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Herniated Cervical Disc
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Herniated Cervical Disc

I am 33 and very active.  I play racquetball, lift weights, run, kayak, and ski.  I have been diagnosed with a buldged disc between C4/C5, C5/C6, and a herniated disc between C6/C7 (MRI Results).  The herniated disc is causing pain in the shoulder and arm down to the fingers.  For the past 6 weeks I have been taking medication with limited results.  My doctor wants me to see a surgen in two weeks if pain continues.  I was told at this point that injections or surgery will most likely be my next step.  My question is, can a herniated disc go away or will it always be herniated to some extent?  If I don't have surgery will I always run the risk of frequent irritation?  I am concerned about it effection my life style.  I would rather have surgery than frequent irritation that prevents me from living my life for months at a time.  What are the pros and cons of each option.
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Avatar_n_tn
Sorry to hear about your symptoms. However, before jumping the surgical gun (so to speak), there are a few things you can do. First, consider seeing a neurologist who can evaluate you formally and see if there has been any significant nerve damage or muscle weakness as a result of your herniation. This can be done with a neurological physical exam and with an EMG. Second, assess the degree of herniation on the MRI with the surgeon or the neurologist. It may be mild enough to get by with physical therapy and activity modification. It is important to exhaust all conservative measures first, because there is a possibility that the surgery won't help as much as you want it to. Sometimes, (esp in younger patients) PT and meds with time can significantly decrease the amount of nerve root irritation. The complications of surgery include bleeding, infection, and spinal fluid leak all of which can be unpleasant to say the least. Best case scenario is that the surgery "fixes" the disc once and for all. But the problem is, which disc or discs is causing the irritation. The bulging ones that are higher could very well be causing the symptoms. So, talk this over carefully with the surgeon (keep the apptmt) and consider talking to a neurologist. Best of luck.
11 Comments
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Avatar_n_tn
I too suffered from a herniated disc c4/c5 and a bulging disc c5/c6.  I also was suffering with pain down my shoulder and into my arm, I couldn't use my arm and was in extreme pain- as you the meds were not really working, I even upped the meds to 10 mil of percocets with no real relief. I went to see a neurosugeon.. he recommended me having epidural shots, Well, Batman. I have to tell you they worked!  I got a series of three of them and by the third one, 95% of the pain was gone.  I still expierence a little bit of pain in cold or damp weather but for the most part- I can live with it, with no med. I also go to PT and have been for the last 2 months. I am now back at work, my arm still has weakness, but for the most part, I am able to use it for everything.  Good luck, and I really recommend the shots, I hope this helped you......
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Avatar_n_tn
I had a fusion done on C5-C6, C6-C7  with good results. The pain went away and I was able to do my normal activities.  I just recently had an accident that has created another problem with a herniated disc between C7 - T1.  I had not heard it before but apparently the previous fusions made it more likely to have an herniation in another place.  Just something to think about!
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Avatar_n_tn
I had surgery for a large ruptured disk C6-7 about a year ago.  the pain was so severe I had no other choice.  Numbness and weakness in both arms.  I still have symptoms one year post.  I also have several other disks above this point that only show small bulges, I wanted the surgeon to keep this in mind and try to stablize the area but he only fixed the one and stated that the curve was put back into my neck.  Well there is no curve and the upper disks are causing trouble, I also have several herniated disks in lumbar, not sure about the rest as my PCP and insurance co do not want to.  Where can I get help?
