Anyone dealt with loss of strength due to pinched nerve (cervical radiculopathy)

Discussion in 'Everything Else' started by Tirofijo, Feb 19, 2018.

  1. Tirofijo

    Tirofijo More than 500 posts

    Title should say “loss of strength.”

    I’m dealing with it. Curious to hear about other experiences, esp how long it took for strength to return once the pinch nerve was alleviated.

    I’ve had it worse two times before but I wasn’t actively lifting then so I didn’t track how long it took for strength to return.
  2. North Coast Miller

    North Coast Miller More than 2500 posts

    I am still recovering, pretty sure this go around will be a permanent feature.

    I had a pretty extreme flare up over the Winter of '15-'16. Took about 3-4 months before I had regained much of my strength once the bulk of the acute symptoms faded. It took a lot longer to get the last bit and get back to making solid gains - feeling great for this last year.

    Overhead pressing and pushup variations took the longest to come back, and I still have variations in strength output depending on how I hold my head when doing pushups. I really worked hard to get the power back with my pressing as soon as I felt I could tolerate it - low reps, moderate sets, 3RM.

    A lot of overhead still aggravates my symptoms a bit, so I avoid most of the straight overhead work and limit myself to some testing from time to time. Pushups have just been a slog but are coming back nicely. I have to keep my chin up, eyes forward, adds 5-10 reps to each set. I could barely hit with consistency one rep one arm pushup last year, and now can do 8-10.

    I will likely never regain full sensation in my right index finger or full strength across both arms especially shoulder dominant lifts - I hope so, but I have no way of knowing. Occasionally I will feel a few percent (estimate) drop in strength in one arm or the other - most often my left arm doing pushups, but sometimes the middle delt on the right when overhead pressing.

    I adopted a lot more work to failure when I was first driving to recover as much as possible. There frankly isn't much literature for different training protocols and max nerve recovery/motor unit reassignment (?), but the literature is 100% that resistance training helps.

    I'd imagine recovery is based on how long the acute symptoms persist and how severe they become at their worse.
    Last edited: Feb 19, 2018
    Tirofijo likes this.
  3. Tirofijo

    Tirofijo More than 500 posts

    Thanks for that write up.

    I had pinched nerve due to a herniated disc in 2010. Just woke up with a super stiff and painful neck. The neck got better but later I developed pain and tingling in my arm. I benched around 225lbs max at that point and when I finally felt good enough to go back to the gym, I got pinned by 135lbs. My left side wasn't firing. MRI showed the herniated disc and I took oral steroids for the inflammation. Strength came back but neck never felt the same.

    Last year I had a milder version of the neck and nerve and tried a PT first. She eliminated neck and pinch nerve pain in one session using the McKenzie "chin tuck" stretch. She blamed poor posture for aggravating the disc. But I was at a new job and a new country and barely had time to workout, so I never tracked strength loss or how long it took to recover. I just know the pain relief was immediate.

    This time I have a little nagging neck soreness but don't have any nerve pain in the arm. I did wake up one night with both arms "asleep" even though I was sleeping flat on my back. That was right around the time I noticed my grip had weakened (went from 12+reps on the COC T gripper to none). I feel it on pullups (my head ends up closer to my right side) and bench press but it's not nearly as bad as before. (I still got 190lbs on bp for two reps, but I should have been getting 5+ reps. Left side was the weak link.) I had been doing the McKenzie exercises occasionally but not nearly as diligently as I should have.
    Carl in Dover likes this.
  4. North Coast Miller

    North Coast Miller More than 2500 posts

    Good to hear it is improving. I get the impression talking to my Dr that the effects are often quite individual.

    For me the McKenzie chin tuck didn't really do much. Posture correction was and continues to be the biggest factor. I do a lot of bench work with my head inclined, so I've elevated all my work surfaces and that alone has made huge gains.

    I looked long and hard to see if there had been any specific protocols that encouraged nerve rerouting but came up with only some very generic conclusions. That said I do believe training to failure from time to time was a help - we have no way of knowing what motor units/muscle types have been effected, so I figured I'd push them all.

