Neck- Cervical Radiculopathy
Written By Maedy Colenso 2013
Cervical Radiculopathy is a condition when the nerves down the arm have been compressed causing extreme pain, numbness and/or weakness. You see in this top diagram the areas effected depending on which nerve is compressed. This can happen with degeneration or with a cervical or neck prolapse. The Radicular is the nerve roots where they join the spine hence the name radiculopathy. When I first heard it i thought they said RIDICULOUS. To me it just felt like an extreme spasm pain they did not respond to any pain killers. At one stage it felt like my arm was going to fall off.
A prolapse disc has many names like a slipped disc, herniated disc but basically it is when the disc ruptures its contents out. For most this happens to the sides of the spine and can press nerves causing pain. If the disc effected is in the lower back then the nerve pain is often referred down the leg like in sciatica. With the neck the nerves effected are down the arm and into the hand. This can vary depending on severity and depending the pressure on the nerves. If a prolapse happens to go into the spinal cord this usually means emergency spinal surgery. In my case this November it was the discs in my neck and the nerve pain was in the lower part of my arm. You can see from the diagram below how the prolapsed disc is pushing on the nerve coming from the spine. For every one neck prolapse there is usually up to 15 lower back prolapses.
Cervical Radiculopathy can be caused by spinal degeneration or a prolapse or both. The aggravating factors for this kind of condition are trauma, stress, degeneration and hydration. In my case I had a fall off my bike in January which caused numbness in my arm for up to 6 weeks. This I believe was the start of the condition. Then with a stressful year and lifes pressures it added to the condition. In September whilst training for the Triathelon I was hit by a magpie on my bike and then the following week was riding back to Warrandyte from the city and hit a 500metres of very rough road works. It was after this the arm pain started and accelerated and the cerival radiculoapthy progressed. Everyone is different thou but it just gives you an example.
People have to find what is right for the individual. I am going to share with you what I personally found helpful but please seek professional help and guidance where needed.
An MRI is performed to diagnose a prolapsed disc. For some people spinal surgery is the answer. In my case a more conservative approach was taken. Firstly, I was injected with an anaesthetic and this was then followed immediately with a cortisone injection into the affected area of my spine. This procedure was done whilst I was fully awake under a CT Scan for accuracy. I had to lay very still and it was very quick. One way of knowing you have the correct spot is that the local anaeasthetic kicks in relativelly quickly with pain relief within 24 hours. Dissapointingly the anaesthetic wears off and then the actual cortisone takes 3 - 7 days to work. I had my C5/C6 nerve injected and then 7 days later the C6/C7 nerve was also injected under a CT Scan.
I learnt a lot about pain. Unfortunately even with the heavy dose medical intervention, I was still in a lot of pain. I used medical pain killers and anti-inflamatories in hospital and I was very aware to try to go without them as I gradually improved. Many people take pain killers to prevent pain but end up taking too many for too long in fear of the pain returning. It is very important to try to control pain as extreme pain slows down your healing. One thing to note is that if your body is using up the medicine then seldom do you get side effects. However, if you take 4 panadols and only need 2 then the extra 2 are left for your body to detoxify.
I believe and have seen it with other clients how important hydration is for a prolapse. The quality and amount of water is so important. I had friends and family bring good water to the hospital even. I use Pimag filtered water but you can even get now alkalised water and reverse osmosis water. Drink heaps.
I have always had a great diet and am very fussy with my nutritional statis. I like to eat organic vegies and even if i do not get enough raw foods i will supplement with raw juices. With inflammatory conditions like a prolapse you need to keep gluten free and sugar free. The hospital helped with this and friends and family brought some food in too. Keep your fibre up with seeds and kiwifruit. I kept my protein high with meats, fish, eggs and nuts. At Possum Hollow we have a dietery sheet here called the Super Eating Plan. This tells you what to eat and the Super Eating Plan is what we suggest most times but it is even more important with any inflammation in the body.
Nutritional supplementation is very individual and the remedies I had tested using the Electrodermal testing. Biochemistry were a very important part of my healing.
Minerals- MAGNESIUM, Calcium, Zinc, Silica and Iron. Magnesium is often the most important mineral in the prolapse as it helps relax the nerves and muscles. Minerals are the building blocks of health.
