A little over 2 weeks ago I sneezed, and when I did, a strong electric shock went down both arms. At first only the muscles in my forearm hurt, but by the next day I started experiencing numbness in the legs and hands and now my tongue and gums are numb The numbness in my legs is from the lower waist down. One knee keeps buckling and I'm having some difficulty walking and hands feel very clumsy. I do have degenerative disc disease w/spinal stenosis, with some bulging and herniated disc, but not experiencing any pain with this. I went to the emergency room and they did a mri of the lumbar spine and thinks this is coming from the stenosis, however I don't think this is all coming from it. Also, prior to this I was having some spasticity in the right hamstring when getting up from a sitting position or at night when in bed. Does this sound more like a neurological problem or a disc problem? I'm without insurance and can't get in to a clinic for 6 more weeks and I'm worried since I live alone. I'm a 54 year old female. .
Thanks for using the forum. I am happy to address your questions, and my answer will be based on the information you provided here. Please make sure you recognize that this forum is for educational purposes only, and it does not substitute for a formal office visit with your doctor.
Without the ability to obtain a history from you and examine you, I cannot comment on a formal diagnosis or treatment plan for your symptoms. However, I will try to provide you with some information regarding this matter.
Your symptoms and history may be suggestive of a disc herniation. There is a material that cushions the space occurring between the vertebra (bones of the spine). This material may sort of be squished out from in between the two bones; this is called a herniated disc. The disc may push on surrounding structures, namely the spinal cord and/or the nerves exiting from the spinal cord. Most often, it is the nerves that are pressed on, and not the spinal cord itself. This pain may shoot into your arm or leg when you cough, sneeze or move your spine into certain positions.
In most people, the pain of a herniated disk resolves over 4-6 weeks. The most severe pain actually eases up within 1-2 weeks. Only a minority of people every require surgery. With time, the amount of disk that has herniated shrinks and with time resolves completely in most people. Therefore, for the majority of people, non-surgical treatment is the first option. This treatment may include medications (non-steroidals such as advil), sometimes steroids if there is swelling (edema), temperature therapy (hot or cold packs), stretching and controlled physical therapy, muslce relaxants, and so on, these are best prescribed by an experienced physician, each has its own indications.
In a minority of patients, surgery needs to be done urgently. This often is the case when the herniated disc is pressing on the spinal cord itself. Surgery is emergent so that permanent spinal cord injury does not occur. Another indication for urgent surgery is if there evidence that a nerve is being compressed on to the point that its function is impaired. Symptoms suggesting the need for urgent surgery includes muscle weakness, loss of bowel or bladder control, loss of sensation, particularly in the pelvis and severe and progressive pain.
You may need an MRI of your cervical spine to assess for hernation higher up rather than in your lumbar spine.
Another means of assessing whether or not the nerve being pressed on by your herniated disc is impaired is a test called an EMG/NCS which assesses how fast the nerve conducts electricity and how the muscle responds. This type of test is done by neurologists in most centers.
In some patients, after conservative non-surgical therapy is tried for 4-6 weeks and the pain is still severe or if other symptoms/indications arise, surgery is the next step.
It would be best for you to discuss surgical and non-surgical options with your physician.
Thank you for using the forum, I hope you find this information useful, good luck.
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