009, 06:36 PM   #6
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    Re: Finger, Arm, and Facial Numbness

    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

     
    Old 06-15-2009, 06:47 PM   #7
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    Re: Finger, Arm, and Facial Numbness

    That zap you got down your neck is called Lhermitte's sign and is diagnostic of cord compression high up the cervical spine. DON'T DO THAT AGAIN!!!!!!!

    Most people think the walking stuff is from the lumbar but it is from the neck. The pressure is transferred inward to the inner fibers of the cord and that's where the legs nerves are. Hands come later and it's an actual syndrome know as Clumsy Hand syndrome.

    Be careful about getting the MRI before insurance as they might catch you with pre-existing. If there's a possibility that you will get health insurance in the near future, there are things you can do to keep yourself safe for now until you can get it. We have someone here whose cord was compressed to 4.5mm when anything under 10mm is bad and I was rushed into surgery at 6mm. So you can go lower and still keep from ending up in big trouble.

    What is your insurance situation? Will you have it soon? And can you find out if it has a pre-existing clause? If you won't have it son, do you have a large teaching hospital near you? they have clinics with a sliding fee scale and if you need surgery, they'll have a resident taking care of you but you can be assured a real neurosurgeon will be there assisting or doing it. They don't mess around with cord compression. Might be a way to get cheap or free care, tests and surgery. I don't remember where you are from(they don't post that while you're replying and I have a terrible memory) but if you'd like, I'll do some research and find out where you might find such care them PM you.

    I've got the time, so why not!

    take care and I'll get back to you tomorrow..............Jenny

     
    Old 06-15-2009, 06:52 PM   #8
    trychocolate
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    Re: Finger, Arm, and Facial Numbness

    Jenny, what' it like knowing exactly what you are talking about?

     
    Old 06-16-2009, 04:58 AM   #9
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    Re: Finger, Arm, and Facial Numbness

    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

     
    Old 06-16-2009, 05:10 AM   #10
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    Re: Finger, Arm, and Facial Numbness

    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.

     
    Old 06-16-2009, 05:14 AM   #11
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    Re: Finger, Arm, and Facial Numbness

    Sammy - I have pretty much figured how to sleep with my neck and I did find a good cervical pillow. I also have to sleep bent in the fetal position and that way my neck is more comfortable in a bent forward position. I guess sometimes I must move around at night and wake up in the wrong position with the arm numbness and other symptoms. I also use those heat patches a lot.

     
    Old 06-16-2009, 10:38 AM   #12
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    Re: Finger, Arm, and Facial Numbness

    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 ache.....it 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 area....like 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

     
    Old 06-17-2009, 05:35 AM   #13
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    Re: Finger, Arm, and Facial Numbness

    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

    Last edited by sammyo1; 06-17-2009 at 05:40 AM.

     
    Old 06-17-2009, 04:18 PM   #14
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    Re: Finger, Arm, and Facial Numbness

    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!

     
    Old 06-18-2009, 02:58 PM   #15
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    Re: Finger, Arm, and Facial Numbness

    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

     
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