I’m back! The headache, stabbing neck pain, chills, tingling, burning, and numbness may have been related to a pinched nerve high in my neck followed by severe muscle spasms and strain. Only once have I had neck pain before and it was after a car accident. I wish I had some great cause of the pain like saving a child from a burning building but nope. Just woke me up in the middle of the night. I rested two days and didn’t feel like I had the flu so I went to a chiropractor. I called first to see if he would take x-rays and he said it depended on my “condition”. Okay, well I can hardly move my neck and I have shooting pains down my spine and into my arms. He took a brief history when I arrived then took me back to the adjustment table. Insert the scary music – Dun done DUN! He made a few adjustments. There were specific points along my neck almost sent me through the roof when he palpated them. He called it “severe” but thought it was something he could fix. At least 12 adjustments later I had to stop. There was a “relief” moment and I was again able to turn my head but the rest of my neck and upper back were on fire. So if being classified as “severe” doesn’t get you x-rays then what does? The medical side of me was frustrated. My fever had gone away and I had hoped it was an easy fix which is why I sought assistance from a chiropractor first. Over the next few hours the pain worsened and my neck tightened. I attempted to go to work the next day. I have a pretty high pain tolerance and worked until the point of extreme pain before calling my doctor’s office. She had an appointment in two hours. Talk about a blessing! I made it to her office and the receptionist could tell I was in a lot of pain. I thought I was holding it together. Then one of the Neos (Attending Neonatologist for you non-NICU folks) from work walked into the waiting room. They asked how I was doing and I lost it. Tears, like crocodile ones. I promise I don’t usually cry in public but I was finally the patient and could let it out. I talked with my doctor, yes tears were still rolling down my cheeks. She is wonderful by the way – smart, practical, compassionate when she needs to be but generally a straight shooter. She assessed me, I had blood work done and X-rays, then we talked again. She took both my hands, looked me in the eyes and said, “Well, the official medical term to describe your x-ray is jacked up.” Ha! My neck was so swollen that the curve was completely straight. Next she asked me why a nurse practitioner would go to the chiropractor first when I knew meningitis was in the differential and I was having so much pain. It’s true. Nurses make the worst patients. We only seek medical care when 1) we are bleeding profusely after an hour of pressure being held, 2) when we’re in enough pain that we can’t function or breathe without hyperventilating, 3) if we’ve had a fever for over a week, or 4) when we’re dying. Anywho, because my fever went away and my headache didn’t make me throw up I kind of self ruled out meningitis. I know, I know. I’m not a doctor. I had just done a lumbar puncture, or spinal tap, on a 1.5 pound baby the day before the pain started. I know there are lots of babies who probably want retaliation for me sticking a needle in their back but I was praying against that. And thankfully my lab worked showed two things – my body was fighting something but my white count was not elevated significantly to pursue meningitis further. I was able to start a 6-day steroid pack after the labs resulted. That and low dose muscle relaxers and pain meds made me feel like a new woman. Energy wise I finally felt like myself again after two days of steroids however the pain didn’t begin to subside until after about a week. I remember waking up the following Sunday and feeling somewhat rested. It took me a week to sleep through the night but I could finally sleep again. Yes, it still hurt to move my neck and I couldn’t lift things but I could begin to move. Over the next week the pain lessened slightly day by day and granted me more mobility but I still had to take it easy. I had to rest my neck and take Tylenol after changing the laundry from the washer to the dryer. Whimp! I know. I began stretching my neck with some advice from my cousin who’s a pediatric sports medicine MD. Thank you, Kelsey! A few days later I cooked by myself and could turn my head fast enough to be able to drive. It sounds silly but I was finally able to wear my glasses and give my eyes a break. Did you know that glasses limit your peripheral vision and make you turn your head to see? Thank you, neck pain, for helping me to appreciate contacts even more. Who’d have thought? Two weeks from the initial pain I was able to return to work. The Lord provided a smooth day and I was able to complete my 24-hour shift with only mild discomfort and tightness after the first 8 hours. I went back and looked at worksheets from my last day at work and my handwriting toward the end looked like that of an angry seven year-old boy. I usually write fairly small, neat and legible. Crazy the way pain can affect a person. And now I am more attuned than ever to ergonomics. Thankful to have incubators that can move up and down and computer screens that tilt. Not everything is ergo but I appreciate what is.
Today was my first day of physical therapy. Really they should call it delayed muscle torture. The therapist did lots of neck mobility tests and muscle strength tests and decided that I had issues with my scalene muscles and around C2 and C3. Then came the exercises. For the next two days I will be doing chin tucks and tipping my ear toward my shoulder while looking up, straight forward and down. Bring on the ice and Tylenol! He said that I should get back to “life” but to let pain be my guide. If something hurts I am to change something about my posture or position and re-evaluate. Sounds simple enough. Hum, maybe both of my hands going numb during that last run was because my scalene muscles were impinging on my brachial plexus? Who knows? I’m scheduled for another two visits this week.
So where does that leave me with training? I’m going to focus on swimming and walking to bring my endurance back. Essentially I’ll have to start from the beginning. But you know what? That’s okay. Completing the Olympic TRI is a goal of mine but right now I need to focus on getting well. I am still planning on training but it will have to be less intense. To those of you who have prayed and thought about me over the last few weeks I really appreciate it! Thank you for your support and encouragement.