Looking for a pinched nerve treatment, I tried doctors, physical therapy, chiropractic, and acupuncture for my neck. Find out which one worked.
I am writing about my experience with a pinched nerve in my neck, as one friend might tell another, in the hope that others might be able to benefit in some way by the reading of it.
The adventure started in the middle of the night about three to four months ago. I awakened from a sound sleep with a terrible pain in my right shoulder. At the time I remember thinking that it felt like an elephant was standing on my shoulder. It hurt so much, it was scary!
First thing in the morning I called my family doctor for an appointment. The earliest appointment I could get was almost two weeks away. The pain had let up slightly and made it possible to get through the day, but I had to try something to make it stop. I decided to try physical therapy.
Before reading any further,
see our medical disclaimer.
The physical therapists did not know I needed a pinched nerve treatment, so they massaged my shoulder, used heat and cold, and a bunch of electronic pulsing devices. I attended four sessions with no apparent change in my condition. I was in pain most of the day and at night the elephant would come and step on me until I started to become fearful of falling asleep.
family doctor, who also didn't know I needed pinched nerve treatments,
referred me to a shoulder specialist. I asked my family doctor for a
prescription for pain medication, which gave me a way to get through the
day. It did not eliminate the pain; it just made it more bearable.
It turned out that the shoulder specialist was booked solid for close to a month, so I made the appointment, but once again I looked for an alternative treatment.
My wife and I are both into alternative health, so we often look for alternative treatments. This time I tried my chiropractor. My chiropractor was pretty sharp.
He said that there didn’t have to be anything wrong with my shoulder, that it might be something else entirely. He did some things to prove his point. He pushed down on the top of my head and made me feel like the elephant was doing a jig on the shoulder. He said he was pretty sure I had a pinched nerve in my neck that was causing the pain in the shoulder. He further stated that he would try four pinched nerve treatments, and if they didn’t fix the problem he would recommend my family doctor have an MRI done at the local hospital to better define the problem.
The four chiropractic pinched nerve treatments did not fix the problem so he contacted my family doctor with his recommendation. My doctor ordered the MRI, and several days later the results were sent to my doctor and the shoulder specialist.
The shoulder specialist called me and told me he could not do anything for me until the problem with my pinched nerve in my neck was taken care of.
At this point, my family doctor was on vacation, so I called the office that my doctor shared with several other doctors to find out what my next move should be. I was referred to another doctor who was handling my doctor's patients and was told that she was referring me to a neurosurgeon. A neurosurgeon sounded like the specialist to see to determine a pinched nerve treatment. The MRI results were forwarded to the neurosurgeon.
The earliest appointment I could get with the neurosurgeon was six weeks away. The pain in my shoulder was slightly less than when I first felt it, but I now had pains in my neck and upper back area to go along with it. The pain was interesting in that every time I would turn my head to the right, the right side of my neck and right shoulder would scream at me. Since it is very difficult to not turn your head to the right I spent a good deal of the day in agony. I kept searching for pinched nerve treatments.
While waiting for my visit to the neurosurgeon I once again decided to try an alternative treatment. This time I tried acupuncture. The acupuncturist said that she had had success with people who needed pinched nerve treatment. She said she didn't really know why it worked, but the body just learned to fix itself. Ten treatments later, with no noticeable improvement, I stopped the acupuncture.
I was now facing what I thought was surely going to result in an operation at the hands of the neurosurgeon, for pinched nerve relief. After all he was a surgeon, and I figured that would be his first choice for a pinched nerve treatment. When I finally saw the neurosurgeon, he looked at the MRI, made a definite diagnosis of a pinched neck nerve, explained what an operation would entail to treat a pinched nerve, and said that I should try traction before we considered an operation. He wrote me a prescription for traction to be done by a physical therapist. The idea was to see if by stretching the spine slightly, the space that was now too small for the nerve to pass through comfortably, could be opened up a little so the nerve would not be pinched and I could get rid of my pinched nerve pain. I really appreciated his approach to my pinched nerve treatment.
I took his prescription for a pinched nerve remedy to a different physical therapist than I had chosen the first time. The woman there gave me all sorts of massage, hot compresses and performed what she called manipulative traction to treat my pinched nerve. After three or four sessions I was still spending the greater part of the day in great pain from my pinched neck nerve. I went on the Internet and looked up traction devices for pinched nerve relief.
