Compressed nerve recovery

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 Fozzy 05 Feb 2021

A little over a week ago, I woke up in utter agony at 2am, with pain pulsing through my neck, back and right arm. So, I rang the docs in the morning, who referred me to their in house physio...
The NHS physio diagnosed it over the phone as a C5 compression, caused by excessive use of my laptop in a poor position (I’m teaching from home, using the dining table as an office). He gave me a series of exercises to do a couple of times a day and some meds (Naproxen & 15/500 CoCodamol).
I went in to see him on Wednesday, where he confirmed the diagnosis and tried to manipulate my neck to free it up (it didn’t work), signed me off from work for at least a week of no computer use and increased my painkiller strength as I’ve been in agony (mainly pulsing/radiating pain throughout my right arm). 
 

Does anybody know how long recovery for this tends to last, or recommend anything else that the physio hasn’t? I’ve spent the last week in 6hr cycles, waiting for the time to take my next painkillers (it’s currently 24mins until my 4am dose, mercifully!) and trying to get comfy in between, but it’s starting to drain me mentally. 

 Andy Gamisou 05 Feb 2021
In reply to Fozzy:

I've had intermittent, and at times absolutely agonizing, nerve pain in my ankle for about 2.5 years now.  Seems difficult to diagnose (no joy from various MRIs, physio, neurologists, etc).   Been taking lyrica which seems to help, but has some unfortunate side effects.  Sorry can't be more help.  It's more than a bit shit isn't it?

Personally, I'd be looking for a bit more than a physio to look at it.

 marsbar 05 Feb 2021
In reply to Fozzy:

Have you tried hot showers between painkillers? I know it’s not much but it may help.  

 girlymonkey 05 Feb 2021
In reply to Fozzy:

Have a look and see if you have a McTimoney Chiropractor near you. Not a traditional chiropractor! McTimoney do very gentle soft tissue release to align the skeleton. I find mine invaluable. She has got me moving again so quickly so often!

 Fozzy 05 Feb 2021
In reply to marsbar:

> Have you tried hot showers between painkillers? I know it’s not much but it may help.  

That does seem to ease things off a bit. I’ve also developed a dependency on my hot water bottle (once I’d found it out of the winter car camping box!), which gets wedged behind my neck as a support or used as a pillow for the few hours sleep in bed that I get. 

 Fozzy 05 Feb 2021
In reply to girlymonkey:

Thanks, I’ll have a look into it. There’s a chiropractors clinic in Worcester that I’ve found with good reviews & reasonable prices. 

The physio has referred me to the hospital physio team, which may be more of a help, but knowing that a friend’s grandad went in a fortnight ago for a broken hip and ended up dead on a Covid ward 10 days later, I’d rather avoid hospitals as much as possible. 

 girlymonkey 05 Feb 2021
In reply to Fozzy:

Might sound nuts, and this is in no way advice from any qualified person, but I often find I get relief from back/ shoulder/ neck issues by hanging from a pull up bar. Could be worth a try with a chair or something to allow yourself to lower very gently onto it and see if it likes it? But, as I say, I am not at all qualified and have just found this to work for myself in the past!!

In reply to Fozzy:

Yours sounds far worse than mine (aka “I was lucky” but 12-13 years ago I trapped a nerve in my lower back when I slipped on some particularly gnarly steps (down from an overhead bridge walkway at a railway station) and did the classic “land on your coccyx”. It was instant near-unbearable pain but I managed to hobble home (my house is a very short walk from the railway station) and into bed. Woke the next morning and as soon as I tried to move, it was unbearable pain. I managed to self-diagnose somehow, and it took me 30 mins to “bum-shuffle” down one set of stairs and call for an ambulance, they took me to A&E where the doctor prescribed Paracetamol and as much movement as I could bear, to try to free it. By this point I was able to walk albeit very gi gingerly. By the end of the weekend it had reduced to the level of “very sore back”.

So the key there was to have as many painkillers as it took to be able to perform motion to help open it up. It sounds though, that the level of painkillers you’d need for this, will be a bit on the high side 🙁

In reply to Fozzy:

A problem you might have is once you start feeling OK enough is you will start using the laptop again and you will quickly end up back at square one. Laptops and dining tables and crap chairs and stress = spine problems. So try and get a PC or monitor. 

