Numb torso: wtf
August 2, 2018 11:59 PM   Subscribe

YANAD, but my doctor was baffled by numbness on the right side of my torso. I don't have any other symptoms. What's happening?

A couple of weeks ago, I noticed that the right side of my torso is numb to the touch. Both on the back and the front. It stretches from my lower back to just above mid-back, and mid-stomach to the top of my breast on the front. It's especially numb mid-back and seems to radiate out from there. I only noticed because I had an itch and when I went to scratch it I realized it felt totally weird. The numbness isn't affecting my arms or my legs, or anything above my shoulders.

I'm 33 and female, and in good health otherwise. I rarely drink, I'm not a smoker, I eat pretty well. I'm a PhD student so I have my fair share of stress, and my life can be kinda sedentary, but I have a dog and walk her for about 1.5 hours a day so I do get out quite a bit. I recently had some shoulder impingement issues on my left side and as a result my right shoulder muscles can get pretty tense, so maybe that's something? My doctor didn't seem terribly phased by that though.

I have absolutely no other symptoms. Nothing to suggest MS, a mini-stroke, or anything like that. My muscle strength is fine, my reflexes are fine, no clumsiness, no incontinence. The doctor also said it doesn't sound like a compressed nerve because it's not affecting my limbs. The fact that it's JUST my torso and nothing else is apparently quite surprising.

I've been referred to a nerve specialist but it'll probably be a month or more before I get an appointment. In the meantime, have any of you experienced this? Any ideas? Needless to say, I'm a little anxious and scared. Of course I'd love to hear reassurances that it's probably nothing, but even if you think it IS something that's helpful - the mystery of it all is pretty stressful.

Thanks in advance!
posted by thebots to Health & Fitness (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
This is a long shot but have you spent more time lying/with pressure on the affected area than usual lately? I lost sensation in part of my upper arm many years ago after I passed out drunk on that side and lay in the same position on it for a few hours. The sensation gradually returned over a six-month period.
posted by terretu at 2:03 AM on August 3, 2018


I get this if I (large-breasted woman) try to sleep without a bra. I get it on the side that I sleep on. Presumably my untethered boobs put pressure on a nerve somewhere. If I sleep in a bra, problem solved.
posted by amro at 3:36 AM on August 3, 2018


I'm a neurologist. You need to see a neurologist, sooner rather than later. Is there any way the appointment can be moved up? If not, do you have access to urgent care, which might be able to get you to a specialist sooner? The ER would be a last resort. This isn't emergent, per se, but two weeks of persistent localized thoracic numbness in a young otherwise healthy woman deserves a quick workup.

If you MeMail me your location, I can try to help you find someone.
posted by basalganglia at 3:59 AM on August 3, 2018 [36 favorites]


I'm not a neurologist but I totally agree with basalganglia (of course). In my own experience the longer you let a nerve problem persist, the harder it is to recover from the results whether muscle weakness, pain, tingling or numbness.
posted by beagle at 7:57 AM on August 3, 2018


This is a weird suggestion but the placement on your body suggests shingles to me - the “girdle” placement on one side of the body is a classic symptom. Numbness can be an after affect. Did you have a rash on that area at any time in the past?
posted by mai at 8:23 AM on August 3, 2018 [2 favorites]


This page suggests that numbness can be an early symptom as well, before a rash develops.
posted by mai at 8:24 AM on August 3, 2018


If you do have shingles, early treatment with anti-virals makes a big difference, so I recommend another doctor apppontment ASAP.
posted by mai at 8:26 AM on August 3, 2018


Small update: now my right arm has some numbness. Not too sure if I'm relieved that a limb is involved, which seems to be more common, or displeased that it's getting worse. Going back to the doctor today.

Thanks for the suggestions so far, feel free to add more.
posted by thebots at 10:14 AM on August 3, 2018


Glad you’re seeing a neurologist.

My anecdote: I experienced numbness in my chest and left breast for about 5 years after a car accident, as a result of intense pressure from the seatbelt (my chest bone was also broken in the accident, but that’s basically like breaking a rib). Sensation returned slowly.
posted by samthemander at 10:53 AM on August 3, 2018


Just an update for anyone reading this with similar issues: I was diagnosed today with MS. Definitely go see a neurologist.

Thanks to all of you who recommended seeing a neurologist ASAP as I was able to get my diagnosis super fast, and treatment will closely follow.
posted by thebots at 6:46 PM on September 8, 2018 [1 favorite]


thebots: I'm sorry to hear about your diagnosis, early detection hopefully will give you the best options going forward.
posted by beagle at 9:31 AM on September 12, 2018


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