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

QL1

First Post
Very glad I came across this thread. Reading about others going through very similar circumstances is reassuring so thought I'd share my story as well.

Late 30s male, almost 3 weeks ago I woke up with severe left upper back, shoulder, arm pain one night. Out of nowhere. I noticed my left triceps was weak (4/5) and had numbness over my forearm. Tingling in pointer finger. The pain was incredible that day. I couldn't find a position of comfort and was generally miserable all day. Ironically, I happen to be a doctor... immediately I was concerned for cervical radiculopathy and disheartened that it was happening to me.

That night the pain became unbearable. I couldn't lay down let alone sleep. I ended up going into the hospital I work at for pain relief. Because of the weakness they ended up doing an MRI which verified compression of the left C7 nerve root by a herniated C6-C7 disc.

ACDF is very successful for alleviating the symptoms of a cervical herniated disc so part of me has been desperate to go that route simply to get the pain to go away. A neurosurgeon I work with talked me down from the ledge, told me to be patient, to give it time, the majority of the time these improve.

The pain the first two weeks, man it sucked. Broken sleep every night. Hard to work. It messes with you psychologically because while it's going on, you have no idea how long it will last. Part of me was like, is this permanent? Again -- this thread has been really helpful to hear about folks getting through that initial horrible time period.

So I'm at 3 weeks. Still with pain but using pain meds much less. Still significant weakness left tricep but am apprehensive to do any significant exercise until pain is completely gone.

Agree with previous posters that frequent/chronic forward flexion of neck may be the biggest contributing factor (i.e. looking at phones, devices). Posture super important in prevention.

I started doing traction at recommendation of neurosurgeon which at the minimum does help with pain, and also hopefully speeds progression of recovery. There's decent literature that this works specifically with radicular symptoms. I got a ~$20 door device off amazon.

Hoping to continue to recover. Will keep y'all updated.
 

IlyaG

First Post
Hey QL1, thanks for sharing.
I'm around 2.5 months post-injury. No more tingling for long time, almost no daily symptoms, much of the strength is back.
I do neck exercises every day and am considering starting Traction.

Sometimes when I sit the whole day at the computer, I start feeling slight discomfort and pain around neck/elbow, which goes away after a while, and the triceps are quickly sore on workouts.. creating radiating pain almost immediately, can't do proper workouts still. I don't know if it will ever COMPLETELY go away, but I'll keep doing my best.

Let us know how you progress!
 

Pete Henry

First Post
Thanks for the posts and insights on the thread folks.

51 year old with left arm weakness and all of the symptoms, it was really concerning how much of a sudden drop in strength virtually overnight. Not pushing the weight some on here are but I went from 160 lbs on a bench press 45 lbs and have already noticed atrophy on the left triceps.

I’ll be putting in for an MRI 1st thing tomorrow and will keep checking in on here.
 

Sawmill

First Post
I found this thread after the fact. I woke with a stabbing pain in my left trapezius and pain radiating down my left arm and my entire left hand numb and pins and needles. I was leaving on a vacation the next day and was misdiagnosed as a muscle spasm. Fast forward 3 painful weeks and I finally get diagnosed as herniated disc c6-c7. Tried therapy and traction and was able to increase tricep strength from a 3lb extension to 12lb, but right arm was at 60lbs. Had disc replacement surgery and 3 weeks later up to 3 reps with 20lbs but not quite 25. No pain but still diminished strength and numbness in left index finger. Reccomend surgery if it's an option.
 

MuscleReview

Level 1 Valued Member
Glad I ran across this thread/forum.

I'm 47 and have been training with weights for about 30 years.

I woke up with a creak in my neck back in November. It turned out to be something much worse. Like some of the other people, I had pain in my neck and upper back back (left side) and numbness in my left index finger. The pain was the worst when I was horizontal, making sleep next to impossible--I would wake up after a few hours in agony. I basically went a month without a good night's sleep, though the pain throughout the day was tolerable.

I know I should have gone to the doctor, but we were dealing with some other stuff (wife's medical issues, traveling to see family, etc) and wanted to see if it got better.

