I have not written anything about my cervical spine issues for some time because there has been nothing new to say. The cortisone injection did not appear to help much. I will have another injection next week in the hope that the second time is a charm, and also because if that does not do the trick my only recourse is surgery. Meanwhile, even before the injection I was experiencing a gradual increase in shoulder strength, which is approaching 45-50% of normal. The “glass half full” part of me is grateful for the things I can do that I could not a few weeks ago, while the “glass half empty” part worries about the things I love to do (kayaking, backpacking, etc.) that I may never be able to resume. There has also been some progress with the pain. Three weeks ago I would have cheerfully bitten the head off a live bat to make the pain in my shoulder go away. Now I would insist on seeing papers demonstrating that the bat is rabies-free.
Last night I had an “aha” moment; a “duh” moment, actually. I have had a nasty headache for the last week, and could not figure out how it related, or if it related, to my spine. I believe I have found the answer. My cervical traction device gives such blissful short-term relief from the pain that I had cranked it higher and higher, until I was on the verge of turning myself into a bobble-head doll. I am guessing if I lay off it for a day or two then dial it back to a reasonable 30 pounds, the headache will vanish.
I am receiving lots of friendly advice about what I should do, and the advice, of course, is contradictory. In one camp are those who urge me to stop messing around and go for the surgery. Their reasoning is impeccable. The longer the nerve is pinched, they note, the lower the odds of significant recovery. And the underlying condition – arthritic degeneration of the spine, which has narrowed the canal through which the nerve passes – all but guarantees that the problem will recur and I will wind up having the surgery anyway. Airtight case, right?
But then there is the other camp, which points out that the surgery is a profoundly unpleasant one with a fairly difficult recovery. For starters, the surgeon goes in from the front of the neck, which means moving the larynx and various other useful things out of the way; some veterans say that the most difficult part of the recovery process was swallowing. Sleeping is a real challenge, particular for us side-sleepers. While the worst is over in two weeks or so, full recovery requires twelve weeks, and as I learned after my hernia surgery last fall, twelve weeks means twelve weeks. They also note that virtually everyone over sixty has some degeneration of the spine, and it is entirely possible that I will never experience this again. Then they add the final argument – there is no guarantee that the surgery would work. As one friend put it, “surgery should always be the last dog hung.” Why one would wish to hang a dog I cannot say, but I find myself agreeing with him. I will stick with my physiatrist and his cortisone injections for at least a few more weeks. This whole thing is proving to be quite a lesson in patience, a lesson I would have just as soon avoided…
Work and Dementia
2 years ago