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Cervical Disk Herniation
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Cervical Disk Herniation

I am a 43 year old woman, in February 2000 (16 months ago) I developed a very bad stiff neck.  This was diagnosed (through MRI) as a disk bulge/herniation at the C5-6 level and a mild disc bulge at C4-5.  An X-Ray showed degenrative changes at C5-6 with large bone spurs.  I was prescribed (in order) (1) Anti-inflammatories & Muscle Relaxers, (2) Physical Therapy (3) Traction.  The neck problem improved to a tolerable level of chronic pain.

In February 2001 (3 months ago), I developed a bad pain/itching inside my shoulder blades, about 1/2 inch down and 3 inches out from my C7 bump.  This pain is on both sides, but is worse on the left side.  The pain also radiates mildly down my left arm.  My doctor ordered another MRI which showed that my C5-6 disc herniation had gotten worse (From MRI Report "At the C5-6 level, there is a central/leftward herniated disc which effaces the thecal sac and contacts the left aspect of the cord").  I have no neurological symptoms.

My doctor recommended surgery (spinal fusion/disc removal).  He said there was a 90% chance that this would significantly improve my symptoms.  I got a second opinion from another doctor who said that because the worst pain (inside the shoulder blades) was in such an unusual place, he wasn't sure that surgery would help.

I do not know which doctor to listen to.  Also, how likely is it that my worst pain (inside the shoulder blades) is caused by my disc problem/bone spurs and would be improved by surgery.
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Dear CEL:

Sorry to hear of your problems.  If your surgeon thinks that there is a 90% chance to cure your pain-have the surgery.  I will recommend everyone in the country visit your surgeion because the rate would be the highest I have ever heard told.  Really, surgery is the last, the very last option.  The outcome is hit and miss.  Unless there is moderate to severe compromise of the thecal sac, I would try other means of dealing with your pain.  I would continue with the rehab.

Sincerely,

CCF Neuro MD
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