I saw a chiropractor, and maybe that helped some. But what seemed to help more than anything was the Mckenzie method exercises that others have mentioned. I didn't discover that until about three weeks after this all started.

The improvement came about a week after starting those exercises. My pain is almost gone, and I'm finally sleeping well again.

Now my main symptoms are:
1. Still a little numbness in the tip of my index finger. It is not completely numb, but if feels different.
2. Weakness on my left side.

I think the weakness is improving, but it is frustrating. I can at least do a few pushups and very light bench pressing (less than my usual warmup weight). I'm taking it very easy even though I really miss training.

I will see a neurologist if I don't see continued improvement. Just not sure if my medical insurance would allow me to see a really good one (and the city I live in isn't really known for its doctors/hospitals). I definitely don't want a scalpel-happy doctor when most of these issues tend to heal on their own.
 

QL1

First Post
Brief update to my post above. I'm now 4.5 months out from the initial injury. Pain has been completely gone for ~2 months now, excepting a rare soreness in my L forearm... though I question if I'm imagining it.

All tingling/numbness is gone.

The most important part: L triceps strength. I think for most of us that's the scariest aspect, the possibility that we may have permanent weakness. The good news is that this strength has returned significantly. I've been following with push-ups. For the first 1-2 months, I couldn't even do one push-up. Very defeating. Now, 4.5 months out, I can get up to 10 push-ups, albeit having to favor my other arm. Prior to the injury, I'd generally do 20 push-ups in a row. Not sure I'll get back to that, but am hopeful I'll continue to improve. Now that life is pretty much back to normal, I'm more patient with my progress. Studies have shown that most people are back to normal at 2 years. I'm willing to give it that long barring a repeat insult. That said, if it occurs again to the same extent, I'll probably opt to go straight to surgery.
 

MuscleReview

Level 1 Valued Member
Brief update to my post above. I'm now 4.5 months out from the initial injury. Pain has been completely gone for ~2 months now, excepting a rare soreness in my L forearm... though I question if I'm imagining it.

All tingling/numbness is gone.

The most important part: L triceps strength. I think for most of us that's the scariest aspect, the possibility that we may have permanent weakness. The good news is that this strength has returned significantly. I've been following with push-ups. For the first 1-2 months, I couldn't even do one push-up. Very defeating. Now, 4.5 months out, I can get up to 10 push-ups, albeit having to favor my other arm. Prior to the injury, I'd generally do 20 push-ups in a row. Not sure I'll get back to that, but am hopeful I'll continue to improve. Now that life is pretty much back to normal, I'm more patient with my progress. Studies have shown that most people are back to normal at 2 years. I'm willing to give it that long barring a repeat insult. That said, if it occurs again to the same extent, I'll probably opt to go straight to surgery.
Glad to hear you are getting better, and glad to hear that most people regain all their strength back. I can live with it taking a while. I miss bench pressing at full strength but I'm not a professional athlete so it doesn't make or break my world.
 

North Coast Miller

Level 7 Valued Member
FWIW I am several years out from acute symptoms but I have residuals that are likely to never go away.

I can get about 5-10 extra pushups just by raising my chin and looking straight ahead instead of at the floor.
I can gauge how much attention I've been giving to my posture by how numb/tingly my index finger is. Doing models with my kid or puzzles with the wife it can get to where it feels like its been hit with a hammer.
I occasionally get pain down the center of my right delt that feels like DOMS or overuse pain.
I occasionally get nerve pain in my forearm that is strong enough to weaken my grip.

I don't view any of these as show stoppers, but I am considering if at some point I'll become a surgical candidate what my choices might be. Am not losing sleep though, procedures for all sorts of surgical intervention are constantly upgrading, I'll cross that bridge if/when the time comes. In the meantime everything works well enough, it does pay to learn the difference between nerve pain and pain from external causes.
 

MuscleReview

Level 1 Valued Member
Here's a rough timeline of where I am:

11/13/19
My pain began about this time. One month of the worst nighttime pain I can imagine. It wasn't too bad during the day, but I was in agony at night when I tried to sleep. This pretty much lasted a month.

