Avatar universal

Neck and nerve injury

Sorry if I picked the wrong topic.  I am a 41 year old Soldier in the US Army.  I was injured during combatives (mixed martial arts) in Sept 08 by having an arm bar done to me.  I have a nerve study that say I have chronic severe right C4/C5 radiculopathy and subacute and chronic right C7 radiculopathy.  I recently had an MRI that states that I have a central disc protrusion (c4/5 and C5/6) completely effacing the ventral thecal sac and contacts the otherwise normal spinal cord.  Midline AP diameter of thecal sac is 10mm.  Additionally, C3-4 and C6-7 central disc protrustion mildly effaces the ventral thecal sac w/out central spinal or  neural foraminal stenosis.  I have atrophied in my hand (minimal grip strength and loss of use of middle, ring and pinky) and my shoulder and shoulder blade are atrophied.  I get severe neck pain and headaches.  I also have Complex Regional Pain Syndrome in the limb.  Any comments from the forum on any related things you have going on.  I am scared and have been given the run around by docs.
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Avatar universal
There wasn’t really a specific incident that caused my neck problems; its a result of years of working in a very physical profession, I messed up my low back too and had surgery 8 years ago on that, but that actually worked and I haven’t had any problems with it since. I have fairly extensive degeneration in my cervical spine with multiple levels disc herniations and foraminal stenosis. Funny thing is, I never associated my arm, shoulder and upper back pain with my neck, I just assumed the assumed it was just more aches and pains from work. I might have fallen or something when it got really bad, but I don’t remember. Over the course of 4 or 5 days my pain reached unbearable levels. I had burning in my neck, severe upper back, chest and arm pain, with a lot electric type shocking pain.

Yes, I had cord compression at 3 levels prior to surgery, fortunately it was minimal. I didn’t have an EMG prior to surgery because my primary said and rightly so that EMG and nerve conduction studies should be performed 3 weeks after injury as it usually takes several weeks for muscles to show electrical evidence of acute denervation after nerve damage. My pain was so severe that she sent me immediately for an MRI and then to a surgeon. The surgeon ended up sending me to P.T. for 30 days, which really pissed my primary off. After my failed attempt at P.T. I should have had an EMG but I didn’t, this proved to be a very costly error for me down the road, but I was a wreck during all this, so I just assumed these Doctors knew what they were doing. 30 some days after my pain started, I had surgery.

My idiotic surgeon diagnosed me from my MRI and assumed that my worst level C6-7 was the primary cause of my pain. I had serious problems at 2 other levels C4-5 and C3-4. If you look at the symptoms of a C7 radiculopathy and compare them with C6 or C5 you’ll see that there very similar and a Doctor would be crazy to diagnose in this manner. I talked about it with him and he said the problems at those levels weren’t significant.

When my recovery pretty much stalled, my surgeon told me there was nothing else he could do for me and referred me to a D.O. I wasted months going to P.T. and seeing a D.O’s with no improvement what so ever.

Because I knew something was still seriously wrong I had an EMG and it showed a chronic C5 radiculopathy. I also saw 2 surgeons post-op and they both said C4-5 was causing my problem. This experience left me so weary and distrustful of the medical establishment, there was no way I could have handled another surgery at that time. I’ve been living with pain; it’s been rough but I’ve survived. The atrophy and the shoulder problems do worry me. I know I can’t live like this for much longer. Later on this year I’m going to try and get going on this and I‘ll have an MRI and EMG and see if things have gotten worse.

90% of my problems in my C-spine are caused by nerve root compression, either by osteophytes or disc protrusions. Do you think the protrusion you have at C4-5 is causing part of your problem? What do you think is causing the C7 radiculopathy? My problems are a little more well defined, but I guess not enough for that genius of a surgeon.They talk about how MRI’s can over exaggerate problems in the spine, but it works the other way too. I was supposed to have a routine single level ACDF, and it took twice as long as it should have, my family told me that when the Surgeon came out to talk to them afterward, he was frazzled and he told them that the level was much worse than it appeared on the MRI.

I looked at brachial plexus problems post-op, it didn’t fit, I looked at LTN damage, I looked at everything. Are you waiting to see a Surgeon, are you willing to have surgery?  How bad is your pain, are you able to function? Is the Complex Regional Pain Syndrome a result of your untreated pain? Let me know how your doing and don’t take everything these Doctors tell you as gospel. If something doesn’t sound right or you have doubts, see another one and get another opinion.

Take Care

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Avatar universal
Kalvin,  Thank you for responding.  If you do not mind me asking how did your injury happen?  I do not have any spinal cord issues on my MRI - My MRI says it touches the cord but no signal issues.  Did you have a nerve study - is that how they diagnosed you with radiulopathy?  Did you have cord compression before they did your first surgery?  My big concern right now is how much my MRI has changed since my first, 7 months ago.  I had a mild protrusion at C6 - nothing more.  My new MRI states that I have dissectation - which means my vertebrae are hard and brittle.  I am excited you contacted me - every doc and therapist I have seen are kind of baffled by me - at least I am not the only one.  Currently my diagnoses is Cervical Nerve Root Injury at C4/5/7.  The neurosurgeon is going to look at my new MRI's (waiting on one of my shoulder) and if he cannot help he is going to refer me to a Peripheral nerve specialist.  Have they ruled out brachial plexus issues with you yet??  Take care!
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Avatar universal
We have very similar issues, 5 years ago I had cervical fusion at C6-7 for severe  upper-back, shoulder, arm and hand pain. The majority of the pain being caused by what I was told was an  C7 radiculopathy. The surgery worked great for my arm and hand pain, although several of my fingers are still numb, but at least they don't hurt. But it didn't help my shoulder and upper back pain much. I later found out that I  have a C5 radiculopathy caused primarily by left sided C4-5 foraminal stenosis,  I do have some cord compression at this level, however I don't know if its significant or not. My neck pain comes and goes, but I have a lot of shoulder, upper back and chest pain. In my chest its more pressure and tightness, than pain. But it is very uncomfortable.And the headaches, I get the headaches, bad ones.

I've been dealing with this for 5 years, I've lost a lot of my shoulder rotation and a lot of the muscles back there have atrophied, just like what you were talking about, this is the first time I seen someone post those symptoms, that's why I'm replying right away.

I plan on have a fusion sometime this year at C4-5, and hopefully that will take care of everything.I'll probably have to spend sometime in P.T. to try and get those muscles back in shape.

Sounds like you need to see a surgeon before your condition deteriorates further. Thecal sac compression, in itself isn't really a problem, although the cord compression at C4-5 and C5-6, needs to be looked at closer.

I'm going to be honest with you, these surgeries don't get rid of all your pain, but they do help. If your having neurological issues, such as loss of grip strength and muscle atrophy you need to see a surgeon and see what he/she thinks. Good Luck.

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