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C5-6, C6-7 disc protrusion
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C5-6, C6-7 disc protrusion

Hi, I've been suffering with bad neck & left arm pain with muscle twitching, headaches and back shoulder blade pain & bad muscles spasm in the neck, trapezius & forearm for over 1 year now. Follow up MRI 1 year after the first shows even more of a protrusion at C6-7 now.  I've tried the conservative route for a year without any improvement.  I'm booked for a C5-6&C6-7 microdiscectomy & instrumented fusion in the new year. I find lately that I'll have 2-3 days of relatively manageable pain, albeit with pain killers but then followed by excruciating pain for days after that.  The doctor said that there's basically no room in the left neuroforamina especially at C6-7 which would go along with the appropriate pain down my left arm into the thumb, index & especially my middle finger.  I have on & off numbness/weakness in the arm but my reflexes are still intact. When I bend my head down I have tingling in my left arm and sometimes my left leg.  I'm tossing & turning about sx because I'm very scared.  When my pain is so bad, I basically want my arm chopped off but as humans we quickly forget the true feeling of pain and decide against sugery each time once I feel better.  Could you please let me know if this is the normal that the pain comes and goes in days & severity enough to warrant surgery?  Also, if I don't have surgery, can there be permanent nerve damage? how long can this go on before this happens? how long if I have surgery before I'm able to carry on with normal everyday life? months? It has become worse in the past year on MRI, would the disc heal on its own still?
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Avatar_n_tn
If the foramina is really tight as your doctors say, then it's very possible that you're experiencing intermittent compression of the nerves going through there with things like position changes, causing the excrutiating pain. And yes, you can have permanent damage if you let this go. Can't say how long it takes for it to cause permanent damage as it really depends on how bad it was, and how long you've had it. But usually we wait about 6-8 weeks with conservative therapy with a bad disc and if things look worse or don't improve, then we go for surgery depending on the degree of nerve compromise. In your case, after a year of conservative therapy and worsening of the MRI, it's unlikely it will go away on its own.

After surgery, we again tell people to go on light duty with gentle stretching and no heavy lifting (nothing more than a gallon of milk) for about 6-8 weeks. After your first neurosurgical followup at that time, if everything is ok, you can go back to your normal routine gradually.

I can understand that surgery can be scary. But if you have a good surgeon who can talk to you about your concerns before and after the surgery, then that makes things a lot better. Write down a list of questions and give them a call or bring them to your preop appointment. Good luck.
23 Comments
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Avatar_n_tn
I too had the same problem and I ended up having surgery.  In the long run after the disc protrusion had gone so long, my neck collapsed on itself and by the time the neurosurgeons went in, they said I had no disc left and C-6and C-7 were completely shattered.  I too had all the nerve pinching and pain that was relieved by fentynal patches and epidural injections.

They put a metal plate in my neck and 2 cadavar bones in and everything was fine from this Feb until now and I reinjured it somehow and have the same symptoms again.

Don't let it go too long.  It will be more painful.
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Avatar_n_tn
I also had the exact symptoms you describe! The pain in my neck and shoulder were unbearable at times followed by some days when the pain would be mild and tolerable, although those days were few and far between. I would be able to tell how bad my shoulder and neck would hurt by how it felt first thing in the morning, and if it hurt bad one day I knew it would be twice as bad the following day. Very strange. Like you said also, the pain between my shoulder blades was horrible as well. C5-C7 was herniated in my case and the symptoms most followed the C5-6 route so my very conservative neurosurgeon chose to fix only that level despite my requests to fix both levels. I should have chosen another surgeon then, but when the symptoms didn't improve and in fact got much worse with numbness into right thumb, index finger and forearm I finally went to a different ortho doc who put me through additional nerve blocks to try and identify the exact location of my pain. It turns out that my C6-7 nerve path is actually where the C5-6 path should be and was the main culprit all along! Of course I asked if I could wait until summer was over before having it fixed and because my EMG was normal he told me I could. By the time I did have surgery though, I had numbness in both hands and forearms, horrible pain in my neck, shoulder, and scapula region, and pain in my right elbow area. It has now been 10 weeks since my surgery and I have to say I am about 90% better! The pain has all but gone, the numbness is still there on and off, he says that it may take more time since I waited so long to have it fixed. I urge you to have it fixed as soon as you can, you will be glad you did! The longer you wait, the more permanent the damage can be. Make sure though that all levels that need fixing are done at once so you don't have to go through what I did. God bless.