12/10/19
I started the PT/Mckenzie exercises. I started noticing significant improvement after a week, though I still had some nighttime pain. I really wish I had know about these techniques when this all began. I don't even count the first month (11/13-12/10) in the healing time because I wasn't doing anything that really helped treat the problem.

Today 1/24/20
Pain is about 1% of what it was. My neck is a bit tender when I do the exercises, but not even what I'd call pain. The numbness in my index finger is now gone (or not enough to notice).

I started doing light training a couple of weeks ago.

Earlier this week I squatted with the kind of weight I'm used to using (315) without any trouble. The bar is low on my back so it doesn't seem to aggravate my neck. My left arm can hold/balance the weight without any trouble.

I can do 12-15 pushups without much trouble. But my left tricep is still notably weaker than the right. I can really tell the difference with bench press or dumbbell "skull crushers." I think the strength in the left side has improved, but it's still a bit frustrating. Having said that, I'm happy with where I am after about 6 weeks of PT exercises.
 

Miluko

First Post
Hello guys,

I must say that the discovery of this forum and thread in particular, was a real bright spot for myself.

As burdening as cervical radiculopathy, disc herniation and all the symptoms following in their wake might be…it’s nonetheless good to see, that there are others who already went down the same path and continue to share encouraging experiences.

That being said, I would gladly like to join your group of scarred gym-warriors and contribute my own story for future fellow sufferers.

Just one word of warning right at the beginning:
As I am from Europe, English isn’t my first language. Therefore, I apologize in advance if some of my sentences (or even every single one of them) sound a little awkward, ambiguous or like they were written down by a drunken sailor.

But back to the topic:

I am a 29 years old police officer in active duty. Leaving my job aside I always considered sport as an important key element in my personal life and daily routine. To date I am looking back on a 10 year long history of conventional weight-lifting in the gym, as well as some insights in more bodyweight-oriented sports such as “calisthenics”. Luckily I never suffered from injuries worth mentioning before and made good progress. Until lately at least…

My own misery started about 4 weeks ago, while visiting a work-related training program for a few days.
While taking part I had to sleep in one of those barracks infamous for their luxury and “recreational value”.
The bed for example was nearly as comfortable as a pile of stones and the pillow literally non-existent….
So I wasn’t really surprised, waking up with a stiff neck the next morning.
The pain itself seemed to be not too big of a deal.
I’ve had similar cases of “little ailments” in the past and they never persisted for more than a few days.
So I didn’t pay too much attention to it.
My bad…

What caught me off guard first was the sudden loss of strength after visiting the gym a few days later to perform my usual chest-workout.

The second I lifted the barbell in order to work myself through a few sets of bench press, I noticed that something felt wrong.
To begin with my left side already struggled quite a bit while trying to stabilize the bar.
But on the first repetition things got even worse.
The left shoulder simply gave way and my chest was painfully stretched subsequently.
At first I still believed, that I had simply put on a wrong iron plate on the left side by mistake.
But after a brief inspection the weights looked perfectly normal.
So I did a second attempt with the same unsatisfying result.
In the end I was only able to lift the barbell back up 2 times with all of my strength.
Worth to mention is, that I was working with weights I normally could do 8-10 reps for 3-4 sets at a time.
I continued experimenting around a little longer, before I decided to call it a day.

The next morning my left pec and shoulder were visibly swollen and aching. That’s where my medical odyssey started.
I consulted an orthopedist who misdiagnosed my issues and assumed a “partial pectoral tendon tear” instead.
The following MRI showed only a small strain but no indications that the muscle had been massively damaged.
The next suspect was the left shoulder, where an impingement could be lurking in the shadows.
A second MRI and three hypothecary credits later that was excluded as well.
Just a mild bursitis due to the overexpansion. The rotator cuff was a little irritated but still intact.
Nothing to cause too much of a headache.

Only the continuing weakness on my left side was a fascinating mystery for orthopedist and sport specialist alike.
As I was active 5-6 days a week before and “overtraining” could be the actual cause, they told me to simply stop exercising for a while and wait for shoulder and chest to heal. So I did just that. Quite an endurance test, taking into account that every attempt to “push open” a simple door became a nearly impossible task for me.

