As many of my patients are aware, I have recently suffered a herniated disc in my neck. It was for no reason at all. I just woke up with it.
Here's a little background on me professionally: Before switching my practice to pelvic health, I did spine care for over a decade. Because of my training and experience, I immediately recognized my symptoms; I have witnessed my patients go through the same thing for many years. I didn't waste any time, and I called my doctor for help. And help me she did! She prescribed me steroids right away, and she ordered an MRI of my neck. The MRI confirmed my suspicion that I had a herniated disc. (I hope you don't mind me nerding out for a moment: First of all I was correct. Secondly, I was off one spinal level, as I had guessed it was at C6-7, when it was in fact at C5-6).
Six weeks have gone by since my initial diagnosis, and I have seen the physiatrist. A physiatrist is a doctor who specializes in physical medicine and rehabilitation, which is a fancy way of saying she's going to do her best to help me get better without me having to undergo surgery.
There are a couple of givens when a physiatrist decides to help you get by without surgery:
Your injury must be stable. In other words, it is not in immediate danger of going south (getting markedly worse without surgical intervention). She determined this by looking at the x-ray films and the MRI of my spine.
You must have the patience and perseverance to put up with some pain. A LOT OF PAIN. Those of you who have dealt with nerve pain know that it hurts like crazy. It's deep. It's unrelenting. It's intense, and it wears you out. In the case of my pain, I could not lay down comfortably, so except for a few lucky nights, I have slept in my recliner for over the past month. Basically, if all things go right, my injury should heal over the next three months or so, even though I may experience lesser degrees of intermittent pain for longer than that.
You must be willing to DO YOUR HOMEWORK. In other words, do your physical therapy exercises. I'm doing some gentle neck strengthening exercises, range of motion exercises, and I have a home traction unit that stretches my neck. I do these things daily without fail.
You must be willing to TAKE YOUR MEDICINE. Way too many of my patients decide that they cannot tolerate medicines they have been prescribed, and they either choose not to take them at all, or they stop taking them entirely after only a couple of doses. Typically this is a problem that the physicians have to deal with more directly, but I have to deal with it too because when you don't take your medicine, or you don't take it properly, then healing slows down. Let me say that again because it is very important. If you do not take your medicine, then you will not get better, or you will take a lot longer to get better. Pardon me, but this point in particular drives me crazy. Please don't be non-compliant with your healthcare plan. End of rant.
So here I am, waiting for my steroid injection in a couple of days. It is part of the plan my physiatrist laid out for me when I first consulted with her. I am not sure what is going to happen after the injection, but rest assured, I will be doing another blog post in order to let you all know how things are going. In the meantime, I will use movement and rest as my allies. Additionally, I will lean on my family and my friends for support, because that is ever-important too, and I would be remiss if I left out the significance of having social support in a time of need.
Michelle Landsverk is a Doctor of Physical Therapy at PT Center for Women, 3232 Ballard Road, Appleton, WI 54911. To make an appointment with Michelle call or text 920.729.2982.
PT Center for Women is one of the only physical therapy centers in Wisconsin that specializes in pelvic pain and pelvic muscle dysfunction, offering women of all ages comprehensive evaluation and treatment for their physical therapy needs.