Possible C6 issues, how should I proceed?

I will try to keep this as brief as possible, but, I tend to get too wordy, so I'm sorry in advance. 

I'm a  34 year old female. I've had back pain off and on since around 2003. I've never sought medical attention for it as for much of that time I had poor insurance coverage or no coverage. I worked starting in April 2001 as a stocker in a retail setting stocking pet food (think around 15 pallets a night of 20-40lb bags of cat litter, dog food and cat food and then several more pallets of smaller stuff). My workplace did not use a powered pallet jack, so I spent several hours of every shift pulling pallets to and from the sales floor including pallets of water and the occasional double stacked pallet.. Most of the pallets I pulled varied in weight from around 1200 lbs to a bit over 2000 lbs. After I left that job around 2007, I went to work in a warehouse as a stocker, this time with the repetitive motion of spinning a box, cutting the top off and then loading it into racking. Minimum allowed rate was 200 cases per hour. I did that for another year or so. Left that job when I moved and did another few months as a stocker, again, stocking pet food in a retail environment. Was laid off from that in December 2008. Finally found work again in around June 2011 in a home call center, but, that was a temp position. In October 2011 started working as a stocker again, this time in a home improvement store. Stocked cans and buckets of paint, washing machines, tool benches and so on. Again, pulled pallets to and from the sales floor. 

Knew I couldn't do that kind of work much longer, I started working on an AA degree in 2009, finally got an AA degree and managed to get a job as a library clerk. Still have to shelve books, but, intensity is a lot lower, carts of books are lighter than pallets, so definitely an improvement. I've enjoyed a couple years now of very minimal back pain. Around two weeks ago I sneezed and immediately had a sharp stabbing pain in my neck/upper back. I couldn't turn my neck from side to side for a couple days, but, then it improved and I didn't worry about it. Just figured it was some weird fluke thing. Didn't seek medical attention because I could manage the pain by just not turning my head for a couple days. 

So, this past Wednesday I was awakened by stabbing pain in my upper back/neck. The pain radiates down my shoulder and left arm. I have some numbness and tingling in my fingers on that side. Laying down is very painful. Sitting isn't much better. The most comfortable I can get is standing. I've slept maybe a combined 2 hours since Wednesday morning at 6 AM or so, it's currently Saturday at 5 PM. Wednesday, I made it to work for about an hour and then couldn't continue as I could stay seated more than a few minutes. My coworkers suggested a chiropractor and he was able to see me on Wednesday and did an X ray of my neck. On Thursday he reviewed the results with me and attempted an adjustment. I couldn't quite manage to keep it together through a whole adjustment, it was just way too painful. Unfortunately, he realized that my symptoms fit better with a C6 issue but his Xray only went to C5. Thursday night the pain was unbearable and I ended up driving to the local ER. Mostly, I was concerned that something could be seriously wrong as I was having chest pain too and this pain is like nothing I've had before. Anyways, for whatever reason, the ER staff acted like I was some drug addict seeking narcotics and did nothing but a pregnancy test and sent me on my way. They did no Xray, no MRI, no ECG, nothing but a pregnancy test. Friday I was finally able to see my doctor. She also didn't order any testing, but, did give me a couple injections of lidocaine near my spine. That has taken it from extreme agony to miserable, but, not nauseous from the pain when standing. She told me to take Ibuprofen and gave me a prescription for 10 days of Tizanidine. I still cannot sit for more than 5 minutes and now I can lie down for around 10 minutes. Once during the night I was able to lie down for almost 30 minutes, but, that was only one segment. 

