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Cervical disc bulging with pinched nerve & severely knotted shoulder blade muscle

TeresaMarieTTeresaMarie Posts: 4
edited 12/05/2013 - 2:03 AM in Neck Pain: Cervical
I have a disc bulging in my neck and my pain doctor has said I have a pinched nerve that is causing my shoulder blade muscle to be severely knotted. I can find NO relief and am searching for suggestions. I am being referred to a neurosurgeon in hopes of getting my bulging disc fused. I have previously had 3 disc fusions in my neck at levels C3-4, C4-5, and C6-7. The bulging disc I have now is at level C5-6 which is in the middle of my previously fused discs causing my pain to be excruciating! I am having problems using my right arm due to weakness and my hand will start tingling and go asleep if I use my right arm much at all. The area of the knot is so hard to get a heating pad on that I have not been able to use that method of help. None of my other discs caused knotting of my muscles in my shoulder blade, so I was thinking I had ripped my trapezes muscle, but the pain doctor insists it is coming from my neck. This started as an injury from a car accident when a lady pulled from a parking lot and slammed into my passenger side and I jerked the steering wheel so hard with my right arm swerving away from the car in order to avoid collision, but she hit me hard. I was initially seen in the ER a few hours after the accident where they did a CT scan and said I was okay, but I was far from okay. This happened back in April of this year (2013) and the injury keeps getting worse. It is now affecting my sleep. I have been waiting for months to see a neurosurgeon in the hopes of having surgery to remove the bulging disc, and I am at a point where I cannot tolerate this pain!! The pain medication doesn't even touch the pain. Physical Therapy only increased the pain. Muscle massage only increased the pain. And trigger point injections of steroids and cortisone only helped slightly right after the injection, but then was right back to the severe pain. The knot will not go away that is in my shoulder blade and that is where the majority of my pain is. My neck does hurt as well, but not as severely as the knot. When the pain doctor injected the knotted muscle he said that it had atrophied. I don't know what that means. If anyone has any suggestions to what I can do until I can see the neurosurgeon by all means PLEASE HELP!! Thanks and God bless!! Teresa
Teresa M.Cope


  • Welcome to spine Health.
    I am very sorry to hear about your pain, especially in your shoulder blade.
    How long ago did you have your fusions?
    I don't know where you are, but having to wait months to see a neurosurgeon sounds like here in the UK.
    I hope that you won't have to wait much more. Would it be possible to contact the surgeon's secretary and let them know how much you are suffering? I wonder if your Pain Doctor will let the neurosurgeon know that your muscle has atrophied. (That means it has wasted somewhat.)

    I have also had an ACDF of C3/4/5 done a year ago and am still having most of my symptoms. I see my physiotherapist every fortnight and each time he says that my muscles are back in knots again. He works on them to help them to relax off. I am not suffering as much as you are with the knots but am having worsening pain in my hands, especially my right hand which is now difficult to use much, especially writing or gripping things. This is a real nuisance as I am right handed.

    Have you tried using warmth over the knotted muscle? I see that you are finding it difficult to get a heating pad on your shoulder blade. How about using a heated wheat bag which you would place on a cushion and lean back into, or lie onto it. Heat is supposed to relax off tight muscles so this might help you.

    Have you heard when you will see your neurosurgeon? If not, perhaps either your Pain Doctor or your GP could write to him and let him know about your pain levels and the atrophied muscle.

    Sorry that I can't help more but I do feel for you. You will find that there are friendly people here who understand how hard it is to deal with pain every day.

    I hope that you will get some help and pain relief very soon.

