Saturday, October 17, 2009

Owwwwwwww!

Yesterday, I drove back over to Tampa to undergo two tests to determine what nerve was being pinched and what was causing it.

First up, the MRI. The last time I had one was in 2001 to figure out what was causing my benign positional vertigo. That was not a pleasant experience, because the tech basically put me in the air conditioned coffin for 45 minutes and didn't say a word to me while I was hyperventilating and going deaf in the darn thing.

When I got there, I asked if I could listen to music. Alas, based on where they needed to scan, no dice on that. The machine was a 'wide open' style, but again, they needed to scan my neck and shoulder, so I dealt with being closed in once again.

I probably would have been okay with the top of the thing being inches from my nose IF my arm wasn't shoved against the side while I was sliding into the machine. If you need an MRI, as soon as they get you situated on the table, close your eyes and keep them closed-it won't be as bad.

The tech was great. He handed me a little call button and as soon as I started panicking, I squeezed the thing and asked if my arm was okay. I explained that I was fine until that happened. He told me to skooch over and told me he'd talk me through the whole thing. That made a huge difference in how I handled it.

Last time, I had no ear protection whatsoever, but this tech gave me ear plugs then put me in a neck support that would help prevent movement, then put these strange wedges next to my ears to ensure my head didn't move and helped protect my ears.

Instead of wondering when the migraine would start, the sound was dampened enough that the first round sounded like a techno vocoder saying "duh duh duh" over and over. Three of the cycles would have made good beds for techno music, in fact. Not the last one-it sounded like a 24 pin dot matrix printer overheating.

When it was done, instead of a huge film to bring to my doctor, I had a DVD for family movie night. Or not. Anyway, I had a nice vertigo episode for about an hour afterwards. I got myself a candy bar to help the woozy feeling, then headed upstairs to the neurologist's office for test number two.

This test is one I've never had, and it surprised the neurologist when he started it and I told him I didn't know what he was doing! I had a nerve conduction study (NCS) and an Electromyography (EMG). The doctor was looking to see if I had any permanent nerve damage that was causing my current pain issues and apparently ruling out RSD in the process.

The NCS was like a controlled tasing, bro. Electrodes were placed on my pinky finger and side of my hand, then different muscle groups were electrically charged. It caused my hand or arm to flex or jump uncontrollably. Then various fingers had two metal rings clipped to them and the charges continued.

Next up, the needles. It wasn't like acupuncture, though. The purpose of this test was to test nerve response in the muscles. A needle was inserted into a muscle, then the doctor listened to the muscle at rest. It should be silent. Then, my doctor would ask me to flex that particular muscle and listen to the sound of resistance. It was like listening to a geiger counter on top of some plutonium.

Apparently, the test requires 20 measurements from each muscle, so that needle got moved around. Some of them weren't too bad at the time. I gritted my teeth and got through it without complaining-until the last one.

The last one needed to test a neck muscle. Initially, my doctor had some trouble, because one muscle is tensed so tightly that he thought it was bone and asked if I had scoliosis. I don't, so I had to sit up for him to figure out where he was going to place this needle.

Alas, the first one wasn't big enough to pick up nerve activity. I had to get a bigger needle (thankfully, I didn't have to see that one!) inserted to pick up the nerve activity.

The good news? For once, I am in a GOOD 10%! I have suffered no permanent nerve damage on my right side at all. Dr. M raved about the other Dr. M's (my orthopedist in Maryland) handiwork on my carpal tunnel and reconstructive surgery. Not only is it difficult to see the scars, he succeeded in not damaging a single nerve. My neurologist said that 90% of patients have some degree of permanent damage somewhere in there for the issue I am complaining about.

Then he looked at the MRI DVD and found the definitive culprit. I've got a bulging disc in my neck. At least it hasn't affected me permanently and the prognosis is good that physical therapy will resolve my issues. I guess I'm predisposed to this, since I've had issues off and on over the years-this time, the pain is different. Once I get into PT, I will try to find out how to prevent it from happening.

At the time, the tests were uncomfortable. However, as time passed, the sites that the needles were inserted became more and more painful. I knew I had an issue when I was holding my phone and the pinky and the wrist site were giving me trouble. I had to drive over to the main USF campus to pick up GameTeen's meds and the other sites made their presence known. I would not be doing anything involving weight bearing or flexion for the rest of the day. The worst part was the non stop throbbing out of the neck that started about 20 minutes after the test was done.

I took a Vicodin last night and could have used one today. The day involved a lot of dozing off in positions that kept my neck and arm free from pressure. Sitting in a chair is NOT comfortable, even 36 hours later. In short, an EMG is not a walk in the park-it HURTS, dammit.

I can deal with it, because it got some important questions answered. Now don't mind me, I'm going to break down and take another one.

And if you were wondering what a bulging disc looks like, check out mine in the middle of the image below:




1 People talked back:

songbird's crazy world said...

lol, great picture.