I had a car accident about 29 years ago, causing me severe neck pain. The pain went away and came back 9 years ago. I had an mri and saw a neuro surgeon. He said i had a bulging disc in my neck which required surgery. I never followed through with the surgery, i got scared. He said i would eventually lose the use of my right arm if i did not correct it.
I have been ok for the past 9 years until recently when i started having shoulder pain which i thought was rotator cuff injury. Now the pain starts at neck and radiates down my arm. It feels like a hot poker. I cannot lay on my right side, and i have trouble laying on my left side, and have to prop my arm on a pillow for relief. Could you please tell me if there are alternative treatments besides surgery to correct my problem?
Thanks for using the forum. I am happy to address your questions, and my answer will be based on the information you provided here. Please make sure you recognize that this forum is for educational purposes only, and it does not substitute for a formal office visit with a doctor.
Without the ability to examine and obtain a history, I can not tell you what the exact cause of the symptoms is. However I will try to provide you with some useful information.
The vertebrae (bones of the spine) have material between them to cushion and allow for mobility. This material may be squished out (i.e., a herniated disc). It can be squished out centrally or laterally. In most people the pain associated with a herniated disc may resolve within 4-6 weeks. Therefore, for the majority of people, non-surgical treatment is the first option. This treatment may include medications (non-steroidals such as advil), sometimes steroids if there is swelling (edema), temperature therapy (hot or cold packs), stretching and controlled physical therapy, muscle relaxants, and so on. These are best prescribed by an experienced physician because each has its own indications. However, a minority of patients does not respond to medical/conservative management and require surgery. Symptoms suggesting the need for urgent surgery include muscle weakness, loss of bowel or bladder control, loss of sensation, and progressive pain.
A test called EMG/NCS can be performed to determine the extent a nerve is being compressed or damaged by a herniated disc. This test is performed by neurologist at most local offices.
It sounds like you have been dealing with this issue for a while. It is time that you readdress your neck and progressive pain with your physicians (family physician and neurosurgeon). Depending on your prior treatment options, you may benefit from one that I have already mentioned. You may also benefit from a referral to chronic pain, if you opt to not have surgery.
Thank you for this opportunity to answer your questions, I hope you find the information I have provided useful, good luck.
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