There were many devices to choose from so I brought descriptions of them to my next session with the physical therapist. I asked her which she used and why she wasn’t using it on me? Her answer was that she did not believe in traction devices as a pinched nerve remedy.
Since the neurosurgeon
prescribed traction and she was treating me on his prescription while
ignoring what he recommended for a pinched nerve treatment, I left there
slightly miffed and still in pain from my pinched neck nerve.
Do It Yourself Traction
went to a local medical device store and purchased a $20 over the door
pulley traction device, hoping to get pinched nerve relief. The device
used a water bag for weight. The more water, the more the pull on your
head. The bag that holds the water had lines for water level with the
poundage associated with that amount of water. It seemed simple, but I
didn’t know how much weight to employ. The bag held up to twenty pounds
of water, but I didn’t know if I could hurt myself if I used too much
weight, so I decided to try four pounds.
I put the straps around my head that allowed the weight of the water bag
to pull my head and stretch my spine and sat with it in place for ten
minutes. When I removed the straps and stood up I was pain free for the
first time in about three and one half months. It seemed like the
neorosurgeon's idea for a pinched nerve treatment had some merit.
This fix from alternative medicine for my
pinched neck nerve wasn’t permanent. Some pain returned and I utilized
the traction device for pinched nerve relief twice a day for several
weeks until the pain seemed to really be minimized. I then decided to
see if my pinched nerve pain would return if I stopped the traction
treatments. I am now off the traction and without pain for about three
weeks. I wish I had known about this option for a pinched nerve
treatment three and a half months ago. It would have saved me from
experiencing one of the most unpleasant times in my life.
Nobody I talked to seems too sure about the proper amount of traction to use for a pinched nerve treatment. I started with four pounds and had a profound immediate result. When the pain returned I increased the weight I used to six or seven pounds and applied it for about fifteen minutes a session as my pinched nerve remedy. I stayed with that until I stopped the traction treatments. Time will tell if I will have to start them again.
CHECK WITH YOUR DOCTOR and get his or her approval before trying this. Your body may or may not react as my body did. You may have conditions that I don't have that would make traction bad for you. Always check with a medical professional before making changes to your health care.
I am not a doctor and have no medical training. The above story is what happened to me as I first discovered where my pinched neck nerve pain came from and then tried to find a pinched nerve treatment to make it go away. It was a lot of pain for a long confusing time. If my story leads you to find a quicker recovery than if you just plodded along as I did it will have served its purpose.
More on Traction
Notes from Joanna Fuchs: I also have have a pinched nerve as diagnosed by an MRI--pain in my shoulder through my upper arm and elbow and sometimes into my forearm. Sometimes my left arm hurts, too. The home traction unit that my husband, Karl, bought definitely helped me. When the pain got bad, and especially right before I went to sleep, I would do the traction as a pinched nerve treatment and get some relief. When I asked the physical therapist to whom my M.D. referred me how much weight to use on the traction, he said 10 to 12 pounds, and "ten minutes is plenty," but I started with four and worked up to six for ten minutes and was getting some relief.
Karl got complete relief after using the traction twice a day for about a month and then went off the traction completely. He has had no further problems. That didn't happen for me.
My physical therapist also gave me some exercises that I did twice a day, and they seemed to help, I think.
One thing that I'm sure helped was my neck pillow, also called a cervical pillow. I like the memory foam kind. Literally overnight, my pain was cut in half when I started using this pillow. I love it. Not only does it help with the pain, but I can breathe easier because it doesn't mush into my nose.
This is the kind of pillow that is retangular, flat on one side and has two bumps on the other side, the length of the pillow. (See photo below.) I read that if you are a back sleeper, you should put the large bump under your neck and if you are a side sleeper, you should put the small side under your neck. You aren't still sleeping on your tummy, are you? I had to give that up a long time ago, on the advice of my medical professionals, for the health of my aging body, along with several other favorite sleep positions.
Anyway, my chiropractor told me that the patent ran out for these memory foam pillows and that they were affordable, like twenty to thirty dollars instead of over one hundred dollars. Memory foam is the foam that if you stick your fingers into it a depression will stay there for awhile and then the depression will go away.
