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Thread: Arm going numb

  1. #1

    Arm going numb

    Okay-weird question.

    Everytime I yawn my right arm goes kind of numb and gets really heavy. My hand will also contract into a loose fist with my 4th and 5th fingers more affected. Sometimes my hand will tremor at the same time. Any idea what might be causing this? Just curious.

    I have been diagnosed with both peripheral neuropathy and ulnar nerve entrapment but I an not sure if this is related. These symptoms only occur when I yawn
    "Nothing ventured, nothing gained." - My Grammie

  2. #2
    Have you had tests (MRI) for a syrinx? Increases or decreased in pressure on the cord fluid (sneezing, positions, yawning) can sometimes cause symptoms to occur with this. Have you discussed this with your physiatrist or other physician? What is being done for your other peripheral neuropathies and finding and eliminating the causes?


  3. #3
    I have an EMG scheduled for Friday morning. I scheduled a neurology appt but it is not until October. My dad, sister and I all have a rare skeletal dysplasia and though it is not a typical finding with the disorder, we also all have an unusual form of neuropathy. My dad is quite disabled by it. My dad's doctors describe his illness as being similar to Stiff-man syndrome, though it is a very a-typical presentation. It is yet unclear whether my neuropathy issues are related to the genetic disorder or not, but I feel that it most likely is hereditary. As for the yawning issue, my other family members don't have this symptom.

    Additionally, the right side of my neck is quite sore and stiff.

    I have not had an MRI in about a year now and it was only of L1-my most severe fracture.
    "Nothing ventured, nothing gained." - My Grammie

  4. #4

    herniated discs (follow up to numb arm)

    I posted a few days ago about my arm going numb etc. On Wednesday my right arm became increasingly weak, uncoordinated and numb. On my MD's recommendation I went to the ER at Brigham and Womens in Boston. During my four hour wait before being seen my arm became almost completely paralyzed. I had a small bit of movement in my fingers but that was it. I also had almost no sensation. I had incredible pain in my neck and down my shoulder and arm that they treated with morphine to moderate success. I was seen by neuro and ortho-had a brain and c1-t4 MRI then an EMG. Initially I was told that I would need emergent surgery to decompress my spinal cord. I was given steroids, valium and vicoden and waited, My symptoms began to reduce and the physicians decided to postpone surgery.

    I was told that my symptoms far exceeded what would be expected by the degree of cord compression I had. I felt like they thought I was exaggerating. What am I supposed to say to that?

    After 30 hours I was sent home with a moderately functioning arm and hand and continued neck pain. I was told to follow up with a spine ortho in 2-4 weeks. I was given valium, vicoden and prednisone.

    At this point I can barely hold or use a pen, I spilled my orange juice all over me this morning when I dropped it for no reason and pushing my chair is accomplished by using the heal of my hand since I have very little grip.

    About a month ago I was on steroids for ten days but it did nothing the docs put me on another course.

    1.) Does all of this sound reasonable?
    2.) What can I expect from surgery? I am terrified of the surgery.
    3.) Will activity exacerbate the situation or should I go about business as usual and try and do whatever I can?
    4.) What are the odds that steroids will work now when they didn't a month ago when things were much more mild than they are now?
    "Nothing ventured, nothing gained." - My Grammie

  5. #5
    I have asked Dr. Young to comment on this situation. Personally, I would be getting another opinion, sooner rather than later.


  6. #6

    Sorry that I didn't see this earlier. When I read your last post, my first impression was that there is something else going on than just spinal cord compression. As I then went through the rest of your posts, the story just got stranger and stranger.

    May I suggest that you should go up to Harvard neurology department and offer yourself up as a diagnostic mystery and get the best doctors in the country to figure out what you have. I think that they would love the challenge. Do you have a name for the skeletal dysplasia and neuropathy that you have?

    You do not say but I get the impression that your doctors have not found any specific bony abnormality that is pressing on a spinal root or cord to cause your symptoms. The fact that it is unilateral leads to me to think that it involves the peripheral nerve on one side. A careful neurological examination of your sensory loss should provide some insights into whether you have a root based on peripheral nerve based problem.

    Just one tangential thought... have you asked your doctors whether you have a cervical rib? I am wondering if perhaps that is what caused your right arm weakness. Regarding the yawning, I have few ideas. Contraction of the omohyoid muscle during yawns can compress your internal jugular. Why that would cause arm weakness escapes me.

    Last edited by Wise Young; 07-19-2008 at 09:02 PM.