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Avatar_n_tn
I am sitting here in my hard cervical collar posting this because of the pain i am experiencing i cannot sleep. i had a cervical fusion done 12 days ago between c5,c6,c7. the discs were herniated and were causing pain in my right shoulder radiating down my right arm, deep inside my bicep area and was very painful. this was the result of trying to catch a cashwrap that was falling off of the back of a semi that my guys were unloading. 8 months ago, i tried a series of 3 cervical injections. the first of which did nothing, the sec0nd did provide some relief but not alot, the third seemed to fix everything. the pain was gone and my neck seemed to be stronger than it was prior to the injury. this lasted about 6 weeks, and then the pain started to come back. slowly getting worse until it was back to the same level it was six months before. i got two opinions, they were both the same, surgical fusion. this was a scary decision for me to make. i didn't want to chance my life style being turned upside down by this procedure. especially my golf game, i could play in pain but maybe not play at all if something were to not go just right. i woke up from surgery with no arm pain at all, magically disappeared. but my neck was killing me, severe pain. well 12 days later it is getting better everyday, i go to see the neurosurgeon in two weeks and i hope this collar comes off and i start physical therapy if i even need it. i don't know if i am sopposed to be, but when i take the collar off to shower and test out the movement i have, i can find no serious limitations other than pain when i hit the obvious movement range. which is getting better by the day. i read the horror stories prior to making my decision about the surgery, they almost made me just live with the pain. i am very glad so far that i decided to have the surgery, hope to be playing golf in the spring again. good luck to anyone with a neck or spinal problem, i know first hand what a pain they can be. would love to hear from anyone who would like someone to listen. joe
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Avatar_n_tn
I am 40 year old female-have had buring and tingling  and pain in right hand- for a few years-last year it was very painful so I saw my  doc  ,i was told carpels tunnel-the thumb and wrist pain have gone away-replaced with burning down shoulder and arm to pinky, ring and middle finger-different sensations in different fingers at different times-EMG  results median nerve is fine-NO CARPELS TUNNEL- abnormal EMG C7-T1   MRI  herniated C-5/C6/(not corresponding to area of pain at this time)  C7-T1 show nothing on the MRI/They send me for a myelogram (it made me so sick for days after-burning down my back and legs)  headache--  Owe MRI radiologist resu lts herniated L4-5, Neurosurgeon says NO-only torn anulus at L4-5- says myelogram shouldn't   have affected  my back and legs, anyway   after the sickening mylegram he said its shows nothing at the C-7-T1, as if im making this up (abnormal EMG this is  the only thing that shows anythng) Ive had my second epidural injection a few days ago-if theres no relief I believe they want to do other injections in the joint)   I fell like  a ginny pig-   the pain is affecting  me at work and home    -- I have read that MRI  and Myelgrams dont always show the problem-any suggestions or  info would be great---thanks
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Avatar_n_tn
I suffered for 2 years with pain from a herniated disc. I spent the time in physiotherapy (Mackenzie technique) attempting to avoid surgery. One day the pain changed. For about 3 hours I was totally pain free .... then the pain came on with a vengence. A piece of disc had penetrated my spinal cord and was travelling up from L5, lodging at L4. My leg was on fire. I had emergency surgery when my bladder stopped working, removing both the disc material at L4 and my disc at L5. I have what is likely permanent damage to nerves that control the feeling and mobility of my right leg. It has improved somewhat over the past two years, with control of my abductor muscle returning about 30%. I still have numbness in my leg and drop foot.

I wonder, after all this time, what are the chances of obtaining full recovery and use of my leg? All the surgeon says is "this nerve doesn't tend to heal well". What can I do to help the healing process?
I would appreciate any information anyone might be able to provide. It seems I am unusual in that most people recover.
