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  1. #1
    Registered User JimboRice's Avatar
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    Pinched Nerve in traps/neck - muscle atrophy in tricepts

    Merry Christmas all!
    Was wondering if anyone has dealt with severe pinched nerves in the traps-neck.

    I went to a orthopedic Dr and ruled out bulging discs in the neck or bone spurs etc... there’s no issues with my shoulder rotator either.

    He referred me to a physical therapist which I have an appointment with this week.

    I was pressing stupid weight above my head about 1.5 months ago...(military dumbbell press.)
    I noticed a decline in strength as well as aching in my rear shoulder area in the weeks following. I couldn’t figure out why I was losing bench strength, so I kept pushing harder. Boom, went from 235 to 95. A 60% decline. Can not do dips or pushups.

    Worst part is, my left arm and chest are losing muscle. It’s become noticeable.

    I’ve gone to a chiropractor regularly for several weeks thinking it was my neck. (Recently ruled that out)
    But really think the traps are the culprit.

    Any advice or personal experience with this would be welcomed.
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  2. #2
    Registered User Time-Man's Avatar
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    Not a doc by any means . But i'd say get to a doc that can do a MRI asap . It could be a nerve impingement and if you continue training you can damage it beyond repair . I had it my bench , ohp went from 57kg down to battling to push 15 kg in my bench , i was lucky and it got better and now 3 months after it happened slowly progressing again
    My Personal mottos
    Do the correct form and don't stroke your ego lifting heavier with bad form.
    Stay of a bloody scale and concentrate on measuring tape to see progress.
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  3. #3
    Registered User JimboRice's Avatar
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    Thanks for the response! Was yours a pinched nerve? I’ve significantly stepped down the weights to let this heal...
    no shoulder/neck work outs at all. Very little chest working out.

    Did you loses muscle? What caused yours?
    Thanks again!
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  4. #4
    Registered User JimboRice's Avatar
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    Update to the thread for future readers:
    12/27/18 went to a physical therapist...
    PT said the hips are badly misaligned and this causes the shoulders to misalign as well. Gave me about 8 exercises to complete daily. There is immediate relief after the excersises, but not much significant strength regained on the tris&chest.

    I started logging all my weight lifting so I could measure progress or regression.

    Also: 12/26/18
    I started moist heat treatment with a sock of rice. I think this has helped calm the nerve a bit. 2-4 times a day.


    Im about to start the process to goto a neurologist and get an MRI...

    1/2/19
    Minimal progress.. as of late.
    I stopped sleeping on the shoulder.
    Did about 4 push-ups last night (wasn’t able to do 1)
    Did a 1 dip at the gym to see if I could support my weight. Could - also did 1 dip.
    This is great, however the tricep/chest atrophy is still heavy on my mind.
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  5. #5
    Registered User JimboRice's Avatar
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    Update:
    1/14/2019

    Going to a new, highly recommended phisical therapist this afternoon.

    Scheduled for an EMG on the 16th. Hope this really gives me some critical information.

    I think I’ve narrowed my own symptoms down to a C7 nerve impingement between the C6 and C7 cervical disks.

    Along with “wasting” (atrophy)in the left triceps and pectoral, I have scapular winging. My left latissimus dorsi is not firing as well. I took pictures of my back while pressing against the wall and was able to see the “winging”.

    I found a fantastic medical article that covers all my symptoms and leads to the C7 nerve compression.

    Reading about C7 radiculopathy, there is hope that this heals on its own and doesn’t require invasive spinal surgery..

    I’m able to perform about 20 pushups. About 8 of them are great form before I start rapidly losing strength on my left side.

    Over head tricep extensions with an 8lb DB have increased from 1 to 3 to 10 to now 30 reps.

    I have logged all dumbbell work for the past month for every excercise performed.

    Emotionally this has been tough due to losing 8 pounds of mass and strength. The inability to get in my routine/hobby has taken a major toll.

    Now I have new goals... so cheers to this next challenge of healing, a prognosis and rehabilitation.
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  6. #6
    Registered User JimboRice's Avatar
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    Update 1/29/19

    Had an MRI a few weeks ago. Herniated disc C6/C7 C7 nerve. Tricep, pectoral and lat are affected.

