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t8-t9 disc herniation

I have been diagnosed with a large disc herniation at t8-t9(MRI).  I have pain radiating around my rib cage which is relentless and frequent muscle spasms around the disc area.  I can barely use my arms as it aggravates the problem and sets me back.  My surgeon had informed me that the surgery is very complicated and dangerous and does not want to do anything unless he is sure this will not improve with time.  He also infomed me that 3 out of 4  of these herniations will get better on there own without sugery.  Has anyone gotten better with one of these, has anyone had the surgery?  These are rare and no one seems to be able to give me answers.  I don't know if I should be active or do nothing, physio is giving me mixed messages and state they have never seen one of these before.  
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Avatar universal
Just some clarification: disc herniations/protrusions etc tend to clear up spontaneously over a generalised peiod (nothing specific) between 6-24 months and is why healthcare professionals and certainly surgeons only wish to operate, as a last resort. I.e. the problem will usually resolve whether you receive physiotherapy, perform stability exercises or stretches or, arguably, whether you chew gum on the left side of your mouth every other two days....the end outcome is the same regardless of any intervention......In the MAJORITY of cases.

There are exceptions i.e. the minority, which is when surgery is more apt. Such cases occur mainly when people start to experience problems of muscle function. Generally, surgery is only directed towards pain if the pain is that bad and persistent, hence why the preferred route for pain is medication, especially nerve-pain medications e.g. gabapentin & pregabalin. These act to take the 'edge' from the pain, to allow a little more relative rest/relaxation and might be combined with muscle relaxants e.g. diazepam/amitriptyline (generally: daytime/night-time use...from my understanding: I'm a healthcare professional with limited knowlegge of this but, pharmaceuticals are not my area of expertise). Other medications might also be used e.g. anti-inflammatories (especially if an injury has recently occurred) or other medications aimed at pain e.g. paracetamol/codeine phosphate etc. It is your doctor's responsibility to put the drug to the diagnosis. Pharmacists have a greater understanding of which drugs interact with other drugs and in which way and therefore tend to advise patients or doctors when one medication might interfere with the working of another and which, if any, alternatives might be more suitable.

An important note pertains to detrimentally labelling medications with 'good' or 'bad' connotations e.g. Amitriptyline acts as a muslce relaxant, in order that people can gain sleep. It is also used in mental health for the some of the same reasons: to help relax muscles which have become tight e.g. due to stress/fear. The importance is not labelling a drug as e.g. 'a mental health' medication, rather than 'a medication', like any other; in this instance, the objective is the same: for the person to gain greater sleep.

Physiotherapy for many of these cases is to descrease muscle disuse occurring and therefore help muscles maintain flexibility and strength and thereby help keep a joint mobile.
It can also be argued that physiotherapy acts as a stop-gap, i.e. it takes up some of the time (6-24 months) during which the problem should spontaneously resolve regardless of what happens. The use of physiotherapy from this perspective, I used to think was a poor one but, this came from my own inadequacies of knowledge at that time. I think as long as I am able to determine what is wrong (diagnose) and provide a brief genearlised knowledge of the likely prognosis (i.e. what might occur as a result of the diagnosis), then I am able to offer people informed choices regards which, if any, options are available to them.
Unfortunately, with approximately 5-10% of disc problems, at any level (within the spine), people are in a significant amount of pain for a non-specific amount of time. Guiding people to 'wait' is clearly not a great option but, if provided with knowledge of the options avaiable, the risks of these options versus others and, what to look out for (regards a large negative factor which would sway a persons' prognosis towards e.g. surgery) and how to act should that occur (i.e. attend your doctor or accident/emergency dept), then maybe I've done my job, eased a person's fears and given them some ideas on how their pain might be reduced by movement/exercise, different postures and medications.

I hope this clarifies. Should anyone wish to dispute the above, please do so but, try to do so responsibly, as other not-so knowledgable people will look at these inputs to cyberworld and may take what you have to say literally. The above, from my perspective is to be used as a rough guide. It was 'placed' here due to the clear lack of knowledge from other inputs.

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1043790 tn?1297004644
Wow, this is the best thoracic forum thread I have found yet, so I feel obliged to contribute knowledge of my experiences.

I have had problems above and below T8. Tried different chiros, chinese doctor but nothing took pain away better than swimming. Chinese back doc did do a great job of grinding out dead blood/scar tissue under the skin of my back with his elbow though. That helped me get more than 5-6 hours sleep per night. How many of you have that problem, excruxiating pain at 6am or earlier - before the hot shower????????  

