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Panic attack or back pain?
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Panic attack or back pain?

A few years ago I suffered an episode of burning LEG PAINS which prompted me to visit my GP. Unfortunately my regular GP was away at the time and I was examined by a stand-in doctor who after a few minutes of feeling the pulse in my ankles diagnosed me (WRONGLY) with Arteriosclerosis - or hardening of the arteries!!

Quite how he came to this conclusion after a 10 minute appointment I will never know but I had no reason to question his diagnosis. He even prescribed me the drugs for my condition. I was in my mid 30s at the time and in generally good health but as the implications of this potentially life limiting condition began to sink in I descended into a state of extreme anxiety and began to experience all the symptoms of heart disease and heart attack. After all, that is what happens to people with "diseased arteries", isn't it?

Not long after I was walking down the street and felt something like a bolt of lightning hit me in my lower SPINE. There was no pain, just a sudden MOMENTARY PARALYSIS IN MY LEGS which almost caused me to collapse. My legs literally gave way beneath me as if they weren't there. Gradually the feeling came back to my legs and I was able to make it home. But as soon as I got there I started to experience some very worrying and discomforting symptoms. I can only describe them as waves of nauseating tingling energy rippling through my body. From my chest and spine to my head and infact all over. The feeling of paralysis in my legs came back and I was unable to walk with my back straight without my legs going numb. Even yawning made me lose feeling in my legs. Hands and feet tingling etc. The symptoms were so frightening and severe that I admitted myself to emergency. The doctors ran various checks and were unable to find anything wrong and so sent me back to see my GP.  

I was still suffering these horrendous symptoms when I visited the GP the next day. Seeing me in my condition my regular doctor told me that I was depressed and anxious. I tried to explain that I had been diagnosed with a disease of the arteries by his replacement but he was dismissive and told me to ignore what the previous doctor had said. From then on I was labeled with the DEPRESSED AND ANXIOUS LABEL and it became impossible to communicate with him. He duly prescribed me with Paxil (Seroxat in the UK) and sent me home. This was the first time I had ever taken anti-depressants. For the next 7 days I had unremitting attacks, night and day, eventually prompting me to seek a consultation with a private neurologist. The Neurologist gave me a once over and suggested that I was suffering panic attacks. In my heart of hearts I was not fully convinced but being in a vulnerable state I was willing to accept any diagnosis whatsoever. By this time my symptoms were starting to recede and this I put down to the Paxil taking effect. I'll forgo my experiences with this drug  I was just thankful that there was no recurrance of my symptoms and I was able to lead a normal life for the next few years.  At some stage I swapped Paxil over to Cipralex and cut down my dosage until I was taking just over 10 mg per week without any adverse effects.

Eventually about 5 months ago I stopped taking the Cipralex and after a few weeks of the usual withdrawal symptoms (mostly head shocks and dizziness) I finally kicked it. Although I did still have a little residual dizziness (heaviness in the head) especially when I woke up in the mornings. Psychologically I was feeling quite fine and optimistic. Not depressed at all.

However, a couple of months ago I started to have flu-like symptoms- scratchy throat, feeling hot and feverish (without actually having a fever). The symptoms would come and go with increased severity over the next 4 weeks so I decided to visit my GP (a different one). He saw that my throat was red and swollen and diagnosed a recurrent viral infection suggesting that my immune system was low which is why I was having trouble fighting it off. Unfortunately, my symptoms got worse and I started to develop new symptoms, such as sudden waves of nausea accompanied by sweating. Eventually I started to recognize these waves of tingling nausea as the same symptoms as I had suffered at the beginning of this story. Those described as "panic attacks". Except this time they were much worse. I was in and out of the GPs office several times trying to explain my condition but unfortunately the "depressed and anxious" label from my medical records made it difficult to put my symptoms over. I have restarted taking the Cipralex and for a while it felt like I was improving but the attacks would just come back and there is now not a minute in a day that I am free for symptoms. The sensations I'm having are so horrible that I have wondered whether dying would not be preferable to this amount of suffering. The symptoms seem to have gone to my head now and I feel surges of energy, as if going over the top of a roller coaster, or else sudden brain "spasms" which are quite distressing. The rest of the symptoms could possibly be described as those suffered by panic disorder sufferers. But I don't have feelings of dread or hear palpitations. They symptoms are entirely physical. Numbness in legs and hands. Pins and needles. Chest burning. Stomach feeling hot. Perceived muscle weakness. Areas of skin that burn like they've been scolded but above all the nausea like feelings that run up and down my body and incapacitate me completely. I'm really at my wits end with this.

