Neuropathic Itch (Brachioradial Pruritus)
In September 2013, about 18 months ago, I noticed that the index and middle fingers on my left hand were a bit tingly. Assuming I’d irritated something I didn’t worry about it and hoped it would go away. It didn’t. It gradually got worse, until the fingers, palm, and top of my hand were numb, with pins and needles, and the most horrible sensation of ready-to-burst. Eventually the muscles weakened in my lower arm too.
This affected my work, as amongst other things I work with horses and it was difficult to cope with not being able to feel the reins, and to use the mucking out tools. It made daily tasks quite difficult too – holding a fork to eat, for example!
At about the same time, I had what I thought could be a sweat rash at the base of my neck and between my shoulder blades. This was very itchy. Then it spread, and found its way down the upper surface of my arms. The itch was intense, and nothing would suppress it. I can’t even begin to describe the intensity. Scratching it didn’t help either. Imagine the worst itch you’ve ever had, and multiply it 100%! A deep, incredibly intense itch, which didn’t respond to anything I put on it.
Getting an appointment at the doctor’s surgery was a feat in itself. However I managed to get one after about 3 weeks and by this time I was in quite a mess. The numb hand was weak and useless, and the itch…..well, that was unreal. I wasn’t sleeping, nothing was helping, and although I’m usually a fairly robust person and I just get on with things, this had got the better of me. I was struggling to cope without sleep and the relentless severe itch. There wasn’t much normal skin left on my arms by this time due to the constant scratching. By the time I got to see a doctor I think my condition could be described as somewhat distressed.
My GP said he thought it was either hives or scabies. He gave me some antihistamine and some creams. Nothing changed, and I called the surgery a week later. They increased the dose of the antihistamine. They kept increasing it weekly until it was at a ridiculously high level, and giving me different creams.
By this time I had spent ages on the internet trying to find answers. My arms were just shredded skin, as was the area between my shoulders. The itching was unreal, and it looked awful and because of the constant scratching it was bleeding a lot. On the internet I came across articles on Neuropathic Itch, and a lot of people said that the only relief they got was from ice packs. I dived into the freezer and slapped a bag of peas on my arm….I can’t describe the relief when after a few minutes I couldn’t feel the itch! So I invested in lots of gel ice packs which I had strapped to me 24 hours a day, and carried a cool-box around with me so that as they melted I could change them. Every hour through the night I was changing them, but at least I got some sleep and was more able to cope.
I had by now read an awful lot about neuropathic itch, and I learnt that it seems to be caused by things like arthritis or other bone problems in the neck vertebrae. There can be things like degeneration, or bony growths, which put even very slight pressure on the nerve where it passes between the vertebrae, and because the nerve is being irritated, it fires neurons, and these make the skin believe its itchy all the way along the nerve pathway (which happens to be between the shoulder blades and down the arms.) But because its not really itchy, there is no relief when scratching it, and thus the vicious circle is formed. This made sense to me, as I could feel something wasn’t right in my neck – it was as though it was partially collapsed. I learnt that antihistamine didn’t do any good at all, and threw them in the bin.
I went back to the surgery, and by this time I was insisting on a referral for this problem as well as the numb hand, because nothing the GP suggested was helping. I was prescribed steroids, because of the state of my skin. These were at a high dose as he felt that the skin was so bad it was important to do something about it despite the dangers of steroids. Eventually I got the referral date, which was 5 months later.
When the dermatologist saw me he was horrified at the state of my skin, and asked why I hadn’t had an emergency referral. I said that the GP had requested “urgent” but the dermatologist said he should have sent me as an emergency…..I could have been seen within a week rather than 5 months!!! Not impressed!! Anyway they said it was psoriasis. I should explain that I’ve had psoriasis since a child, on my elbows and knees , and I know what the itch is like when the psoriasis is bad, and believe me the itch associated with psoriasis is nothing like what I had!
The dermatologist didn’t seem interested in my theory that it could be neuropathic itch. I was given yet more creams. Repeat appointments weekly showed the creams did absolutely nothing. Eventually I was given some strong drugs, which made me so ill that I was throwing up every 20 minutes and couldn’t lift my head off the pillow. I ended up with the doctor sat with me debating whether I should be sent to hospital!
I also had seen the orthopaedic department about the numb hand. They had tried to do nerve conduction tests but because of an electrical accident when I was a child I couldn’t tolerate it. They agreed to do an MRI.
Then I managed to get an appointment with Paul in his Bury St Edmunds clinic in February 2014.
He told me that the problem was in my neck – a nerval compression between vertebrae C6 and C7.
Paul did a spiritual operation on my neck, and after this first session in the morning I got off the table and found that I had at least 50% of the feeling back in my hand and fingers!! I had another operation with Paul in the afternoon. Again more improvement in my hand. I was amazed, it was hard to believe that after all this time it was actually feeling so very different! Paul explained that it would take a while to settle down and for the itch to diminish and that I may need to have a repeat operation depending on how I was, as the nerve was extremely swollen and irritated.
I had the MRI, and the consultant said that the problems would have been caused by the restrictions in my neck which is exactly what Paul had diagnosed and no further treatment was needed (I should add that I hadn’t mentioned seeing Paul and the improvement I had thanks to his operation, as I didn’t feel that the consultant would be open to it). By the early Spring I was off the ice packs, no itch, and the numbness and bursting feeling in my hand had gone. My skin had repaired and I was once again normal. This was just incredible. I am so very grateful! I don’t have the words to express my gratitude. Without Paul I dread to think what state I’d be in by now.
I am eternally grateful to Paul for his knowledge and skill. I know that I am incredibly lucky to have found Paul, Ray, and Jilly, and the healers that work with them. An amazing group of people who all give so much to others. Thank you – just those two words seem inadequate, but they are heartfelt!
Nikki Wheetman 16/3/2015