  • it seems like since you have had the previous fusions, the whole brunt of the accident affected your c5-6. I have been having knots in my muscles(upper traps and SCM) and and they have told me my problem is at 5-6.
    have you tried a buckwheat microwavable heat wrap. You can get them at most drug stores and it can get at all spots.
    good luck with your NS visit.
  • TeresaMarieTTeresaMarie Posts: 4
    edited 12/11/2013 - 5:18 AM
    Thanks for your replies to my comment about my injury and pain. My previous fusions were: C6-7 fused in 2000 and C3-4, C4-5 fused in 2003. I have had minor neck pain from the arthritis set into those levels, but never had any muscles to knot up before, not even before those two surgeries. I did, however, have excruciating pain with the accident of 2002 which broke my discs at the two levels of C3-4 and C4-5 and those discs were laying on my spinal cord which made my left arm feel like it was in hot grease from the elbow all the way down to my hand and I had fingers that went numb in my left hand. The surgery was in 2003 for that injury and was very successful. The injury of 1999 with a surgery in 2000 for level C6-7 was also very successful and relieved the majority of my pain. The current accident which was April 2013, however, has caused the severe muscle knotting, which I can't get any relief from. I appreciate the suggestions and I will definitely go to the drug store and buy the buckwheat heat wrap. Last night I started feeling a huge muscle knot forming on my left side, as well as, the huge muscle knot that is still on the right side, so I am assuming that the disc must be impinging my spinal cord more? I'm going to call my pain doctor on Monday and see when they expect my appointment to be with the neurosurgeon. Thanks again for everyone's help on here. This is my first forum to join. Another complication is that I have reverse lordosis (my neck bends backwards instead of the natural forward bend) in my neck from previous accidents. I have been in several MVA's (not my fault). I am disabled from all these people crashing into my vehicles.
    Teresa M.Cope
  • Hi

    I also have gone thru a similar problem this year where my shoulder was locked. I was in severe pain and nothing helped. I had physical therapy, shots, meds, epidurals....finally cervical c6-c7 surgery in May. I'm feeling better but not great. I kept up with physical therapy for pain relief, and he also gave me a TENS unit for home. Lot's of rest. Heat/Ice. Also, warm Epsom salt baths really help me. I went for two rounds of shots after surgery for my shoulder, and have decided to have it scoped in a few weeks. It's better, but not great. I'm hoping this will all work.

    Please don't give up hope. You may want to go for physical therapy just for pain relief such as massages, ultrasound, etc...But it's not a good idea to start strength exercises as you probably know- you can't do them. Talk to your Dr or Pain Management Specialist about nerve meds such as lyrica, cymbalta, etc....

    Good Luck, and hang in there. It will get better!
  • I went for physical therapy and when they tried the exercises it felt like my shoulder blade muscle was being ripped apart!! I immediately stopped and told therapist I was not going to do those exercises. I followed up with my doctor and he discontinued the therapy and referred me to my pain doctors who usually follow me for my back problems. I am still waiting for the neurosurgeon appointment. My muscle in my shoulder blade has just about doubled in size and is severely hurting. I hope that everyone of you gets the help you need and I pray God will heal us all. Thanks again for your comments.
    Teresa M.Cope
  • LizLiz Posts: 7,832
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    Liz, Spine-health Moderator

