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Spinal Cord Disorders Message Board

Spinal Cord Disorders Board Index

Hi Curt,

I'm sorry you are having trouble and having to make this decision.
At age 32 I was in a rollover accident - didn't have any neck pain, but the seatbelt left a large bruise across my neck & chest so they did neck xrays just to check me out. At that time, they told me I had significant DDD, especially for someone my age and asked if I had neck trouble. I told them I really didn't and they said "You will!"

I'm 44 now and up until last year the only symptom I had was the crunching/grinding sounds with turning my neck. Then I started having arm pain (like a blood pressure cuff pumped up waaay too high on my arm.) MRI showed the herniated disk, spinal stenosis and bone spurs, so I was referred to pain management/anesthesiology group for epidural steroid injections.

It was explained to me (by more than just this doc) that many people can have these abnormalities on xray and not have symptoms - it depends on how the nerve exiting the spine is doing. Many times the nerve is irritated and swells, making the condition worse - so symptoms show up. If they can calm the nerve(s) down and reduce any swelling, then the symptoms may go away. You are right, it won't change the abnormalities - but it might change the pain and symptoms.

After I started my epidural steroid injections (ESI's) I talked to 2 other people that had been able to avoid surgery (one neck, one lumbar) because of the relief they rec'd from the ESI's. (One did PT too) so I knew there was hope. It works for some people - I prayed I'd be one of them.

I would be very leary of a doc who suggested surgical intervention without trying the conservative options first. Maybe a second (or even third) opinion would help you with your decisions. I would look into ESI (from someone who specializes in them - anesthesia groups, pain mgmt groups, or sometimes sports medicine groups, etc - and also seek the opinion from a neurosurgeon.

My exercise routine was walking. The ESI doc told me to stop my walking until things settle down. All the pounding at the disc wasn't helping me. He also told me to ALWAYS wear athletic shoes - and to make sure they are good quality so to provide good shock absorption because my spine needed it. Make sure you share your exercise routine with your doctors. It's good to have strong neck muslces with this condition - but any repetitive movements or impact to the discs might contribute to nerve inflammation /flare or add to the build up of spurring, etc.

Anyway, the ESI's did not work for me so he referred me to a neurologist. The neuro did additional testing (A CT/Myelogram - test involves dye injected into spinal fluid to obtain better pics) - only with those results, AND the fact that I'd already tried conservative treatment, did he end up recommending surgery.

My father had near disasterous complications from a fusion. (Screw broke and with it part of the vertebra - stabbing into his spinal cord for a over a week before they believed him about his sudden horrific change in pain. :eek: ) --- So I was well aware (and terrified) of the complications that can occur with this type of surgery. I wanted to make sure I had exhausted all conservative measures so that if something did go wrong, I wouldn't be able to look back with any regrets that I should have tried something else first.

I didn't have neck pain before surgery (only pain down my arm) but I do have neck pain (probably mostly muscular) post op. (I'm 2 months). The other thing that has been very difficult with my recovery is that I have lived on anti-inflammatories (NSAIDS) for years because of arthritis in other areas - and now I have been told to avoid them for a whole year because they can interfere with the bone graft fusing. I ache all over. Would I do it again? Yes- I could not live with that amount of pain in my arm, hand and fingers. When I woke up after surgery the arm pain was gone!

Sorry, I didn't mean to write a tome... just wanted to share my journey and to suggest you take your time with your decisions and get multiple opinions. It might not be a big surgery to the surgeon, but it is to the patient.

Good luck with your decisions. Please keep us posted.
I have been watching this thread since it started as I have some of the very same problem. My c6&7 are seriously deteroriating. I have known this since 2002. Recently I developed a very distinct pinpoint pain just to the right of C6. This pain is rather severe at times, immense burning and feels like something is piching the [[COLOR="Sienna"]removed[/COLOR]] out of my neck. Causes a differed pain thru out my cervical region. So I go back to my primary who refers me for more Xrays. They show more advanced deteriortion. But obviously not the source of the pain. He refers me for an MRI, which I figured would be the next step. He is looking at a herniated or ruptured disc. Then the ball drops...The ins. company will not approve the MRI. they want me to do "conservative treatments" first. Meaning NSAIDS and physical therapy.
My question is this....How can physical therapy be done properly on a condition that has yet been fully diagnosed? And an MRI is a diagnostic tool, not a treatment tool. What the [[COLOR="Sienna"]removed[/COLOR]] . I was put under the impression sometime ago that physical therapy can do more harm than good without a complete diagnosis. Wether or not thats true I suppose could be debated, but I really am not willing to debate this as it involves my cervical region. I am not a stranger to the problems this area can cause when impeded. I have had surgery on on C1 -3 for another problem, that was 10 years ago, so I am quite familiar with the pain and its meaning.
Sorry about this length, but can anybody convince me that phys. therapy is ok with out knowing fully where the pain is deriving from? And can someone please explain why the ins. company would deny me an MRI to diagnosis it. Thanks for listening and thank you fo any replies. i am going to go take an NSAID (*big sarcastic roll of the eyes) and lay back down.

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