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Avatar_n_tn
Thank you so much for your very honest comments.  I think you just help me make my decision. Today is a particularly bad for for my pain and numbness.  I was sorry to hear that both of the levels weren't fixed at first but I'm glad to hear that you're doing so well now.  I hope I too have the same success as you.  Thank you again for your encouraging comments.  Happy Holidays to you and your family!
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Avatar_n_tn
If the pain and discomfort are unbearable without medication- hampering your ability to engage in normal day to day activities- have the surgery. Permanent damage due to prolonged condition is a very real threat. I'm living it. Medication's effectiveness (narcotics) is lessened over time and continued usage. If you can get to the point where you don't need it- go there, while you still can. Any hope of lessening the pain is worth pursuing. Surgical complications are low and the nerves have no hope of healing without eliminating the physical cause of discomfort. I did not have a complete recovery, but following discectomy and fusion of the same levels as you, I am at least able to get through my days without medication and without being "nasty" to my family at every opportunity! Just getting away from the meds was worth it for me. I'm still very limited, physically, but the brain works fine and I get things done- even if it is slowly.
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21352_tn?1196466338
I have read your comments with great interest, I am a 34 year old female who has had neck and shoulder pain for 5 years. The pain is totally unbearable at times and I recently had a CT of my thorasic spine the showed an osteophyte at my T8-9 area-- there is also "slight" herniation in this area but "mostly unremarkable" as the radiologist stated. My doctor says this result should not be causing the pain in my shoulder blades and neck so he ordered me an MRI of the cervical spine in two weeks. I can at times tolerate the pain but it is ALWAYS there, I have a terrible aching and burning in my neck and shoulder blades, at times I get very sharp pain in the area also. Last Monday I had tingling and twitching in my left arm and involuntary movements of my fingers in the left hand, my left ring finger was pulling toward my pinky finger very noticably. This has happened in the past but it is pretty occasional. I am getting very scared and I am SO tired of this pain. My doctor started me on Neurontin 300mg three times a day yesterday and so far with only taking 2 doses I feel kinda dizzy and lightheaded, the pain is still there but it seems to be helping alittle. I hope with some time the side effects go away. I guess what I am looking for is people with these symptoms and what you have possible been diagnosised with and how you are being treated. My doctor suggested a Ruemotologist evaluation also, he mentioned Fibromyalgia.  My neck often feels like it will fall with over, it feels so stressed and achy. The burning is terrible in my shoulder blades. Please respond with any comments, I am feeling so alone with this problem and I don't want to be a burden to my family. Thanks in advance for listening to me.
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Avatar_n_tn
Hi, I am 27 female and had back and neck pain for about 6months I injured myself at wor, I have been to many doctors and had x-rats,pt,blood work and just last montha mri the mri shows minimal disk desiccation and mimial posterior annular bulge at c5-6. They only did by neck. what does this mean do I need sx. My symtoms (symptoms) are headaces,servere pain in shoulder blade area mos pain lower pack pain down rt leg pain down arm more left then righ numbness in legs arms and fingers mostly my last three fingers and weakness in the left arm. any suggestions
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Avatar_n_tn
Small town girl... Sounds like you have a herniated disc problem.
I know the feeling as I have been diagnosed with c 5-6 protusion causing deformity of my spinal cord... Neuro doc  recommends surgery due to my pain and weakness   numbness into arm and thumb and forefinger.. Sounds like something you are experiencing
My doc wants to do a anterior cervical discectomy with fusion and plating   sounds scary but i know I have to do it to feel better....