Vitamins- Vitamin E and VITAMIN B12. Vitamin B12 was used in a strong liquid form called Me Co and it is fantastic for peripheral nerve repair.
Herbs - The main herbs used were Curcumin as it is a strong anti inflammatory. I also used Nervagesic which is Poppy based and Restoracalm which contains Phellodendron and Magnolia.
Amino Acids- the main one I used was GLYCINE as it helped with detoxification of medical drugs and it helps with nerve repair and recovery. Amino acids can be the building blocks to repair.
Here at Possum Hollow the massage therapists are great and with having massages have had a lot of relief. Last week I even had a massage with our new Massage therapist Allison Waghorne and she encorporated cupping. It was terrific.
NST is one of the main treatments I have always advocated for its benefits for any prolapse. The NST works on the nerves directly and the results are amazing.
Paul Turner without manipulating my neck physically has treated me and I feel this energetically has been an important part of my healing.
Andrew Barrett has helped get the feeling back in my hand where the numbness was. I now am only numb on the very tip of one finger.
At Donvale Rehab the Physio also does some massage work and they have given me specific exercises to strength my neck and the muscles and ligaments around the prolapse. What I can do now without pain is so much more than when I first got out of hospital. Some of the exercises are simple head movements others are against pressure.
This was very interesting for me as I have never done Occupational Therapy. It started off with getting me back to normal activities of washing my hair, dressing, writing and eating. These activities I was not to bad at. The main thing that concerned me in hospital was I could not write with my right hand. This was very distressing especially as I do so much writing at work. Heres hoping I write neater in the future!!! I have improved heaps and can now write. Then the occupational therapist came and assessed my work space and computer space at home. This gave me confirmation these activities were not contributing to my condition.
The next thing I did with the occupational therapist was some right /left brain work - this is to help the brain turn down the dial of pain. The pain is a message from the brain that you have a problem but once things improve for some people this pain message is still sent thru. So by doing the right/ left brain balancing it did reduce the pain i felt and i did this with a little computer game and playing the piano. I preferred the piano!!!
Lastly the occupational therapist worked with meditation to visualise my right arm doing what what it used to be able to do. I was very impressed that the physio and OT suggested this and was open minded. Our minds are very powerful when it comes to outcomes of health conditions.
Beyond the physio exercises WALKING for me was so important. I feel walking is strenghing and great for the spine. I was advised to do gentle HYDROTHERAPY which is movement and exercise in a warm pool. This felt great.
Now I am continuing the neck exercises daily and adding some leg work to gradullly get my fitness up again without aggravating the neck. I must say i get frustrated as it is a slow process and I do miss my running. Maybe I will not run again but i will just wait and see. I think it is important to be sensible but not limit myself and yet have goals to work towards.
Specking of meditation - in hospital I did a specific meditations. I would visualise a light coming up my spinal cord and my spine strongly like a thick rope and then this colour and strength coming out all the nerve roots from my spine. The main area being the neck and i would imagine the light and healing energy coming right down my arm and into my numb hand. I did this twice a day in hospital. Sometimes people are not as keen on meditation or do not believe in it but i believe in healing mind, body and soul. It also made me feel more relaxed and calm - this has to be a good thing.
Emotional mental statis is very individual and personal but in the 24 years I have worked as a naturopath EVERY prolapse case has a strong emotional stress component. So when my MRI said prolapse i lay in emergency and just cried. I looked at every stress in 2013 and before. Stress is not what is happening but how we react to things. You may see people in really stressful situations and cope fine, then you see people get so stressed over what we may feel is trivial. It also can be an overload of just too many stressful things a t once. Whilst in hospital I was able to think thru various stresses and assess how i deal with them or let them go. I had some really special friends to talk thru some things too and this helps. Having love and caring people around you is so healing.
So now nearly two months on i am doing really really well. I am nearly back to working full time. I am slowly starting to do more exercises and will aim to get back to swimming then bike riding. I thank you all for your caring thoughts, flowers, cards and of course for your understanding with cancellations and rescheduling.
Thank you and whatever health condition you have NEVER give up hope. Health conditions are an adventure in your life's journey. Everyones journey is different and maybe my journey can help someone in some way.
" When something good falls apart maybe it is time for something better to take its place"