Pain in the Neck

For the past two months, I’ve been in some degree of pain practically every day. It’s put me in multiple different medical offices with no final answers. It began with some upper arm irritation and since it wasn’t my whole muscle, it was most likely caused by the nerves. I’d had a similar sensation a year ago and my chiropractor uncle fixed me up real quick. When it happened again, off to a new chiropractor in the city I went, where I was put on a biweekly dose of massage therapy and chiropractic adjustments. But the pain got worse. Some days, I’d get terrible headaches, one day my left pinky finger went numb, and that same upper arm irritation came back for about 5 hours preceded by discomfort in my left forearm.

Was it possible that my newly-found obsession with grinding my teeth at night was the culprit? I’m wearing a night guard now and bought a pillow to help align my neck while I sleep. Can I blame the bump in my upper neck at the base of my skull? My chiro diagnosed this “bump” as a transverse process – the bony part of your vertebrae that should be symmetrical, but in my case was most likely slightly off-kilter. Even to this day, to the touch, this bump is really sensitive.

At its worst, I was having consistent headaches which started at the crown of my head, leading to my jaw, the back of my neck, and as far down as my shoulder blade – all on the left side. I continued to see my chiropractor and massage therapist, but the pain thrived. An X-ray revealed that my cervical spine is straightened and not curved like it’s meant to be; whether that’s something that has developed over time or I was born with it, I’m not too sure. A later MRI revealed that I have the beginning stages of arthritis in my C1, C2, and C3 vertebrae most likely affiliated with the neck straightening.

It also showed something that gave both my chiropractor and myself pause: a probable cyst at the base of my skull. Was this the cause of the headaches? Does it need to be surgically removed? All questions for a neurologist! Off to the second doctor I went. The neuro reviewed my MRI results and said there was nothing to be concerned about, the cyst was most likely there from birth and wouldn’t be the reason why I was getting headaches. Actually all good news came from the neurologist. She saw no reason for worry and sent me on my way to a physical therapist who could help loosen and simultaneously strengthen the muscles in my neck.

More good news: the headaches have more or less disappeared leaving me with residual discomfort in my upper back, neck, jaw, or head at times. I went to the PT for the first time yesterday and she seemed positive that she could help.

I’ve spent hundreds of dollars (thank goodness for insurance or it would would be thousands) and told my story at least half a dozen times to different medical professionals. I still don’t know why this pain manifested, but a way to live with it and quite possibly diminish it altogether will be the best end result I could ask for at this point.  

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