About two weeks later and still weak like a little kitten I couldn’t contain my impatience any longer.
So I was googling possible causes on a daily basis now.
As the pain in chest and shoulder started diminishing, the stiff neck made its second appearance and finally gave me the war-deciding hint.

The third MRI confirmed in fact a light disc bulge to the left between C6 and C7. Not an actual herniation yet and quite shallow but still visible. Because of the unremarkable medical imaging the radiologist and a spine specialist both expressed their doubts concerning an actual compression of the nerve. But as my symptoms persisted and I couldn't completely flex my triceps any longer, they finally sent me to the neurologist.

Big surprise:
The nerve was impinged and the response of the triceps to electrical stimulation quite weak.
How much damage the nerve suffered isn’t evident yet. But at least the diagnosis SHOULD be certain now.
We will do the whole neurologic testing procedure again 3 weeks from now in order to see if there is any difference in nerve activity. Regarding the “small” bulge the doctors advice was to try conservative treatments first.

What freaks me out the most is, that none of the 3.208 experts I’ve talked to in the last 4 weeks prescribed me something to speed up the healing process. Might it be physical therapy, anti-inflammatory medication or stretching exercises I can perform at home.
And I simply refuse to keep on waiting until my triceps shrivels up like a prune!
So I’ve started to follow the McKenzie-Tuck-concept and found it quite effective.
The neck is nearly painless now.
Even if I can still provoke some uncomfortable twitching by turning the head too far to the left or lowering it in certain angles.
But all in all it’s completely bearable and continuing to improve.

The only other thing that bugs me is that my left index finger got numb AFTER I visited the neurologist. Perhaps the “electrical shocks” from the tools he used to test my nerval activities further irritated the nerve? Or might I have aggravated it with the McKenzie-stretching routine mentioned above? I am really quite panic-stricken when it comes to the thought of further damaging the nerve…

For now I plan to slowly get back into training following “North Coast Millers” advices.
Special thanks to you for your previous postings!

I will report back again, if I see any progress.
What will (hopefully) be the case….
 

North Coast Miller

Level 7 Valued Member
@Miluko
my index finger numbness is the canary in the coal mine for overall symptoms and posture. Some days it feels like a rubber band is wrapped around it, other days is almost symptom free.

The only medicine I've gotten that helped was Dexamethasone, taken PRN. One 4mg tablet is enough to tamp down an awful lot of nerve pain if it acts up on me. Normally don't have to take a second one and will go days/weeks between. Most over the counter medicine will have zero effect other than to upset your stomach. Keeping in mind my symptoms are mostly from poor posture and occasional bits of disk shedding into the joint - causes a lot of trouble until it get resorbed.

Best of luck to ya, go slow, train smart.
 

MuscleReview

Level 1 Valued Member
Has anyone experienced a return of size in atrophied muscles without surgery?

It's been about a month since I had checked in here--about 10 weeks since I started doing the neck exercises.

Pain is rare and barely noticeable when it happens.
My left index finger still feels pretty normal most of the time.

I am still training about twice a week. Leg training is fine.

I can also do about 25 push-ups.

But the pushing strength in my left tricep and pec seem to have reached a plateau. I am very cautious about benching an pushups--don't want to hurt the other muscles that have to compensate for the weakness.

I can see the asymmetry between the left and right side: left tricep and pec are smaller. I'm probably the only one who notices, but it does bother me. I'd love to get the strength and size back some day.
 

theshop62

First Post
Hey guys,

I am 29 year old ex rugby player.
So glad I’ve found this forum as have felt alone, scared and frustrated so far.
circa 6 weeks ago I had a c6-c7 disc protrusion which lead to c7 Radiculopathy. Very painful for first 3/4 weeks and have lost roughly 85-90% of tricep extension strength. Also lost 30%-40% of pectoral and latissimus dorsi strength.
Doctors saying I am likely paying for years of neck abuse through wrestling and rugby and aren’t suggesting single trauma incident is cause.
Weirdly I have also started getting twicktches in left calve and quad as well as some minor nerve pain in foot.. any suggestions?