    Waiting 6 weeks to see if this resolved on its own. Strength is going up on presses. Tricep over head extension is very weak. Up to 10lbs x10-20 reps.

    DB bench press is encouraging... up to 55lb presses... but I don’t want to push it. Just testing the water.

    Doing physical therapy, chiropractor and self traction with a towel..

    Lost 10lbs of build..

    Will update later in case some hopeless injured gym rat finds this...
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  7. #7
    Registered User JimboRice's Avatar
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    I continue to work out the atrophied muscles.. I think they are gaining more strength. I’m primarily focusing on two excersises to monitor strength.

    Over head tricep extention and dumbell flat bench press.

    Today I was able to extend that 8lb weight 40 times - overhead tricep extention.

    This is great considering when I first realized I was injured, I couldn’t do 1-3.

    I think what I’m witnessing is the peak or near peak point of the muscle atrophy.
    At first, when the strength was lost, I still had the muscle. The atrophy now has caught up with the loss of strength and my arm and chest shrunk.

    Now that strength is picking up, I can only hope the atrophy will cease and muscle will regain.


    One other side note, I am doing a neck traction with a towel and using a door. It’s almost like I’m hanging myself, but the towel is behind the base of my scull. I can feel the pressure of the bulge being sucked in as the discs pull apart and create a vacuum. Instant relief of symptoms.
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    Registered User omwaaa7's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by JimboRice View Post
    I continue to work out the atrophied muscles.. I think they are gaining more strength. I’m primarily focusing on two excersises to monitor strength.

    Over head tricep extention and dumbell flat bench press.

    Today I was able to extend that 8lb weight 40 times - overhead tricep extention.

    This is great considering when I first realized I was injured, I couldn’t do 1-3.

    I think what I’m witnessing is the peak or near peak point of the muscle atrophy.
    At first, when the strength was lost, I still had the muscle. The atrophy now has caught up with the loss of strength and my arm and chest shrunk.

    Now that strength is picking up, I can only hope the atrophy will cease and muscle will regain.


    One other side note, I am doing a neck traction with a towel and using a door. It’s almost like I’m hanging myself, but the towel is behind the base of my scull. I can feel the pressure of the bulge being sucked in as the discs pull apart and create a vacuum. Instant relief of symptoms.

    I exactly face same problem. The pain is gone but numbness and weakness in tri and left chest is still there. My doctor said no need for surgery as the pain is go away. He said no guarantee to restore strength of muscle. I am not sure should I go for surgery or not?!

    Please could you update your situation?
    Last edited by omwaaa7; 03-11-2019 at 12:48 PM. Reason: Error
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  9. #9
    Registered User ctluba's Avatar
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    I’m 49 years old, 5’11”, 235. Been training for 30 years. Have had a nagging injury behind my shoulder blades for past 10 years, sometimes right, sometimes left. Flares up once a year or so, knots, ropey band, painful. Take a week off, get a message etc, usually goes away.

    So i haven’t missed 365 on flat bench for months. About 3 weeks ago injury flared up bad on right side. Took week off etc. came back the next week and warming up with 135 felt weird, off balance. Put on 225, which i usually do fit 8 or 10 on way up parymid, couldn’t get 1 one. Tried again, same result. Complete panic. Flexed my chest and left pec bulging and hard, right pec soft. I can somewhat move it and flex it, but no strength. Trained everything else light weight for rest of week and everything pretty normal. Just noticed tricep push downs on right arm felt funny.

    Went to ortho last week. X-ray, EMG and MRI all negative. Doctor a bit baffled. Put me on anti inflammatory. All swelling and pain pretty much gone. I did very light chest last week. No benching or any of the usual exercises. Just machines and push-ups and cables etc. Felt good but nothing heavy. Right pec still soft. Did chest again today. 135x10 for 4 sets flat, incline and decline, as well as all the cables, push ups and machines, very light, but pushed a bit harder on squeeze etc. still felt off balance but functioning. Right pec still soft, but doesn’t seem like a lot of atrophy. I did lose 10lbs in last 3 weeks, but wasn’t eating as well, depressed, etc. Just noticed that i pulled my left elbow into my chest and left pec “locked up” like after a heavy day. Did the same with the right elbow and nothing!!! No lock up.

