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Confused about source of my chronic pain

ArualAArual Posts: 20
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:48 AM in Chronic Pain
I have degenerative disc disease at C4/5 & C5/6, a herniated disc at C6/7 that is pressing on the nerve(s) on the right side of my neck, and I also have muscle pain in my right shoulder.

My pain management doctor diagnosed the muscle pain as Fibromyalgia, but I never thought much about that because honestly, I thought it was a psychosomatic condition. But after reading the symptoms, especially tenderness in an area that hurts more when touched, I realized that I need to pay more attention to the condition.

So in an average day, I have severe muscle pain (tightness, inflammation and spasms) in my shoulder, and nerve pain that radiates down my back between my spine and shoulder blade, and I often have nerve pain down my right arm that ends at my pinky.

Are all the bad discs causing the muscle pain, or is the herniated disc the culprit?

Does the muscle pain cause the nerve pain?

Do the degenerative discs have anything to do with the pain?

I am being treated for depression and anxiety and I wonder if those conditions have anything to do with the pain as well.

Also, since I have nerve and muscle pain, I don't know whether to use heat or ice. And I got an epidural injection at C6/7 on October 5th, and I'm still waiting for it to kick in.

I just wish I knew the cause of my pain so I can focus more on treating that area.



  • It's hard to guess what is causing your pain. If you look at a dermatone map you will see that all of your arm pain can be caused by the herniated disk. The fact that the injection doesnt seem to be helping doesnt mean that it isn't that level. Sometimes they work and sometimes they don't.

    The back pain could be muscle spasms. Have they ever given you a muscle relaxant? That can help alot. And lots of heat will help. My ortho always says ice within 48 hrs and then heat. But some people find ice helps them more.

    It sounds like you aren't too certain of what your doctor is saying. So get another opinion. Different docs see different things. I would suggest a neurologist if you haven't already seen one since it sounds like you have a pinched nerve causing that arm pain.

    Hope this helps and can't wait to hear what you find out.
  • Kris said what I was going to say - take a look at the dermatome map in the FAQ section. We're not knowledgeable enough to say or know where your pain is coming from, but if you have nerve impingement, it can certainly be painful.

    I'd also taking your MRI to a spine specialist or spine surgeon, ortho or neuro, but someone who only works on spines. I know that injections can help, but I've read that they're less likely to help in the cervical than the lumbar area. That's not to say it definitely won't help, however.

    And Kris is right - muscle spasms are very common with spine problems so getting a muscle relaxer may help you. There are many different ones out there and you might need to try a couple before you find the one that helps the most.

    I hope you can find the right doc to help you get this sorted out. Being our own advocate is many times key to getting to the root of our problems.

    Take care and please keep us posted.
  • Hi Aural, you sound pretty much exactly like me. While I can't say where your pain is coming from, I experience pretty much the same things. Is your muscle pain widespread, or just in the shoulder area? I know from myself, what the others are saying, muscle relaxants help a lot with that. I also have a heating pad, that works wonders for me. Are you taking any meds geared towards nerve pain, like Neurontin/Lyrica or Cymbalta? Stress and anxiety is also a big factor, in my opinion. I carry my stress in my neck and shoulders, which just exacerbates the whole mess. I've been off work since Jun, left a very stressful job, have been seeing a psychologist more frequently, and a lot of the spasms have subsided a great amount since. So much so, that I stopped taking the muscle relaxant. I'll see how it goes when I go back to work in a different job in a couple of weeks! Anyways, pm me anytime, if you want to chat one on one, and take care!
    APROUD CANADIANveteranButNOTa doctor, my thoughts are my own
  • I have DDD as well in my Lumbar and recently had a L5-S1 herniated disc and annular tear and disc material on the nerve and it releases chemicals that irritate the nerve and the surrounding muscles go into spasm to protect the spine. However the L5-S1 herniated disc is healed but I have DDD now in my lumbar spine. I asked how am I having the same symptoms as when I had the herniated disc? My Dr. says there still must be nerve irritation. I had steroid injections thats supposed to bathe the area and take down the inflammation in that area. It helps but always comes back for me.

    I also have nerve impinging at C6-C7 causing my elbow pain and numbness sometimes to my fingers. You could probably try alternating heat and ice to see what works best for you. After the injections I put ice on. I've also had trigger point injections that help elongate the muscle and may help with spasms. I also take Flexeril and Cymbalta to help with thee muscle pain and numbness and nerve pain.

    I hope your pain eases up for you and your PM Dr can help you. I've had Physiotherapy that helped also with my neck and with my lower back. Hope you're feeling better soon. Take care. Charry
    DDD of lumbar spine with sciatica to left hip,leg and foot. L4-L5 posterior disc bulge with prominent facets, L5-S1 prominent facets with a posterior osteocartilaginous bar. Mild bilateral foraminal narrowing c-spine c4-c7 RN
  • (8) I appreciate all the insights.

    I guess it simply is nerve irritation. I'm just amazed that the muscles around and beneath my right scapula are constantly inflammed. I've tried heat and ice and Lydoderm patches, and I take lots of medications such as Zanaflex and Neurontin, and nothing eases the muscles. I'm sure the stress of it all is making it worse.

    Is it possible that the spasming muscles are pressing or squeezing the nerve(s) that go down my arm?

    I've met with a neurosurgeon and he wanted to do a fusion. I don't think so. My neck isn't bad enough for that. But I am meeting a different one next week. Don't know if he'll suggest something reasonable.

    I'm just going to keep up with the PT, get some trigger point injections and try to relax.

  • The arm pain could very well be the problems you have with your discs. Have you checked out the dermatome maps that someone posted, I believe in the announcements section? But, it would be best to wait to see what the neurosurgeon says. I had a foraminotomy done to trim up the herniated and protruding disc I had. Much less invasive and quicker recovery than a fusion, in fact you don't even wear a neck brace after. They also removed the bone spurs I had at all levels. I still have nerve pain, but it is so much less than before, I couldn't be upright without writhing in pain before, laying down wasn't much relief either and no pain med I was given even touched it, just made me sleepy, so at least I got relief that way. Point is, so worth it for me!! Maybe you could ask the surgeon about less invasive procedures than a fusion.
    APROUD CANADIANveteranButNOTa doctor, my thoughts are my own
  • Hi Arual,I also have degenerative disc disease in my C-spine,along with a herniation,and OA (all over).I have all of the same symptoms as you have,except mine are mostly associated with my left shoulder/arm/hand.I do have a little involvement on the right,but not nearly as bothersome.

    A Dx can be a big help in knowing exactly what or how to treat,but you can also just try a trial & error in small ways like for instance,if ice works better go with that or whatever works and where.Ice actually brings on more muscle spasms for myself,though I do have to ice after injections.So far the best thing I have found for pain relief (outside of my medication) has been showers.The hot tub helps a lot,but not convienient for me and getting out of my tub isn't worth washing the ring afterwards-so I stick to hot showers,and really,nothing feels so good as the hot water beating over me.Every evening after my shower I put on soft fluffy pj's and use powders and other things to feel all clean,warm and snuggly.It helps for up to two hrs of great relief.

    DDD can cause pain,but not everyone with it has pain and it is actually pretty common.Muscle pain can be very painful (for me),which is probably why the hot water helps me so much.ESIs don't always help,and even when they do they are only temporary.

    I don't have fibromyalgia so don't know what that feels like,but I've heard that it can be pretty painful and widespread.
  • Showers help me as well. I have a hot tub, but it hasn't been helping me at all lately...actually makes me feel worse.
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