Facing loss of ability at 35 without established life

Hello all,

I've posted already on the injection forum, but more than my neck-back-arm pain, my emotions are what's really getting me down.

Recently been diagnosed with moderate stenosis in the C6-C7 region, along with radiculopathy, which the neurosurgeon suspects is the cause of my reduced ability to use my arms.

I know it's me taking it personally, but this just feels like insult on top of punishment. My wife and I met at essentially a commune a few years ago, and we had our whole lives ready to go into 5th gear (have kids, raise them in said commune, pursue our commune's versions of "careers.") Then, crisis 1 struck: we discovered our commune was sort of like a cult with all sorts of hidden power manipulations going on. We ended up leaving and going to Germany (my wife is German) where we got married and then she got pregnant. Having a child has been my wife's dream for a long time, and one of my own as well. Our son died two weeks before he was due.

Fast-forward to now, we're back in the USA and making a go of it without my wife's friends/family and without the support network I'd built up at the commune over my 13-year involvement. Having no professional credentials in the outside world, I took a farmhand job at an organic farm in the area we moved to (southwest Wisconsin.) Oh, by the way, while teaching wilderness classes at the commune 10 years ago, I fell 100 feet out of a tree (and hit a lot of branches) which resulted in 2 thoracic compression fractures and one thoracic facet fracture. All of that healed albeit with the occasional spasm when I was too stressed or overdoing it.

So anyways, I started this farm job with a little bit of what seemed like carpal tunnel in my wrists. Then it advanced up to my forearms/extensors. Then it moved up into my biceps. I also started having back neck pains every so often. It was a lot of heavy lifting and leaning over bins. I saw a few of our wonderfully inept health care professionals and after spending 1-3 minutes with me they said, "Oh it's just tendinitis, just take it easy, stretch, and ice it - no problem." I finished the farm season and looked forward to healing, but things just got worse. I was laid up for two days just from a couple hours of raking. My upper back (shoulderblade) and neck also started acting up. Went in, got a neck MRI, and got my stenosis/radiculopathy diagnosis.

So far I've been putting off surgery because of the horror stories I've heard. My ESI shot a week ago seemed to provide relief at least for the shoulderblade pain, but now my neck pain has gotten twice as worse and the shoulderblade pain seems like it's coming back. I'm in between jobs, and have no idea what to do with myself. My wife makes good money now, but once we have kids we intend for her to be with the baby for a few years, and what the hell am I? A dead burden? I was already feeling like most people my age could do more than do entry-level jobs, and now I probably can't even handle 90% of entry level jobs because of the physicality of them. 

I feel really alone (also - my wife is visiting her family in Germany right now) and just want to disappear. I'm sure this sounds trite to the old hats on here, but it seems like my life is over. I feel like an old man at 35 -- and according to everyone, it's only going to get much worse from here.



  • You are an excellent writer so you have that. 

    I would keep pushing forward. I would want a pain management doctor, if you don’t already have one.

    Explain that since the ESI the neck pain is twice as bad. 

    You can never give up. I probably go to 50 appmts every year, whether it’s for imaging studies, injections, follow-up’s, etc.

  • I agree with L4L5, don't give up and seek out a good pain management doctor. You've been through SO much and  I too grow weary of chasing answers and want to give up but what does that even look like? There is so much information and encouragement on this website AND people who need your encouragement. I agree, you're an excellent writer, perhaps that can be an outlet for you. 

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  • Never give up, attitude means everything even though it can be the hardest thing you do you can never give up. If you read through these forums you will find a lot of very successful stories of people who had serious neck problems and made full recoveries. I had a c4-c7 fusion February 2018 I have very little if any mobility issues, my neck does not stop me from doing anything I want to do, so even if surgery is in your future never give up. This might sound rough but sometimes you just have to quit feeling sorry for yourself and get on with life, there are many treatments out there and you need to find the right one for you so keep looking. As I said read these forums and there are a lot of success stories. Good luck to you and I hope that you and your future family have a great life.  

  • Life isn't over.

    Bush those thoughts slowly and surely from your internal dialog.

    Catastrophising before knowing what is really going to happen(I do it..a lot) isnt solving the hurt inside. Went from being very physical to a sit down job because I was tearing myself to shreds trying to keep up with normal folk..I can and do still keep up with folks because I can.

    My hands have gone numb and hurt\burn\sparkle\ache- can't grip etc from cervical neuropathy,carpal tunnel,arthritis in turns.

    Explore possibilities...

    Your not done yet

    Your not over yet

    Life will jumpstart agian if you seek it and want it.

    Pain does get in the way but you find ways around it optimistically.

    The world still has endless possibilities..sometimes you create them using your uniqueness and skills.

    Nothings over till your six foot under. Create a bit of light from your life.

    Write,go photograph the world around you,advise youngsters,counsel

    Own your condition 

    Go out and fight to thrive

  • get up out there and conquer the situation. we  are a lot of "young" people here with some issues. it can be done.

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  • For every door that shuts, another will open.  Regarding your mood, keep in mind were in the middle of winter and that never helps anyone feel better who has body ailments.  The weather can make us hurt or feel better just by being cloudy or sunny.  I would suggest to start reading about careers you can do at your own pace and own home.  Technical writers make pretty good money and simply have good writing skills and can put to words processes for others to follow.  You have very good communication skills.  Use those to your advantage!

    You will have up's and down's.  But you have a wife who supports you and a long life ahead of you to make memories with her and your future family!  Keep your head up!

  • Thanks for all the encouragement everyone. My pain level in my neck/back has seemed to settle down a bit, though my arms are still very easily triggered by physical labor (I do a minimal work-trade on a hobby farm for my wife's and my cabin and even stuff like sweeping for an hour can really set off my arms/back.)

    Part of my frustration at this point is not even being sure my arm issues are radiculopathy-related. They started as carpal tunnel symptoms, then moved into my elbow (at which point I assumed tendinitis/golfers-tennis elbow) and then into my bicep. Wouldn't it normally start in the back/shoulder and move down to the hand?

    Before having my MRI and getting my stenosis/radiculopathy diagnosis, I saw a wrist/hand surgeon and he was useless. Had me hold out my arms and bend them under resistance etc. for like 2 minutes, then said, "yeah ice and rest" or whatever. And when I mentioned to my neuro/back/neck surgeon the possibility of concurrent carpal/tendinitis/tendinosis (it could've gotten really exacerbated by my almost full-time laborer job last year) he played it down and said he didn't like doing the EMG tests because the results "don't mean much to him" and that my condition "doesn't seem like" carpal/tendon-related. Should I just go on that or start spending a bunch of money getting second opinions? My insurance recently switched so I'll have to pay everyone before the $3k deductible is met (but we at least picked a plan with an out-of-pocket max the same as the deductible, thinking I might need surgery.)

  • Did you have x-rays or an MRI of your hand?

  • L4_L5: Neither. They just MRI'ed my brain and neck. What would xrays/MRI of hand show?
  • I know a woman who had a CT or MRI of her hand and that determined she needed surgery for carpal tunnel.

    Since her surgery her hand has felt a lot better.

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