Sometime around 6:30pm yesterday afternoon my phone rang. My Orthopaedic doctor was calling to give me the results of the MRI I had last Friday. Once I answered the phone he immediately began to ask me how I was feeling. Right then and there I knew the news wasn’t going to be good. Normally when my tests and radiology results come back and there are no problems, he tells me instantly. Anyway, we chatted for a minute or so and then he broke the news. He informed me that I’m suffering from Cervical spondylosis and that’s what is causing my neck pain. Basically my cervical discs C5-C6 and C6-C7 are worn down. I have all the symptoms of a person who suffers from this health issue. I have constant neck pain and stiffness, headaches quite often, loss of balance at times, and loss of sensation and weakness in extremeties. I took a deep sigh. I already knew that something was wrong and this was just the confirmation. So not only do I have the issues with the degenerative disc in my lumbar spine causing back pain, I now know why my neck has been hurting also.
I’m not gonna even act like the news is not disheartening in some way. I began to think back to all the injuries I suffered in my lifetime. Could it have been when I hurt my shoulder while in the Navy in 1990? The military doctors told me 16 years ago that I may have problems later on down the line. Subsequently every so often when I get treatment at the VA Hospital, the doctors there say the same thing. But was this related to that shoulder injury? Right now I’d trade every single disability check received from the government for the past 12 years just to be pain free. Then again I’ve had so many freak accidents in my days that it could’ve been so many different things or a combination of all of them. I’ve moved more times in the past 10 years (7 moves to be exact) than some folks move in a lifetime. I guess I can’t expect my body to hold up after carrying furniture, heavy equipment, boxes and stuff that often.
I’ve been in a few car accidents which left me banged up and sore. I suffered a concussion in 2001 playing basketball, where I fell flat on my back while fighting for a rebound. I wore a collar from that accident for at least a week and had serious neck stiffness. Hell, I’d be here all day trying to pinpoint the exact incidents which may have contributed to what I’m dealing with now. I’m trying not to be angry about this, but it’s hard. When you wake up every day wincing in pain, it’s not a good feeling. I struggle a lot more than I’m willing to admit to those who see me each day. I feel like if I fuss or complain about being in pain that no one will care anyway, so I remain silent. As I said before I’ve successfully recovered from being addicted to painkillers for the most part. Yeah I still have Percocet and Vicodin in the cabinet, but it won’t do any good. Is that recovery or have I just built up a tolerance? Oh well, regardless I’m not taking them.
I talked to the good doc for close to 30 minutes about my next move. Again, he basically said that most people just live with it until they can’t bear it anymore. He said that whatever treatment plan I choose is entirely up to me. The options are pretty much the same as before. There’s epidural injections, seeing a Chiropractor, acupuncture, massage therapy, wear a neck brace occasionally or just do nothing at all. Anything surgical would be well after those options have been exhausted. Maaaaan… I’m tired of walking around all hunchbacked because it hurts to stand up straight. But that’s the only way to lessen the amount of pain I’m in. I won’t take any pain medication or anti-inflammatories, but I will occasionally take a muscle relaxer because it does help me sleep. Trying to adjust the pillows at night is not a fun task. I swear that I must move at least 50 times in a 10 minutes span to try and get the right comfort level.
For now I just have to limit activities which place pressure on my head, neck, and shoulders. I have to continue to exercise, but I need to participate in low-impact activities like swimming or yoga. Aside from that I’ve got to use good posture while standing, sitting, driving, sleeping and while at the computer to prevent further damage to my spine. Most importantly from my own perspective, I must keep my level of stress down. Stress does nothing more but make matters worse. But now I realize that it’s not just emotional, but physical as well. My advice to my people reading this right now is to take care of yourself. Not saying that I haven’t done my best to do so, but I’m sure that I could’ve done a lot better.