Thursday, April 03, 2008

Partial Diagnosis is In

Well, I'm not crazy. Nor am I a freak of nature. There is, apparently, a real, physiological reason behind the weird, crazy neck pain episodes that have occurred since August: I have two degenerative disks in the top of my spine.

I have more questions than answers, but I was able to get some basic information concerning cause(s) and treatment. The diagnosis basically means that two disks in my neck have degenerated to a point that isn't in accordance with my age. That is, I don't have the neck of a 31-yr old. They have started to harden, making them less efficient at absorbing the shock of motion, injury, etc.

There is no "cure," so to speak. The degeneration of these disks may (or may not) lead to Degenerative Disk Disease, which has a variety of treatments, ranging from aspirin to surgery. I don't have the worst case scenario (the one that requires surgery), nor do I have the best case scenario (in which the pain is alleviated with aspirin). Right now, oral steroids usually do the trick, but they take a few days to kick in. The doctor suggested that it would be more effective to switch to steroid injections when I have future "episodes of pain." He's also referring me to a physical therapist in the hopes that physical therapy will either reduce the severity of pain or reduce the frequency. The problem, however, is that he can't guarantee physical therapy will do either of these things.

The doctor isn't yet sure if these are the only two disks affected, and my blood work hasn't been done yet either. It appears that, since I didn't suffer a recent injury and I'm not "old," genetics are the most likely culprit. My paternal grandmother has had arthritis in her spine for years, and my dad has had many back problems over the years. Knowing this, I started taking calcium supplements almost 10 years ago. Evidently, that doesn't matter...I guess...I don't know. There are also links between degenerative disks and cervical arthritis, the latter of which manifests itself with all of the symptoms I have when my neck pain kicks in, but this isn't necessarily a cause and effect relationship.

Ultimately, it could be much worse. I'm glad to know there's a reason this has been happening, and it's not some medical mystery. It sucks to think of what it may mean for the future in terms of my health, my ability to interact with my children, etc. if physical therapy doesn't help or if the degeneration is more progressive than expected...but it could certainly be worse. I wonder if I can get a refund on the $80 book stand I bought last year, thinking this was an issue of ergonomics, though?? Ooh, and maybe this gives me justification for asking for lots of neck massages from my hubby? I wonder if I'd qualify for a handicapped parking pass (I can barely walk when my neck flares up)? See, look at all the silver lining I've found :)

1 comment:

Jennie said...

Ouch! It hurts just reading about it. Steroid shots are like little medical miracles, so hopefully you'll get some relief soon. I went to the Dr. about my motion sickness thing and she gave me a neurological exam. I am very glad nothing is wrong neurologically, but now the only thing to do is wait it out by taking Dramamine (which is only helping a tiny bit).