Why is the ten+ year old screw in my elbow vibrating?
February 26, 2018 7:16 PM   Subscribe

I broke my elbow in 2006, and the section of one of the lower arm bones that flattens out to wrap around for your elbow broke off and had a screw put in to hold it in place. Recently it has been vibrating inside my arm. What is happening?

It has been fine (other than some predicting rain achiness over the years) until a few weeks ago. An odd sensation, not tingling but something like vibration or resonating.... is the best way I can articulate what it feels like in the area where the screw is. It started out as once every few days but has been escalating and now it happens multiple times a day. You can't feel it placing a hand on the outside of my elbow.

Googling gives me nothing. The screw loosening is the only thing I have even found trying to search but this seems like an odd manifestation for that.

Has anyone here or anyone you've known ever experienced this? Is it the aliens? Am I trying to communicate with myself from the Berenstein universe?
posted by CoffeeHikeNapWine to Health & Fitness (5 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
The screw loosening is the only thing I have even found trying to search but this seems like an odd manifestation for that.

No, that seems reasonable to me. Whatever sensation you get is going to be coming from some pretty confused nerves, so why not a sensation like vibrating? They're just trying to get your attention, is my guess. Time for an x ray?
posted by Miko at 7:28 PM on February 26, 2018 [6 favorites]

It might not be the screw itself, but just weird nerve stuff related to the surgery. I get this in the breast in which I had a lumpectomy a few years ago, and in googling around discovered it’s a commonly reported phenomena. In my case it comes and goes - It will bother me frequently over a period of weeks and then time passes and I realize it’s quit at some point without me noticing.
posted by something something at 7:33 PM on February 26, 2018

I have more screws in me than I care to admit. I have an L4-L5 fusion, a fusion at the C level in my neck and a screw in my left wrist. I cannot say that I ever get a vibrating or resonating feeling, but I do get the occasional "What the heck was that?" feeling. I can also say that one of the four screws for my lumbar fusion was an airball. That is, it is screwed into the rods, but it missed bone. It is not even in bone and I have never had that feeling you describe. I guess my point it that the above posters seem to be on to something about it being a nerve issue. I would go get an x-ray for reassurance and to talk to the doc about the whole thing.

Or you could just say screw it and live with it. Sorry, that was a really bad pun.
posted by AugustWest at 7:57 PM on February 26, 2018 [5 favorites]

Has anyone here or anyone you've known ever experienced this?

A) I had one of the screws in my foot come partially loose by a few millimeters. It made a hard little bump on the side of my foot that quickly became a callus, and that was it. But the sensation of it doing so drove me up the wall. It tingled, it itched, it vibrated, it felt like a stone the size of my house was trying to work its way up through the center of my foot, etc. etc. The sensation I remember the most was kind of this itchy pain where "it" just screamed at me to press on it with like a rock or something, but that was just the wrong thing to do. All the nerves around it were just stupidly irritated. The good news was that it stopped as abruptly as it started and I didn't have to do anything about it. The bad news was at the initial consultation I was told there was nothing to do but wait it out and observe it to see if something *would* have to be done, and that took awhile.

To add to the chorus of weird nerve stuff:

B) I have a plate in my other foot, and the nerves in that area just got wrecked. It's been almost 20 years, but sometimes I still feel "phantom" pain there. But I also have really weird sensations - and this took years and years to occur - as a result of some of those nerves repairing themselves or regenerating (my doctor has explained this to me and I still don't fully understand what the right process or term is, so shaker of salt on the exact mechanism). Is it possible you're experiencing something like that?

C) I ALSO have a screw in one of my elbows (I'm half robot). I swear to god that pin and the area around it is the most sensitive one in my whole body, and it's the smallest one I have. Maybe it's the lack of fatty tissue, maybe it's because those nerves are more sensitive to minor ailments in my shoulder or wrists (it doesn't have to be related to the pin even if it's in the same area). I'll have weeks where I would swear the screw must be working its way out and the whole thing is going to pop out any day, and it's totally fine. As I get older, the area has also just become more achy and pain sensitive in general. It sucks but it happens. (I've found, in the last few years, that putting any weight on that elbow has become quite painful, and the doc's response was to heartily say, "It sure sucks to get old!" Thaaaaanks for the help, hahahaha!)

Those are just my experiences, not advice. If this continues to bother you and/or becomes painful, go to a doctor, who is the only one who can advise you for sure what's going on.
posted by barchan at 8:08 PM on February 26, 2018

I seem to recall a vibrating feeling as part of the sensation of 'hitting my funny bone', which suggests to me that the big nerve there is being irritated by some combination of screw and scar tissue.

That's nothing to mess around with, and I agree with Miko; you should get somebody to take a look at what's happening in there -- preferably a specialist. And I'd want an MRI.
posted by jamjam at 9:55 PM on February 26, 2018

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