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C5-C6 Diagnostic Nerve Block Yesterday

AnonymousUserAAnonymousUser Posts: 49,578
edited 06/11/2012 - 7:36 AM in Neck Pain: Cervical
Hi all,

I am new to the forum and am glad to have found it! I have a 3 year history now neck issues stemming from flying high-g aircraft in the air force. There is not one single incident that I can recall that injured it but I believe four years of flying at 7-9 g's with a 20+ pound helmet on my head has taken its toll. The first time I noticed my symptoms was from nothing more than getting up from a chair..I had a sharp "electric shock" type of pain shoot down from my neck and I was immediate incapacitated (would turn out to be the first of my neck issues). I found out that nerve roots in my neck had become immediately inflamed and it stayed like that for about two weeks. At that time it affected only my neck, left shoulder, and left arm..I would get a flare up of the nerve root every few months and it would always last about a week and a half with the pain levels worst at the beginning and it would eventually subside. During the symptoms I wouldn't be able to run or do much. I had an MRI done in april of 2008 that has the following diagnosis in writing "bone spur" and "mild stenosis" at C5-C6. The neuro surgeon said verbally that it looks like I have a disc herniation..possibly two. This was all last year. I did physical therapy that included traction. I couldn't go any further (steroid injections) because it would have repercussions in my flying.
So fast forward to this year. My flareups are coming more frequently and it now involves my neck, both shoulders, top of my chest, and both arms. The tingling and numbing if my left arm has not happened much in the last six months. This is leading me to believe that I may have more than one problem in my neck.
Well I had a diagnostic nerve block done yesterday to confirm the correct locations in my neck for surgery. It was done on the LEFT c5-c6. Now up to this point it has gotten bad enough that driving over bumps, coughing, breathing heavily, etc will cause pounding pain in both shoulders, neck, and top of my chest. Immediately after the injection procedure my left side pain was gone (again the injection was on the left nerve root)..but I still had the pains on the right side. I don't have my followup with the neuro surgeon until the 12th. I was wondering if they would most likely schedule another nerve block or proceed with scheduling surgery. I will of course find out on the 12th but I just hate playing the waiting game.
It is tough that I only get these flare ups in two week stints and that the pain is not constantly there. I say that because I can't just go in for a nerve block with little to no notice and I have to keep the symptoms going in order for the nerve block to be effective.




  • Welcome to Spine-Health. I'm glad you found us, but sorry for your pain. And let me say up front, Thank You for your service to our country.

    As you can see by my signature, I've had cervical spine surgery, so I know how you feel - the strange arm symptoms, numbness, tingling, etc. Many of us here can't point to one single incident that caused our spine problems. It can be an accumulation of events leading up to the onset.

    Most doctors and surgeons will try every conservative measure they can before they decide that surgery is necessary. That's not always the case, it just depends on the severity of the problem. It's a possibility that because the nerve pain was blocked successfully that they would try a nerve burn (akaa radiofrequency ablation and rhizotomy). Sometimes that procedure can ease the nerve pain for a year or more. The fact that you're not having the arm issues 24/7 suggests that more non-invasive treatments might help enough to stave off surgery.

    However, I'm not a doctor and there may be more to your issues that a little non-medical person like me can see, so this is just my humble opinion.

    I'm anxious to hear what your doctor says on the 12th, so please keep us updated. Feel free to PM me if you'd like to commiserate with a fellow neckie.

  • Hi Scott,
    First let me say welcome to spine-health. Take a look around and feel free to ask any questions you need.

    As far as the selective nerve block, I love them they are wonders. When they did the injection did they also ask you to keep a journal, about the pain, to return to the surgeon. The most important thing I can tell you, is to be very aware of when the pain returns. Based on the amount of meds they used, where they hit, will depend on the pain relief you get from it. From my experience when the pain returned it returned worse than before the injection. The surgeon explained as it is because over time you get used to some of the pain and then when it was taken away and comes back, although back at the same intensity, your body feels it more.

    Anyway wanted to welcome you to spine-health and keep us posted on the appointment on the 12th.
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  • Hi and thanks for the replies and warm welcome. The doctor did tell me to keep a journal of the pain to return to the neuro surgeon. It was kind of ironic because my latest episode was caused by a single pushup during a pt test..sent me into severe pain instantly..that was two weeks ago now. I know that my cases only last about a week and a half..but they always come back randomly ( i think because a single event will cause the bone spur to push against the nerve root). I tried to get in within a couple of days for the nerve block because I had to cancel my first attempt in May because it was a month after my symptoms showed up that time that they made the appointment for and I was no longer in pain at that time. So this time I was doing like 200 pushups a day to try and KEEP some pain symptoms around...which seemed to work. Now it seems that about half the day I am perfectly fine but the other half I have pain in my neck, shoulders and arm (though only on my right side now since the nerve block yesterday). The unfortunate situation that I am in with my air force flying career is that I am back against a wall and need to have it resolved once and for all to keep flying. These frequent flareups are becomming a pain to work with in the air force. I am guessing that he will schedule another nerve block when I go back.
    In the past he mentioned a fusion or artificial disc replacement, but he was timid to make a recommendation because he doesn't want to mess up my flying career.
  • I think the pain is already back on both sides of my neck, however, only my right shoulder and arm are still painful since the nerve block. My left thumb has been going numb again since the procedure though. I am guessing that the doc is going to schedule another nerve block for the right nerve root this time to confirm the location.
  • Scott,

    The reason for keeping the journal, is to see if they even hit the right area, and to see if that is indeed, what is causing the symptoms. If you can do 200 push ups a day it maybe that you won't need surgery just yet, but, then again I am no doctor. Also, if the problem is from a bone spur there is less invasive surgeries to resolve a bone spur than doing all out fusion or disc replacement. I would definitely seek multiple opinions in your situation before proceeding to surgery. It is possible surgery could be put off till your are out of the Air force. Keep us posted.
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