Even though I sell health insurance, I rarely used mine until 2019 when I was slammed with a variety of different health challenges. What I learned was that to maximize the interaction with my doctors it was best to use online resources to communicate with them. Unfortunately, no one can provide you with any estimates for the costs of treatment or prescription medications. Finally, it reinforced my gut instinct to just give the injury or ailment time to heal before having doctors perform a bunch of tests and procedures.
Prostate Problems & Bike Riding
At 55 years old, I am smart enough to take new aches and pains seriously. Hence, I decided to be proactive and a make doctor’s appointments when certain pains were alarmingly odd. The first problem that flared up in January 2019 was prostate pain. My Primary Care Physician (PCP) ordered a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test. It came back at 15.4. Normal is 4 for my age. This sent me to the urologist who somewhat too eagerly, in my opinion, stuck an endoscope down my urethra into my bladder.
By the time I had all the fun in the urologist’s office, the prostate pain had virtually disappeared. My PCP and I had theorized before the PSA test that the new mountain bike I bought, with the knife-like seat, may have traumatized the pudendal nerve, a common problem among cyclists. I had stopped riding my new bike and the pain gradually subsided. The next PSA test result was a 4, confirming that I needed to buy a new bike seat.
There were a few of office visits for issues I won’t get into, but were related to the healing process of pudendal nerve. However, in April I developed a new, and unrelated problem, of a massive headache. There was also an accompanying fever. I was back in the doctor’s office where I was diagnosed with a sinus infection. The prescription was antibiotics and Flonase. Forgive me for playing doctor, but I don’t think I ever had a sinus infection. Other than the headaches and fever, breathing through my nose is the same before and after all the meds.
The Limp Shoulder
But what happened next really scared me. In the beginning of March, my shoulders started to go numb and weak. Then there was intense pain in my left shoulder and I could no longer lift my left arm above my waist. Now, if that wasn’t enough, I was over come with full body itching. There was no rash, just an incredible itching sensation from the top of my head to the bottom of my feet. While I suffer from itching related to stress and anxiety, I’ve never had the palms of my hands and the bottoms of my feet itch uncontrollably. I finally found Claritin (loratadine) anti-histamine that significantly quelled the itchiness.
My PCP ordered an x-ray of my neck that found narrowing the nerve openings in the vertebrae. Oddly, the narrowing was worse on the right side, but I was experiencing paralysis on the left side. Then I had an MRI. While all of this is happening, over a 2-week period, my should pain was subsiding and my left arm paralysis was gradually lifting. I’ve had issues with my neck since I was a teenager. To keep neck pain away I exercise and use an ergonomic pillow. I’ve never had a neck issue that led to paralysis. And in this case, I never experienced any pain in my neck.
Shingrx Side Effects?
Again, excuse me for playing doctor, but in early April I received the first dose of the Shingrx Shingles vaccine. I had Shingles in 2018 and it was pretty nasty. The side effects of Shingrx are shoulder pain, achiness, and headaches. I did experience those symptoms for three days after getting the shot. However, it was a couple weeks later that the sinus headache hit me, then the left arm paralysis. I received the Shingrx shot in my left arm. Other people have reported similar symptoms they attribute to the Shingrx vaccine.
Myoclonus: Muscle Twitching
July 2020: My body seems to be coming back to life. For the last year, after the paralysis mostly lifted, I had nagging pain in a couple of muscle groups of my right shoulder. I was diagnosed with stenosis in one of the vertebrae in my neck and there is a direct line from the stenosis to the shoulder muscle pain. I notice it when I move my neck a certain way and it can be painful to ride my bike with my arms forward and my head up.
However, the stenosis does not account for the loss of range in my shoulders or my right shoulder blade sticking out: scapular winging. In late June of 2020, while just sitting in chair, those dormant muscles started twitching, involuntary muscle contractions known as myoclonus. Then, an event out of a weird horror film, the calves on both legs went into full twitching mode for about 20 minutes.
I had worked all day in the back yard, but still no where the leg exertion of a 14 mile hike the previous weekend. Late in the afternoon, while relaxing, the calf muscles just started moving. It looked like waves as one muscle would contract, then relax, then the one next to it would start. It did not hurt, but I could feel the sensation. My wife could see the muscle movements, like something was alive under the skin. It faded away within the hour.
A couple of days later, the muscle at the tip of my right shoulder blade has also started twitching with myolconus. Again, no pain, just that odd sensation of your body’s muscles involuntarily moving. I have noticed my shoulder blade not sticking out as far as of late, which makes it easier to recline in the chair in read without constantly shifting to get comfortable.
I have also noticed slight improvements in the range of motion on both arm. I can almost scratch the back of neck with my right hand without assistance from the left arm pushing it into place. Perhaps this is all from a different exercise regimen as the gym closed under Covid-19 orders. While no one will ever believe me, I think the effects of the Shingles vaccine is finally being repaired by my body.
Messaging Your Doctor Online
Through all of these infirmities, that seem to evaporate with rest and time, I would communicate with my PCP through the medical group’s online patient portal. I sent lots of messages to my PCP, not specifically asking for intervention, but to keep her apprised of my health status. It has been great. The little messages document the progress of my medical condition and now we both have a record. There were times when my PCP requested I make an appointment, like when I had a temperature or my left arm started failing me. It was also nice to be able to vent about the whole-body itching in the middle of the night.
It is so cool I can schedule an appointment online without having to call the office. I can also see my vital statistics over time. Plus, I can check out the test results. When the second PSA test came back as a 4, I knew it was the darn bike causing me the pain in my privates. The downside is that the medical office portal is not linked to the health insurance online member website. However, neither one of them give any expected costs of treatment or drug costs. For example, the PCP prescribed Flonase. When I got to the pharmacy, the pharmacist told me the prescription would be $75. But I could by the same product over-the-counter for $26. I don’t fault my doctor for not knowing the cost differential because she is not in the health insurance benefits practice.
Next Stop Urgent Care or ER
I’ve decided I will go back to being a guy. All of my ailments have thus far gone away with good old fashion rest. I figure if the pain or the problem is bad enough, I’ll just go to urgent care or the emergency room when I can no longer handle the pain, I can’t walk, or there is too much blood. I will continue to use the online patient portal to send messages to my PCP and check test results. It really is efficient and effective.