    So I’m in the same boat, but no diagnosis from Doctor. Super depressed about going from 365 to 135 after 30 years of effort. Just trying to tread water and not lose my mind. Hope your doing well. Now that i found this thread I’ll check in now and then.
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  10. #10
    Registered User JimboRice's Avatar
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    Happy people are finding this thread. Sorry I didn’t update last month.

    On March 27, 2019 I had an Anterior Cervical Discectomy & Fusion.

    Anterior (front)
    Cervical (neck)
    Discectomy (disc removal)
    Fusion (vertebrae Fusion)

    My C6-7 disc was most herniated (7mm) causing the muscle atrophy in the tricep, Lat and Pec.

    My C5-7 was also herniated (3mm) to a lesser degree, but the surgeon recommended it be removed as well. (Either now or later was the sentiment)

    I am 13 days post op surgery. I’m taking it real easy.

    I have sought out and spoke to many many guys who’ve had this situation and recovered from the weakness and atrophy.


    I have not begun the muscle building recovery process...

    The most positive thing from this surgery so far:
    1. I can no longer feel the tention on the nerve (like a tight rubber band) from my neck to tricep.
    2. On the 2nd or third night after surgery sitting in my recliner (only way to sleep) I felt muscle twitching in my tricep.
    3. I’ve also been having twitching in my lat up into my armpit into the pec.

    This leads me to believe the nerve has been successfully decompressed and signal is reestablishing connection through nerves that aren't completely damaged.

    This is huge, because these muscles have been dormant.

    My neurosurgeon said after surgery, that I had a lot of bone spurs that were probably also contributing to the atrophy for a long time. Makes me wonder if my arms could have been bigger 🤷🏻‍♂️.

    Looks like I’ll update this thread in a few weeks to see how things go at the gym.
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  11. #11
    Registered User JimboRice's Avatar
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    Your Ortho did an EMG nerve test? This is a neurological exam. My neurologist did this... do you have the paperwork from the MRI? It summarizes each vertebrae and the findings.

    What about the brachial plexus? If it’s not cervical, is further down stream, I’d guess.
    Originally Posted by ctluba View Post
    I’m 49 years old, 5’11”, 235. Been training for 30 years. Have had a nagging injury behind my shoulder blades for past 10 years, sometimes right, sometimes left. Flares up once a year or so, knots, ropey band, painful. Take a week off, get a message etc, usually goes away.

    So i haven’t missed 365 on flat bench for months. About 3 weeks ago injury flared up bad on right side. Took week off etc. came back the next week and warming up with 135 felt weird, off balance. Put on 225, which i usually do fit 8 or 10 on way up parymid, couldn’t get 1 one. Tried again, same result. Complete panic. Flexed my chest and left pec bulging and hard, right pec soft. I can somewhat move it and flex it, but no strength. Trained everything else light weight for rest of week and everything pretty normal. Just noticed tricep push downs on right arm felt funny.

    Went to ortho last week. X-ray, EMG and MRI all negative. Doctor a bit baffled. Put me on anti inflammatory. All swelling and pain pretty much gone. I did very light chest last week. No benching or any of the usual exercises. Just machines and push-ups and cables etc. Felt good but nothing heavy. Right pec still soft. Did chest again today. 135x10 for 4 sets flat, incline and decline, as well as all the cables, push ups and machines, very light, but pushed a bit harder on squeeze etc. still felt off balance but functioning. Right pec still soft, but doesn’t seem like a lot of atrophy. I did lose 10lbs in last 3 weeks, but wasn’t eating as well, depressed, etc. Just noticed that i pulled my left elbow into my chest and left pec “locked up” like after a heavy day. Did the same with the right elbow and nothing!!! No lock up.

