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lineage (@lineage)

Undiagnosed rare problems.

Brain & Nervous System | Last Active: Mar 20, 2021 | Replies (30)

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@lineage Wow! Your story is similar to my story. Thank you for writing about it in great detail. As I read your history, I kept saying to myself, check for cervical spinal cord compression. I was glad to see that your doctors did this, but when they found some cervical involvement, they stopped looking, and they didn't know what to do with those results. Your doctors kept on saying they didn't know if spinal decompression surgery would help you. They are afraid to try to help you because they cannot connect your symptoms with your imaging.

Here are some similarities in our cases. I had cervical cord compression because of a collapsed C5/C6 with a disc osteophyte complex (bone spurs), and I have a bulging lumbar disc. It may be L3/L4, but I would have to check my records to say for certain. Thisa lumbar vertebrae clicks on rotation, and I had forgotten about it. I was turned down by 5 spine surgeons who said similar things to me. The symptoms you listed are the same as with spinal cord compression and your doctors admitted that. Here is what they seem to be missing. When you move or change position, your pain changes location. That was true for me too. At the beginning, if I just turned my head, I turned a pain in my ankle on or off, and that was reproducible. I told all the surgeons that, but none paid attention to it. Your spinal cord floats in spinal fluid in the spinal canal. Because your spine is mobile, if you bend, the cord will also bend and slide within the canal. Now consider what happens if the cord is compressed anywhere… it is tethered by the compression and gets stretched or further compressed by your spine movement, and if you have a slipping of vertebrae, that canal changes shape effectively getting smaller. I had pain all over my body caused by spinal cord compression. I also had bone spurs raking the front of my spinal cord as I moved. I had a diagnostic cervical spinal injection ordered by a surgeon, and for 5 days it took away ALL of my pain everywhere in my body. As the pain returned when the steroid wore off, I charted where it returned and what type of pain it was for both a standing position and lying on my back and there were differences. When I shifted position when laying down, my lumbar spine cracked and stopped the leg pain I had instantly. I charted this for a few months and it progressed and got worse. What I was seeing was a gradual return of the my same symptoms that I had immediately after the whiplash from the traffic accident that had happened 20 years earlier. Twenty years earlier, I had sciatic pain and even some difficulty walking correctly. I now had gait imbalance and walked with a limp that was intermittent. When my physical therapist realigned my spine, I walked normally again until another muscle spasm in my neck moved my vertebrae increasing the compression on the cord and I walked with a limp again. I had 2mm of retrolisthesis (backward slipping) of C5 over C6. If the spine injection had not helped me, the surgeon could have said that the pain was not spine related, but I was never given an opinion about why the injection DID help me temporarily. I think he did not know why and avoided the issue. When I saw this surgeon a few months later with my charts that showed pain all over my body, he remarked that I had pain in every dermatome and this could be an inflammatory problem like MS, and he didn't know if fixing the bad disc would make me better or worse. When I developed vertigo and told his nurse about that, he declined to offer surgery and told me to stay in physical therapy. A few months later if I bent my neck forward, it sent a big electric bolt shock down my body.

I have a biology science background and had worked in neuroanatomy research at a university, so I was familiar with scientific publications. I was reading everything I could find about spine issues, and I read the publications of spine surgeons I was interested in seeing for an opinion to see if they would be a good match, and I was turned down so many times, I would pick out the next surgeon just in case things didn't work out. After 5 refusals, I started looking at Mayo surgeons, and I read a paper from a surgeon that mentioned a term called funicular pain. When I looked that up, I found medical literature about "rare presentations" of symptoms of cervical spinal cord compression that were very similar to my case. One of the big clues was the spinal injection I had that took away all my pain; that was also true for these other cases. It is something can not be proved unless surgery is done that fixes the pain by decompressing the spinal cord. The case studies talked about leg pain being caused by spinal cord compression and that it could change the location of the relayed pain to unexpected areas of the body. If the patient had an asymptomatic spine issue, and the cord is also compressed in another area, it can cause this pain to be referred to another location. You have that in common with me with your lumbar/sacral issues. I wanted to bring this new information to the surgeon who had just turned me down and tried to enlist the help of the other doctors at that institution who had evaluated me, and none would help me. No one wanted to point out what was missed by a highly ranked surgeon. My only option was another opinion somewhere else, so I contacted the surgeon who's name was on the paper that lead to my discovery. His name is Jeremy Fogelson at Mayo Rochester, and I sent the new medial literature I found to him with my request for an appointment. If you can come to Mayo, you can save yourself a lot of time and frustration. Cervical spinal cord compression can cause incontinence which can become permanent if there is no decompression surgery. I was warned about this by the doctor who did my spinal injection. I think you are on knocking at that door with your symptoms.

