Only, not really so much my neck. You might recall a couple weeks back I blogged about having an impinged rotator cuff. Symptoms all made sense and here’s the confounding variable part: I was doing workouts that included heavy sets of exercises well known to cause shoulder injury.
But how easy it is to fool ourselves.
Thanks to some commenters to that post, I went to the same Chiropractor mentioned by Tim Ferriss in The 4-Hr Body, Janzen & Janzen here in San Jose, in order to get set up with ART — Active Release Therapy — which is supposed to do wonders. The problem is, you have to actually have a shoulder injury and I don’t.
I began to wonder because, after the 2nd treatment there was simply no improvement at all. Then the third or 4th time in, the chiropractor was doing some deep massage, pressure point stuff around my neck because I had begun to have pain there, too, and all of a sudden my shoulder and arm hurt in all the same places, only 100 times worse — like, "fucking stop that bullshit this instant or I’ll pass out" kinda pain. A little more prodding led us to suspect a nerve issue around C4-5. I should point out that the chiropractor stressed the importance of getting imaging on the very first visit so as to not be shooting in the dark — which kinda ended up happening anyway.
So now I had good reason to request an MRI from my provider, which was scheduled immediately (an x-ray of both neck & shoulder revealed nothing). First time in the tube for me and while I’m not claustrophobic, pain does interesting things to your mind. Thing is, being unfamiliar with the procedure and having a dumbass for a tech who didn’t bother to even mention that "this is going to be about 20 minutes," I was left writhing in that horizontal shit hole, wondering when in the holy fuck it was going to be over. At some point I adjusted my arms or something, I guess, ’cause when the thing was all over, dumbass tech comes on the speaker to tell me there’s blurs and they have to do it again.
"Get me outta here!" Actually, I didn’t even wait. With sharp, hot knives in my shoulder blade being twisted by the Devil himself, I really gave no shit whatsoever about ptotocal. I scooted right out of shit tube, then jumped off the table before it was even lowered, to the exasperation of dumbass tech who said: "you’re scaring me." I’d have loved to come back with some clever retort — something along the lines of "no, what you should be scared of is having me in that torture chamber for another 20 minutes." Instead, all I could do was bend over and writhe in pain until it subsided.
They rescheduled for a few days out and I came prepared: three Vicodin and a good 6-8 ounces of scotch on an empty stomach. Still substantial pain but definitely manageable. What’s more, I had smart & experienced tech who, when I explained the previous experience assured me she’d get me through this. And she was good at her word, giving me progress reports, letting me know when I could adjust my arms a bit. …"Just three more minutes." I froze in place. Too late to turn back now. Done.
In the meantime I’ve been having the chiropractor do neck adjustments (pop, pop) and traction with a machine that could probably second as a torture rack. Actually, I can perform traction on myself as well and it really helps.
Initial diagnosis came in today via a voicemail from my primary care guy. "Narrowing of the spinal cord channel at the base of the neck as well as narrowing of the nerve protrusion at C5-6." Something like that. Stenosis, from what I gather. No idea the cause, though I do suspect some congenital contribution since I have had "weird" issues in my right trapezius, shoulder and arm for as long as I can remember and it used to be that every couple of years I would be in a lot of pain in the trapezius that would resolve itself in 1-2 weeks. I’ve been at this for about 2 months, now.
So where I’m at now is that I have improved greatly during the day when up, moving around, using my body. I’m heading to the gym tomorrow for some very light exercises, nothing overhead, and…gasp…cardio — just to get the blood pumping. Then I’ll take 10 minutes submerged to the neck in the 40 degF cold dip.
What’s worse is laying down. There is no position that does not hurt and it builds to the point of screaming agony and that happens every 2 hours (even with Vicodin), all night. I have some stretches I figured out, and I basically just get up and move around. Then it’s back for another round. In much measure, I am handling this in many ways as a self experiment. And one thing is for sure: I am in charge. I don’t want a knife — anybody’s knife — anywhere near my spinal cord if there’s any way to get around it. But if that ends up being the only rational recourse I will not be irrational.
The newest self experiment is to sleep upright, in a chair. I feel like I’m killing my recovery by so irritating the nerve at night. Plus, I now have a supply of 50 Percocet….