    So I’m in the same boat, but no diagnosis from Doctor. Super depressed about going from 365 to 135 after 30 years of effort. Just trying to tread water and not lose my mind. Hope your doing well. Now that i found this thread I’ll check in now and then.
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    Registered User stewaer's Avatar
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    How are things now?

    For the OP - how are you doing now post-op? I'm in the same boat, but am worried about the surgery and being able to lift again. Messed mine up doing squats while had a broken thumb. Just wanted to keep working legs. Had to hold bar awkwardly. Didnt want to lose all my gains, but ended up being a very bad decision...
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  13. #13
    Registered User JimboRice's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by stewaer View Post
    For the OP - how are you doing now post-op? I'm in the same boat, but am worried about the surgery and being able to lift again. Messed mine up doing squats while had a broken thumb. Just wanted to keep working legs. Had to hold bar awkwardly. Didnt want to lose all my gains, but ended up being a very bad decision...
    I’m 14 weeks post op. I started back at the gym about 3 weeks ago. (Felt amazing to be back)

    I’m seeing the left pec start looking a little normal and certain parts of the tricep are definitely working.

    I’m monitoring the smaller muscles around the elbow.

    Overall, I feel pretty good. I’m feel I’m not loading up the muscle enough to promote major growth. I’m looking forward to another 4-8 weeks and then I can ramp up with my work outs.

    I’ve documented my size with pictures and videos for comparison. Unfortunately, the different places and lighting screw that up.

    Right now, I hope the nerves are regenerating/healing and the muscles will fully recover develop. I’m not seeing any major improvements as it’s a little early.

    Trying to watch muscles grow is like watching paint dry. Fml.

    So what happened?!? What did you mess up? Have you gone to a doc yet!? Keep me updated and good luck.
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    Registered User Chauie's Avatar
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    Thanks for your updates, JimboRice. I've got something similar, which I’ll lay out here for anyone suffering a similar injury and also for myself, as this is the first time I’ve put this all down in writing.

    15 weeks ago, doing a pull-up at the beach, my hands were wet and slippery and someone had placed a large wooden beam under the bar to help shorter people reach it. So I was holding my legs up at the knees to avoid the beam, and my hands weren't placed quite right, and I felt pain on the right side of my spine on the third rep and aborted my set immediately. I'd had recurring minor injuries in that spot before. I think I've always felt a little "tight" there and have always felt the urge to stretch the area by tilting my head down and left. I’d just thought it was a chronically strained rhomboid.

    Back to that fateful morning 15 weeks ago: After the aborted pull-up set, I went home and lay down on my stomach for a nap. I woke up in sever pain — the kind where you can't get comfortable no matter what you do. I couldn't sleep that night and ended up going to the ER. An injection of tramadol didn't help at all. I went to the clinic the next day, was tentatively diagnosed with a herniated disk and impinged nerve (cervical radiculopathy), and got prescribed Alieve and oral Tramadol — didn't feel much improvement from those. I went to an orthopedic surgeon a week after the injury. He also thought it was likely a herniated disk and cervical radiculopathy. He said I could get an MRI but that it wasn't really necessary because the results wouldn't change the treatment. He thinks I'll recover without much intervention. He prescribed Lyrica for the pain.

    Lyrica is a bit tricky. It takes a while to work, the effective dose is different for different people, you can't increase the dose too quickly, it's got psychotropic effects, and you have to wean yourself off it. My not knowing about the weaning rule resulted in an unpleasant weekend of low mood. I don’t feel that I got much benefit from the Lyrica, but who knows if the pain would have been worse without it. The next couple weeks were tough. It was very difficult to get and stay asleep. Work was difficult; aside from being distracted by the pain, it was difficult to write. Gradually the pain subsided over the weeks.

    I went to a physiotherapist the day after I saw the orthopedic surgeon. The physiotherapist recommended an inflatable neck traction pillow. It was a godsend. It relieved the pain immediately and felt as though it was relieving pressure on the vertebrae. I was also able to fall asleep a little more easily with it. A friend recommended sleeping on a harder surface, and I did have better luck sleeping with the soft mattress pad removed from my bed. Slowly the pain has completely subsided, except for that mild feeling of rhomboid strain; but numbness in my right index finger and weakness in my right arm, chest, and back remain.