    Best of luck!
    Carl in Dover likes this.
  5. mprevost

    mprevost More than 500 posts

    Yes. Pretty bad herniation. When the pain started to subside after about 4 weeks, I went back in the gym and found that I could only do 1 pushup. couldn't do a single dip or pullup. Some of the muscle in my left pec no longer worked and my grip strength was really poor on my left side. It was a long road back. I felt it the day the nerve connection turned back on. It was almost a year. I never regained all of my strength but enough for what I need to do. Before the injury, 200 lbs on the bench press was a warm up weight. After the injury, it takes months of steady training on the bench press to MAX 200 lbs. That's life. I am OK with it. Many people have it worse.

    WORKINGONIT My Third Post

    Mike, thanks for sharing that tough experience. I've been dealing with the same thing since late October 2017, it took me out of grappling, as I couldn't hang on anyone with my left hand. The weak pec/tricep was disturbing as well (not one dip as you said). I had Posterior neck surgery to relieve the disc pressure on the nerve about 8 weeks ago, and that actually seems to have set me backward at this point. I was up to 11 dips before the surgery now I'm at about 6. Could do maybe 30 before this whole thing started.
    Do you have any insight into how we may eat/train to expedite the nerve healing or regenerating? I'm trying to eat the Omega oils, proteins and vegetables, and avoid alcohol which is hard for me. Some language says hard training actually inhibits nerve regrowth. But taking it easy, recovering from the surgeons cutting muscles, has already made me fatter. Thanks Mike, Scott.
  7. mprevost

    mprevost More than 500 posts

    Hi Scott. The good news is that it has been 10 years and I have not had any more problems with it. I am not sure that there is anything you can do eating or training wise that is going to make a huge difference. As you said, eating healthy, and including Omega 3 fats is a good idea in general. I don't know what to make of the research on nerve regeneration. Electrical stimulation seems to help but the data or exercise is less clear. I would probably just start training, but do so carefully. Most of us that are into training are going to do it anyway. I'll always find a way to do something. It is not too uncommon to have some inflammation that reduces function after surgery. Hopefully it resolves soon and you see some significant improvement. I had to get comfortable with some permanent limitations. The reality is that I don't need much strength for my lifestyle, even for the activities I like (mountain biking, trail running, rucking, surfing). Anything more than I have now would be mainly to serve my ego. Hopefully you come back fully with no limitations. If not, it's OK on the other side. Nowadays I try to stick to low risk training strategies. My guiding philosophy is DFYU.
    Groove Greaser likes this.
  8. North Coast Miller

    North Coast Miller More than 2500 posts

    My two cents, once I had pretty good mobility I began using moderate to light weights and training to total failure. I couldn't really train heavier initially anyway, but I believe mentally and in terms of getting the most from the nerves that were compromised this seemed to do a good job.

    I wish there was more in the literature, what I did find showed general benefit to resistance training but didn't go into specific protocol.

    WORKINGONIT My Third Post

    Thanks Miller, I have inched my way back to about 12 dips from zero. It's been almost 6 months since late Oct 2017 when I really pinched the nerve in my neck. How are you doing?

    WORKINGONIT My Third Post

    6 months and I'm just starting to come back, probably at about 60% right now. How are you doing Tiro?
  11. Tirofijo

    Tirofijo More than 500 posts

    I never lost as much as you did. I wouldn’t have notice the strength loss if I wasn’t strength training.

    I’m improving but not 100 percent.

    MRI showed herniated disc and bone spur in the neck but no surgery for now since I’m not in pain and strength is returning. Doc said I might need spinal fusion in the future.

    I’m finishing up week 4 of double kb program Dry Fighting Weight. I started with 20kg with left arm and 24kg with right. First week the left arm was the limiting factor. The slowly it was the 24kg on the right side that was limiting. Now I’m mixing in reps with the 24kg on the left. That wasn’t possible a few weeks ago.

    Grip strength is improving. Can close the CoC trainer for 10+ reps now on a good day. Other days I don’t seem as strong. That’s worrisome. It might be accumulated fatigue (DFW is a tough and tiring program). Or it might be the nerve is pinched on that day which means I could expect some days to be worse or expect to take a few steps back. I hope it’s the former.

    I’m doing my McKenzie stretches which I think help. I did a few physical therapy sessions but it was run of the mill cable exercises and some electro stimulation therapy. I think KBs and some direct bicep work are a better use of my time.