I have a huuuuge history of lower spine problems. It relapses every few years. I find initially lots of rest but not too much so that it seizes up. Very, very gentle movement. Nearly always these things ease - takes a while. Keeping your morale up can be as important as anything else. And I’ve learnt that stress is often the key factor - muscles not relaxing etc. 

 

 Fozzy 05 Feb 2021
In reply to mick taylor:

That’s exactly what the physio said; apparently I’m the 6th teacher he’d seen in a week with exactly the same issue.  
I rang work once I’d got back from seeing him, told them I’d only be contactable on the phone for the next week (at least) and packed my laptop away. I’ve turned my work emails & internal work phone app off on my mobile, and have made a nest on the sofa that I can spend a good long time in reading or ploughing through my Netflix to-do list on the telly. I’m doing a couple of gentle dog walks a day too, which helps free things up a bit. 
 

Fortunately, my head of department is massively supportive and is sorting all of my lessons out for me (which is good, as all of the codeine is rendering me less than lucid!). 

Post edited at 10:14
In reply to Fozzy:

Whilst I’m here, I will take the liberty of sharing some of my back tales. 
I first hurt it doing some bonkers weird move on the Ambleside wall years ago. Some twisty dyno that became a challenge. Was off work for a couple of weeks. Couple years later I slipped down a set of stone steps outside college. I then really trashed it weight training (an odd one this - someone had shortened the cable on the arm curl machine and I was using heavy weights, lifted the bar not knowing I was going to get a student strain before my back straightened).  I was in agony for a few weeks. After it started easing I then spent a month with really bad posture at a desk, and stressed with stuff, which meant it never really recovered. Two months later I climbed a tree whilst drunk and fell out. My mate thought I was dead. Six months later had most of a lower disc removed. 
I reckon I almost always have a twinge or an ache related to it. These can be quite bad at times. Periods of inactivity are the worst thing, lots of walking the best thing. It scuppered full on rock climbing but managed to ice climb quite well (although not done any in ages, for other (mainly family life) positive reasons).

Post edited at 10:42
 Ciro 05 Feb 2021
In reply to Fozzy:

> and have made a nest on the sofa that I can spend a good long time in reading or ploughing through my Netflix to-do list on the telly. I’m doing a couple of gentle dog walks a day too, which helps free things up a bit. 

If you are holding your head up, or propping it up with pillows to watch the TV, you'll be overworking certain neck muscles and/or reinforcing a curvature in your neck similar to the laptop use.

IMO there are two good ways to watch TV whilst promoting good posture to resolve back issues:

1) on the floor, in cobra position - this is a very active position to hold, so only for short periods, and make sure you know the cues to getting into a good pose. Also, might not be suitable initially, until things have settled down a bit - take advice from your physio before trying it.

2) It sounds lazy, but flat on your back in bed, no pillows under your head, with belay glasses on upside down, and either a laptop balanced on some pillows on your stomach or a TV at the foot of the bed. Gently tuck your chin to lengthen and flatten the neck. Depending on how our of shape you've got from the laptop work, it may actually feel slightly uncomfortable to relax into this position initially, bit if so it's all the more evidence that it's needed. From that position you can also do isometric exercise - pressing the back of the head into the mattress to strengthen those muscles - and self-release of the muscles that run from behind your ears down to the front of the neck at the collar bone, that are probably over tight.

 Ciro 05 Feb 2021
In reply to Fozzy:

P.S. that's just the view of someone who has spent a lot of time rehabilitating back issues, not in any way qualified to give advice 

 mik82 05 Feb 2021
In reply to Fozzy:

Continue with the exercises - most things like this will get better within 4-6 weeks regardless.

There's also an occupational health element here - if you are working from home your employer does have a responsibility to ensure that your workstation setup is safe. Otherwise you're going to end up with problems again.

Post edited at 11:58
In reply to Fozzy:

When you get food enough to sit in a chair and watch tv, watch it 100% straight on - rearrange your settee/tv if needed. Even a very slightly skewed position maintained for hours on end ain’t good. 

 Fozzy 05 Feb 2021
In reply to mick taylor:

> When you get food enough to sit in a chair and watch tv, watch it 100% straight on - rearrange your settee/tv if needed. Even a very slightly skewed position maintained for hours on end ain’t good. 