    On subsequent visits, the physiotherapist recommended a subtle neck flexion exercise; nerve flossing exercises; alternating dumbbell presses with light weight; dumbbell rows on the bench with light weight while keeping my chin tucked; planks while keeping my chin tucked; overhead dumbbell tricep extensions with light weight; Is, Ts, and Ys with a rubber resistance tube; push-ups plus with a rubber resistance tube (but only the top part of the movement); four-point leg kicks, and band-assisted sit-ups rolling my chin to my neck then rolling the rest of the spine up. He says my traps and neck extensors are overactive and my lats and deep neck flexors are underactive. So I'm focusing on relaxing my shoulders back, elevating my rib cage, tucking my chin to elongate my spine, squeezing my glutes and lower abs, and rotating my palms slightly forward to help my shoulders stay back. Even raising a fork to my mouth, I can feel how I was using my traps before, and now I'm trying to keep them relaxed. The physiotherapist says that overactive traps and neck extensors can compress the gap where the nerve root exits the spine. I guess that's how I got the injury because I didn't have any weight compressing the spine — I was just doing a pull-up. My head must have been straining back and I compensated for my failing lats with my traps and boom — first major injury of my life.

    Anyway, after about 12 weeks, I began to notice the muscles on my right side, especially my pecs, had begun to atrophy, in spite of my working both sides of my body equally in the gym. I can flex my left pec, but my right pec sort of cramps up when I try to flex it and it doesn't seem to fully activate. Watching my muscles waste away unevenly is very discouraging. I feel like I'm regressing in spite of the pain being gone and doing regular physiotherapy. I'm tempted to get an MRI so I can see what's going on, but I don't think I'd opt for surgery until after trying at least a year of less invasive intervention.

    One key takeaway for me is that the recurring minor injury that I thought was just a strain in my rhomboid was probably a chronically irritated nerve root. I sure wish I’d fixed my posture and form issues earlier. This has been a wakeup call.

    I’m just wondering when and if I’ll get strength and mass back to those muscles. Please keep us updated!
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  15. #15
    Registered User JimboRice's Avatar
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    Man, I would get an MRI ASAP.
    Nerve compression is huge and if not decompressed, you can have permanent nerve damage.

    I noticed the strength loss within 2 weeks and the atrophy shortly after.

    One of the reasons I opted for surgery was because the length of time it takes for the nerve to heal and to regain strength.

    Rather than waiting 6 - 12 months to know if the herniation would retract and nerve root heal, I opted for the surgery. This would guarantee the decompression and then I wouldn’t be guessing as to whether or not i was going to have nerve re-connectivity.

    Here I am 5 months post of and still only making slight progress. I see a little growth in the atrophied muscles, but not enough to be near satisfied.

    6 more months and the nerve will be as good as it gets and the muscles will show what their full capacity is.

    I encourage you to look up Bas Rutren and the permanent nerve damage in his shoulder, bicep and tricep due to this injury and not opting for surgery in a timely manner.

    The window is like 10 months for nerve damage. I’ll have to look up the medicine article where it describes this.
    Ray
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  16. #16
    Registered User JimboRice's Avatar
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    Since I can’t post links...
    Search on youtube:
    Power plate Bas Rutten Pectoral Bicep Stretch
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    How are you doing now?? I too have a pinched nerve (so I think), extreme pain when I tilt my head to the left. Do you think you've 100% healed? What surgery did you get?
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    Registered User HeavyIron8's Avatar
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    Hey, hope you're doing well now. What you described sounds pretty scary. How are you now? So this entire thing started because of heavy dumbell military presses? Was your form strict? I'm curious how it happened.
    Home gym set up: https://i.imgur.com/60bfd2I.jpg , https://i.imgur.com/5wDSskr.jpg
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    Registered User bicepliberator's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by 04akhriz40 View Post
    How are you doing now?? I too have a pinched nerve (so I think), extreme pain when I tilt my head to the left. Do you think you've 100% healed? What surgery did you get?
    I was debating sharing my injury before I got to this, so I'll deffo share now. My injury was slightly diff than OP's.

