New year, new medical issue (although this actually began in 2020):
I started having pain in my right shoulder about 4 months ago. Being a side-sleeper, I thought I’d slept on it wrong and figured it would just go away. But the discomfort stuck around, so I figured I’d probably strained something. When I had my physical in late January, I talked with my doctor about it and he decided to prescribe some anti-inflammatories.
But they didn’t help, and the pain worsened to the point that simple motions like lifting my arm over my head, extending it back, taking off shirts, scratching my back, etc. hurt something awful. And it wasn’t just the shoulder pain — I started having aching, throbbing pain all the way down my right arm, sometimes numbing, occasionally tingling in my fingers. I’ve been calling it “nerve pain,” because that’s what it seems like, and I figured it was referred from whatever was going on with my shoulder.
All the while, I’ve also had some pain in my left shoulder and arm, but it’s been *nothing* like what I’ve had on the right side. For several weeks, I was thinking along the lines of bursitis or tendinitis, or even a possible rotator cuff injury. But I hadn’t done anything to cause a serious injury like that. Plus, the fact that the pain on the left side has been fairly minor makes a rotator cuff on the right seem unlikely.
My condition clearly wasn’t going to improve, so a couple of weeks ago, I decided to call my doctor and see if he’d send me for an MRI. He was slow getting back to me, but finally his nurse called and said he wanted to refer me to a specialist at Arlington Orthopedic Associates, a practice with over two dozen doctors. As I waited to hear from AOA last week, I got more serious about trying to figure out what’s been happening with more extensive online research.
I found that the combination of my symptoms added up to cervical radiculopathy — in simpler terms, a pinched nerve. Everything seemed to point to that, except for the fact that a pinched nerve doesn’t usually cause the severe shoulder pain I’ve been having. A pinched nerve can be caused by a herniated disk, a bone spur, stenosis (narrowing of the spinal canal), or, in rare cases, a tumor. If it’s affecting both arms, it can be a condition called myelopathy.
Knowing that, for a number of years, it’s been fairly common for me to have neck pain too, the possibility of something involving my cervical (neck) vertebrae made sense. So when I made my ortho appointment, I asked to see a doctor who deals with both the neck and shoulders/arms and was set up with Dr. Todd Daniels.
When I went to see him Monday, I was taken first for X-rays on my neck (in photo) and shoulders, which I knew would show next to nothing. I met Dr. Daniels, who was great, and we discussed my symptoms. He was amazed to see how little range of motion I had in my right arm because of the shoulder pain, but was encouraged by the fact that his clinical exam showed I hadn’t really lost arm strength. He doesn’t seem to think anything’s torn, so that’s reassuring.
I told him what I’d found, and he said he believes it’s within reason that I have something going on with my neck. As for the X-rays, he said they show some slight disk degeneration at one level.
But he said that because I’m having so much pain in my right shoulder and arm, we need to address that first. So he sent me for an MRI on the shoulder, which I had this morning (see CD in photo that I’ll be taking for my follow-up with the doc Monday). He also recommends physical therapy and a steroid injection, which he was going to give me that day, but I said I’d rather wait until the MRI shows us exactly what we’re dealing with.
Part of me still feels like if this is a pinched nerve in my neck, I wish we could also do a cervical MRI. Certainly I want this awful pain in my shoulder and arm to disappear, but if something in my upper spine is the root cause, I want a clear picture of what that is. But we’ll see what the shoulder MRI shows and go from there.
Anyone else have experience with pinched nerves or anything that sounds similar to this? Thanks in advance for any insights!