My surgery at Mayo replaced my disc with a donor bone graft and was done without hardware. The surgery resolved ALL of my all over body pain. I knew this would happen even though the doctors could not promise this. There is no test to confirm funicular pain, except the cervical spine surgery that corrects it.
Here are some links and the medical studies I talked about. You will need to advocate for yourself and with doctors who understand this funicular pain. I highly recommend by neurosurgeon, and I know he will understand these issues. My knowledge of this comes from my experience, my biology background, from working with a great physical therapist, from reading literature, and from watching surgeons online presenting spine cases for neurosurgery conferences, and my own troubleshooting, and even my 3 dimensional understanding for the body because I am an artist and have studied anatomy. Let me know if I can be of further assistance. You will need to interview doctors in order to know if they understand funicular pain or see Dr. Fogelson who is one of Mayo's best. I can't diagnose this, but I do believe that your case and mine are very similar. Surgery gave me my life back. It was a big step, and I was on my way to becoming disabled without it. Your doctors are not thinking outside of the box and are afraid to risk their reputations on a possible poor surgical outcome so they can't help. You really don't want a surgeon working on you who doesn't understand the problem, so you'll need to keep on looking for a qualified opinion.

Jeremy Fogelosn
My story
Funicular Pain
Comprehensive list about spinal cord compression in a Merk manual

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Replies to "@lineage Wow! Your story is similar to my story. Thank you for writing about it in..."

Wow! Thank you for your reply.

For me the pain has all been localized to the pelvic areas and right foot/toes. The strangest part of all this is how new symptoms would show up over time. First the genital pain then a coulle weeks later added big toe pain then bladder, inguinal etc. It never showed up all at once.

Then when the pain was more advanced it would move around to different parts of my foot. At first Laying on my sides would somewhat alleviate the symptoms but then later laying on my side would do nothing but laying on my back would help. Then eventually laying on my back would cause my bladder and genital symptoms to elavate to a certain extent.

The fact that so much was intermittent and moving around made it difficult to pin down and I could see the confusion in every single doctor's faces as I explained all of this. Honestlu not one single neurosurgeon or neurologist touched my body to try to reproduce or investigate my symptoms. The most they did was a reflex test. The only persons who actually tried to touch me was tge urologist and pelvic specialist. No matter what they did in my pelvic region they could not reproduce any of the pain.

Most all of my doctor's appointments has been about ruling out what I do not have, cauda equina, ddd in lumbar, pudendal neuralgia etc. The neurologist came close with his neck idea but like you said, he had no idea what to do with the results and the neurosurgeons would not commit to the idea that cervical issues could cause these problems. All everyone kept saying is how strange, rare and mystifying all this is. In my field of work, aerospace technology, we never took any information for granted and we never stop until we find the answer…. with so many doctors I've learned that not knowing or caring to find out is acceptable to them… I used to see these folks as heroes who know everything… then all this occured. I know there are compassionate, knowledgeable good doctors out there but I cannkt seem to find them. I have wept so much throughout all this. Not getting help has caused me so much pain.

Sorry to unload on you… as you know, this has been an ordeal of enormous proportions with steel walls everywhere.

My pain management doctor is amazing and it was his idea to look into Mayo clinic. He was a bit shocked that the neurosurgeon at MUSC, the best learning and teaching hospital in SC, would not really help me. I even asked the neurosurgeon for a referral to a MUSC neurologist and his reply was that I would just be disappointed with anyone he sent me to. I was floored by his unwillingness to help me find an answer. As I researched Mayo I foubd these forums.

Mayo Atlanta is about a 4 hour drive from me so it's not too bad but I've now become conditioned to be let down by any medical professional. I still have hope but it's more a flicker of hope than a flame. All tge ER doctors were astounded the morphine did nothing. It got to the point I just refused morphine because the only thing it did was make it more difficult to urinate which is horrible when your bladder is screaming at you every 30 minutes. A lot of the medical professionals I have dealt with have preconceived notions and if you dont respond how they think you should they give up and pass you off.

Right now the symptoms are very mild but I am terrified it may come back again. I keep hoping it was somehow the injection that caused this and it will gradually resolve but I dunno… I may be putting my hope into something that may not be possible.

Again, thank you for your very detailed reply. I am so happy to hear you found your answer and you are better… I would not wish these symptoms on anyone. I am truly happy you found hope and strength to keep pushing.