    Basically, I was swinging a golf club and experienced major popping pain in my back, near my spine (~C5) and my lower trap. Long story short, my lower trap has had issues since and caused major pain in my neck like you described: it hurt to rotate my head or to lean in certain ways in the weeks following injury. Then it cause radiating pain and numbness down my right shoulder and arm. Scary! I didn't put two and two together until I checked with a doctor who had experience with similar injuries and had more training aligned with a PT.

    My options were to take OP's process of MRI, PT, & potentially surgery or just to deal with it. I just dealt with it since lifting heavy was taking a backseat. I now use a lacross ball and work it 2-3x/week for a few minutes, rolling along the spine and getting as much of my trap as possible. I never have issues with numbness and only experience the neck pain when I avoid it for too long.

    I have lifted since then just fine, although like I implied above I don't focus on performance at all right now--more focus on activity performance outside the gym.

    Based on this thread, I'm going to revisit with my doc to see if I'm getting bad wear patterns from not getting surgery. At the time, she didn't recommend unless I was really worried about my performance but the wear pattern worries me.

    Only sharing to give you another perspective. I have no training as a PT/Dr, only my experience.
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    Registered User 04akhriz40's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by bicepliberator View Post
    I was debating sharing my injury before I got to this, so I'll deffo share now. My injury was slightly diff than OP's.

    Basically, I was swinging a golf club and experienced major popping pain in my back, near my spine (~C5) and my lower trap. Long story short, my lower trap has had issues since and caused major pain in my neck like you described: it hurt to rotate my head or to lean in certain ways in the weeks following injury. Then it cause radiating pain and numbness down my right shoulder and arm. Scary! I didn't put two and two together until I checked with a doctor who had experience with similar injuries and had more training aligned with a PT.

    My options were to take OP's process of MRI, PT, & potentially surgery or just to deal with it. I just dealt with it since lifting heavy was taking a backseat. I now use a lacross ball and work it 2-3x/week for a few minutes, rolling along the spine and getting as much of my trap as possible. I never have issues with numbness and only experience the neck pain when I avoid it for too long.

    I have lifted since then just fine, although like I implied above I don't focus on performance at all right now--more focus on activity performance outside the gym.

    Based on this thread, I'm going to revisit with my doc to see if I'm getting bad wear patterns from not getting surgery. At the time, she didn't recommend unless I was really worried about my performance but the wear pattern worries me.

    Only sharing to give you another perspective. I have no training as a PT/Dr, only my experience.
    Wow, thanks for sharing. I too get a radiating pain. When I do a chin tuck I get a radiating pain down the rear side of my tricep, all the way down to my fingers. (As if a rubberband had been tightened). Really weird, I tried the lacross ball thingy, didn't work at all. However I rolled it along my traps, lats, front delts. Are you sure you are meant to roll it directly on the spine? I was thinking of visiting a chiropractor since I have no idea on what to do. I've had these horrific 24/7 headaches and extreme tightness in my neck for 1.7 years!!(ish) How long have you had this problem? Thanks!!
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    Hi, trust you're doing extraordinary now. What you portrayed sounds very startling. How are you now? So this started because of overpowering hand weight military presses? Was your structure demanding? I'm intrigued how it happened.
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    so I've had similar issues with this. I was bench pressing when I felt something off in my neck. Later down the road, found out my C5, C6 were bulging slightly. Had issues with both my arms for some time. Now I have atrophy in my left pec muscle and left triceps. Not as strong on my left side anymore. This has been going on for a couple years. My nerve is pretty much dead now and the docs don't think it will recover if I have neck surgery to take the pressure off the nerve.

    You need to get the MRI done, X-rays won't show any slight movement in the spine.

    Oh I did the chiropractor stuff too for a few weeks, and when I saw a "spine" specialist about all this and told them, she was not happy with me... to say the least.

    Oh your orthopedic should have sent you to a spine specialist! like mine did.

    Good luck with this.. but I bet the MRI will show movement out of place in one of the discs... which can't be ruled out without an MRI.
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