Numbness in different fingers on both hands

by Julie
(California )

Numbness in different fingers on both hands suggests degenerative change at two different levels.

Hello Doctor.

My name is Julie and I had a question about some numbness I've been experiencing. I'm moderately concerned that it might be related to my c-spine.

Before I start with that, here is a little background. I've been diagnosed with degenerative disc disease due to multiple herniations in my lumbar spine that had occurred at separate events. L4-L5 herniated in 2002 but spontaneously resolved and L5-S1 herniated in 2005 leading to a collapsed disc that had to be fused with an ALIF. That fusion fractured and was re-fused with a PLIF in 2014.

Now for the now symptoms. In my right hand I lose sensation in my 4th and 5th digits. The numbness extends up the forearm along the side of those fingers before migrating into the inside of my elbow at the bend. It goes away after that. In my left hand, the thumb and index finger lose sensation and it goes up into my wrist, ending a few inches above the joint. Sleeping often aggravates the numbness as does laying on my stomach propped up by my elbows as I play with my phone.

As far as actual pain, I don't really have any with the exception of in my shoulder muscles near my neck that extends up the sides of my neck along the back are incredibly stiff and multiple knots have been found in massage. Rubbing them provides temporary relief, but the spasms always returns within less than an hour. My c-spine is often stiff and when I move it, putting my ear to each shoulder you can hear it "cracking". Sometimes this relieves the the numbness, but not always.

There has been no trauma to my neck. The herniations in my spine occurred when I was a floor nurse but since the first fusion I now have a desk job where I sit with my neck tilted up watching multiple monitors for 12 hour shifts. I've adjusted my workspace to the full limits of the limited ergonomic capabilities I have available.

Does this sound like something a chiropractor could help with or is this something that I need to fight with getting a referral to an orthopedic doctor? Obviously I worry that this might be the DDD I spoke of, but the idea of starting down that path again is unpleasant at best.

Thank you for your time.

Hello Julie,
I'm afraid I think it likely that you have the same DDD in your neck; either forgotten trauma, but if you have it in the lower back too, then I wonder about your diet.

Interesting research from Harvard on the value of a bouillon made from chicken bones, harvesting the cartilage for your own joints; use it to make a soup. Find the link from the Site Search in the nav bar.

The pattern of numbness fits classically with the C6 and C8 dermatomes; you probably have degenerative change in the joints of Luschka in the lower cervical spine.

We treat the problem daily but I won't pretend it's easy; every case is a challenge, particularly when you have it at two levels.

The thing to look out for is Spurling's sign; turn your head to the side, and look up; does it go down the arm immediately?

Start by getting some x-rays, including obliques.

I wouldn't lie on your tum; it will aggravate your lower back too; are you doing daily back exercises? If not, the next lower back op is on the way. Find them in the navigation bar at Chiropractic Help.

I hope this contributes.

Dr B

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Interesting challenges of the day

1. Mr S is a 76 year old man with neck pain of some 9 months duration. Luckily, most of the discomfort is upper cervical which is only rarely arthritic; his lower cervical spine is a degenerative mess that I have left alone. After seven treatments his pain and stiffness is 50 percent better, and he is happy in the circumstances. He can sleep through the night now and that makes a huge difference.

2. Mr P is 32 year old man with very severe lower back pain radiating to the big toe which is 30 percent numb. He had an episode three weeks ago, took anti-inflammatories and was soon better as is typical of the medial disc herniation. But before it healed, after a trivia it came roaring back, much worse. The characteristic crossed sign was evident; sitting in a chair, straightening the right leg provoked severe left back pain and tingling in the leg. He is doing well.

3. Severe lower back pain is scary; just ask Mrs P. Just watching her get out of the car I she was in trouble; she had a slipped disc at L4 making her lean towards the opposite side; luckily she had no pain in the leg. Despite family pressure that this was far too severe for a chiropractor, she persevered. Within five days she was standing upright, and after two weeks almost pain-free. 

Despite a hectic job, she wisely took my advice and stayed home for what I call exercising bed rest.

4. Mr S has had lower back, groin and back of thigh and calf pain for fourth months.

He has a pincer deformity in the hip causing the stabs in the groin, and a degenerative facet causing the sciatica. Both are responding well to chiropractic and he is well pleased; sixty-five percent better after three treatments.

5. Mr T is a wise man; he has taken a warning TIA seriously and has lost 15 pounds, and has at least as much again to lose. A change to a low starch diet and half hour daily stroll has made the difference; but the walking is making his foot and back miserable. The expensive orthotic is hopeless; luckily his hips and back are fine, but he needs a simple heel lift; he has a short leg.

6. I too have had serious lower back issues, luckily fixed by my own chiropractor; so I too have to do my exercises, take care when lifting supers full of honey, gardening and using the chainsaw. Regaining the function of your spine is just as important as the pain.

7. My own granddaughter, only 7 is hypermobile giving her pelvic, knee and ankle issues. X-rays show a mildly dysplastic hip. Years ago we would have called it growing pains. She too regularly needs chiropractic care and luckily responds well. Increased range of motion is more difficult than too stiff in my opinion. Our care is for kids too.

8. This 65-year old lady is a serious gardener; every day she is bending, lifting and digging for 2 to 3 hours a day. It regularly catches her in the sacroiliac joint, so she has a treatment once a month that sorts it out. She does her lower back exercises faithfully.

9. This 88-year old lady is an inspiration; every day she is busy in the community. With a nasty scoliosis she manages very well with a chiropractic adjustment every six weeks and exercises faithfully done. 

10. Mr X is a 71-year old retired man who wants to continue with maintenance care every six to eight weeks; he had suffered from two years of lower back pain when he first came a few months ago. He has no discomfort now after 8 chiropractic treatments, but is aware that danger lurks.

11. Mrs C has been having severe headaches, and taking a lot of analgesics. It is a non-complicated upper cervical facet syndrome, and she is doing well.

12. Mr D is a 38-year old year man with chronic shoulder pain after a rotator cuff tear playing cricket. It responded well to treatment, but he knows he must do his exercises every day; for two years he could not sleep on that shoulder.

13. Mr D, a 71-year old man, has a severe ache in the shoulder and midback since working above his head. Trapped nerve tests are negative but he has advanced degenerative joints of Luschka; after just two treatments he is 50 percent better. Can we reach 90?

And so the day goes; chiropractors should not be treating the elderly most medical sites state but that is so much bunkum.

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Greetings, Dr B.

You helped me quite some time back with a soothing and professional response which turned out to be exactly correct. I now consult a local chiropractor. You write a superb newsletter, too.

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Knowing that up to 70 percent of the time the correct diagnosis is made with no examination, no special tests, no xrays, but just from the history, there is a fair chance I can add some insight to your unresolved problem. But at least 30% of the time, I may be quite wrong. Give plenty of detail if you want a sensible reply.

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