Can I ignore electric shock pain?
May 12, 2011 8:53 PM   Subscribe

Herniated disc, doctor says it's ok to climb (can't make it worse). First week back, electric shock pain. Can I safely ignore this?

I have one slipped and one bulging disc in my cervical spine. After an EMG it was determined that surgery wasn't necessary; just physical therapy. Doctor said it was ok to resume rock climbing, as I can't make it worse.

This is my first week getting back into it at a local climbing gym and had this sudden sharp pain in my right shoulder/neck area; the same area that I had pain leading me to see the doctor in the first place. It was only for a split second and felt like I had been shocked.

I quick search turns up electric shock as a symptom for herniated discs. I just want to know if I can safely ignore it, being simply a symptom of the damage already done, or if I'm somehow making it worse and should give up climbing for the time being.

No, I have not started physical therapy yet.
Yes, I will speak to my doctor about it.

Thanks for any guidance.
posted by defben to Health & Fitness (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
As someone with disc problems too, and years of pain and recovery and relapse, can I humbly suggest that a) you listen to your body and b) give it *time* to heal. Im a climber as well, and climbing is not healing! Maybe 4-grades below your max slab domes where its all friction, but thats not what you find at the gym...
posted by H. Roark at 9:10 PM on May 12, 2011 [2 favorites]

I wouldn't risk it, personally. I had a bulging disc problem several years ago, with an affected nerve area. After some shots to reduce swelling, and no more heavy manual labor (I was doing construction at the time), I made a remarkable non-surgical recovery over the course of a few months - my doctor viewed back surgery as a last resort, only after she had tried all other avenues because of the potential downside and the lack of guaranteed recovery.

This past week, I have had back pain and tightness, and just that is enough to make me cautious in my actions, and ready to make an appointment with the doctor on Monday. Honestly, I would get a second opinion - a relatively high risk activity like rock climbing isn't something I would imagine is on the top of the approved list for bulging disc patients. My doctor gave me a dire warning that an innocuous thing like picking up my son, about 45 pounds at the time, could potentially result in a burst disc that would leave me immobile in pain on the floor, and absolutely require surgery. Not worth the risk.
posted by shinynewnick at 9:13 PM on May 12, 2011 [2 favorites]

Do more PT before you try again.

Pain is your body's way of telling you to stop. So stop, and try again after some PT.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 10:11 PM on May 12, 2011 [3 favorites]

If you do decide to keep climbing, there's a fun exercise where you climb easier (read: non-overhang) routes allowing yourself only to use your pinky fingers for your hands. It prevents you entirely from using back/shoulder/arm muscles to climb, and forces you to only use your legs. It's quite a good exercise for improving your climbing style, and would maybe scratch the climbing itch without doing anything damaging to your back while it heals.
posted by lollusc at 11:22 PM on May 12, 2011

Massage therapist here. "electric shock" pain is symptomatic of trauma to a nerve. Follow your physical therapists advice. Personally, I wouldn't be climbing until I had full, pain-free range of motion in arms,legs, shoulders, neck and torso.
posted by flutable at 11:24 PM on May 12, 2011 [3 favorites]

Even if the climbing doesn't make your herniated disk any worse, the weird contortions you get yourself into to avoid the pain from your herniated disk could hurt you in some other way. I agree you should at least start PT before you climb. But I am neither a health professional nor a climber.
posted by mskyle at 3:27 AM on May 13, 2011

Not a doctor, not a climber, but I do get the electric shock pain, too. My PT, similar to others in this thread, said to slow down my activity when I got those. So now I'm back to walking instead of biking. Yay.
posted by lillygog at 4:44 AM on May 13, 2011

Try treating the scalene muscles of your neck and the levator scapulae holding up the shoulders with massage.
posted by Not Supplied at 6:16 AM on May 13, 2011

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