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Date of last update: 10/01/2017.

Forum Name: Spinal problems and back pain

Question: Simultaneous Neck and Hand pain

 roolyn - Wed Jan 28, 2009 3:53 am

I am a 25 year old female with a long history (12 + years) of lower back problems. I am a dance teacher with a very flexible spine and lordosis. My official diagnosis is Degenerative Joint Disease, though I have not ever been to see a spinal specialist. My last MRI (about 18 months ago) showed a mild disc bulge and degenerative changes in the L-5 region, with facet arthropathy. My pain is currently under (relative) control, though I go through periods of severe, debilitating pain radiating down my right hip and leg. I can feel what my physical therapist told me are the facet joints actually getting stuck and I have to consciously "unstick" them numerous times per day.

My question today, however, has to do with a relatively recent problem I have been having with my neck. I have not yet been to see a doctor about my neck problem, and I'm wondering if it is something I should be concerned about. Neck tension, stiffness, and cracking are pretty common for me, but two months ago I woke up with unbearable pain in the right side of my neck, traveling up into the back and top of my head, down my right arm and hand, and down the whole right side of my torso. I'm not sure how I mangaged to get out of bed (it took several tries) because I literally screamed with pain every time I moved any part of the right side of my body. I couldn't drive, work, or sleep for over a week, and I could barely dress myself or shower.

It took nearly two months to finally feel almost normal, though I still have some lingering pain and stiffness on the right side of my neck. The main problem that I am now having is a deep, burning pain in the right side of my neck that comes and goes. What is strange is that every time I have this burning pain, I feel the exact same sensation in my right hand, near the base of my thumb. When the pain in my neck stops, so does the pain in my hand. Also, my neck makes all kinds of crunchy sounds when I tilt my head (not just one crack, but lots of small sounds every time I roll my head around). Using my hand on my chin to tilt my head to the left and crack my neck, which is probably not a good thing to do, nevertheless does seem to stretch out the right side of my neck and bring some temporary relief from the pain.

From what I've read online, it seems possible that I may have experienced a cervical hernia . . . does this seem likely? It's hard to find much information on Degenerative Joint Disease . . . is this a progressively worsening condition that could be spreading to my neck and causing my problems? Is it time for a follw-up and maybe a consulation with a specialist? I've been told that I have the spine of an 80-year-old woman, even though I am only 25. Between my back problems and now my neck pain, I'm living in almost constant discomfort, sometimes severe pain, and I'm not sure what my next step should be. Any suggestions?

 Tom Plamondon PA-C - Sat Jan 31, 2009 11:47 am

User avatar Hello,
Thanks for writing in.

You have described chronic low back pain with hypermobility and lordosis. A history of degenerative disc disease and facet arthropathy confirmed by MRI. Dance teacher. Recent sudden onset of neck pain radiating to hand (thumb) and up to head. Improved symptoms in the neck but snaps, pops, and cracks with occasional flare up including thumb pain.

I think the problem you are having in the neck is caused by the same problem in the low back - hypermobility ...and perhaps lordosis. The thumb pain is related to the cervical level - C6. Arthritis in the facet joint can refer pain down the limb and of course so can a pinched nerve and/or a bulging disc.

Therefore, an MRI of the neck and a clinical examination of the neck and upper extremities (reflexes, sensation, and strength) would be prudent.

Treatment will proceed the MRI results.

Take care and keep us posted.

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