As documented in an earlier post, a recent battle with bacterial meningitis was likely caused by a myelogram/CT scan ordered to check out potential joint damage in the neck and back. After 10 days on an IV antibiotic, the infectious disease doctor said that the antibiotic could be stopped and he pulled the PICC line – a welcome word indeed! While the original CT scan showed some narrowing of the opening in the vertebrae for the nerve roots, it failed to completely explain the ongoing pain, numbness, tingling, burning sensations, and muscle weakness. Within six months of neck surgery I regained strength and related symptoms were much reduced. But now exercise and physical activity have been difficult if not impossible. My wife grabbed my biceps one day and even mentioned that I need to lift weights! Oh the nerve. 🙂
After these CT scan results, my neurologist conducted electromyography (EMG) and nerve conduction tests to try to get a better picture of what is happening. These “fun” tests are really not all that uncomfortable. The nerve conduction study involves hooking electrodes onto the fingers and then touching another electrode at various places sending an electrical shock to test the nerves. During the EMG, a small needle is placed in a muscle, the doctor asks you to contract the muscle, and then a measurement is taken on an oscilloscope. You can also hear the measurement amplified on a speaker as a series of crackling sounds. As the neurologist conducted the test starting with the forearm then up the arm, shoulders, and finally the neck, the sounds changed and became less regular. At this point the doctor mentioned that the muscles were damaged and not functioning properly. He called for an MRI on my neck and chest area which will be done this week. He believes that the symptoms are either related to a physical issue in the neck joints that were not seen on the CT scan or due to inflammation of nerves from my rheumatoid arthritis.
The neurologist listed six diagnoses on my chart including cervical degenerative joint disease, pain of upper extremity, disturbance of skin sensation, muscle pain, myalgia and myositis, and muscular weakness. This was the most number of diagnoses listed for any ordered test I’ve experienced! Myalgia and myositis were new terms to me. Myalgia simply means muscle pain. Myositis refers to inflammation of muscle tissue and can be caused by injury, infection, or autoimmune disease. I hope the MRI can shed light on what exactly is happening so treatments can be initiated.
The past few weeks, months for that matter, have been a roller coaster of medical symptoms, treatments, and tests…one right after another. One thing about RA is that there’s never a dull moment and you never know what lies ahead. I just hope that I don’t have to stay as a “100-pound weakling”!