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Avatar_n_tn
I also had c5-6 microdisectomy with rabea cage fusion following a work accident 3 years ago. Surgery was not done for 2and a half years after initial injury. Recovery is going very slowly I am still having pain down left arm, shoulder and into thumb getting back to as bad as it was originally. Could this be that the nerve was damaged and will not repair? The circulation in that arm is getting bad and my arm and hand have actually turned blue at different times. When the disc was protruding it was abutting my spinal cord and in the last few months another condition has shown itself Restless Leg Syndrome with PLMD, could this be caused by any of this as I have never heard of this condition before and no one in my family has this? Would be happy to hear other comments on this!
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Avatar_n_tn
I also had c5-6 microdisectomy with rabea cage fusion following a work accident 3 years ago. Surgery was not done for 2and a half years after initial injury. Recovery is going very slowly I am still having pain down left arm, shoulder and into thumb getting back to as bad as it was originally. Could this be that the nerve was damaged and will not repair? The circulation in that arm is getting bad and my arm and hand have actually turned blue at different times. When the disc was protruding it was abutting my spinal cord and in the last few months another condition has shown itself Restless Leg Syndrome with PLMD, could this be caused by any of this as I have never heard of this condition before and no one in my family has this? Would be happy to hear other comments on this!
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Avatar_n_tn
How do you know if your nerve damage is permanent? Do you have to wait until after your problem is corrected to see if damage is permanent?  I've got something going on, not too sure where to start looking for diagnostics.  I have pain in shoulders, neck, left arm, left hand.  I have a lot of numbness too.  And I have recently developed shaking in my hands, feet and legs.  Five years ago I had blood work done that ruled out a lot of things it could have been.  An examination from my neurologist was useless.   He basically said that my curved neck was congenital.  I now have no insurance and I am afraid that I have permanent damage from this.
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Avatar_n_tn
Have 3 herniated discs in thoracic area and 2 bulging,cracked L1 and L2,also broke tailbone.I have a lot of pain between my shoulder blades and in middle of back and tooth ache pain in lower back and numbness in right leg.Going to therapy,not helping,taking pain medicine,this curbs the pain but I can't do any physical activity.
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Avatar_n_tn
I have been suffering with Neck and right arm pain for years, onset by an auto accident 10 years ago. I have gone through years of physical therapy, with no results. I recently had an outbreak leaving me unable to move my neck at all, my right shoulder dropped and I now have a winged scapula. MRI and CT scan showed hernaition at the C5/6 and C4/5, degenerative disk disease also at the C3/4 and C6/7.. Unfortunatly the surgeon only did a fusion at the C5/6. Here I am six months later, still out of work and the pain is worse, I can not lift my right shoulder/arm, can not stand to sit up for more then twenty minutes at a time without having to lay down and rest my neck and arm.I am going form doctor to doctor, all afraid of touching me, stating if they take another disk, another will follow for sure. The pain in my shoulder is awful, my hand tingles and gets ice cold, pain shooting down into the hand. I can't sleep at night, and have to take muscle relaxers to help with the pain of the severe muscle spasms I have in my neck and shoulders. In search of help here, I am only 35yrs old and a single mom.I have headaches everyday, sometimes so bad I will vomit for days at a time. I have become depressed and withdrawn. Can anyone help? I hope so. Lesson I learned, be very careful who you chose to do your surgery, because other doctors do not want to clean up someone elses mess..In the mean time, you are left in pain. Would love to talk to others like myself. Good luck to all of you suffering as I do.
