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Cervical Disc Problem
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Cervical Disc Problem

Hi

I am a very healthy and active 42 year-old-woman and 3 weeks ago I injured my C-6 and C-7 left cervical discs (I backed into a piece of furniture)  They are protruding and buldging and my doctor (GP) has prescribed rest, prednisone and vioxx and staying on a moist heating pad.  I am experiencing pain where the discs are and pain under my left arm, at the left elbow, and to my left index finger.  Right now, I go into work but I must lay on the floor on a heating pad every 2 hours to get relief.

I am wondering how long I should try to get these discs to go back in before considering surgery?  My doctor has not yet prescribed any therapy or traction and may soon refer me to a Neuro surgeon. (An excellent one with many successes - according to him)  Also, should I try stretching exercises - like yoga or water aerobics?  I am terribly frustrated at 3 weeks with no real results.   I am very thankful to you for your expert advice and this site !
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Avatar_n_tn
Dear Donna:

Sorry about your accident.  I would suggest that you first see a rehab specialist and PT.  We consider this the best initial management for disc problems.  You are doing the correct thing at present but an initial evaluation by the rehab specialist will be helpful.  They will best be able to give you the correct exercises for the injury you have.  I would not immediately go into surgery unless the structural changes warrant it, such as compromised cord.  I am hesitant to tell you but 3 weeks is a short time.  I am assuming that the MRI of the spine only showed disc problems and not compromised cord or foramen problems.  

Sincerely,

CCF Neuro MD
12 Comments
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Avatar_n_tn
I ruptured my disk at C6-7 a year ago. My rupture was on the right side and also affected my armpit/chest, forearm and index finger. I had severe pain and cramping. My neck was "stuck" pointing down and to the left. One neuro wanted to operate (disk fusion) and 2 others told me to wait it out and that it would get better. One doc yold me that he prefers to wait a good 6 months to make sure that the problem is recovering. If not then he would consider surgery or other options.

In my case, it took a good 4 months from the onset of symptoms before I could say I was "OK". Granted, it's been over a year now and I'm not at 100% nor will I ever be. I still get aches in my chest and arm and my index finger is slightly dull. If I lift anything heavy, especially if the lifting causes strain in my neck, I'll definitly feel the consequences in a day or two. But the pain(more like aches) I feel now is nowhere near the real pain I had at the outset. I say wait it out. Some people have great results with fusion. BUT.... just remember, if you have surgery and the results aren't great..there's no going back.

Good luck!!!
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Avatar_n_tn
I had a cervical fusion c5/c6 10 years ago.  I was in so much
pain that I believe now I rushed into it.  I had moderate
compromise of the pain.  I would strongly urge you to be patient
understand that nerve pain takes a long time to heal if it is
going to!  Remember, you still have a chance of pain AFTER the
surgery which is what happened to me.  Any further questions
please email me at MPars007@aol
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Avatar_n_tn
Hi Donna, sorry to hear about your condition.  I had the poor luck of a similar injury 3 years ago, and went to a chiropractor that did a neck manipulation that sent me straight to the neurosurgeon.  If you go to a chiropractor, don't let them make it worse.  They think the can save the world.  Right now my lawyers are hopefully saving me.

I had a posterior lamenectomy, and when I woke up from the surgery I felt like a new person.  The disc herniated about 18 months after the first surgery, and I elected to do a second posterior surgery.  That one didn't work out, he could not get to all the disc, and a very small piece was too close to the spinal column to extract it.  After many months of agony, I let a new Doc. do anterior extraction, and then fusion.  We used cadiver bone, instead of a graft from my hip.  The surgery was much easier, and complete pain free from the surgerical incision.  The incision on the back of the neck, hurts all the time.  They have to cut through muscle.  By removal of the disc you will never run the risk of re-rupture, 20/20 hind sight.  One problem I have now to live with is I waited and waited on the 2nd surgery and now have some permanent nerve damage.  I am 49 and was in perfect health.  At this time I have not worked in 2 years.  

