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Pain/numbness getting worse from Disc herniations in the neck

AnonymousUserAAnonymousUser Posts: 49,671
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:37 AM in Neck Pain: Cervical
Hi, this forum seems to hold a great deal of info and I'm hopefully looking for things that can help me out.

My herniations initially started about 3 years ago. I have herniations in my C4-C5 level, C5-C6 level, and herniations in my lower back (not sure what level).

It initially started as a slight numbness in my left pinkie. 3 years later, it has manifested into pain/numbness in my left hand/arm. I also had slight numbness on the top of my right/left foot (this may be due to the herniations in my lower back).

I had been going to physical therapy about a year ago but, I had to stop due to my insurance not covering physical therapy anymore.

I recently switched jobs and also received new insurance. I started going back to physical therapy (to a new physical therapist as well) about 2 weeks ago.

The thing is, this time, I think the physical therapy may be worsening my conditions. I now have numbness pain in my right hand/arm and numbness/pain in my toes in both feet. I've never had numbness/pain in my right hand/arm and toes before.

I don't know why it could possibly be getting worse? I'm doing the same exact physical therapy as I did a year ago (mostly neck traction). I've started doing traction in my lower back but, I don't think this could make it this worse? A couple of days ago I sneezed very hard and I had this immense shooting pain running down the both of my arms/hands.

I was told that my nerves were inflamed and this was expected. Perhaps beginning pains? But when I started physical therapy a year ago, I never experienced this.

Apologies for the long post but, this whole herniation problem has really gotten me to the point of depression. I'm 28 years old (I'm not young but, not old enough to be having all of these problems) and feel like my whole body is falling apart.

Any opinions would be greatly appreciated. :S


  • Welcome to a really great site. Understand that the info you get here is just opinions based on individual experiences. You should not consider anything you see here to be a professional medical opinion.

    That said it sure sounds like your herniations are acting up now. The physical therapy is probably not making it worse but it may be changing things in your body that makes the symptoms (tingling/numbness) more noticable.

    It sounds like you need to get to a neurosurgeon immediately. THey can order the necessary tests to see what is going on. Alot can change in 3 years.

    Don't wait because some situations can lead to permanent nerve damage and you don't want that.

    Good Luck and keep posting.
  • I agree with Kris, that seeing a spine specialist would seem to be the prudent thing to do. It's really hard to say whether the PT is the cause or just the catalyst. Have you mentioned the increase in symptoms to the PT or PTA?

    Did they do traction on you in PT last time you were going? Or is this something new that they added in this time? Make sure your doc and PT are aware of what is happening and keep a good journal of your pain, tingling and numbness.

    Hang in there,

  • Thanks for the replies. It's really appreciated.

    I've went to 2 other physical therapists in the past and I've done traction and I was fine. But this time I started traction at a different PT (over 1 year I stopped going to PT) and all of these new problems arose. I don't get it though, it's not like these traction sessions are any different from the previous traction sessions from previous PT's.

    I've mentioned the numbness/pain increase and spread to my other body parts to my current PT and was told that my nerves are being "shocked" right now and it's to be expected?

    I'm still worried.
  • I understand how you feel, your doing the same type of PT and you were expecting the same results as you had 3 years ago. There are several reasons why the new therapy can be affecting you differently, including that the therapist can be using a different amount of tention then your previous therapist. But there is a chance that your back has changed to. I agree with the earlier posts, that you should see a spine specialist and get their opinion.

    Hope you start feeling better soon.

  • Ditto on the above comments. Who has ordered your physical therapy? I hope you are seeing a spinal specialist, either an orthopedic surgeon or neurosurgeon. Have you had a repeat MRI? Things can change greatly in three years.

    Best to you,

  • Thanks for the replies. I decided to go to physical therapy myself as a whole year had past and I wasn't getting better.

    Orthopedic surgeon and neurosurgeon appear to be similar but, who would have more knowledge regarding disc herniations?

    Thanks everyone.
  • Welcome to Spine-Health.

    The very best thing to do is find a fellowship-trained spine surgeon who does nothing but work on spines. This can be a neuro or ortho - mine happened to be an ortho in a spine center.

    You can search for one of these right here on the Spine-Health website, find a referral from someone who's had spine surgery, or you can look in your area for a Spine Center that has surgeons onboard. Whatever the case, be sure that you have 100% confidence in your surgeon by researching, interviewing and talking with the new doc. Oftentimes getting second, third, or more opinions are a good idea.

    I'm glad you found us and feel free to ask any questions you have or ask for support as you travel through your spine journey. It's usually a long road, but we're here for you.

    Take care,
  • Kind of a dumb question but, would a neurologist be able to offer good advice?

    I know of a good neurologist but. Would going to a neurologist be a waste of time?

    Thanks everyone.
  • I agree with what all the others have told you. I also thing a neurologist is a great doc to see if you know a good one. He/She can do the tests necessary to determine your problem.

    I have had the pain, numbness and tingling in my right arm and had waited 8 years to have the cervical fusions c4/5 & c5/6. My neurologist was helping me with other options to try to avoid the surgery, however PT did not help and either did epidural injections. Besides the other things I tried, it boiled down to needing the surgery.

    Now, 4 years later, I may have another disc involved because my arm has been in horrible pain for the past few months. I went back to have an MRI and will find out the results soon.

    Yes...see your neurologist. That's my advice. Don't wait. Good Luck.
  • Swy you said up above that you decided to go to PT. How are you doing that without a prescription from a doctor? I would stop the PT immediately and see the neurologist.

    Good Luck and let us know what happens.
  • I'm kind of going off of the physical therapy I initially did over 1 year ago.

    I stopped going to physical therapy due to my insurance not covering it anymore.

    Since I've recently switched jobs/insurance, I decided to start up again at another physical therapist.

    I guess that was a dumb thing to do. =(
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