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Avatar_n_tn
I have been suffering with Neck and right arm pain for years, onset by an auto accident 10 years ago. I have gone through years of physical therapy, with no results. I recently had an outbreak leaving me unable to move my neck at all, my right shoulder dropped and I now have a winged scapula. MRI and CT scan showed hernaition at the C5/6 and C4/5, degenerative disk disease also at the C3/4 and C6/7.. Unfortunatly the surgeon only did a fusion at the C5/6. Here I am six months later, still out of work and the pain is worse, I can not lift my right shoulder/arm, can not stand to sit up for more then twenty minutes at a time without having to lay down and rest my neck and arm.I am going form doctor to doctor, all afraid of touching me, stating if they take another disk, another will follow for sure. The pain in my shoulder is awful, my hand tingles and gets ice cold, pain shooting down into the hand. I can't sleep at night, and have to take muscle relaxers to help with the pain of the severe muscle spasms I have in my neck and shoulders. In search of help here, I am only 35yrs old and a single mom.I have headaches everyday, sometimes so bad I will vomit for days at a time. I have become depressed and withdrawn. Can anyone help? I hope so. Lesson I learned, be very careful who you chose to do your surgery, because other doctors do not want to clean up someone elses mess..In the mean time, you are left in pain. Would love to talk to others like myself. Good luck to all of you suffering as I do.
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Avatar_n_tn
My fiance underwent surgery on 1/20/03 for Anterior Lumbar Fusion on L4 and L5.  He was one of four patients who underwent same type of surgery.  However, he was the only one whose hospital stay was 18 days versus a 4 day stay for the other three patients.  The other three patients were walking and left the hospital on on the fourth day.
He resulted with drop foot after the surgery.  It's been over 4 months and has just begun hydrotherapy as well as land therapy.  Through my research, I discovered a system called a NeuroMove NM900 machine which is supposed to aid patients with Spinal Cord Injuries as well as for stroke survivors.  That it works by detecting the attempts to move a muscle group sent from the brain.  These attempts are then shown in the display as signals over regular muscle activity.  It has a built in microprocessor that can distinguish between regular muscle activity and real attempts.  When a real attempt is detected the unit rewards the patiens with a few seconds of muscle contractions, where the visual and sensory feedback serves as an importan element in relearning the movement.  That is it used 1-3 times per day for intervals of approximately 20-minutes.  Has anyone heard of this?
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Avatar_n_tn
I have been battling similar symptoms for about 10 years. Originally started with neck/shoulder pain but since about Jan of this year has escalated to neck pain,pain behind the left shoulder blade, occipital headaches,pain in the left tricep and tingling in my left pinky. I've been seeing a chiropractor and recently an acupunctuist and physical therapy. Nothing seems to relieve my pain for more than a day or so. My GP recently sent me to the Strong Spine Center due to my level of pain. An MRI was done May 27 this year and shows: c4-5-there is mild to moderate right and mild left neural foraminal narrowing due to lateral extension of the disc/osteophyte complex and associated uncovertable joint ridging. No significant spinal canal stenosis. c5-6-small left posterior disc herniation/protrusion which produces a mild impression on the left ventral lateral margin of the thecal sac. There is mild-moderate left neural foraminal narrowing. The spinal canal is at the lower limits of normal.c6-7-evidence of bilateral neural foraminal narrowing. t1-2-small left posterolateral disc herniation/protrusion which produces a minor impression on the left ventral lateral margin of the thecal sac.
I see the Spine Dr on 6/9 and I guess I'm wondering generally what I should expect him to do about this stuff if anything.
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Avatar_n_tn
I have had c4-5 and c5-6 fused within the last year.  Prior to my surgery my MRI showed discs c2-3, c3-4, and C6-7 have also ruptured.  I have constant headaches in the back of my neck on the left side as well as severe and steady pressure over my left eye.

The back of my left arm is numb as well as my little and ring fingers.  I also have numbness in my right arm that radiates into my thumb and index finger.  I also have some trouble with my left leg (it doen't always do what I want it to).  I am trying to identify the nerves that have been affected but have had trouble identifying which nerves do what.  If someone has the time and patience would you please look at the list below and help me identify which nerves do what?

