Neck Problems - Wanting to know how best to sleep with c6 nerve impingement

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Dear Friends,

I'd be the first to say that I was not an expert in ANY of this. NOT AT ALL. In fact, sitting here, I just feel lost. 

I have had neck problems - well, foraminal stenosis - since 2012 - indeed probably before but that was when I became aware of it.  At first I had all kinds of things going on - electric shocks, numbness, one attack with clawing pain down the right and left arms and in both thighs.  I eventually had an MRI done and it showed my neck was the culprit.  I waited some months and things seem to get better ... I was fine ... up until a few weeks ago.

I was then sitting at my desk and had a major shock in my right elbow ... and then - shortly after - in my right shoulder.  These were momentary - but very noticable with pain.  Then I had some tingling - well, a crawling sensation - over my right hand.  That passed.  I thought I sensed a weakness in my right arm ... certainly muscle tightness ... but that seems to come and go.  I have little of what I would term 'pain' blessedly.  In no way am I crying out in agony.

My problem is sleeping.  I have tried everything - (I have long used a cervical pillow) - but cannot seem to sleep without waking up with some limb numbness - usually in my hands.  During the day I often feel a tingling at the back of left shoulder - but that is very mild and really does not trouble me.  On waking the limbs come to quickly but this actual happening is causing me some concern.  

I attach my latest MRI report (received this week).  I wondered if anyone who has a similar condition might let me know how they successfully manage to sleep - position, etc.  I have now taken to just using a rolled up towel and no pillow.  Still, I find myself frightened to go to bed (although I have no trouble falling asleep) lest I do more damage.  

Can you help this 60 year old Caucasian male? I would be ever so grateful if you could. 

MY GP (I live in the UK) at my local surgery signed off on the MRI (I had it done privately)  When. I called to follow up all he said was that I was 'like his old boot, just wearing out'. He asked me 'if I could still write?' .. I said I could. That was about the extent of the conversation. I asked for some physiotherapy. He said in his experience it did very little good. 

This telephone consultation I fear I did not feel very helpful. Certainly I came away no wiser about the report than when I went in. 

Honestly I don't know where to turn with this - or what to do - and I very much want to DO something. Thus I am coming to you. Bless you for being here.

I transcribe the MRI report immediately below: - 

MRI scan of the cervical spine.

Comparison is made with the previous study.

On the previous scan, at C3/C4 there was left-sided foraminal narrowing.

At C4/5 and C5/6 level there was bilateral foraminal narrowing more prominent on the left side.

On the current scan at C5/6 there is bilateral foraminal narrowing - this is now more prominent on the right side with impingement of the exiting nerve roots in the right side at this level as well as mild impingement of the left sided exiting nerve root.

The findings at C3/C4 and C4/5 are unchanged since the previous study.

The cord returns normal signal throughout and the craniocervical junction is normal in appearance.


Since the previous scan at the C5/6 level there is bilateral foraminal narrowing more prominent on the right side with impingement of the exiting nerve root seen on the right side at this level as well as mild impingement on the left side.

The findings at C4/5 and C3/4 are unchanged with mild impingement of the exiting nerve root on the left side.

Can someone read between these lines for this poor fool who is unclear as to what explicitly is being said?  I find it hard to know how this change happened - the report isn't clear short of noting an impingement.  I have I promise been very careful and not been involved in any noticable incident that I am aware of which would alter my status.  

If someone could advise on the sleeping position for a person with C6 nerve impingement I will be eternally grateful.  (I do realise that I'm not going to die from this.  I don't mean to sound hysterical.)  

Bless you for your patience and kind understanding. Please know each and ALL are hugely appreciated.

Bless you BIG TIME. 


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  • Posted

    I belong to an amazing facebook group called "Cervical Myelopathy Support Group and they welcome all people with bone, spine and musccle conditions too. There are over 700 members who are experiencing the same poblems as you. Its hard to get a perfect sleeping position many of us lay in a chair with a pillow between the knees. You have what is known as cervical radiculopathy that is where the nerve roots are compressed. A myelopathy is compression of the spinal cord. Hope to see you in the groupsmile 
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  • Posted

    Hi, firstly I know what you are going through I have this myself though I hadn't had a flare up for 6 years and it's a killer trying to get to sleep. I was first diagnosed 15 years ago as I worked for the Nhs in nursing all that patient care took its toll. I had a flare up 7 weeks ago, back and forward to the Drs on different pain killers but they made me Ill and I was unable to do my job and any daily activities. I saw a little jar of tiger balm in my local super market and though I would give it a go. It's great!!! My husband rubs it in just before bed and I lie on my back with my pillow pushed up in the hollow of my neck. This has worked wonders for me. I feel if I can have some sleep I can cope the next day. Also excellent during the day I rub it into my arms and shoulders as I have the pain radiating there too. It's worth a try and I hope you get some comfort soon as it's a life changing pain that can wear you down. Sharron
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  • Posted

    Oh, bless you, Sharron.  That is most kind.  I have just ordered some Tiger Balm off Amazon  ... and will probably sneak in and buy some next time I pass a pharmacy given that I am not one who likes to wait in terms of potential relief.  