Good shout on that; I’ve just asked the wife to move the sofa 90 degrees so that I’m face-on to the telly (and now have a really warm ear from the woodburner). As the physio’s orders were “Sit on the sofa, get comfy, watch telly, stretch occasionally”, I think it may well aid recovery somewhat!  

 jon 06 Feb 2021
In reply to Andy Gamisou:

> Been taking lyrica which seems to help, but has some unfortunate side effects.  

I take lyrica to help with the aftermath of a spinal decompression. I'd be interested to know what side effects you experience.

 Fozzy 10 Feb 2021
In reply to Fozzy:

Just a quick update (because I’m bored and have been awake since 2.30am)

- overall pain levels have reduced by about 25-30%. Still getting a lot in my upper arm/elbow though, but stretching reduces that 

- walking really helps, which the dogs are enjoying massively. A day sack is just about manageable with a flask, waterproof & binoculars in, but I don’t think I’ll be caring much more for a while. 

- I’ve done absolutely no work, and checked my work emails once in a week. Bliss  

- sleep is the major issue at the moment. I’m going to bed at 10, and sleeping from 10.30 until 2.30-3am (Monday was 5am, and utter bliss). After that I’m propped up on the sofa in a sleeping bag, reading & dozing. I’ve invested in a special pillow that supports my neck but lets my head rest in line with my body. It helps, but isn’t perfect. 

 Andy Gamisou 10 Feb 2021
In reply to jon:

> > Been taking lyrica which seems to help, but has some unfortunate side effects.  

> I take lyrica to help with the aftermath of a spinal decompression. I'd be interested to know what side effects you experience.

Mood alteration mostly.  I've always been a bit short tempered, but now if I lose my rag then I *really* lose my rag, to the point that my wife has to steer me away from any potential conflict.  Also a preoccupation with how and when to bring about end of life (in an abstract, not depressed going to do something about it kind of way).

I also have (or had when last checked) a very low stem cell count that my doctor thought was pregabalin related.

What dose are you on, and do you think it helps?  I'm on 50mg three times a day.

 jon 10 Feb 2021
In reply to Andy Gamisou:

Wow, that sounds a bit grim. They just make me drowsy - I think - though that might be down to something in the huge cocktail of other stuff I'm prescribed. After my op I was on 3 x 75mg, and even on that much I didn't experience anything like that. I think my nerve pain has reduced or has gone so I'm tapering off - of course the lyrica might be masking it, but there's only one way to find out. I now take 1 x 50mg and 1 x 25mg.

 Root1 10 Feb 2021
In reply to Fozzy:

I've had a prolapsed disc in my neck twice in the last three years. Amytriptyline is really good for nerve pain and I recommend you ask your GP for it. Both times it's taken 4 to six months to recover luckily without surgery. Careful Physio exercises are the way to go. 

Good luck

 Fozzy 10 Feb 2021
In reply to Root1:

Cheers, I’ll mention it next time I’m in for a follow-up & see what they say.  
The co-codamol isn’t as effective as I’d like it to be (and I’ve not had a comfortable dump for a week). 

In reply to Fozzy:

> The co-codamol isn’t as effective as I’d like it to be (and I’ve not had a comfortable dump for a week). 

Feel free to chuck any spare my way 😃

 Meddins 10 Feb 2021

Having slipped a disc numerous times my advice is.

Keep as active as you can, I find that give me respite from pain.

Manage painkillers well.

Then the changing point in my life for my back was starting yoga. Not only does it strengthen your back it gives you a deep knowledge of your body and which stretches suit you etc. 

 biscuit 11 Feb 2021
In reply to Fozzy:

That sounds awful. The worst thing about these issues is that they basically have to self resolve whilst we do what we can to be comfortable and speed it along. The good news is that the majority of them so resolve well.

I'm a physio by trade and would just like to chip in to say that it is very unlikely that sitting at your desk did it. What did it was sitting at your desk for too long in one position.  If you sit ramrod straight in 'perfect posture' without moving much for 2 hrs that will also hurt. Any posture for an extended period of time is not great for us.

