Tuesday, April 22, 2014

5 Year Ribaversary

I have not blogged about my TOS journey recently because I've been going through the rounds of doctors, once again. I was hoping to have more to report by now, but I'll get you caught up The Days of My TOS Life. I have a new family doctor, so I had to fill him in on my history and recurring symptoms.
 He sent me first to a new pain management doctor-who gave me a list of my treatment options: 1. Do nothing. 2. Radiographic workup (tests & scans). 3. Physical management, (physical therapy, TENS, OMT-osteopathic manipulation, home exercise program). 4. Medication management-(nsaids, antidepressants, muscle relaxants, anti-convulsants, opiod, topical). 5. Epidural steroid injection. 6. Medial branch block. 7. Radio Frequency Ablation (burn the nerve endings). 8. Spinal cord stimulator, implant. 9. Surgery. A pretty depressing and scary list. I left that appointment feeling pretty deflated.

I asked for trigger point injections with lidocaine, one at base of my neck, and one where it feels like a knife it sticking in my back. The doctor informed me there is a risk of lung puncture with the deep shoulder blade injection, so I chose to just get the neck injection, which hurt a lot for two days after, then helped relieve pain for about 10 days. It's back to the usual tense, sharp pain now.

 I revisited my new family doctor, and after chatting, he seemed to agree that pain mgmt doctor was not the best choice for me. I was prescribed gabapentin and referred to an ENT-ear nose throat specialist. I'll backtrack a bit here to explain why he referred me to an ENT. The most painful symptoms that led me to being dx with TOS and having rib resection were neck, jaw, ear, head, arm, upper back/shoulder blade pain. Surgery was successful in alleviating the arm pain for a while, but most of the pain has returned.

So, the ENT examined my ear, numbed my nose/throat and scoped my nose throat-took pictures even- all normal.
He thinks I feel a lump when swallowing because my muscles are very tight, spasming, and there is a hyoid bone in your throat and my muscles are too tight around it. The ENT's thinking is that my symptoms are possibly from having muscle removed when the rib was resected. He referred me to a physical therapist who has had great results with TMJD,  and head/ neck injury patients.

 My therapy assessment was a week ago. The therapist seems knowledgeable about TOS. He believes exterior muscles in my neck are overcompensating, and interior muscles are lazy and not working properly. He also mentioned that I healed post op with tight pecs and rounded forward shoulder, which pulls on muscle in shoulder blade. (It IS all connected!) He commented he thinks the origin of my pain may be located at the level of the cervical rib, where the wad of upper trap muscle is that gives me fits . I decided to hold off on starting the gabapentin until I saw what p.t. was going to be like.

I had terrible arm pain for about 12 hours after the assessment. The first therapy session was 24 hours ago, and during therapy all was well...lay on heat, a little work in/under shoulder blade, some massaging type work on neck and head. I was given my first 'exercise' to do at home. I am to lie flat, and slightly tilt my head up and down. The tilting movement does not start in the neck-at the base, but up higher. I'm supposed to barely tilt my head up and down a half inch, but focus on the movement being up higher than usual. (I wonder how many calories that 'exercise' burns?)

I left feeling good. I ran an errand, and on the drive home an hour later, I pulled over to pop 800 mg ibuprofen and cried the rest of the drive home because my arm, neck, ear, back hurt SO much. The paring knife in my back changed to a meat cleaver, and shooting electrical jabbing pains were up my neck and head, down my aching arm.
For me, when my pain level ramps up past 4-5, my brain does not function well. I'm grumpy, touchy, unable to make clear decisions because all I hear, feel, see is pain-pain-pain-pain. It's like the pain short circuits my brain. I hate that.
I am curious to see what the therapist has to say about my reaction to the first session. I have gone to many rounds of therapy, chiropractors, massage therapists. And I've made myself stick with each one for weeks and months, pumping machines, using thera bands, stretching, enduring myofacial stretching (painful!) hoping for positive results. Mostly, that all just caused me a lot of unnecessary pain.
That said, I have hope that this p.t. knows TOS and the accompanying muscular issues, and may be able to help me.

Now, I just have to get past the mental hurdle of the fear of increased pain (from my past experiences with all the p.t.) so the current therapy stands a chance at being effective.

For me, that includes choosing to have hope that life will get better, that pain will decrease, and function will improve. I will do my best to fight off the urge to feel like a TOS victim. I will continue to look for ways to be a TOS survivor....along with all my fellow TOS survivors. I love and appreciate you all for your genuine understanding, and the way you show compassion to others who are hurting because you DO understand.
 My heart goes out to each of you as we live this TOS journey together.

Gentle hugs to each of you~