    I went yesterday to a specialist spine clinic in London to get an independent evaluation ... and to get some documentation so that my GP will have something to go by.  They said that my condition was 'very normal' ... and they did - after examination - mark 'weakness' on my right side where I had that most recent attack.  I wonder, Sharron, in your flare up did you feel weakness on the side/arm where it occurred?  If so I wonder how long (and I realise that these things are different for everyone) it was before you managed to regain some strengh.  The one doctor and one surgeon I saw yesterday said that PT was the way to go initially .. and then, failing that, an epidural injection.  I am hopeful that PT will do the trick.  I will certainly do the exercises.  I did go back - well called my GP - and he said that he had already elevated me for PT which made me feel a tad better.  He said he had misunderstood during our previous conversation in that I possessed a full ROM (which I do - just weakness say after lifing and occassional muscle tightness.)  Sounds as if he had just given up on me as a total basket case before.  (That's the difficulty when it is only ever over a phone.)  He now said that the PT would help me strengthen and that he 'didn't think I would have paralyses'.  (Not sure I entirely know what to make of the last comment.  I assume it was meant to be reassuring ... but - in this day and age - and as G. B. Shaw - he who hated to be 'Georged in public' - might have it:  'You never can tell, sir ... You never can tell smile 

    Bless you for ALL, Sharron.

    Oh, and thanks Steve for the tip-off.  I will join the Facebook page happily.  

    Thanks be to ALL.  

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    • Posted

      Hi again, glad my information was of some help to you. I can't remember having any weakness before this attack came on but I did have a horrible pain at the base of my skull on the left for a full day and when I got up in the morning to go to work the pain in my neck was unbearable. I'm lucky as I work with physiotherapists and she had a look at me when I went in. I was sent home and went to Drs when I finally got an appointment that day. All the pain killers in the day helped a bit but made me feel sick and spaced out, that's when the little jar I call my miracle came about. I have had odd feelings down my arms, hands, fingers, elbows you name it the pain seems to move about. I have noticed when the weather gets cold it's worse so I have a lovely soak in a hot bath followed by tiger balm and its bliss😀. PT does help but I find it very sore afterwards that's not to say that you would feel the same. At the moment the pain has eased and I am now left with very aching muscles over my shoulders and neck, this I can cope with. I had a scan 6 years ago and my c2 and c3 are damaged but luckily I don't get flare ups very often. I hopeAmazon get your balm delivered super fast for you as it realy is a miracle 👍 Take care and let me know how you get on.
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  • Posted

    Just wanted to drop in and thank everyone for their kind advice.  

    Sharron - Thanks so for recommending Tiger Balm.  I did, as stated, order it from Amazon and also bought a small jar of the stuff from a major British chain of chemists.  It is certainly a very reasonably priced alternative to many other goods of a similar ilk.  The first time I put it on I made the mistake of not only putting it on the muscle of my arm, but also in the pit of the inner elbow.  I felt as if it was on fire!  Now I understand about the heat element.  Also - even though I repeatedly washed my hands - I still found the stench of it overwhelming.  I think you only need a very little amount.  I left it a day ... and then tried again ... using a paper towel to pick up the Tiger Balm residue and going over it with one of those electronic massage hand held machines.  I am hopeful with time it will make some significant difference.  

    This week I visited two othepedic spinal surgeons who were recommended.  The first said that there was weakness on my right side but that I should wait a couple of months - as I was not writhing in pain - and it might well sort itself out.  If it didn't he said they would be happy to treat me with an epidural injection to attempt to contain the nerve inflammation.  The second I visited at the end of the week - who is associated with one of the largest Trusts/research centres in London.  He kindly told me that he felt my strength/signals were normal after examination.  He said too that my neck was in good condition for my age (60) with no sign of myelopothy at all and the discs themselves appearing strong and in good positional order.  It is only these bone spurs that are the issue.  He too said to wait a couple of months and that the situation might take care of itself.  He said the three and a half weeks I had been suffering from the weakness on my right side - since that attack explained in the first item - were early days in terms of nerves.  He said IF I had not marked an improvement in that time then I should come back and have EMG tests and then, based on the outcome of those, discuss alternatives.  He said that PT could also help and I have already been elevated for that.  

    Ironically, I am starting to feel a little stronger on my right side.  I ran up and down several hundred stairs yesterday with a small bag on my right side and it really didn't bother me.  That said yesterday, I did feel a slight numbness at the corner of the left side of my mouth ... but today it seems to have disappeared.  Of course, there are the intermittant tightnesses, tinglings and aches, but I am rapidly discovering which side of my neck I can gently stroke to appease those.  This had happened to me in 2012 over a period of months and I was able to get it under control ... and then be relatively normal for three years.  Fingers crossed I might be able to do the same.

    I am fearful of the operation ... ONLY because I have read that it is the start towards an ultimate dead end ... given that as soon as you are treated the areas above and below automatically become more fragile.  

    I was listening to the radio yesterday and there was a programme on longevity.  It seems in 20 to 25 years time they think they will have an injection which will waylay these degenerative changes for people then young.  It seems they will be expected to live to at least 120 or 150.  It will be a very different one from that we were raised in with its certain expectations, n'est pas.  

    Much thanks for all of your kind support.  It is greatly appreciated.  

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