I Can Feel Your Pain

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The event that caused me to experience a sudden onset of right arm pain shall remain confidential as it involves a friend. Nonetheless, this Connecticut injury lawyer who has spent a career representing people with just this sort of injury, knew right away that the type of searing pain I was having was a serious problem.

The pain ran from the right side of my neck, shot into my right shoulder blade and then progressed down the back of my arm through my triceps muscle, across my elbow at the funny bone and then went down my forearm into my hand causing tingling in my index finger. The pain in my upper arm was like a hot knife slicing through my flesh and my forearm felt like it was on fire. When I stood or sat, the pain worsened as the weight of my head and upper torso further compressed the nerve and when I was prone, it lessened. I knew that I had a C6-C7 radiculopathy. The question for me was whether or not the nerve pain was caused by an injury to the nerve alone or whether I had herniated the C6-C7 disc or whether the trauma had somehow caused an osteophyte(a boney formation caused by naturalaging or trauma) to damage the nerve.

Unfortunately, the onset of the pain came just before I was to depart for Las Vegas to attend a special seminar that focused on neuroimaging techniques for brain injury. I traveled to Vegas on a Thursday in tremendous pain and attended a great seminar but the pain was constant – probably a 9 out of 10 (it can’t get a ten because I’ve had a kidney stone and that was the worst pain, but it passed). When I awoke early Friday morning (it was early in Las Vegas because of the three hour time difference) I waited until it was 9:30 back east and then I telephoned a neurosurgeon’s office to schedule an appointment first thing Monday morning. Despite attending a fascinating brain injury program that far surpassed anything available in Connecticut, I couldn’t wait to get home on Saturday night. (I didn’t gamble, but I ate well and saw the wonderful Celine Dion show).

The weekend was a blur of pain and I was thrilled when Monday came and I could see the neurosurgeon. He confirmed my lay diagnosis (my mother calls me an AAD for Almost A Doctor) that I had a C6-C7 radiculopathy with weakness and diminished reflexes in my right triceps. He sent me for an MRI that confirmed that the disc was herniated with disc material in the neural foramen and more disc material was pressing on my spinal cord.

My injury was treated conservatively with steroids and pain killers for about three weeks. During that time I underwent an epidural steroid injection that provided no relief. The next step was apparent to me and that was surgery. So on May 17, I underwent a posterior cervical foraminotomy. I am working on my recovery, resting, going to physical therapy, massage and plenty of swimming for exercise. By mid July I should be fully back to normal.

It has been a real eye opener for me. I never adequately understood just how painful a radiculopathy was; how debilitating it could be. I was in so much pain prior to my surgery that I didn’t need any medication to calm my nerves as I awaited my operation. I was only awake in the operating room for a few minutes and someone on the OR staff said she had never seen anyone so happy about having surgery.

By Stewart Casper. Posted June 1, 2007

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