This blog is now retired. My new site is at: Predictably Irrational.

Thursday, February 02, 2012

Pain in the Neck

As my regular readers know (thank you all five of you), I have had chronic neck issues for a good, long time. I've seen many doctors, and had many tests ran, over the years to determine what might be the cause of the oddities that come with it: severe head and neck pain -- as though I had the ultra-tight ponytail and someone was constantly pulling it, little stroke symptoms, extreme shoulder pain, the list goes on and on.

I decided to try again and see a new doctor for my symptoms. I had an MRI of my neck done in December and an EMG in November. I had my follow-up to my MRI Monday morning. The MRI shows - my notes:
C3-C5 - moderate degenerative disk disease
C6 - moderate-to-really-bad disk disease
Osteosmothing - bone spurs
bulging disk

Monday morning, I saw a doctor that deals with pain management and rehabilitation for my diagnosis. The good news is that this is not an extraordinarily unusual c-spine diagnosis. She said there are people with similar bone disorders as me that do not have any pain. The bad news is that I am a tad on the young side to have this amount of bone disorder; not rare but not that common either (which is the definition of rare but, well, hopefully you know what I'm trying to say what the doctor was trying to say).

At first meeting, I really like this doctor. She cuts to the point, is matter-of-fact, and seems to know her shit. I really like that in a doctor..."know their shit". She prescribed two medications for me: one was a medication used a lot for epileptic seizures (???) but also severe migraines, as I've noticed on message boards. Don't YOU go straight to the web to find out all the gossip about your prescriptions once you get them? :)

The other is a muscle relaxant. The other muscle relaxant prescribed to me previously did not work so we'll give this a try...only on a when-i-need-it basis. I don't usually have extreme, intolerable pain except once a month, so this one should last me a good while.

The seizure medicine, however, has some side effects worth mentioning: appetite suppression, fatigue, memory loss, change in tastes. All of these I have been suffering for the past two weeks, since our return from the Philippines. I am glad I did not take these right away or I would be blaming the medication. So for anyone who doubts me from an extended suffering of jet lag, the fact that I don't want to drink my wine, or watch any of my DVR'd shows, should be TELLING enough that I am suffering from some anomaly.

The other thing that the doctor recommended was a cortisone shot *in my neck*, to find out if the neck issues are causing, what she is theorizing, are migraines (see this post to recap what my symptoms are). The theory is: reduce any swelling in the neck, which causes all those big-medical-words-that-i-can't-remember to send signals all across my body to react in the most abnormal way. If I feel better with the reduction, then it's the neck that is causing my problems. This has been Tim's theory all along. Mine has been that I have some deadly disease with no cure.

Cortisone shot, ay? No problem. I don't mind shots. I certainly don't mind needles (see my tattoo and ear piercing). Tim got cortisone shots often in the past. And he's a big baby when it comes to pain so no problem.

The shot was done on a special day, Wednesdays (yesterday) because an x-ray machine had to be used in order for her to know where to stick the needle. COOL. I was digging this. I show up and then I'm taking to the back, but the back looks very much like a pre-op room. OK. They may do other things here but *I'm* here for something more simplistic.

The nurse then takes my vitals...hmm...OK. They do this at every doctor's visit. No biggie. Then she tells me to take everything off from the waist up and put on the fancy gown that opens in the back. WTF. I'm just here for a shot. Well, OK. Guess they need to get to the neck area and don't want to muck up my blouse.

Finally, the assistant takes me back and I see my doctor's friendly face. I am reminded about how much I really do like her. She tells me what she's going to do: I'll lie down with an xray over me, then a lidocaine shot to numb me (what?!?), then some ink stuff goes in so it help determine better where to guide the needle to shoot me up with the cortisone.

I'm still not at all scared. I've been through so many tests that I am 'numb' to these things. I have to lay face down, chin down. Then she says that the lidocaine shot was first and it would sting. WHOA. That fucking thing HURT like a beast. It was at that point I nearly panicked: um, I'm not cut out for this shit. I don't think that lidocaine is going to numb me much for the next shot and I'm done. I was trying to figure out how I could back out of this.  But when they asked how I was doing, I said "Great!" Geez. What is wrong with me?

Next, the doc said I was going to feel some pressure (on my neck, Tim, on my neck) and that I felt with increasing anxiety. What are they doing now??? I can't see! I can't see! I did my yoga, meditative breathing to keep me in check, SANE. And then she said I was going to feel a burning sensation...again, WHAT THE HELL? MORE PAIN? And burning sensation I felt...all throughout my upper half of my body. And then I was done.

I started to get up and the assistant was like 'wait, let me wipe off the blood'. What? Blood? There's blood? Oh. Must be a trickle from the needle.

But she kept wiping. Like all along the width of my shoulders. She must just be sterilizing me now.

Then I sat up on the bed and I misunderstood her, when she said, I will get you a chair. I thought I was going to have to sit in this room so I asked if I could get my stuff, because I wanted to read my book while I sat in the chair. She and the doctor looked at me like I was a freak. The doctor, with her soothing way, said that they didn't want me to walk just yet...and then the chair came in, which was a rolling chair. Ah...she was going to roll me back to my stuff. I told them "I didn't realize it would be this formal."

But before she wheeled me back, she said she had to wipe some more blood off of me. I could feel a warm trickle rolling down my back. She wiped it up...again, longer than I thought and she walked to the trash and I could see the 2x2 square of gauze bright red with my blood. Holy shit, I thought to myself.

She rolled me back and then I had to sit for a good several minutes before they released me. Apparently, I was supposed to have a driver but no one told me so I had to wait a little longer than usual. But I thought I would be fine...and I was. I made it to MiMi and home and VB practice and Taco Bell but man, I was in pain.

The morning after, I am much better. A good night's rest seemed to do the trick. Let's hope the rest of the day follows suit.

Until next time...

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