As my wife will attest, I have a habit, nay, a gift, for injuring myself in stupid ways. Blew out my knee paddle-boating, 2nd degree burns on my hand from steam coming out of a lobster pot, minor neck injury from staying in the same position too long playing video games, etc. I mean, come on. I’m the guy who can hurt himself sleeping (not joking, keep reading).
Normally these are minor, relatively quickly healed injuries (the knee’s been an issue, but that’s a topic for another post. This is obviously about a NECK. Pay attention). Unfortunately, that’s not always the case.
In July of 2017 we took our strong and excitable puppy to Petco Park for a big dog event. We got to march on the ballfield; it was awesome! At one point I’m talking to someone and pupper sees a dog he wants to go play with and BAM, he’s off like a shot. I’m holding the leash firmly so he gets to the end of 6′ and snaps to a halt. But, not before all 60 lbs of his momentum rebounds right into my neck. I thought nothing of it at the time…
Next day, neck and arm hurt a bit. No big deal. Go to July 4th party.
Day after that, neck and arm hurt a bit more. No big deal. Go on long mountainous hike.
Ouch Day. Excruciating pain in my neck, radiating down my left arm into my fingertips. Yup, I think I’m broken.
Have you ever had neck pain? It’s remarkable how many things you do in your normal course of life which rely on your neck muscles in some way. Even just sitting in the car while someone else drives, your neck is constantly working to stabilize your head. Incredible.
I went to a few doctors, had x-rays and an MRI. I don’t remember all the technical terms,but the cervical disc between C5 and C6 in my neck is compressed and bulging out the sides of my spine. This bulge has caused a narrowing of the tunnels my nerves use to leave the spine and visit the rest of my body, hence the pain my in shoulder, arm, and hand. You know how Doctors always ask your pain level on a scale of 1-10*? I was spending most of my time at a 6, and tapped a 9 once or twice.
Per the Doctor, I have three options:
- Medications, rest, and physical therapy. Based on what they saw in the scans this was considered the best, and least invasive option. The downside is that it would take the longest.
- Cortisone shot in my neck which would hopefully reduce the swelling and fix the disc (I guess?). The downside is that if my blood didn’t clot fast enough and it bled into my spinal column, paralysis from the neck down. That didn’t sound like fun.
- Surgery! They can take out the bad disc and put in an artificial one. Downside: Surgery. I really didn’t even consider this as an option at the time, and didn’t pursue any of the details.
So anyway, July, August, and September involved me sitting on the couch unable to do much of anything. I went to a painful PT (physical therapy) session 1-2 times/week. Periodic doctors appointments. That’s it. It was just awful. Missed an incredible family vacation. Missed months of dog walks and good training with my new pup. I took pills, slept, watched movies, read, PT, slept, and took more pills. Ad nauseum.
Started to feel a bit better around October, and by November I was able to walk him again, albeit carefully. I was being weaned off the many medications I was taking. There was a light at the end of the tunnel.
Sometime in January while on a walk he saw some crows that were talking smack and decided to give chase. Caught me off guard and boom, gave the old neck a shock. It hurt, and had clearly done some damage, but not terrible. If I was careful, it would be okay.
We focused on “heel” and loose leash training from here out. Keeping my by our side on walks instead of letting him have the full leash to roam. It was working great!
One quiet night I’m sound asleep when I hear Cody’s ALERT BARKBARKBARKBARK! I jerk awake, sitting up quickly, and promptly wrench my neck completely out of wack. I knew immediately this was going to be trouble. Yup, hurt myself safe and sound in my own bed. Woke up the next morning with the neck hurting worse, some pain in arm. Got even worse over the next few days.
So here I am, nearly right back where I started. I’m sitting on the couch in light pain (it’s usually better in the mornings) while the wife walks the dog. I have a doctor appointment and PT scheduled. And of course loads of meds. I don’t have the patience to go through another 3 months of slow healing only to re-injure myself again, so I’m going to explore the other options in more detail and see what I can do.
So, I guess the only advice I’ll pass along here is when you’re going to the gym, don’t skip neck day.
Living the Dream?
*The Doctor’s 1-10 Pain Scale, level details by Dave:
10 – Pain so bad I passed out
9 – I’m fetal on the ground crying and helpless
8 – Pain is all-encompassing. Only thoughts in head are how to make it stop
5-7 – OMG this hurts in varying degrees. Doctor visit mandatory if doesn’t stop
3-4 – Pain bad enough that I’ll probably see a doctor if it doesn’t go away in a few days
1-2 – That’s annoying. Rub some dirt on it and walk it off.