Earlier today I underwent a medical procedure to relieve the near constant
(and on most days excruciating) neck, headache, shoulder and on-going
tightness and spasms in my upper back.
As you know my injury was due to a rear end collision just a few blocks away from home.
Not much advise as to what you should do if you are ever in a rear end collision,
except better hope for the best.
The injury caused damage to my C3, C4 and C5 cervical vertebrae.
Let me give you a tiny lesson in the anatomy of these three vertebrae: a C3
(one of the first three cervical vertebrae) injury could result in functional loss
of the diaphragm and not being a ble to breathe which would be very bad ;),
injury to the C4 (the fourth cervical vertebra) could result loss of functional control
of the shoulders and biceps,
and injury to the C5 may result in complete functional loss at the wrists and hands
in addition to partial loss of the shoulders and biceps.
The neck is really an incredibly well engineered, complicated and important
series of bones, nerves, muscles, ligaments and tendons.
The cervical vertebrae besides having to hold up our 10 to 13 pound heads,
plays a key role in maintaining several life enabling functions.
The neck or spine protects or houses our spinal cord which is responsible
for sending messages from the brain to every aspect of our bodies.
A injury or short circuit and you end up on a ventilator, paralyzed in some
way or six feet under.
My neck and shoulders have always been on the larger side, but this is one time
my larger neck may have saved or insulated me from increased injury.
The reason it is as big as it is a result of a lot of a life time of heavy duty outdoor chores,
cutting wood, wrangling horses, pigs and anything that needed wrangling.
Later on I did a lot of weight lifting.
I have to admit as long as I am going there - that I am also blessed with a huge
7 7/8" 'cabeza' (in the military they had to always special order my head gear),
I have yet to find if there is any good purpose for having a big head but have
never identified one.
BTW my big neck has had its own down sides.
As long as I can remember I have had to wear larger shirts, and suit jackets too.
Although in retrospect taking the sides in because of my size 20 1/2 shirt
or neck line is a small price to pay if it helped me with this injury.
Our necks have to not only be strong enough to carrry all that weight above,
it must also be remarkably flexible, to allow us to move in all directions.
Let's see it also houses and protects our spinal cord.
Which is that intricate bundle of nerves that extend from our grey matter
and runs through the spine, ending just before it gets to our lower back.
The cervical vertebrae facilitates the flow of blood to the brain.
The openings or vertebral foramen in the cervical spine provide a passageway
for vertebral arteries to pass and ensure proper blood flow to the brain.
Why would anyone take every measure to treat a neck injury?
Well, I researched the best and made it a pint to follow the most conservative
I hate surgeries and really wanted to find a way of escaping one altogether.
I have tried physical rehabilitation, and exercises, ice and heat treatments,
ultra sound treatments, neck stabilization collar, NSAID drugs for the inflammation,
steroids, EDI's or steroid epidural injections, facet injections even sugar water
or dextrose injections or "prolotherapy: which are injected into the ligament or
tendon where the bones attaches to the bone.
This actually causes a localized inflammation in these weak areas which then
increases the blood supply and flow of nutrients and stimulates the tissues around
the injury to repair itself.
But none of these treatments have worked and I have a couple of more options left.
The last to the final one was the one I had done today.
I had a 3 cervical level Rhizotomy surgical procedure.
It is meant to destroy the nerves in the facet joints, by burning them with
high radiofrequency currents.
In concept, the rhizotomy is aimed at destroying the nerves in the facet joint
to eliminate pain sensation.
It is performed under anesthesia and the neurologist burns the offending nerves.
Radiofrequency rhizotomy involves using electromagnetic radiation to sever
nerves of the spinal cord to improve mobility and reduce the extreme pain.
It's one of the methods that fall under the neurotomy umbrella, which concerns
selecting the problematic spinal nerves that cause ailments of the nervous system.
Radiofrequency rhizotomy is often used with patients with cerebral palsy
or that have spastic diplegia.
Which are patients that have continuous involuntary convulsions of their muscles.
Dr. Mike is awesome, he and I have a great relationship.
What he basically did was have the anesthesiologist put me under - using Diprivan
in my IV (propofol - the so called milk that MJ overdosed from).
Then with his medical wisdom and experience and using an x-ray camera
called a fluoroscope which was hooked up to a TV monitor to visualize
and determine where to exactly inject the thin needle like electrode into place.
After careful placement he then sent radio waves through the electrode
using his laser focused precision and zapped the nerve endings at the
three cervical levels and on each side.
The needle transmit radio waves, which at a certain frequency produce heat which
burns or causes the nerve to turn into a lesion or a lump-like structure,
basically making that nerve useless and stopping it from transmitting
any pain messages.
I sure pray that destroying my defective nerves, and severing their communication
links will give me some much needed relief.
It took 1 and a half hours for the procedure and then of course observation,
some deliciously cold apple juice but no burritos… and after not having eaten
in over twelve hours I could have really used one.
I am expected to take some heavy dosed pain meds, put ice on the neck three
times and hour for the first four hours with intermittent ice and heat
the next 24 hours.
He said I would experience muscle soreness and bruising.
Maybe even the destruction of nerves and blood vessels near the area
of the operation.
I should also expect increased pain for a couple of weeks (I hated to hear that part).
But that I should begin to see decreased pain and improvement in the next
three weeks after this procedure.
This unfortunately isn't a permanent solution - I will have to have the dreaded neck
surgery later on the line.
That surgery would be a 4 to 5 day hospital stay, and 6 to 8 weeks recuperative period.
So yes, I am praying that this rhizotomy worked!
That and the pain relief I am hopeful it will bring will come quickly.
Thanks for your e-mails, calls and prayers.
Please make it a healing prayers and thoughts Tomás' día!
I am headed back to bed...