I will be asking to see a private neuro as it takes too long to wait for an appointment on the NHS and I will probably be blowing thousands of pounds on MRIs and other scans.

Thinking out of the box for a minute, I have started to think that my symptoms are related to the earlier episode with my Back and sudden leg paralysis of a few years ago and that perhaps what I experienced then and am experiencing now is a manifestation of a slipped disc or pinched nerve or similar. Could such a thing be possible? Could all of this be due to a disc pressing on the spine or else a pinched nerve in the neck. I'm open to all ideas. Just sharing this with you helps.
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Avatar_f_tn
Dear Fred,
I think I can answer this one, because I have both of your problems.  I sometimes say too much in my posts, but I would rather do that than leave someone hanging.

Two things are probably going on.  One is the most obvious, that you've got a pinched nerve in the low back that leads into the legs.  The other less obvious problem may be diabetes.

If the nerves in your low back are goofed up, then sometimes you'll get that burning pain you had in your legs.  Some call it sciatica.  So, going to a new neurologist is an excellent idea, he knows all about compromised nerves.  Also, if your low back and leg nerves are irritated, it can cause the temporary paralysis you had, too.  I have low back problems, and one time I was at the top of the stairs, and when I put weight on the first step, my whole leg gave way.  Really scared me, I take lots of care on stairs now.  In addition, when you have painful nerves, one of the "complications" you'll get is anxiety!  It is absolutely amazing how much pain can affect a person's attitude.  

The neuro can order a CAT scan and he can see what's going on with your low back.  Sometimes an ordinary exam will reveal some clues, but nothing like a picture.  He can also recommend all sorts of things to help your situation, depending on what's going on, and that would include a physical program to relieve pressure on your low back.  Sometimes people who have to sit for long periods of time will develop sciatica-type problems, so increasing motion in your spare time, gentle and rhythmic, can help.  Surgery is sometimes an option, depending on how bad things are.

Now, diabetes, the other possibility, it can also cause burning leg pain.  This diagnosis can be arrived at by simply drawing blood to check your sugar levels.  So, of course have that done soon, by any ordinary doctor, as this MUST be taken care of, if that is your problem.  

As for medicine, as soon as you find out what is going on from the neuro, your anxiety will begin to subside.  Anxiety is common in people with nerve damage, this is a documented reality, but it is only a "side-effect" sort of thing, and NOT the direct cause of your condition!  It's all fine and good to calm a person down, but the pain caused by a compromised nerve is the issue here.  There is a medication called Lyrica in the U.S. that dulls nerve pain.  I have to take it because I was in a car wreck, fractured my back big-time, the deformity over the years has goofed up my lower back, and no matter how many exercises or whatever I do, nothing is going to make it better.  That medication, by taking away the nerve pain, eases my anxiety and made me feel worlds better.  But I am still very careful when I move around in general.  

So, there is hope for you, you are perfectly normal to be anxious about all this.  And not only that, but you have been "victimized" by the health care system, since doctors are rushed and overworked, and then they dismissed you.  This victim position is a hard one to deal with, but as long as you move foward, for example by arranging to see another neurologist, then in time you can overcome it.  People in the U.S. constantly go to several doctors until they hit the right one.  Also, since you've got it in your chart that you have anxiety, then do your best next time to be calm, so the doc will listen to you.  I know, I've been there.  

