My EKG was fine. My EMG was fine. A blood test showed that my cholesterol was starting to creep up, but basically it was fine. I went back to my doctor with the expectation that the MRI that I had just had of my neck would also show that everything was fine. I expected a continuation of the unsolved mystery of my tingling leg.
Except that it wasn’t fine. The MRI revealed two problems. Somehow I had developed arthritis in my neck and the second had to do with my nerve cells. The doctor said that some of the cells “had changed”. I wasn’t quite sure what that meant. He grilled me repeatedly asking if I had suffered any injury to my neck that could have caused this. I hadn’t. The report suggested that I have an MRI performed of my brain as well and I left the doctor’s office to go schedule that.
On my way home, I read the copy of the MRI report. It made reference to evidence of something called demyelinating disease. Having no idea what that was, the first thing that I did when I got home was to go online and look it up. Myelin is a sheath or coating on the nerve cells. With a demyelinating disease, this myelin is damaged. It could be caused by a variety of things such as exposure to certain chemicals or genetics. In the case of MS it is believed that an individual’s own immune system attacks the myelin. This creates problems because the myelin plays a key role in the conduction of the electrical signals through the nervous system. Damaged myelin inhibits the flow of the signals and can cause sensations (like my tingling leg), lack of coordination, problems with eyesight and numerous other symptoms.
Now we knew what was causing the tingling leg. The next step was to figure out what was causing the demyelination and what, if anything, to do about it. It was back to the imaging center for an MRI of my brain.
While I was waiting the six weeks for my nerve induction test (EMG), I developed a sore neck. It was like a stiff neck that you might get from sleeping in a bad position except that it didn’t get any better after a few days of a heating pad like it should have. The likely culprit was my baby daughter and the way that I was holding her to feed her a bottle. In the end, this little culprit turned out to be a savior.
My doctor prescribed physical therapy for me. I have mixed feelings about the PT. Learning a few exercises primarily for my traps was not a bad thing. However, it wasn’t much more than going to a personal trainer for a few exercises and getting a massage. The massage of my neck felt good, but I question the long term benefit of the treatment. After a few weeks of repeating the same exercises that I could easily do at home, I did just that and stopped going.
Then one day while I was holding my daughter and feeding her a bottle I noticed something very peculiar. When I turned my head down and to the left to look at her, I felt the tingle in my thigh. Every time that I moved in that direction the same thing occurred. I mentioned it to my wife who mentioned it to our doctor. “Have him come back in to see me immediately”.
I thought that I had solved the mystery. It must be that I have a pinched nerve in my neck. That might explain both the perpetual stiff neck and the tingling leg. My doctor disagreed. He explained how it was unlikely because the nerve fibers going down to the leg would be buried well inside of the spinal cord at the neck. A sensation in my arm or a pinched nerve in my lower back might make my idea more plausible, but not a neck-thigh combo.
I had no other symptoms at all and was basically very healthy. My doctor suggested sticking with the PT and watching it closely to see if it gets any better or worse. Then, as I was walking out of his office, he called me back. “Let’s not wait. Let’s get an MRI done and see what’s going on in there”.
We will call this the case of the mysterious tingling leg, part 1.
Almost a year went by without any further symptoms apart from just feeling not quite as agile as I used to be. Then one day, I started to notice a tingling sensation in my leg. It wasn’t painful. It was a similar feeling as to how your leg may feel if you have sat on a toilet seat too long. The sensation was in the front lower part of my left thigh, a little above the knee. It only showed up occasionally. If I ran, it tingled. If I walked very quickly to cross the street before the light changed, it tingled. The strongest sensation occurred each morning when I would climb out of bed. In each case, the tingling would cease as soon as I stopped the movement.
The tingling was so slight and intermittent that I didn’t concern myself with it until a month later when I had a conversation with a friend. My friend had recently had a heart attack and was sharing his story with me. He had all of the classic symptoms such as a tingling numbness in his arm and the feeling of an elephant sitting on his chest. It got me thinking about my leg. Was it possible that a tingling leg could be the same warning sign as a tingling arm? Time to see a doctor.
My doctor ran me through a battery of tests including an EKG. Everything looked great. My heart was fine. The doctor suggested that I schedule a nerve induction test to make sure that there wasn’t a problem there, which I did for six weeks later.
I went back home, very relieved, expecting whatever had caused the tingling leg to go away on it’s own.