    Thanks for asking.
  12. North Coast Miller

    North Coast Miller More than 2500 posts

    I'm feeling great. It seldom acts up on me at all anymore though my index finger is perpetually numb. In fact I can tell how good my working posture is by how much tingle my index finger is experiencing.

    I have also all but eliminated overhead pressing. I also eliminated bent press which was tough, but I'm not going to ignore obvious nerve pain that is directly caused by specific movements. I test from time to time and overall strength is not diminishing (can still gut out 4-5 one hand press with my 32kg), so I stick to horizontal push/pull movements for the most part.

    The surgery is for the worst cases and no guarantees it won't make things harder, so I just keep plugging on and hope for the best. Currently I'd swear I'm more functionally strong than I have been in over a decade. Just have to be careful with that index finger - it isn't so good at hot/cold, sharp/dull anymore...:D
  13. Kion

    Kion Second Post

    Hey guys,

    About 6 years ago I started having tricep weakness in my right arm. I was an avid lifter with a history of shoulder dislocations. I first noticed weakness in my right tricep my senior year of high school, it went from 100% to 0% pretty fast. I am still able to use my arm completely and play sports, I just have significant tricep and pec weakness on my right side. For a long time I thought the cause was from stretching the nerve in one of my dislocations, but now I’m trying to see if maybe the cause is a pinched nerve in my C7 or somewhere in my shoulder/back. I’ve seen 2 nerve/hand and upper extremity specialists who tell me that there’s nothing I can do (although they never looked into a pinched nerve in my c7 as a potential cause). EMG tests show that there is no to little response in the tricep and MRI’s on the tricep and back don’t show any signs of compression on the nerve.

    From anyone with experience, is it likely I have compression in my c7? Will massage therapy and Mackenzie exercises help? Should I consider surgery to relieve the compression? And if I am able to decompress the nerve, will I be able to regain strength to any degree after 6 years of being pinched with little to no strength all these years?

    What course of action would you recommend from here?

    Any insight, help or shared experiences would be much appreciated.

    Reading through this forum has already been a huge help. It’s incredible to see I’m not the only one going through this. For a long time I felt alone in this struggle.
  14. Steve Freides

    Steve Freides Forum Administrator Senior Certified Instructor

    @Kion, welcome to the StrongFirst forum.

    It sounds like you haven’t found the doctor you need.

    North Coast Miller likes this.
  15. North Coast Miller

    North Coast Miller More than 2500 posts

    Yes, more doctor if that is an option. You have recent MRI of the neck and back you might shop those around for second/third opinions. If not I'd try to get one of the cervical region.

    IDK about restoration/recovery but if you could get this resolved there is sure to be some improvement, though after 6 years also sure to have been some permanent loss. To what extent is a guess, and assuming it is pinched nerve related.

    Is there a significant difference in muscle mass one side to the other?

    If tolerated and safe to perform per Dr, resistance training would still be a good idea.
  16. Groove Greaser

    Groove Greaser Triple-Digit Post Count

    It took me a while to figure out what you meant, but that's a pretty solid guiding philosophy!
    mprevost likes this.
  17. mprevost

    mprevost More than 500 posts

    Great DFYU article here: Andy Kirkpatrick | D.F.Y.U
    offwidth likes this.
  18. offwidth

    offwidth More than 5000 posts

    Most of Andy's stuff is pretty good.
    That guy is double hard. (And an excellent example of how the mind is primary...)
  19. Kion

    Kion Second Post

    Yes there is a significant difference in muscle mass.

    I’m also still doing resistance training as best as I can, just sticking to the weights I can manage and going till failure.

    I just started seeing a chiropractor who thinks the cause is indeed a pinch in my c6-c7 and also from some of the nastiness going on in my shoulder. He seems pretty confident that he will be able to clear things up and that when we do, strength will come back to a pretty good degree, not 100% but a lot more than I have now.
  20. North Coast Miller

    North Coast Miller More than 2500 posts

    Good news!

    I would still recommend pursuing the MRI end of it and having second opinion. In some cases part of the disk has come away and is the reason for the impingement. Smaller pieces can be reabsorbed and the symptoms will improve over time on their own, larger ones can sometimes be removed with considerable immediate relief.

    If that is the case, this sort of thing is relatively low risk/high success rate depending on where the impingement - compared to more invasive strategies.

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