I’ve just recently gotten back from my appointment with Joleen (I did a one-on-one not class today). For a few weeks now, I’ve been struggling with nerve pain in my arm. Joleen and I have been working on trying to stretch my median and ulnar nerves, in both arms actually, because they are too tight (which is causing the pain and numbness). The pain, however, is excruciating. We try very hard not to push too hard, but we do have to stretch and massage the nerves. My fibro, I think, makes this a lot harder. I always have to suffer after these appointments. However, I am making minuscule improvements.
This is the first nerve we noticed was having problems. During Pilates mat class, I was in the prep position for planks (on hands and knees) and my right middle finger started to ache and tingle pretty badly. I only got it to stop by coming off my hands and bending my wrist as if I was stretching the back out (bringing my palm towards my wrist). When I mentioned it to Joleen after class, she said it sounded like I might have some median nerve tension so to gently stretch it by putting into full extension a little more often. This hasn’t been helping. It actually seems to have gotten a lot tighter, because it’s range of motion in my right arm is severely limited (range in the left is limited too, but not as bad as the right). I got a new stretch today though, so hopefully that can start helping.
Then I started having problems with my ulnar nerve, though it took a little bit to work out that is what it was. My right arm started to hurt, I think it was mostly over Thanksgiving? Somewhere in there. My elbow was killing me! I couldn’t get the full range of motion in my arm (specifically my elbow) without intense pain… well, I couldn’t get it at all because of the intense pain. The first thing Joleen noticed was that I had crazy muscle knots in my forearm. Now, I’m thinking that the knots happened because of the nerve stuff, not the other way around. After working out the knots, it was better for a day or two (just felt kind of bruised), but then it got worse again. However, I could better pinpoint the epicenter of the pain (thanks to it now being almost constant and a lot more severe). I still had the muscle knots, but it was finally obvious it was the ulnar nerve. The pain I get is right in my elbow (in the picture above it is where the “medial epicondyle” is labeled). Hopefully the new stretches will work for this one too (they’re supposed to).
Now, if you haven’t ever experienced nerve pain, consider yourself lucky. In my opinion, it is the absolute worst. Now, I have never broken a bone, so I can’t compare it to that. From my description of nerve pain, Dan said it’s very similar to breaking a bone (he broke his rib when he was a kid). The pain is a sharp, stabbing, fire-y, shooting sensation: it radiates from the source along the entire nerve fiber (the intensity determines how much shooting there is), and it’s a very acute pain. You know EXACTLY where the nerve fiber is when it’s in pain – you could trace it with a marker if you had to. If it’s not currently shooting (meaning you’ve been able to somewhat relieve the source of the pain, either taking some pressure off a pinch or similar), it aches. However, nerve aches are different than muscle aches. Nerves ache deeply. It’s kind of like having a super deep bruise that you are pushing on. I despise nerve pain, probably because it’s the only one I can’t ever push myself through.
Nerve pain also comes with other uncomfortable symptoms. When you are having nerve issues, your brain receives all sorts of bizarre signals: random numbness and “pins and needles” (the feeling you get after your foot starts to wake up again after you managed to put it to sleep), tingling, random feelings of compression, random joint pain, a bruised sensation, feeling as though you’ve got several papercuts in one area, reduced sense of touch in affected areas, sometimes heightened sense of touch in some areas, shaking, etc. My hands have had reduced sense of touch for weeks now, and my right hand has been extremely shaky compared to normal. I have also been getting pain in my fingers for no reason, and my hands keep going numb and tingly doing everyday things. I really hate nerve problems.
How does my fibro play into this? Well, fibromyalgia is centralization of the nervous system… essentially, all of my nerves are turned on all the time, meaning my brain is always being overloaded by signals. My nervous system is always on red alert and so I feel pain more intensely than I should, and I get pain from things that shouldn’t cause pain. I also am overly sensitive to touch, meaning my clothing and stuff can cause me pain (thankfully, that doesn’t happen as much anymore, only during bad flares). So what does this do to my arm? Well, IT BLOODY HURTS!!!!!!!!!! I’m not even kidding. I cannot do anything with my right arm without a lot of pain. I really do mean anything, just extending and bending my arm can be excruciating. And after the massages and stretches, my nerves send way too many signals, causing a lot of random nerve pain throughout my body (especially in the areas that have been worked).
I’m really hoping that these stretches and the massages will help. I can’t stand this pain. I’m right handed, meaning I NEED that arm to work. I was never expecting my arm to do this, all of my Chronic-safe hobbies involve my arm. Well, everything I can think of needs my arm. Ugh.
Do you guys have any tricks I can research? This pain is seriously debilitating, and I’m nearing another breaking point.
I got these images from a PowerPoint presentation on AccessPhysiotherapy. It’s a really good PowerPoint, so check it out.