Had mri which confirms disc bulge in c6-c7 impinging nerve canal (c7) and went for second mri today (not sure why).

Is the pec and lat weakness common? Also experiencing tingling in left arm but no diagnosis on that yet.

Doctors are discussing possible fusion or disc replacement but are saying best to let some time pass and monitor symptoms more before further exploring surgery options.
Has anyone in this forum had either procedure and if so what outcome? Is anyone aware of how long the impingement can be left untreated before the nerve stands significatly less chance of recovery?

I have read mixed messages on recovery probability and as a very active (previous to this) young(ish) man I am hoping to regain some in not all of previous strength. Has anyone heard of cases of individuals making full recovery’s from such strength deficits?

Sorry for long message but don’t know anyone else to talk to about this and the National health service in England is slow and prioritises emergencies over rehabilitation cases.

Thanks in advance guys

Edd
I just had neck surgery and a C6 Disc was removed and fused, bone spurs were removed that were also causing pinched nerves that made my arms and legs feel very weak. After the surgery my arms and legs got about 60% better, but I also haven’t been able to do anything for the last 5-6 months. I am seeing a physical therapist in hoping to regain my strength back and build up some muscle mass I lost before and after the surgery I will keep you updated.

thanks, Joe
 

Contingency

First Post
Hi! I'm new to this forum and I read some posts and realized that I have similar problems. English is not my native language so I'm sorry if I make some mistakes.
I'm 28 years old graphic designer who spends most of his time in front of PC and it started to take its toll. Only a year ago started some bodyweight exercises and 6 month after that started going to the gym.
After initial coronavirus crisis I returned to the gym (did some bodyweight exercises in march and april). . A week after I returned to the gym I experienced sharp pain in the neck that didn't subside for days and I started doing some neck stretches which probably irritated my neck further. Two weeks after that, during my bench press I realized that I lost a lot of strength in my right arm. My left arm was normal, I was doing everything I did a week before but my right arm didn't want to move. It felt like my right tricep just gave up. I couldn't understand why is that happening because I didn't feel any pain during my exercises. The strength did not return in the following week so I replaced bench with dumbbells. Right arm can lift 30kg DB chest press and left arm can barely lift 20KG for five reps before failing (and I feel a lot of wrong muscles firing up to compensate). My dips went from being able to do 15kg weighted dips to only few regular dips before I fall to the right side. Pull ups are also weaker and I feel like I am pulling more with one arm. DB skull crushers are way harder on my right arm.

Currently I dont feel that sharp pain in my neck only when I move my head upwards. But my chest, lat and tricep muscles are sometimes twitching when sitting or lying down. Ability to flex those muscle, especially chest, has somewhat diminished.
I went to see physical therapist and he said that it's probably pinched nerve but he needs more information so he advised to do MRI to find out if it's central or peripheral problem. He also said that I have scapula alata (winged scapula) and that in future I need to strengthen my Serratus anterior because it makes me more susceptible to injury. He said that I can train but that I should avoid overhead press.

On thursday I am meeting my doctor so she can arrange an appointment with neurologist. In my country it can take a lot of time to get to a point to do MRI, because our health system is very inefficient. Atrophy and permanent muscle control loss are my greatest fears. Hoping for the best and will keep you updated.
 

Tirofijo

Level 6 Valued Member
Woke up a few days ago with very sore neck, which means my herniated disc is flaring up. Not sure why. I haven’t been diligent with my McKenzie stretches. Or maybe slept on it wrong. Or something else. So far no loss of grip strength or tingly fingers. I need to test it out when I feel better.

In a moment of desperation, I bought an inflatable neck track device on Amazon for $14. (I got the “Branfit” one. They are all probably the same.)

I have no idea if that device is a good idea, but it does what it claims. I put on, pumped it up and felt like my head was going to pop off. I couldn’t believe how effective at providing traction it is.

Again, use at your own risk.
 
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