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  1. #1
    Registered User Kokanee's Avatar
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    Pinched nerve? Having some neck pain.

    Hello.

    18 days ago I started having pain in the left side of my neck/collarbone/armpit. There is also sometimes a sensation in the left side of my face, hand, and arm. I don't remember having any sudden onset of pain. Just one day I got some intense tingling feeling which after a few days turned into a burning pain. Twice it has felt to almost resolve for a few days only to resurface as bad as ever. The pain is mostly in the neck, including the sternocleidomastoid, side of the neck, and back of the neck. It seems like the position that I have my head can aggravate it (if I have my head down doing homework the back starts to hurt a lot. If I look to the right for an extended period of time the sternocleidomastoid hurts a lot. It seems to be fine in the morning and get bad later in the day.

    I went to the doctor after a week and he said probably a pinched nerve and said it will take days to weeks to resolve. It's been 18 days and it is still hurting. Has anyone experienced this? Do you agree with the doctor? It's really starting to drive me crazy. Ibuprofen and tylenol don't seem to do much. Most of the time it's just a weak sensation (if anything), but when it's really flared up it can be extremely painful. I did a leg workout the day before the pain started and haven't worked out since. I've been taking it very easy for the past 18 days.

    Thanks.
    Last edited by Kokanee; 01-22-2010 at 08:35 PM.
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  2. #2
    Texas Aggie agsuper's Avatar
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    I would get it checked out by an orthopedic spine specialist.
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  3. #3
    Registered User Kokanee's Avatar
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    Referrals take so long that it isn't worth getting one unless there's something majorly wrong. They can take like 6 months to a year (canada)... it's ridiculous.
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  4. #4
    Registered User braindx's Avatar
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    HOw's your posture?

    Sounds like you have some cervical and brachial plexus impingement.

    Poor posture contributes significantly. ALso, extremely tight muscles and poor flexibility/mobility in the shoulders/neck/t-spine all will likely exacerbate the problem.

    I strongly suggest:
    1. taking fish oil for anti-inflammation
    2. heat + massage + stretching (in that order) to help loosen up the muscles.
    3. nerve glides http://www.handhealthresources.com/S.../Exercises.htm

    If it doesn't improve within 3-5 days, get a referral to a physical therapist. May have something out of alignment that a competent PT should be able to fix such as a misaligned vertebrae.

    Sounds like maybe a vertebrae or two are stuck in a side-bent position.
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  5. #5
    Registered User Kokanee's Avatar
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    Hi braindx. Thanks for the input.

    I actually went to a PT after 1.5 weeks but when I had my appointment it wasn't hurting. The pain was very bad earlier that day though and I took a bunch of tylenol. It's kind of inconsistent. He checked the mobility of my neck and said that from what I told him probably a pinched nerve, but he couldn't tell anything was wrong during the appointment. He touched the left and right forearms and some other spots and they felt the same to me. I had full ROM and full strength on either side; still do. So he didn't really give me much to do. He said I could do some kind of stretch and basically wait till it gets better. He also said I could try heat treatment for pain relief. The guy wasn't very helpful.

    He also said that my posture wasn't the best, but not horrible. I don't know though.

    Anyway I haven't noticed that ibuprofen does much. Not sure why fish oil would be any better but I do have some and I can try that out. I know that a nerve glide is like a nerve stretch. Is there any chance of that making it worse if I stretch it too much? The research that I've done for pinched nerve treatment just says rest, rest, rest. It says it can take several weeks, it's just starting to drive me nuts. Even doing homework is hard because my head is down for a long time.

    As far as loosening up the muscles. Does that aid recovery or just a method of pain relief? I'm afraid of stretching making it worse.

    I didn't have a good experience with the PT. Really seemed like a waste of time and money. The guy was a scrawny weird looking guy and didn't have much insight at all. He was just like "yeah maybe a pinched nerve." But maybe he'd have different input since if it's something that's chronic like it is becoming. So I could go back to the doc soon and maybe do PT again or maybe the doc will have something different to say.
    Last edited by Kokanee; 01-23-2010 at 12:29 PM.
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  6. #6
    Registered User Kokanee's Avatar
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    also I'm confused about the cause of a pinched nerve. The doc made it seem like it was something sudden that caused the pain. Like I over stretched it or something and now I'm feeling pain because of that. You and online sources say other things can cause it like herniated discs (or out of line vertebrae, like you said), which mean that the pain wouldn't go away until that problem is resolved. So you don't think that it was some acute trauma that caused it, but rather there's an underlying problem currently there?

    Could they find that stuff out with an x-ray or would they need an MRI? MRI waiting list here is like 3 months.
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  7. #7
    Registered User braindx's Avatar
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    Anyway I haven't noticed that ibuprofen does much. Not sure why fish oil would be any better but I do have some and I can try that out. I know that a nerve glide is like a nerve stretch. Is there any chance of that making it worse if I stretch it too much? The research that I've done for pinched nerve treatment just says rest, rest, rest. It says it can take several weeks, it's just starting to drive me nuts. Even doing homework is hard because my head is down for a long time.
    Nerve glides mobilize the nerve tissue if it's too tight. Nerve glides aren't painful. If you feel discomfort or pain you can immediately stop.