Anyways, I need a bit of guidance for how to get better care while I deal with this. I'm just a naturally stoic person which means I get really crappy medical care. I shattered my ring finger at work when I was 18, taped the mop to my hand so I could finish my shift and then drove myself to the hospital after work, I was told to go to regular doctor on Monday and that it was probably a sprain, that was a Thursday. So, waited til Monday and the doctor I saw flipped out about it and said I would probably need an amputation and why did I wait so long. (Healed, but, with joint partially fused) When I was 23, I tripped while jogging and broke both my radius and ulna in my left arm, it wasn't a hairline, it was a complete break in both. Ulna was in three pieces. I drove myself to the hospital in a stick shift car with manual steering. When I arrived, the triage nurse told me I would be crying if I broke my arm and told me I was wasting time needed for serious cases. They made me wait over 6 hours before seeing me, they only finally saw me when my Dad showed up after work to demand that they see me. They told him that I needed to wait and see my regular doctor on Monday because they were too busy to deal with strains and sprains. My dad pointed out that my arm was flopping loose between my elbow and wrist and that perhaps I shouldn't have a second elbow. They finally actually looked at my arm and then I finally got rushed back, but then my arm was huge and purple. In 2010, I was pregnant with my daughter and started having some concerning symptoms, the doctor I was seeing told me I was worrying about nothing and sent me home. I called a whole bunch of OB/GYN's as soon as I got home and got one to see me the next day, I had preeclampsia at 26 weeks. That doctor was very good and got me into a cardiologist and really went the extra mile. We did every trick she could think of and managed to hold off to week 34 when I had an emergency C-section. 

So, there's my medical history. Basically, I get really crappy care as the general rule. 

I know this thing has been coming on for awhile. A few years ago, I started getting a sharp pain in that area whenever I sneezed. The pain would last a few minutes and go away. But, it was a awfully sharp pain and was suspicious that it was coming from the general region where I used to feel discomfort at the end of my stocking shift. 

I do have insurance, but, I have a heck of a time getting any imaging. I had an ovarian cyst during my pregnancy in 2010 and have had no luck getting that thing re-imaged since. It's been 7 years and I can swear I feel the darn thing. When I look down at my abdomen, one side is larger than the other. Anyhow, my doctor just finally decided to order and ultrasound for that while I was in for the back/neck thing. 

Anyways, this neck/back thing is way too painful to tolerate for years. I'm willing to skip dealing with my insurance and just hunt down an imaging place that will do tests without a prescription. What imaging should I try to get? I found a place an hour away that will do CT without a prescription and I found another place that will do an MRI without a prescription. 

Any other advice would be great. 




  • LizLiz Posts: 2,265
    edited 07/23/2019 - 1:08 PM

    hello jenniferinfl 
    there are no medical professionals on this forum side of the site. therefore, no one is capable or permitted to provide any type of medical advice.
    please click on the link for useful information Welcome to Veritas Health Forum

  • I don't really want medical advice. I probably worded that poorly. What I want to know is what kind of imaging others have had for their C6 issues? Unfortunately, I'm going to probably have to seek out imaging on my own if I want it done this decade. I don't want medical advice so much as I want to know what I need to tell my doctor to get them to do the testing they should be doing. Do you know what I mean? When I had a broken arm, it took my Dad coming in and telling someone to at least look at it to get treatment. If I'm going to get medical care, I'm going to have to go out and get my own imaging and bring it with me. I know that no one here can read an MRI for me, but, I would love to know if I should probably look for an MRI or a CT scan to get results a doctor might look at?

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  • Hi jennifer

    I think you have been getting a bad deal all along. Its time you get yourself to a doctor and just tell him exactly what your problem is from the symptoms you are describing you need to have a serious chat with your Gp and get him to refer you to a specialist in the spinal area. Don't waste too much time on any other medical issues you might have. Just focus on the worst symptoms you are having when you walk into his office. You sound like somebody that when you start talking first list a whole lot of issues then the doctor might think you are not really in pain and he starts to dose off and not take you serious. JUst like the spine symptoms and let him do the talking. All the best.

  • jimandjrjimandjr Dallas TXPosts: 688
    If you can, try to get to a spine specialist and do everything by the book. I remember my first cervical mri was $7k without insurance. Not sure you are ready to fork that over or not. Going through a spine specialist may be cheaper for you. Also, they are the specialists and can help you the best. GLTU
  • My bet is insurance won't approve an MRI any time soon, you have to have PT and other injections first.  It's a good sign that her simple injection helped a little bit.  Many of these can improve with time, but they can get worse later.

    FYI- I would highly recommend not getting adjusted by a chiropractor.  Mine sent me from having a radiculopathy (peripheral nerve root compression) to a myelopathy (spinal cord compression) by causing the disc to blow.  His adjustment gave me my first L'Hermitte's sign, and it went downhill from there.