  7. #7
    Thanks for your response.
    The skeletal dysplasia I have is called Small Patella Syndrome. It is a TBX4 mutation (haploinsufficiency). The literature is very sparse and what literature there is defines only the lower extremity skeletal abnormalities. Prior to my injury I was a research coordinator in genetics at Hopkins specializing in nail patella syndrome (NPS) and small patella syndrome (SPS). Our research has gone further than what is currently published and we suspect that there is far more neurological involvement in both disorders than previously believed. Anecdotal evidence from the patients we have spoken with as well as the animal studies suggest a greater upper limb and neuro involvement than documented. That is not to say that my issue is definately related to SPS.

    My physicians are using "peripheral neuropathy" to describe my loss of function and sensation. While my symptoms are extensive in my right arm I have experienced some very mild numbness and tingling in my left arm/hand a couple of times. It was mild enough that had I not had symptoms in my right arm, I probably wouldn't have noticed.

    My symptoms have progressed far more than what I am comfortable with. For example, ten weeks after my initial accident I was able to hand-cycle up a 3500 foot ski mountain - while still in my "turtle shell". This past weekend I could not turn the crank of my bike while sitting in a flat parking lot. I was not happy!

    When I was in the ED last week I told the neurologist that if I tilt my head back or to the right I become very nauseous and have incredible pain down my neck and arm. The pain is most severe just above my clavicle. The MD was not impressed though I only saw a neuro and ortho resident (It is July so you know the level of experience they had) as the fellows and attending were in clinic then left. I pitched a fit and they still refused to send anyone.

    I am certainly willing to head to Harvard if I can find out who to contact.
    Also, I do not appear to have a cervical rib.
    Did I mention I had an EMG and it came back normal? Would that indicate spinal rather than peripheral nerve involvement?

    Thanks and sorry for the long response
    "Nothing ventured, nothing gained." - My Grammie

  8. #8
    I have an MRI for Friday night-my new MD wants to check for a syrinx in my t-spine and l-spine but thinks my arm symptoms are related to the spinal cord compression. They are going to try a nerve block and see if my symptoms improve. I need to speak with him further about this because I really don't understand how it works. I also have an appointment with a physiatrist to evaluate my symptoms before the nerve block to make sure everyone agrees that it is just spinal cord and not something else.
    "Nothing ventured, nothing gained." - My Grammie

  9. #9
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Apr 2006
    I believe the Brigham is a Harvard affiliated hospital. If you don't feel its inadequate to Harvard, Boston Medical Center is still the regional center for spinal cord injuries in New England I believe. Many good neurologists & surgeons practiced in sci. Dr. Joe Ordia & Dr. Green are the only 2 I have had touch my cord. Joe is a good Man, definitely wouldn't steer you wrong. I see your in Massachusetts, he is as well.

  10. #10

    Dr. Wise Young-Follow-up to this old post

    Thought you may want the solution to this mystery.

    I ended up in the Brigham in Womens for 9 days in July. Lost all my trunk control with periodic severe thracic spasms, ataxia and weakness. Lost arm function . They thought it was a c6-7 compression but weren't convinced because I had other neuro symptoms. They sent me to rehab in Boston for three weeks. Some function returned but I still had episodes as above.

    After discharge I developed hyper-pigmented skin lesions and cognitive and memory issues. My Physiatrist sent me to every specialist in the BWH and MGH system. They were perplexed and finally decided it was all psychogenic.

    The other night I developed severe clonis, ataxia, cognitive, cognitive symptoms and loss of balance/proprioception. Went to the ER at the little community hospital near my home. I gave them the same medical and family history I had given the dozen other Boston Docs I had seen. They admitted me, I saw a neurologist and in three days they came up with the diagnosis that all the others couldn't.

    So...I was diagnosed with Stiff Person Syndrome-with a high positive anti GAD. I was also diagnosed with autoimmune hyperthyroidism, and an autoimmune B12 deficiency with high ?Hemocysteine (I know the begining of that word isn't right I just can't think of it) and the MMA ?antibody. Anyway...I start IV IgG tomorrow with hopes that it will work. They think that the B12 issue is causing some of the neuro and cognitive issues. the skin lesions are a form of vitaligo with a collagen abnormality. I develope them only when I am symptomatic.

    I told EVERY MD I saw in Boston that my Dad had SPS. I asked repeatedly for them to do the antibody test. The docs could not see past my skeletal dysplasia and my SCI. Instead of them taking the time to figure it out, they descided it was psychological. I am so angry that I was treated in such a poor way and that I was dismissed.

    At any rate, I am glad that I have a dx and that I can start treatment, I am just upset that I had to develope such severe symptoms first.

    Thanks for your help and I just wanted to let you know that the problem is on its way to resolution.

    Be Well and thanks again
    "Nothing ventured, nothing gained." - My Grammie

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