I bought one at K-Mart and one at Target. They are alike, yet different. The one from K-Mart is smaller and much firmer; if I stick my fingers into it, the depression will disappear immediately. The one from Target is larger and not so firm. I started with the K-Mart pillow, and it was fine, but I like the Target pillow better, and it is now the one I use at night as a pinched nerve treatment. Here is a photo of both. The one I bought at Target is on the left; the one from K-Mart is on the right.
Although Karl's pinched nerve pain went away and hasn't come back, I had the pinched nerve pain now for almost a year. I got a lot better when I started using the cervical pillow. Then I saw in a forum a post by someone who got relief by using a special kind of calcium called EZorb. I have been using it for about four months.
I seemed to be getting better, and I was optimistic that the pain would go away, because of the glowing testimonials for the product, but now I seem to be regressing. I must be doing some physical thing that aggravates the condition; I just have to figure out what. Maybe it's sitting so much, using the computer, but I can't stop that; I just try to get up frequently.
I read somewhere that DMSO dissolves calcium deposits (the bone spurs revealed by the MRI that are causing the pinched nerve, says my doctor), and I remember reading that professional athletes are using it for that, but I couldn't find the article again, so I did an Internet search and found a page describing this process for horses. You can see it here.
So when I'm finished with the EZorb (I'm going to hang in there for six months, because one testimonial said that's how long it took), I will start with the DMSO, for pinched nerve treatment, over the part of my spine where the problem is, after consulting with my doctor. DMSO has a major annoying side effect: It make you smell bad--like garlic, or clams, or creamed corn. But the article says take a break from it regularly, and it also said it exits the body in 24 hours, so I'll try to use it on days I'm not going out.
I also purchased, through my chiropractor, a traction device for pinched nerve treatment called a Pronex II. You can see it at www.glaciercross.com. At first I thought it was helping a lot, but now I don't know.
About nine months later: I am MUCH better. I hardly notice any discomfort now, except when I get into odd positions with my arm for extended periods of time (like in the dentist's chair). I know the Pronex pinched nerve treatment is working. I'm using it when I get up and before I go to bed, increasing the traction very gradually.
You need a prescription for this device, so check with your doctor.
I am going to go off the EZorb for awhile
now to see if I get worse. I'm trying to find out if it's the EZorb
that's helping or the Pronex, or both. I'll keep you informed.
If your doctor recommends traction, remember that the over-the-door traction unit is under $30. My husband got complete relief from it and he has had no problems for nine months now. The Pronex is really expensive--several hundred dollars, but I did not get complete relief with the over-the-door unit--far from it, so I invested in the Pronex, and I am 75 to 85 percent better than I was.
is now another six months later. I never did the DMSO pinched nerve
treatment, because I now have complete relief from my symptoms from
using the Pronex traction pinched nerve treatment. If I didn't know I
had a pinched nerve, I wouldn't know I had it, if you know what I mean. I
still use the Pronex morning and night, and my chiropractor says
eventually I will be able to cut down to three times a week, but I don't
know. When I stop using it, the symptoms start to come back. I'll keep
you informed. By the way, my husband is still fine. He just used the
over the door traction for awhile. He says above he only used it for a
few weeks, but it seemed like longer to me--maybe months. His symptoms
never did come back after that initial traction.
Some more time has passed; I can't remember how much, and now I only use the Pronex two or three times a month. I am fine--no symptoms.
It has been several years now, and I, Joanna, am fine. I no longer use the Pronex. But...I stopped doing the thing that I think caused the pinched serve, which was snuggling with Karl on the sofa in an odd position, with my arm around his neck. It was quite a sacrifice, but every time I try to do it, I can sense that something is wrong, so I had to give it up.
"Come to Me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest." Matthew 11:28.
A number of studies have linked prayer to healing, and although the results have been inconclusive, what could it hurt to talk to the omnipotent creator of the universe? A prayer for healing might go something like this:
"Dear Lord, please hear me now as I pray for your help with (name your problem). I pray you’ll cleanse my body and heal me completely. In Jesus’ name I pray; Amen."
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