Go see a good neurosurgeon, do a Mylegram if necessary, it isn't that painful and is a better film than MRI.

Good luck, if you would like to discuss further, my email is ***@****.  Beleive me I have done so much physical therapy, been to every doctor I can find, and now spend several hours a day in bed.

JH
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Avatar_n_tn
On the 16th of February, 2001 I noticed that throughout the day, my back - upperback, neck, was getting sore.  More than usual.  I went to sleep that night and woke up in excruciating pain when I got up to walk the next day.  Powerful pain shooting from my mid-back spine up the left shoulder, into the left arm down to my left forearm.  Pain under the shoulder blade.  Had to lie back down immediately.  Hot shower made pain much worse.  The next day, on the 18th I had to go the the hospital emergency room for muscle relaxers( flexeril) and vicodin for pain, as well as NSAIDs - naproxen.

After taking maximum doses of all this stuff I was still in too much pain to go to work for a week.  I tried a chiropractor three times, who did provide some temporary relief of pain.  I am now going through physical therapy, continuing to take NSAIDs and apply a cold compress three times a day.  Heat still causes more pain for me - I still have too much inflamation (inflammation), I guess.  Traction provided temporary relief as well.  I am not now in nearly as much pain as the first week - that was pure hell on earth.  I have never felt anything like it.  Most of the intense muscle spasming has subsided.  I am going to work now, but at a reduced productivity due to constant pain.

My left are triceps has lost a lot of strength and my index finger is pretty numb and tingly.  This happened back on Feb 17, but I have not had any signifigant improvement in my left arm strength and numbness.  This is after about a month now. Obviously a nerve compression somewhere and somehow.

My PT has suggested that I may be pinching a nerve with my facet joints.  I have the most tension and pain at the C7-T1 location, although I believe that C6-C7 is the radial nerve that innervates the triceps muscles.  I have not yet seen a neurosurgeon or orthopedic surgeon - I am praying that my problem will slowly continue to get better on it's own.

Back injuries evidently take a very long time to resolve by themselves.  Let me know how your problem resolves.  Good Luck!

Joe
j.***@****



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Avatar_n_tn
Hi Joseph,

I had the exact symptoms that you have except on the right side. I wouldn't recomend a chiropracter doing anything with your neck. You probably have some type of rupture at C6-C7. Any twisting or cracking could make it worse. Mine ruptured a year ago and I had extreme pains as you describe. I had no surgery. It took about 3 months to settle down. I am pretty good now except for occasional aches in the arm. My index fingertip is dull to the senses but it also varies day to day. You really should get an MRI and see what the problem is and how extensive.

Good Luck.
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Avatar_n_tn
Thanks for the input.  But, did you ever get all the strength back in your right arm?  Or, is it still weaker than your left arm.

Joseph
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Avatar_n_tn
I did and I didn't. I have no real objective way to measure my arm strength pre and post injury. My arm doesn't feel weak now but I don't really know if it's at 100% or 90%. One thing I can say is that ever since the injury, I have drastically reduced any physical exertion, especially the upper body. Then when I do something phyisical, my muscles hurt the next day. I know this is bad on my part and I have been thinking of getting some weights and start working some of the muscles again. I guess my fear of straining the neck and irritating the nerves has gotten the best of me.
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Avatar_n_tn
I have been diognised for  Cervical disc Bulge. MRI was taken and the findings are as follows.
Posterocentral disc bulges at C4-5 and C5-6 , indenting the  thecal sac anteriorly.
Uncinate process hypertrophy at C5-6 level on the right side is mildly narrowinging the right Neural foramen.

All other neck and spine replated observations are normal

I am 52-female-housewife-

Is surgery essential?  The problem of neck pain and mild numbness of hands is continueing for the last one year.
What are the post surgery problems ? Should I wear any gadgets
around the neck permanently. Which dirction the surgical  cuts will be made ? Will there be  scars?  Any restrictions after the
operation for physical work?
Can physiotherapy  improve the situation ?