    The pinching really depends on what the pinch is coming from. I'll explain it a bit in the next section.

    As far as loosening up the muscles. Does that aid recovery or just a method of pain relief? I'm afraid of stretching making it worse.
    Don't use stretching for now.

    Use heat and massage.

    If muscles are too tight + poor posture can cause the pinching itself.

    1. Usually pinching is either due to stenosis (narrowing of the nerve roots from the vertebrae) or other structures pushing on it, or

    2. Muscles impinging on the nerves themselves when they are tight... poor posture exacerbates BOTH.


    If it's stenosis/herniated disc, or other postural related bone impingement you need to focus mostly on fixing posture.

    IF it's muscle you need to loosen up the muscles + do nerve glides. This will help mobilize the tissue along with the massage and heat to loosen it further thus relieving the pinch.
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    http://eatmoveimprove.com/2010/02/so-you-hurt-your-lower-back
    http://eatmoveimprove.com/2010/03/cracking-and-popping-and-clicking-oh-my
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  8. #8
    Registered User braindx's Avatar
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    The fact that there's some nerve involvement in your face means you probably have "craning neck" / "head forward" posture associated with lots of computer or desk work.

    You need to rectify that immediately. ALso, loosen up the posterior neck muscles with massage and heat. IIRC there's some hotspots on the sternocleidomastoid that refer pain to the head.

    The arm stuff in the armpit denotes brachial plexus involvement. This is usually due to hunched forward shoulders + very tight subscapularis/pec major/pec minor, possible neck muscles, and other shoulder involvement there.

    Fix the posture, do the nerve glides, heat, and massage to those muscles to loosen them up.


    Make sense why I suggest that?

    Also, I'm sorry you had a crappy experience with your doc and PT. There seems to be a lot of terrible health professionals out there nowadays. It's sad.
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  9. #9
    Registered User Kokanee's Avatar
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    I do that a lot with my neck at the computer. I'll make a conscious effort to keep my back and neck straight.

    The PT did mention something about tight muscles could be putting pressure on the nerve, which is why he told me to do that neck stretch (like moving my head to the side while gripping a towel over my shoulder). That does make sense, I will try that out. I don't know why it's only on one side though? Seems like it should be affecting both.

    How long should I heat for? Like 10 minutes? I'm thinking of using a rice sock for that?
    I don't really know how to massage. Do I just rub the muscle? Sideways or lengthways or circular? By posterior neck muscles do you mean just the back? Or the side and sternocleidomastoid as well?

    are these the right nerve glides to do?
    ww.handhealthresources.com/Solutions%20Pages/Exercises.htm

    add another w. it won't let me post links.

    Something I should mention is that last weekend it felt like it was getting better. Friday-monday it wasn't painful (just a minor sensation sometimes) and then monday night I was laying on the bed weird (with my neck propped up on the wall watching TV) and that's when it got aggravated again really bad and starting burning again.

    Thanks again. Maybe next week I'll go to a different doc if the pain doesn't improve.
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  10. #10
    Ovary Puncher!!!!!!!! O.o WillGoesBoing's Avatar
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    I would get a second opinion if I were you. From my experience with doctors misdiagnoses are VERY common. I've had a pinched nerve in my shoulder before and it only "activates" when I do shoulder raises with a heavy weight. And the feeling is like a spasm/electric shock.

    If you have a constant pain sensation I doubt it's a pinched nerve. If anything it's an inflamed nerve.
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    Originally Posted by Kokanee View Post
    I do that a lot with my neck at the computer. I'll make a conscious effort to keep my back and neck straight.

    The PT did mention something about tight muscles could be putting pressure on the nerve, which is why he told me to do that neck stretch (like moving my head to the side while gripping a towel over my shoulder). That does make sense, I will try that out. I don't know why it's only on one side though? Seems like it should be affecting both.
    Most of the time it's usually only one side. One side fatigues or gets irritated more than the other.

    How long should I heat for? Like 10 minutes? I'm thinking of using a rice sock for that?
    I don't really know how to massage. Do I just rub the muscle? Sideways or lengthways or circular? By posterior neck muscles do you mean just the back? Or the side and sternocleidomastoid as well?
    10-15 minutes for heat.

    Massage you use crossfriction and myofascial release. Dig in and loosen up the muscles. No superficial rubbing -- you need to mobilize the tissue.

    Hit everything that's tight or tender.

    are these the right nerve glides to do?
    ww.handhealthresources.com/Solutions%20Pages/Exercises.htm
    Yes, the link I posted is correct. Do the radial/ulnar/median nerve glides.

    Something I should mention is that last weekend it felt like it was getting better. Friday-monday it wasn't painful (just a minor sensation sometimes) and then monday night I was laying on the bed weird (with my neck propped up on the wall watching TV) and that's when it got aggravated again really bad and starting burning again.

    Thanks again. Maybe next week I'll go to a different doc if the pain doesn't improve.
    Yep, rounding the c-spine like hte lumbar spine may push discs against the nerve roots or thecal sac like bulging discs in the low back.

    Likely some nerve root impingement in your case since it's only on one side.
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