For ten years, I suffered from neck, upper back and shoulder pain that would come on and then go away after a period of time that ranged from weeks to months. The first times it happened, the pain was not so severe. I would go to my primary care physicians, at the time, and they usually prescribed either medications or exercises or both in combination. Neither seemed particularly helpful in resolving the issue, but the issue would go away. Unfortunately, it would return again. Still, I was only around 30 when it started and since it did go away, I didn’t consider it to be much more than a passing nuisance.
Then in late 2010 another episode struck. This one lingered on and grew to be different than the previous episodes. As the episode continued on, pain started radiating down my left arm and produced a tingling numbness that I’ve heard aptly described as “pins and needles”. After again trying medication and exercises, I returned to my primary care physician. This time, the doctor sent me to physical therapy.
At physical therapy, they introduced me to electrical stimulation, heat therapy, exercises and traction. Initially, the traction machine felt good, but the second time it caused such pain that we discontinued that as a source of therapy. It took three to four months of physical therapy three times a week for the episode to resolve.
Still, something wasn’t right. I began to get extreme fatigue during this time and found myself depressed. Slowly, I couldn’t tolerate running without shooting pains in my neck and shoulders. I gained weight that I didn’t need to gain and found myself suffering from more headaches than normal.
I went to my primary care physician for these new issues that I thought were unrelated to the neck issues I had been having. After some simple blood tests, I was told that there was nothing wrong with me other than slightly elevated cholesterol. I was given a few printed pages via mail about eating to lower the cholesterol.
I would come to learn that there was so much more at work here and most of it traced back to my neck issue. I had never been entirely satisfied with my doctors or their staff and was already thinking of changing them when in 2013 the neck issue flared up again. This time, it affected my right arm. I had the searing pain in the upper back that went down the right hand with the numbness and tingling again, but this time, my right thumb quickly became constantly numb. I felt like my ability to grasp objects was going. I knew I needed to see a doctor, so the time was right to change my primary care physician.
That decision would come to be one of the most important I have ever made with respect to my health. This is a short history of what I was experiencing. In my follow-up articles, I will discuss the how the current episode presented, how I’ve learned of “hidden” symptoms that indicated a problem and where it has all led. My advice to you, do not mess around with your health. Be your own best advocate and insist that doctors give you the best care or switch to ones that will.