Please advise.   ***@****

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Avatar_n_tn
Hi,
  Eight years ago I had a 6 inch cyst on my spinal cord in the cervical area. I know c5,c6 and others were location of cyst. I don't know the exact disks . But there were more. I had sudden loss of legs with horrible tremors. I  was diagnosed after 3 days with this 6 inch cyst on the spinal cord and had to have immediate surgery. This first surgery was complicated by leaking spinal fluid which was causing horrible pain and headache but not untill a fews days after I went home. More surgery to repair this. I was left with pain in my upper back and weakness in both arms. I regained my walking ,Thank God. I couldn't stand for anyone to touch my back. It felt like I was being stabbed with needles and it was painful. I still have pain but not to the touch. I started seeing a nerologist about 4 months ago and he is injecting the whole area  of the surgery site with botox injections. I had 10 on one side the first treatment. The next time he gave me 22. I was skeptical. But it helps. It doesn't do anything for my strength loss or the pain from the surgery itself. But the pain from someone touching my back or lying down  on it,is all but gone. The needles are about all gone as well. This may sound like a small thing but it was pretty severe. If anyone is suffering from nerves and muscles being cut and the area is rigid or painful to the touch, this could help. I just wanted to pass this along in case anyone else is suffering this problem.
      Good Luck
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Avatar_n_tn
I need some advice.My husband hurt his neck around the first of Jan lifting a 300lb wet bar.At first it was just a pulling he felt in his neck.About a week later the pain was unbearable,in his neck,left shoulder,and left arm.Our family doctor sent him for an mri,and sent him to a nerosurgeon.It took about 6 weeks to get the first appt.with him.In the meanwhile the pain has gone all the way down the left side of his body,to his foot.He has to sit on a kids blow up kids swim float,and limps very bad.The pain is so bad its affecting his blood pressure,which was 207 over 112 today.Every day is worse than the last,and he cant even stand the pressure of a shoe being on his foot.His day consist of switching between standing,and sitting with only a few min in between.His whole left side feels"on fire".The sorgeon said the mri was no good to him because it was done in an open Mri.He then ordered shots to try in his neck,which didnt work at all,and now(yesterday) had a meylogram.All these different things done are at least 2 weeks apart,and has almost been 4 months now.I have noticed he's having urinary problems now.The question is,,,can all this waiting cause him permenent damage? He's 53 years old.Please someone answer,because im really worried.  Thank you.

                                    Carol Eller
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Avatar_n_tn
Hi Carol222,
I was reading your question about your husband and I had to respond. My husband was injured almost 5 years ago while working on a semi-trailor truck bed. He's a mechanic. Your husbands symptoms sound so close to his. The only thing is he had a stretch injury which caused arachnoiditis.He had injured his neck some years before this injury and had problems with his arm and neck. This unjury was in the lower back. Tests revealed nothing except high protein in the spinal fluid. His symtoms (symptoms) were so simular to your husbands that I wondered if he may have hurtanother part of the spine as well. Such as to cause a stretch injury. My husband suffered for weeks. Pain and a limp ,loss of feeling in his left foot and leg.Then loss of bladder function. It was a little problem at first and escalated to us having to rush him to the ER because he couldn't urinate all day. Being a man of much privacy, he didn't tell me until a whole day had past and he was about to explode. Finally he was diagnosed with arachnoiditis. He was tried on a lot of meds. By then the damage was done. He has a permanent limp and loss of some sensation in the left leg. Bladder function did return after seeing a urologist for some time. He was the first one to suggest the injury was a stretch injury and not a damage disk. Pain is always there. But we have answers. DO NOT GO TO A CHIROPRACTOR with this. One nearly killed him trying to fix it. I hope this might give you something to ask the doctors to see if this is the problem. They had to do a spinal tap to check for high protein in the spinal fluid but it was worth it in the long run.
  My prayers are with you,
      Kerrie
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