Numbness in Left hand and Elbow

Patient

Q: For the past couple of months i have been suffering from Numbness in my left hand....it starts at my elbow and goes to my fingertips and it started around Jan 1st 2010..Its usually worse in the mornings when i wake up and on several occasions its what wakes me up in the morning...I have had triple spinal fusion and have Wolf Parkinson White Syndrome and Pulminary Fibrosis runs in my family but i have not been diagnosed with it...my father and 2 aunts died from Pulminary Fibrosis and my older brother has been diagnosed with it and is currently waiting for a lung transplant. Like i said i had spinal fusion on 3 herniated discs and i just found out a few months ago that now i have a Bulging disc. What could be causing my left arm to be numb all of the time?? and even my right leg goes numb but its not nearly as bad as my right arm..and i do still suffer quite a bit from back pain..any help would be greatly appreciated...thank you

Doctor

A:   The numbness in your left hand and elbow as you described can be due a cervical nerve compression (C7-C8), but it would be important to rule out inflammation of the peripheral nerves at the level of the arm and hand. In the younger patients, cervical radiculopathy may be a result of a disc herniation or an acute injury causing impingement of an exiting nerve. In the older patient, cervical radiculopathy is often a result of spinal canal narrowing from bone (osteophyte) formation, decreased disc height and degenerative changes due to aging process. The same described before for the cervical spine applies to the lower back in terms of cause of pain and numbness in the legs, same causes, different spinal level.
The treatment strategy usually includes: physical therapy program aimed to reduce pain and inflammation, and the use of anti-inflammatory drugs (as ibuprofen), also a re-education of habits and posture of the patients to improve quality of life. Patients should be independent in a stretching and strengthening program and continue with these exercises under the periodic supervision of a physical therapist initially and then completely on their own. Patients whose condition fails to improve with a comprehensive rehabilitation program and selective injections should be presented with a surgical evaluation. Often, patients should show progressive improvement over the first 6-8 weeks with conservative treatment. If there is no significant improvement in this time frame, consider a surgical evaluation.

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