Once you have improved enough to find yourself back at your desk set a timer on your phone/laptop that gives you a prompt every 15 mins to stand up and move for a minute. 

I wish you a speedy recovery.

 Andy Gamisou 12 Feb 2021
In reply to jon:

> Wow, that sounds a bit grim. They just make me drowsy -

Ah yes - I forgot that one!  When I first started on it sudden fatigue would overcome me at any time of the day and I'd fall asleep (had to stop driving for a bit).  Seems to have mostly gone away now.

 > I think my nerve pain has reduced or has gone so I'm tapering off - of course the lyrica might be masking it, but there's only one way to find out. 

Great news that it's easing - here's hoping you can come off the stuff. ​​​​​​I managed to come off for a while 18 months ago, but then it came back.  I'd love to come off again but I'm basically a bit scared to (the pain is so sudden and severe).  I'm not even sure how effective it is - I last had the pain about 2 weeks ago, and it didn't really seem to reduce it.  Thankfully went after about an hour. 

Post edited at 03:10
 Fozzy 12 Feb 2021
In reply to biscuit:

Thanks, appreciate it.
When I’m back at work properly (hopefully in a couple of weeks), I won’t be sitting at a desk much anyway as I spend all day walking around my classroom, stopping kids chopping bits off themselves, each other or the furniture. I’ve also got a very good adjustable chair and desktop computer in there, which will hopefully help things in future. 
Until then, I’m staying well away from my laptop! 

 Fatboy Jim 17 Feb 2021
In reply to Fozzy:

Never posted here before and only just seen this. Had the same symptoms, start at the end of December so 7 weeks ago. The pain started in my back and would radiate down my arm, through my elbow and into the back of my hand. At it’s worst like a severe toothache, very intense. After 6 physio sessions (hands on, not virtual) and daily exercises I am starting to get back to normal. The exercises include what can best be described as nerve stretching movements; stretching my neck, back and shoulders; plus some weights work as a preventative measure. I guess I wanted to offer reassurance that it will get better but it takes a lot of time and work - follow the exercise regime, that’s what has made a difference for me.

 Fozzy 18 Feb 2021
In reply to Fatboy Jim:

That pretty much describes my pain; it’d build up in the elbow & radiate out, and at this start was debilitating. 
I’m glad to hear that you’re improved following the exercise routines though, that gives me hope. I had one physio session when he tried to manipulate it, but the swelling was too intense and it caused more pain than good. 

Fortunately, I’d say my pain & stiffness have decreased by about 50% now, and at times, go away altogether, which has been a glorious relief. I’ve been doing a lot of walking, which is really helping it, along with the stretches and twice-daily Naproxen.


I’m looking into beginning yoga once I get fully away from all symptoms to keep things supple & moving, especially with the impending return to work. 

 Fatboy Jim 18 Feb 2021
In reply to Fozzy:

Good that things are getting better. What surprised me is how much weaker I’ve become in my right shoulder and arm. I’m right handed but at the moment the left arm and hand are stronger. All to do with protecting the bad side and favouring the good side apparently. 

Gentle yoga has helped me already and cycling (indoor). I did overdo the cycling once and it set me back a week. 

Might be worth getting an x ray if possible. This identified some issues which could have contributed to causing the problem and have guided the recovery exercises. 

It seems the recovery can be a long old process, up to 12 weeks can be normal apparently. Frustrating when you can’t pinpoint exactly how it happened as well. Seems patience is important... but it will get better. 

 Fozzy 18 Feb 2021
In reply to Fatboy Jim:

> Good that things are getting better. What surprised me is how much weaker I’ve become in my right shoulder and arm. I’m right handed but at the moment the left arm and hand are stronger. All to do with protecting the bad side and favouring the good side apparently. 

 

I had my covid jab in the other arm earlier this week, so for a couple of days, both sides were equally as useless  

> Might be worth getting an x ray if possible. This identified some issues which could have contributed to causing the problem and have guided the recovery exercises. 

> It seems the recovery can be a long old process, up to 12 weeks can be normal apparently. Frustrating when you can’t pinpoint exactly how it happened as well. Seems patience is important... but it will get better.

 

I’ve got follow-up physio next week, so hopefully he can shed some more light on it. As for recovery times, it’s certainly making me be less impatient (which is a challenge in itself!)  


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