While you are waiting to see your neuro, this is a trick I do to relieve pain in my back.  I lay flat on the floor, put my legs up in a chair, which takes all the pressure and weight off the back.  Just let your arms fall out to the side, breathe deeply, and just let it all go.  This is good for the back and anxiety.  But get up mighty careful, so as not to strain your back.  Also, start taking some short, easy walks in a flat area, hold in your tummy muscles, and that will help your back and help you relax.  Just don't walk if it causes pain.

Good luck.  This is a busy forum, and so your message may fall back a few pages each day, but I'll be thinking of you, and just know that others have been where you are, and they come out okay.  Plus, once you do find an excellent specialist, they will be able to take care of other symptoms that may come from the original ones, in case they become problematic, like the ones you mentioned about your nerve issues perhaps traveling upward in your spine, or even originating somewhere else other than your low back.
GG    
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Avatar_m_tn
Many thanks for taking the time to reply. I don't think you've said "too much" at all. It's all very relevant information and helps me build a picture from a different perspective. At the end of the day, it's me who's living in this body and not the doctor so it's very helpful to get feedback from people with similar experiences with THEIR bodies.

Interesting that you mention diabetes. I hadn't even considered it until I was sent for a blood test a couple of weeks ago. To my utter shock and disbelief the results showed that I was diabetic!  But Hold On! "Did you fast before you before your blood test?" asked the doctor. Uhm..oops. Guess noone told me to fast and with all the anxiety about my ill health I kind of forgot.  So drinking a high Glucose energy drink just before being tested for Glucose DOES give false results! Who Knew? :) A "Doh!" moment if ever there was one! Anyway, I had an extra week of added but unnecessary anxiety waiting for a second set of blood tests which nullified the diabetes diagnosis and confirmed that my pancreas was working ok. The euphoria of being in the clear was nice for a couple of days and lifted my spirits but it didn't make the original complaint go away.

I will in the fullness of time ask to be referred to a neuro. However this time I will try a different approach and concentrate on the initial "paralysis" episode with my back which seemed to precipitate these episodes. I'm sure that if anyone went to the doctor complaining that they'd suddenly lost feeling in their legs as I had the natural course of investigation would lead them to suspect a back problem. Unfortunately with all the "noise" in my medical history about anxiety and depression it's difficult to get health professionals to focus on physiology rather than psychology.

I should mention that I DON'T suffer from persistent back pain per-se although I do have a dodgy back at times but I've heard that you can have a "slipped disc" (sorry, I forget the current terminology for it) without feeling pain. My own GP seems to think that a problem in the lower back would not manifest symptoms in this way. Or contrary to your suggestion, "nerve issues travelling UPWARD" in the spine could not happen. Or so my GP seems to be saying. I'm not so sure myself. We'll see!

Thanks once again for your useful input.
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Avatar_f_tn
Hmmmm...just a couple other items, then.  Those symptoms a few years ago of nausea and your legs giving out, it is possible you were about to pass out.  That can come from several things, including circulation problems, not enough oxygen pumping through the body.  The tingling and anxiety can be heart-related too.  Next time you have unusual feelings wash over you, check your pulse.  If it's over 100, that's too fast, so deep breathing helps.  Extra weight or sitting too long can put pressure on circulation, too.  A simple EKG and a blood pressure reading can be done.    

By the way, the Cipralex, an SSRI cousin of the Paxil you once took, can sometimes cause those "brain zaps," which feels like a surge of electricity to the head.    

I hope someone else in this forum can talk about that burning sensation you have in your body, though.  That's all!  Best Regards.
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Avatar_m_tn
Hi, remember this thread from 2007? Thought you might be interested in an update.

After 6 months of doctors telling me I have depression and anxiety I decided to pay for my own MRI scan. Turned out I have a brain tumor. Diagnosed over a year ago.

It's funny I only returned to these boards a few weeks ago to ask a question about a stomach problem and found this thread which I'd totally forgotten about.

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