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  • @jimandjr , I didn't realize MRI's were that much. We have a bunch of those MRI places around here where you pay $600 for a whole body scan. But, I wonder if that isn't the same thing? I was willing to do that to kill a few birds with one stone. I've had a digestive issue off and on for a couple years that my gp has been trying to narrow down and she still hasn't been able to order an MRI for that; just a couple ultrasounds so far. 

    @sanbo , I do stay really on target at the Doctor's office. I just mention that I did warehouse work when I'm seeing someone about the back pain, I don't bother with the rest of it. Too many details and they get confused. I just shared a lot of detail initially here to save people from having to ask too many questions. 

    @TWynnB I am really tempted to not go back to the chiropractor. My doctor suggested I continue with him, so I've continued so far. But, he pretty much erased any relief I'd gotten from the lidocaine shot. If anything the numbness in my index finger is even more pronounced. I have one more session with him this week and then his office is closed for an entire week. If I feel a lot better during that week off, I think I won't go back. I'm going to ask my GP about using that MRI place and see if that's something that would work. I don't see her again until the middle of July, but, she said I could call and get higher dosages on the muscle relaxer if I needed it. 

    I did actually get a couple hours of sleep last night, a big cheer for lidocaine injections. I need to ask how often they can be done. I just don't want to pester her too much while I'm in there. I did remind her that my fingertips were still numb, she suggested that maybe I had slept wrong. Of course, that was only a couple sentences after I let her know that I hadn't been able to sleep at all. LOL Oh well, it looks like this is going to be a really long and tedious process. It sounds like the only way you end up with an MRI around here is if you lose control of bladder or bowel. At least, that's what the handouts I've gotten at both the hospital and the doctor's office indicate, to come back in if either of those things happen. 

  • @Jenniferinfl what were the results of your xray? I would ask your Chiropractor for a copy. That would be a good first start. I'm not sure why the xray only goes to C5 because a cervical xray normally shows all the levels down to C7. A lot of times trigger point injections can help. This can be done right in the doctors office. Yes MRIs are really expensive, but your doctor needs to order this. They usually start with an xray, and depending on the results from this, they will order further imaging if needed. I would go to your PCP with your first xray results, and let him/her decide how to proceed. Good luck! 

  • jimandjrjimandjr Dallas TXPosts: 688

    I have had 3 major spinal surgeries. Before each, I could not get out of bed so PT was out of the question. My docs did steroid pills, then steroid injections and then surgery. You really want a spine specialist instructing the mri tech what to picture. Also, they may want contrast and no contrast so they can see more. That has been the case for me anyway. Is there a reason the GP is not sending you to a specialist? I had serious lumbar pain in 2001 and could not get of bed. Went to a doc in the box. Xray showed nothing and he sent me to get a lumbar mri right away. Mri showed herniated disc and he handed me 10 business cards for ortho surgeons. This was the beginning of my never ending spiney journey. I can't count the number of mris since then or the spinal procedures. 

  • @Jillybean079

    I think my chiropractor goofed the Xray. He got them back out for me and all you can see is the very top of C6 and the rest is just blownout/white. He told me he would have to take them again to see C6 and C7 but that he was pretty sure they were fine. I'm not sure how he can say they're fine from a blank xray, but, yeah. My regular doctor says we have to wait a few more weeks before she can order imaging since most back pain resolves on it's own. So, that's the answer so far. She did do trigger point injections and those did help. The pain just radiates so far that she had maxed out what she could give me in injections and my arm is still feeling the pain. Still numb in the index finger and end of the middle finger.

    @jimandjr GP basically said that I'm too young to have serious degenerative stuff going on. They do imaging if you've been in an accident or if you are over 40. But, for under 40 you have to have at least several weeks without it resolving to get imaging. After she finally does imaging, I guess I'll get referred to a specialist depending on what it shows.

  • I'm still in pretty much exactly the same amount of pain, but now the numbness has moved a bit further up and is more pronounced, so, finally getting an MRI on Friday. At that point it will be more than 3 weeks since I've gotten more than a couple hours of sleep a night. I wear a fitbit which tracks sleep, so, I am really only getting around 2 hours of sleep per night for sure. Not an exaggeration. 

    Really hoping the MRI shows something conclusive. Still waiting for approval from my insurance, my doctor said they would probably deny and that I had to be in pain for more than 6 weeks to get an MRI. So, we'll see. 

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