    Spinal stenosis since 1995
    Lumber decompression surgery S1 L5-L3[1996]
    Cervical stenosis, so far avoided surgery
  • Mine are on the left vice right and I am left handed. I am scheduled for a 3 level fusion c4-c7 on Jan 20. I live in Memphis and about 7 years ago used to drive to Jonesboro to see a physiatrist over there. He was pretty good but eventually he sent me to a neuro-surgeon as there wasn't much he could do for me. I hope you get some help and soon.
    laminectomy c4/c5 2008, ACDF c4-c7 Jan 20 2014 sched
  • denver1234ddenver1234 Posts: 1
    edited 12/10/2013 - 11:48 AM
    I have a similar problem. I have worked out at the gym extensively and intensively to recover from my problem. There is no short answer on these problems. Part of my problem is that my neck muscles are shortened and require stretching to alleviate the pressure on the c7 disc that I think is causing the radiculopathic pain into the arm. I use a cervical traction device, heat, tens, muscle relaxants, and good old hard work and sweat. Cardio is important for pain management as are goals and efforts towards them. Yes, there is feedback, but exercise can be positive counterfeedback and produce results over time. Always realize that there is risk and that pain is not necessarily a sign of exercise or usage related injury. For me it is myofascial and muscle related, a tighening of the muscles causing intra-articular / neuropathic pain. This is going to be a fight. But I guess there are worse things. A guy got hit and killed today by a tow truck, you just never know. Take some time to smile and realize you are on top of the ground.
  • I have the same problem with the knots. Yikes! I feel for you. I also use a heat wrap for my pain. I have bought a couple from the store but have not been satisfied with them. A few years ago I made heat wraps for a church project and I still have the ones I kept for myself. I have 2 kinds that I made, one with feed corn and one with rice. the feed corn bag is nice because it gets hot and stays hot a bit longer than the rice bag but the rice bag is nice because it provides more of a damp heat. I use both ALL THE TIME!:) if you are interested in making some they are super easy and very inexpensive. Just cut two pieces of thick fabric any shape or size you would like the bag to be and sew them together inside out leaving a small hole to fill the bag then turn it right side out and fill with either feed corn or rice (not instant) and finish sewing up the hole. That's it! :) They can be either put in the microwave or the freezer depending on what you are needing. Microwave the bag for about 2 1/2 - 3 minutes. No longer.
    I got tired of spending the money when these are so cheap and easy and work so much better for me.
    I hope you find some answers when you see your neurosurgeon.
    Wishing you some pain relief soon.
  • TeresaMarieTTeresaMarie Posts: 4
    edited 12/11/2013 - 5:26 AM
    Great idea with the hot/cold wraps. I would have never thought of something like that. That is exactly what I need some heat to apply directly to the huge knot in my shoulder blade area and the curve of my neck. I tried a heating pad and it just won't conform to the shape. Thanks to everyone for your comments. I pray that each and every one of you get some relief from your pain. My MRI showed that I have a broad-based disc bulge and my pain doctors have directly injected the muscles trying to get them to un-knot, but they say that I have a pinched nerve from the bulging disc in my neck so surgery is my only option at this point. I am still waiting to find a neurosurgeon that will see me. Having problems due to it being an automobile accident. The insurance company even said they are going to have no problem paying for the surgery. Hopefully, a doctor will step up to the plate and take my case and fix me. Anyone know of a good neurosurgeon in NE Arkansas or SE Missouri around the Kennett, Missouri, area or even Memphis, Tennessee, area? Thanks and God bless!
    Teresa M.Cope
  • I'll send you a private message on a surgeon in Memphis.
    laminectomy c4/c5 2008, ACDF c4-c7 Jan 20 2014 sched

  • Please take care when heating these bags, especially if you make one yourself.
    Generally when you buy one the instructions will say how long to heat them in the microwave for.

    If you make one yourself the amount of time needed to heat it up will vary according to the quantity of wheat/rice that you use.

    If you heat it for too long it could catch fire. Please experiment very carefully, testing how how it is getting and once you have worked out how long it take to get hot, then record or remember that time.
    Don't play with fire!

    Having said that, they really do help with tight muscles and pain. :-)
  • I could be wrong, but this sounds like your rhomboid muscle which runs between the shoulder blade and spine. I have had as many others issues with this area caused from neck problems, and is very difficult to treat. Heat ice and massage seem to give some relief , but is an ongoing battle.
    Cervical 360 ACDF C6/7-C7T1 Posterior fusion with hardware C3-T1 11/11/13
  • Thank you for your comment on the heat bags. Yes, you do need to use caution when using these bags. Always test them in your microwave an only heat for about a minute at a time. I said 2 1/2 - 3 minutes because that is usually what it takes for these to heat up to the right temperature for me.(mine are about 10x10) But regardless, PLEASE if anyone uses these bags be careful and watch the temperature and never exceed 3 minutes. Sorry I meant to include that in my last post and forgot. My apologies:)
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