Cervical Radiculopathy (pinched nerve in the neck)
Ouch! Doesn’t sound like a lotta fun.
Roadkill- time will be your biggest thing mate. Do you have mainly pain or is there arm weakness etc too?
Roadkill I was out of the surf for about 4-5 months, happened about a week before an indo trip, tried to surf but as soon as my head lifted while paddling it basically triggered the nerve pain and rendered my right arm useless due to pain.
Everyone is different regarding recovery times but get yourself on a recovery program with a physio/osteo for a start, I have been doing the stretching/strengthening exercises since I did the injury about 6 years ago and havent had a recurrence.
I've been a regular surfer for over forty years and probably had neck and back issues for at least half that time, but with a bit of commitment to ongoing maintenance of the body you'll overcome most issues I've found.
Sorry to hear it. I've battled it for nearly 20 years and prolapsed another disc below the first 5 years ago. Stay away from all chiropractors as its not their thing. Don't get any physio treatment until all inflammation around your spinal chord is gone or you will get short circuit effects to the rest of your body. A good physio will give you stretching exercises that will open the space around the prolapsed disc and take the pressure off the nerve root. Fortunately for you if you have to have the disc trimmed off away from the nerve ,surgery is a lot more advanced now which was not the case for me, but if you have to go that road , get the best surgeon with the best reputation to do it. I went from being a good fit surfer for my age, to pain filled rubbish in a day thanks to the loss of my triceps due to discs pinching the nerve roots. Be patient, you will get there but the level of damage will determine how quick.
Roadkill - be mindful when reading doom and gloom experiences /
Prognosis’, as silenttp rightly said everyone’s journey is differs with these things.
Acute nerve root irritation often takes between 8-12 weeks to settle. Often longer to gradually get back into things such as surfing
Most of radiculopathies are irritated by repetitive upper limb use and sustained extended head postures (paddling position).
Once settling a nice idea is to start a bit of swimming before you get back in the surf.
Of course physiotherapy can be helpful but don’t spend too much as it mostly provides symptomatic relief. Natural history and initial avoidance of the aggravating factors is the main assisting factors. However if someone (good physio) can assess you to give you some exercises (as mentioned above) or management strategies for the long term. Usually it will involve keeping your thoracic (mid spine) nice and mobile and upper quadrant strong.
Surgery is always very last resort so don’t even worry about that.
Multiple large studies have shown no benefit after two years as opposed to just watching and waiting (no treatment).
As far as imaging is concerned there is poor correlation to what you see on a scan and physical symptoms when it comes to the spine. ‘Degenerative discs’ etc, although could be the problem, are also akin to having wrinkles and grey hair- they are a natural part of having more birthdays. Many people have these findings on MRI/CT and are asymtomatic. Radiculopathy can be caused from a variety of reasons (chemical irritation/inflammation etc) other than pure mechanical compression.
Sorry for the monologue I just wanted to dispel a few myths. If you give it the time it needs without worrying ‘that you are permanently damaged’, keep some form of gentle movement happening I’m sure you’ll get back to your best in time.
Hey Roadkill, I've written about my episode elsehwere on here, but in short.
In June 2016 we had a huge NE swell - the black nor'easter swell - and I surfed a few times a day all week. A day or so afterwards I developed a sore neck and pain in my left upper arm, however the worst aspect was the lack of movement in my arm even after the pain subsided
Time and again I'd go for a surf, paddle for a wave, then go over the falls sitting down. It was confounding. It took me a while to register what was happening, but I realised I couldn't control my arm's movement. The will was there, but the messages weren't getting through.
I visited specialists in all manner of fields, none of them provided relief or even clear answers, till I ended up in the spinal unit at St Vincents. I got all the requisite scans and they found my C5/C6 was severley degenerated, most likely caused by an untreated injury. I think I know which injury it was but can't be positive, and it's a moot point anyway - the damage is done.
The scans clearly showed my spinal nerve descending down my spinal cord till it reached the troublesome disc, then the nerve pushed out and around the disc before continuing on down. I was told that impingement was the cause, which seemed to make sense. I was also told it was the same injury that ended Joey Johns and Gordon Tallis' careers, which lent gravity to the situation. And lastly, I was told that the only remedy was surgery and that I'd have to give up surfing.
Long story short, but I didn't opt for surgery after receiving very timely advice about diet from a learned friend. Nothing was going to change the physical constraints of my skeleton, however by reducing inflamation I could make space within those physical limits, and by doing this hopefully make space for the nerve to sit unobstructed by the disc.
So I went on a militant no sugar diet. Never had a sweet tooth anyway, but I learnt all about metabolised sugars and how to avoid them. Learnt a lot about food in general and started feeling lighter and looser as a by product. I stretched a few times each day (using a thick broom stick bought from Bunnings to work the neck and shoulders) and after five months I was back in the water.