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Avatar_n_tn
I have a right paramedian disc protrusion at the L4-L5 level.In laymens terms what exactly does that mean and what is usually the treatment?My doctor said that i should not do much of anything.Both my knees are swelling also and the pain is also from my lower back to my knees
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Avatar_n_tn
I am in a similar situation as Batman. I'm 41 and very active. I have 3 young sons (7,10,12). I am a martial arts instructor and a musician.  My hobby is amateur auto road racing (and the various tire changing and mechanical work that goes along with the sport. and skiing. I am a do-it yourselfer- yard work, home repair. I have no interest in cutting back more than temporarily.  Past history is  one of waking up with a stiff neck a day or so after everytime I do heavy lifting. Each time was worse than the one prior.Around 10/31/01 I woke up with different symptoms mostly pain down the left arm. Went to my trusty chiropractor and had some resolution after about 6 visits but then it was time to do the big fall leaf clean up.  Woke up the next night (11/18/01)at 2 am in excrucuating pain. Withing a few days I hadtightness, tingling, pins and needles and hypersensitivity of my index finger and spreading to thumb and middle. Had an MRI done- I have a herniation at C6-C7. Was on 2 courses of prednisone with minimal results. Chiro did nothing. Finally I see the neurosurgeon who wanted me to try traction and physcal therapy first. Traction made the symptoms spread to my right side. I finally get a myleogram on 12/14 and schedule surgery for 1/10.  The earliest date available. Neurosurgeons are leaving this area in droves because of the malpractic insurance debacle.  My dilemma?  Well sort of suddenly this past weekend my pain seems significantly improved. The hypersensitivity is still there but reduced but the tips of all my fingers feel weird. I wake up every night several times with both arms asleep. My legs feel weird. I sometimes trip. But the pain is much much better. I wanted surgery a month ago but the "system" forced me to wait. I need to go back to being active as physical inactivity depresses me. Despite an improvement in somesymptomes others are becoming more annoying. I need to be healthy by April 1 so if I'm going to do this I have to do it now. I worry about re-injury the minute I change my tires on my track car. Then I'll miss the season.  Is my overall prognosis back to a full and active lifestyle best met by fixing the problem once and for all with surgery (anterior cervical fusion) or by going back to PT with an emphasis on strengthening my neck?

Thanks!
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Avatar_n_tn
Hi,
Anyone who has had this let me know. I had 3 disc replaced and a metal rod put into my neck. I was doing fine and was sent home with a collar. My dad needed to go to dialisis a couple days after I went home so I drove him. I had a little pain and called the neuro who wanted me to have an mRI. I did and he put a halo on me and said you won't be driving now. The metal rod had shifted. The halo came off one night in the hospital and I refused to have it replaced. The neuro got mad and released me and then the areas got infected and I went to another hospital and was put on antibotics for the halo induced infection. Also, I had a terrible rash from the lower part of the halo. 4 months later I still itch where it scratched my head when it jumped off. Neuro thinks I took it off but it just came off. Anyway I am still wearing a neck collar and haven't seen a neuroligist because of money and no ins. Does anyone know when I can take this collar off. My hands have started tingling again also. I often wonder if it hadn't been better to have died on the table. I am afraid to move anymore or do anything and the neuro sent me a letter that he won't see me. I tried to call and he won't return my calls but does send his bill. I am terrified the metal thing is gonna fall out or something and I am like a zombie. Very very afraid to move.I am actually terrified. Anyone with same surgery write me. Thx. @ ***@****
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Avatar_n_tn
Hey everyone, Had c5 c6 c7 Anterior cervical fusion on November 30, 2001. After suffering excrutiating pain in neck, head, left arm, shoulder. Seemed as if the trunk of my neck was snapped in two.MRI showed bulging of aforementioned discs. My neurosugeon suggested conservative approach of pt which only exaserbated the problem, terrible neck spasms. We then tried occipital lobe shots to break cycle of spasms, which is the most horrible procedure done, then we tried an epidural steroid block.All to no avail. Had surgery 41 days ago and am still in Miami J cervicl collar. If you are having a neck surgery ask to get this Miami J collar my neurosurgeon and orthopedic surgeons wouldnt consider anything but. The surgery is pretty rough especially when it comes to the bone they have to cut off the side of your hip- pelvis if your surgeon wont use a donor. I still have the same symptoms as before the surgery but now I get a shooting pain sometimes from the site of the plates going away to my right.
Supposed to see both neurosurgeon and orthopedic next week both said 3 weeks post operation that it was probably too soon to tell that everyone heals differently.Anyone not feeling relief after surgery email me. Scotty
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Avatar_m_tn
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