So it has happened to me. On Saturday a week ago, at four in the morning I work up with lacerating neck and shoulder pain on the left. I knew within seconds what it was. Twenty-odd years ago I had an injury to my upper thoracic spine playing rugby league. The same un-mistakable feeling of neuropathic pain told me I had done damage to an intervertebral disc, and where I was feeling it told me it was somewhere between the fifth cervical vertebrae and the first thoracic.
As I tried to get comfortable on the living room floor I texted Marco in the hope I would only have to wait another 6 or 7 hours to get some relief. However, as the hours ticked by and I started getting worse I realised that I might be too acute to get a full resolution to my symptoms in the first treatment. Sure enough the pain and spasm prevented Marco from anything other than stabilising the neck and back and stop it getting worse. We used laser to take the edge off the neuropathic pain and gentle mobilisation.
I knew what I needed in the short term was muscle relaxation. The best solution is diazepam, but I wouldn’t be able to get my hands on that until the GP practice opened on Monday morning. So over the weekend it was stretching and brandy that kept me going, I slept in 45 minute snatches. The doctor kindly gave me diazepam 2mg and codydramol 10/500 which was very useful in controlling the symptoms, allowing deeper mobilisation and osteopathy and most importantly sleep.
In the last week I have gone from incapacitation due to shoulder and arm pain, to back at work with episodic arm pain and altered sensation (paraesthesia). I’m following a program of daily osteopathy, low level laser twice a day and neuromobilisation exercises while I wait for what is almost certainly a disc bulge or herniation at C7-T1 to calm down and normalise. Also, I find resting with my neck fully flexed on the couch lessens my symptoms.
So how long before I feel normal? It’s a question I hear every day but now that it applies to me I have had to think harder. Musculoskeletal issues tend to take 6 weeks more or less to go from inflamed to remodelling to resolution, so long as they don’t get stuck in an inflammatory vicious circle. Neurological impingement usually takes longer due to the sensitivity of the neural tissues involved. I am hoping I will feel normal again within 2 weeks given that I am throwing the kitchen sink at it. But I guess I will still be getting treatment for this in four weeks time. However, there remains a minor chance that the disc is unstable and my condition will worsen. Then it will be down to the surgeon for a discectomy. That’s something I’d rather avoid.
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