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Includes Expert Content
Chronic Cervical Spine Pain, after fusion and spinal cord injury
mtnrunner7 posted:
In 2008, age 25 Male, I had a Spinal Cord Injury after crushing C5-C6, I had a laminectomy and a fusion from C4-C7. I was very lucky and regained the use of my legs and am now an ultra marathon runner. My problem is the chronic pain in my neck and burning pain in my right arm. This pain is a constant draw on my energy and emotional/ physiological state. Due to the fact that I run so much (running is the only time I'm not in pain) I can't be on a constant flow of narcotics like most of America. I've taken Neurontin, Lyrica, Baclofen, Percocet, Hydrocodone, an array of muscle relaxers, and have been though a year of weekly massage treatments, I've tried dry needling , acupuncture, every holistic rub and cream (topricin helps some of the burning), Heat packs( help when I can stay seated/relaxed), even medical marijuana (eating it), and I'm currently on WSN never support formula. If it works for the pain, it takes away all performance and drive. I have a serious problem with our affinity to fix all problems with narcotics. I feel like there has to be a solution for an active person that can't afford to be doped up all day. When I tell doctors this they generally stare at me blankly because everyone else gladly takes the pain pills and leaves happy. The pain is generally the worst when pressure systems move in and out, the pain will get so bad I will actually feel ill and will stay inside all day. I generally have to take narcotics on these days in order to even function. I've looked into neurostimulators but I'm not sure about my application. At 29 i've been in pain for 4 years I really need some help!

Please, If your advice is for me to stop running, take a minute to think about the fact that I had my legs taken away from me, I will not squander this gift I've been given, and I will run every day until I die, if you disagree with this I really don't care. Advice like that will only draw away from me finding a solution that will help me. Please be courteous of that, Thanks.
davedsel57 responded:

I admire you for running despite chronic pain. It is interesting that while running you have no pain. Could be the endorphins produced by the activity.

Looks to me like you are managing your pain well. It may be just a matter of accepting what you can not change, doing something about what you can and gaining the wisdom to know the difference.

I do agree that many doctor do push narcotic drugs too quickly. They really do not know what else to do as spinal problems are so complex.

Keep as active as possible Keep doing your research. Keep a positive attitude.
Click on my user name or avatar picture to read my story.


Peter Abaci, MD responded:
I am not going to tell you to stop running. Rather, I think we should look at the running for clues on how you can better manage your pain since you feel better while running. First of all, I would point out that in my experience central pain, which comes from injury to the brain or spinal cord, is very challenging to manage and medications often are rather ineffective in treating it.

So back to the running. Some of the potential pain relieving benefits may come from the natural endorphins, distraction, mentally focusing on something like the road in front of you, being outdoors, socialization if you run with others, and positive neurotransmitters from the ego boost of doing something that you are really good at. There is a mind/body connection between you and your running that leaves you with a sense of well-being.

Since you can't run 24/7 like Forest Gump, you can look to other pursuits that you can do during the day that may have a similar benefit. Some examples to consider that I see as helpful include meditation, breathing exercises for flare-ups, yoga, and tai chi. Doing other activities that require mental focus may also help. Consider taking a Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction course for further education.
cweinbl responded:
People like us MUST accept that we'll never again be the same. I know how it feels.because my chronic pain began at age 17. Fortunately for me, I worked as a vocational rehabilitation counselor for seven years. I worked on a daily basis with paraplegics and quadriplegics. At that point I realized that compared to them, I was very fortunate indeed. I could no longer play football. But I could sit, stand, walk and care for my bodily needs. My patients would never be able to do that. If these words mean nothing to you, then please visit your nearest Goodwill, long-term rehabilitation center or hospital. Then you'll agree with me that it is better to have limitaitons than to be paralyzed.

Finally, if you can still run, then you are NOT severely diabled. You are inconvenienced, or in pain, then so what? So are millions of us. Please don't take this the wrong way, but many of us, myself included, will never again be able to run, walk very far or even sit upright for more than a few minutes. I would KILL to be able to run again. If the price you have to pay is arm discomfort, then be happy that you can raise your arm, that you can sit, stand and walk. You don't want to hear this, but life is about much more than running, walking sitting, standing or anything physical. If you doubt this, read about President Franklin Roosevelt, or actor Christopher Reeves. I'm tying to be courteous, as you have requested. But you must also comprehend that all that it important about being human has nothing to do with what we can do physically. It's about what we can do mentally and emotionally.

I've been dealing with your problem for mroe than 40 years. I've had four failed spine surgeries, two pain clinic and countless other treatments. I have finally accepted my limitations. Before you reject this, put yourself in the body of a paraplegic or a quadriplegic. If you still feel that the world owes you something that no one else can have, then I can say no more. But I hope that one day you will discover that everything that's truly important to a human's concept of self worth is above the neck. If you;d like to discuss this further, I am at .

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Peter Abaci, MD , is certified in anesthesia and pain management by the American Board of Anesthesiology. Dr. Abaci received his undergraduate educat...More

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