Severe Pain

For the past two weeks or more, I have experienced a very severe pain in my left arm and shoulder area. It was first noted the weekend of January 17th when I reached into a kitchen cabinet and experienced a thousand volt electrical shock. This was felt a number of times and each time the affected area was in my left arm and upper shoulder area.

This same problem has appeared previously. In the months of July, August, and September 2011, I experienced similar acute pain and attributed it to some form of arthritic event despite the onset being associated with a period of hot summer weather. A friend advised that it was likely due to a chemical contained in both eggplants and tomatoes. I rarely eat eggplant and the pain dissipated despite my continuing to consume tomatoes. There were similar later flare-ups but these were of lesser duration. These also dissipated after a short period.

In August of 2014 there was a recurrence and I went to see Dr N. By the time I visited his offices, the pain had fully stopped. It was sort of like taking the car in to see a mechanic due to a squeak but, once you arrive at the service centre, the pain is mysteriously absent.

Dr N referred to my X-ray records and found an area of constriction in the area of a vertebrae. I am not sure I fully understand the mechanics of cause and effect but it appears there is a possibility the original accident resulted in some form of a pinched nerve, or nerve damage.

Severe Pain Response

`Pinched nerve` fails to adequately describe the experience of the pain. Putting on and taking off winter outer wear became a fearsome experience. I worried over what would occur if I had a pain spasm while driving a car. Since my car is manual shift, I need the right hand free to operate the gear shift and rely on the left to steer. I decided to avoid driving as much as possible to avoid an in-car experience. I also cranked up the heat in the house and wore a down vest but this did not seem to have any effect. Ibuprofen appeared to moderate the chronic discomfort, and make it possible to sleep, but did not diminish the frequency or severity of attacks. I basically shuttered myself away from the world and spent a great deal of time trying to sleep. There were no attacks while in bed. The attacks appear to be associated with a movement or extension of the left arm. There was an associated high level of background discomfort which encompassed the left neck, the left shoulder mass and the upper left arm but I could live with this.

Possible ALS or Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy

I realized that I was having a large number of blocked airway events. This is what occurs if you swallow incorrectly and send water, or food, into the windpipe. I realized this was happening with an unusual high frequency during the period of acute pain. My fear was that this breathing problem may be an indicator of ALS or CTE.(Prior post on ALS CTE)

During a hike to the local grocery I noted that I was holding my breath. I was in a state of terror in anticipation of the next pain attack. My unthinking response was to hold my breath. So I found myself walking around with these little huffs and puffs of breath as I awaited another attack. Very bizarre.

Response to Cold

Dr N had scheduled me for an MRI and I was notified of the appointment during the period of episodic pain. When I went out to move the car, and clear snow, I found the car would not start. The battery was weak due to my having avoided car usage. It turned over once and that was it. It was also a day of reported record low temperatures. The MRI was scheduled for 8:00 PM. I ended up walking five miles to the hospital on one of the coldest nights of the year. Despite my fears, this cold exposure did not provoke an attack of pain.

While there remains a degree of discomfort in the affected area, the acute attacks appear to have stopped. This is very similar to the other occasions on which I have experienced this problem. It springs out of nowhere, is extremely painful, and it then retreats and I return to normal function.