My wife came to me this evening unable to sleep: her arm is numb from shoulder to wrist. She's suffered with her arm for 5 years now without a diagnosis or much relief. I'm writing her story in the hope that someone may have experienced something similar and might have some insight.
The pain started shortly after our second (and last) son's birth in November 2001. (I've read about brachial plexus injury, but the symptoms don't quite fit.) Due to extensive tearing at birth, she wasn't supposed to do any lifting for the first 4-6 weeks. After she began holding and lifting our sons again, she started to have pain in the wrist and elbow of her left (primary) arm, pain which would last for hours and would only go away with heat, Tylenol and/or Advil.
Over the next year or two the pain gradually grew more frequent and worse. It would typically begin at the wrist or elbow and move to the whole left arm. The pain seemed to be triggered by lifting, repeated motion, or psychological stress, but not really predictably.
The doctor pounded her wrist with a hammer and pronounced it to be carpal tunnel. Sent her to physical therapy for a few months and pronounced the carpal tunnel cured.
The pain no longer bothers her wrist, but she still suffers pain in her arm from the wrist to the shoulder. Sometimes it is minor and only lasts a little while, going away with some heat. Sometimes it is major and lasts for hours, only going away after several doses of Tylenol Arthritis and Advil both. It wakes her up at night. Sometimes it happens daily, sometimes it goes away for days to a week at a time.
Rarely it causes numbness, and tonight is the worst she's experienced. She says that it feels numb inside the arm, like it's detached. Nothing helps.
The pain is definitely more frequent and enduring with stress: emotional stress (she's stressed from dealing with her mother's nagging this week), stress from sickness (she's been sick with sinus infection, dizziness, nausea for the last several days). It still is easily triggered by extensive lifting, sometimes by house cleaning, definitely by trauma (such as banging her arm against something), repetitive exertion or working with mechanical devices (weed wacker, for example). The pain is only in her left arm, never moves above the shoulder, never appears in her shoulders, neck or anywhere else.
Her preferred methods of dealing with the pain are heat and relaxation, Tylenol Arthritis, Advil.
-- She's 40.
-- Generally good health, though possibly some thyroid problems (we're exploring that now).
-- Possibly due to thyroid she's overweight, though not morbidly so, and has great difficulty losing the weight (and as a man I enjoy her figure ;)
-- She takes no medication other than Tylenol Arthritis and Advil.
-- She's had stomach problems since she was young, "thanks" to her abusive mother, and is strictly vegan. She's very careful about nutrition (i.e. not a "potato chips and Coke" vegan). We've noticed that raw mixed nuts can generally ease the symptoms, though not cure them.
-- She keeps stress and tension in, leading to jaw clenching and teeth grinding at night and neck/shoulder tension during the day. We've tried some general stress management techniques, though not from "professionals". There's a behavioral health center on the corner and I'm sending her there for stress management soon.
-- Occupation: housewife, mother of 2 boys. No ditch digging, no riveting, no nail gun use. Just normal day-to-day household use.
Our doctor suggested an MRI a few years ago, but just then I lost my job and insurance. We just got insurance again and we're looking to get this resolved. Any ideas or suggestions would be very welcome!