It happened early/mid June and I had a trip to P'Pass booked early December. I teed up cortisone injections for the trip but ultimately didn't get them. I've had no relapse either. My diet has slipped a bit, I'm not as diligent, but generally speaking the same eating habits I developed back then are still in place. That matters more than reading the little white label on every single packet of food I buy.
Good luck with it.
Hey Stu - any links to the diet?
No. I didn't follow any listed diet, just aimed to eat the absolute minimum amount of packaged food, and anything from a pack couldn't have higher than 10gm in a 100 of sugar - and preferably lower than 5gms. I chose those numbers.
I avoided a lot of wheat-based food (i.e bread and pasta) because of how they metabolise as sugars, especially when you havent done much physical activity.
At the time I read anything I could and also watched a number of docos on the modern diet. Not the Pete Evans-style stuff, more how sugar surreptitiously finds its way into foods under different names, and also how fats lost the marketing war to sugar back in the 60s and 70s.
Ultimately it was all very simple. I just had to stick to it.
What about beer Stu?
Lots of sugar in beer I believe.
I didn't drink when that was going on, though I do now. Everything in moderation etc..
I'm a cheap drunk anyway.
Stu glad you got over your neck troubles.
Certainly not doubting your methods but how could say it was your diet vs natural history that helped you?
No doubt it would’ve had a great systemic effect but for specific pathology?
ok thanks stu. i have a mate who is big on a keto diet at the moment (in addition to generally healthy eating) and it doesn't sound unlike what you did
Natural history of a condition is just time and natural course of events that occurs with in ones body for a condition to resolve of its own accord (i.e with no intervention).
eg: there is very good evidence to support that someone with an acute episode of back pain (alone-no radiculopathy) will generally settle with in 4-6 weeks, treatment or no treatment.
Oh yeah...OK. I can't totally count that out of course. It's possible that my body would've resolved the nerve irritation in due time, though I have a long history of neck issues dating back to 2001 which would flare up every year or two. I've had no issues since 2016.
Good on you mate hope it keeps going well.
I’ve been in the same boat re: neck stuff. Similar story and overtime it’s ‘fairly’ resolved or at least very managable. Certainly though when I’ve been more sedentary (sitting, PC work
Etc) my neck and arm definitely don’t feel as good and surfing is the ultimate provocator given what we do out there.
I’ve always been a bit of a ‘gunna’ or do it short term with the diet thing, but I reckon there is definitely a lot to our overall health (physical and mental) by watching what we throw in our gob. Our health is our wealth as they say.
I had no idea what this was until i googled it, ironically ive been meaning to go too the doctor for months for a pain in the back pf my neck that comes and goes and sometimes gets a fuzzy pins and needles type pain.
I think it's actually is connected to when i punctured my lung and broke my ribs, my body has never been the same :(
Gday Roadkill, I had a discectomy and fusion in my neck. No injury, just unexplained failure. C5/C6 disc was removed with pliers, prosthetic disc installed, titanium bracket fixed over the joint with 4 screws. YouTube it. Brutal.
I’d stuffed around for years seeking treatment, most of which made it worse. I noticed my right pectoral and tricep begin wasting, the pain eventually became excruciating. I couldn’t surf or do my job. It got to point where I couldn’t hold things. I had no strength in my hand. Finally I had an MRI scan and was told the disc was too far gone, the impingement too severe. I was at risk of permanently losing control of my arm.
So two weeks later I went under the knife. Post op, the sore throat was the worst part (from where they hold it to one side to get at your spine from the front) but the referred pain had disappeared. A massive relief. Six months in bed, plus another restful 6 months and I gingerly returned to the water.
8 years later I’m surfing all the time. I still notice the nerve damage via a slight weakness to my right pec and tri. They don’t develop muscle mass as easily as my left side. But other than that there’s been no problems whatsoever in the neck itself.
Discs usually heal with rest (we’re talking 12 months, not 6 weeks) but not if they’re beyond repair. If the pain persists don’t leave it too long like I did. Forget physios, osteos, chiros, massage and yoga. Get a scan.
Same story here tomdo and same advice. I let mine go for more than a decade and ended up with C4/5/6 double fusion and distechnomy. long slow recovery and could have been avoided with earlier scans. Its a very invasive surgery and limiting in many respects you don't anticipate. Not every situation is the same but for many it will not be a simple remedy. Surgery was less than 12 months ago and just back in the water.
Would really love to hear if others have had this? I’m 3/4 weeks in and starting to get relief due to rest and inactivity and heat packs. How was your experience in regards to treatments, and getting back into the surf?