Lateral cutaneous n. of forearm
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Avatar_n_tn
I am a 43 year old woman that triped and had a bad fall at work on 7/9/03. I am curently seeing company doctors that are telling me that I have a left lateral C3-4 disc protrusion. My neck is very stiff, my right shoulder is very painful and my left arm feels as though it's not there sometimes.  although it's only been one month sence the accident, i am very concerned as to when I will feel better.  I have had PT. inwhich I feel made matters worse.  I have a clicking sound in my neck and it is driving me crazy.  Can I expect this to get better on it's own?  The Doctor is saying that sence I landed on my right side and the MRI showed left lateral protrusion, I should have the dicomfort on my left side. I am getting really discused and just want to feel better.  The Insurance company will not authorize me to see a orthopedic.  Please advise
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Avatar_n_tn
I am a 43 year old woman that triped and had a bad fall at work on 7/9/03. I am curently seeing company doctors that are telling me that I have a left lateral C3-4 disc protrusion. My neck is very stiff, my right shoulder is very painful and my left arm feels as though it's not there sometimes.  although it's only been one month sence the accident, i am very concerned as to when I will feel better.  I have had PT. inwhich I feel made matters worse.  I have a clicking sound in my neck and it is driving me crazy.  Can I expect this to get better on it's own?  The Doctor is saying that sence I landed on my right side and the MRI showed left lateral protrusion, I should have the dicomfort on my left side. I am getting really discused and just want to feel better.  The Insurance company will not authorize me to see a orthopedic.  Please advise
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Avatar_n_tn
I am a 43 year old woman that triped and had a bad fall at work on 7/9/03. I am curently seeing company doctors that are telling me that I have a left lateral C3-4 disc protrusion. My neck is very stiff, my right shoulder is very painful and my left arm feels as though it's not there sometimes.  although it's only been one month sence the accident, i am very concerned as to when I will feel better.  I have had PT. inwhich I feel made matters worse.  I have a clicking sound in my neck and it is driving me crazy.  Can I expect this to get better on it's own?  The Doctor is saying that sence I landed on my right side and the MRI showed left lateral protrusion, I should have the dicomfort on my left side. I am getting really discused and just want to feel better.  The Insurance company will not authorize me to see a orthopedic.  Please advise
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Avatar_n_tn
I am a 43 year old woman that triped and had a bad fall at work on 7/9/03. I am curently seeing company doctors that are telling me that I have a left lateral C3-4 disc protrusion. My neck is very stiff, my right shoulder is very painful and my left arm feels as though it's not there sometimes.  although it's only been one month sence the accident, i am very concerned as to when I will feel better.  I have had PT. inwhich I feel made matters worse.  I have a clicking sound in my neck and it is driving me crazy.  Can I expect this to get better on it's own?  The Doctor is saying that sence I landed on my right side and the MRI showed left lateral protrusion, I should have the dicomfort on my left side. I am getting really discused and just want to feel better.  The Insurance company will not authorize me to see a orthopedic.  Please advise
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Avatar_n_tn
I am a 43 year old woman that triped and had a bad fall at work on 7/9/03. I am curently seeing company doctors that are telling me that I have a left lateral C3-4 disc protrusion. My neck is very stiff, my right shoulder is very painful and my left arm feels as though it's not there sometimes.  although it's only been one month sence the accident, i am very concerned as to when I will feel better.  I have had PT. inwhich I feel made matters worse.  I have a clicking sound in my neck and it is driving me crazy.  Can I expect this to get better on it's own?  The Doctor is saying that sence I landed on my right side and the MRI showed left lateral protrusion, I should have the dicomfort on my left side. I am getting really discused and just want to feel better.  The Insurance company will not authorize me to see a orthopedic.  Please advise
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Avatar_n_tn
I am a 43 year old woman that triped and had a bad fall at work on 7/9/03. I am curently seeing company doctors that are telling me that I have a left lateral C3-4 disc protrusion. My neck is very stiff, my right shoulder is very painful and my left arm feels as though it's not there sometimes.  although it's only been one month sence the accident, i am very concerned as to when I will feel better.  I have had PT. inwhich I feel made matters worse.  I have a clicking sound in my neck and it is driving me crazy.  Can I expect this to get better on it's own?  The Doctor is saying that sence I landed on my right side and the MRI showed left lateral protrusion, I should have the dicomfort on my left side. I am getting really discused and just want to feel better.  The Insurance company will not authorize me to see a orthopedic.  Please advise
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Avatar_f_tn
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