I get that same pain radiating around the ribs and 'hot poker' like shooting pains that some our you mentioed already.

My cause was a rugby injury about 1997. After comparing 2009 MRI's pre-swimming and a year later (swimming about 5km a week on average) I came to the conclusion there is no natural cure.

The doc said the future risk for me was nerve damage. Naively I asked how I would know if I have nerve damage. Yeah...he said I would clearly know, and it was irrepairable(**** is that even a word?)

Just had a costotransversectomy(that is a word) 2 weeks ago. Involved the doc making a 60mm cut, making about a 5mm hole in one of those knobbly bones near rib end, then cutting out T7/T8 herniated disc between spinal cord and vertabrae. 2 hours surgery.

I walked out of hospital 2 days later (1 day ahead of schedule). Doc said I had initially recovered quicker because i wasn't operating in an emergency situation, rather he referred to the planned op scenario equating to faster recovery.

Scar healed and plaster fully removed after 12 days, swam 650m after 13 days, 1km today after 14 days.

Still alot of pain sitting, especially with any hint of poor posture and also becuase I am off the post surgery drugs now. Pain still subsides as usual after swimming but the location feels 'lumpy'. Touch it and it feels numb like a local anesthetic, which I guess is a result of surgery.

Based on how I feel now, only time will tell the truth, genuine success story or not?

I have decided that I will continue the swimming regime, have another MRI in 12 months and reconfirm whether to do the remaining T8/T9 disc problem also.

NOTE the doc said its too risky to do both discs in a single operation, he didn't feel comfortable about that idea. Remember that finding a doc that has experience with this type of rare surgery is a sure bonus. My doc/ ie.specialist back surgeon said he has done this surgery less than 10 times over a period of 5-10 years. Definitely ask.

Learn yourself online, thoracic cases are rare, approx. 1 in 1,000,000 diagnosed anually, 1 in 5,000,000 for multiple thoracic disc. Read the case studys and you will discover there's about an 85% sucess rate, 5% of ops will have no benefit/end worse off, 5% end in neurological problems, 5% end in mortality.

Seriously people, I hate swimming, but definitely recommend doing it. The pain relief from swimming (freestyle) is equal to taking NSAIDS. I started off swimming 6x lenghts of an 18m long pool, stopping at each end, I was useless - so have faith, you can do it too.

Hanging from monkey bars for 30 secs once a day helps too.

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Avatar universal
I have a herniated disc at T8 along with several other herniated disc in the lumbar. I was wondering if you guys have lots of pain around the rib cage and around the sternum.
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539478 tn?1296621012
I have 4 herniated discs in my thoracic with the worst ones being at t7-t8 & t4-t5 as well as many micro fractures, schmorl nodes, etc. (my updated journal post on my back issues is on my profile page if you want all the details). I can relate to everyones pain/issues/concerns. My pain began there over a year & half ago & although I've stopped teaching fitness classes due to my back injuries, it is only getting worse at 7/8 4/5 areas. It radiates around to my ribcage & hurts so bad I feel like I'm having a heart attack & I cannot breathe or even stand up straight & I throw up with the pain. The 'attacks' began gradually & now they are frequent &  I'm even having them in the middle of the night. It's begun affecting my bladder & I have numbness around my ribcage & foot. My sleep is affected - my whole life has been affected!

Doctors won't operate due to the location & I am at my wits end with pain. I've tried everything the professionals has suggested (inversion table, epidurals, facet joint injections, chiropractors, physical therapy etc etc). I'm a personal trainer so I try to lightly work out regularly to keep my muscles strong but I find I can hardly work at all now due to the constant pain. I'm in the same boat as most of you all & I know exactly what you all are going through. If anyone has heard of any other treatments or good thoracic back doctors (I'm in VA) please let me know!!

Good luck to everyone & try to hang in there...
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1043790 tn?1297004644
I'm 6 weeks post op now. All is going quite well I believe,  Seen the doctor the other day who said to expect post op pain for about 3-6 months. He prescribed some Tramadol which seems really good, I'm dropping a 50mg cap once a day before bed.

Have also been outstanding in self motivating myself to stick with some swimming therapy.

Trust me people, swimming can help you alot, probably won't fix your problems but it definitely helps as a natural painkiller. Give it a go, nothing to lose and feel free to abuse me if it doesn't work.

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539478 tn?1296621012
I'm glad everything seems to be going well after your surgery. Where (or who) did your surgery?
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