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

QL1

Second 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

Second 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 Timer
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 Timer
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

Still New to StrongFirst Forum
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

Second 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

Still New to StrongFirst Forum
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

More than 2500 posts
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

Still New to StrongFirst Forum
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.
 
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