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Spinal Cord Disorders Message Board

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Good Afternoon All,

I found this board after running a few searches and first want to say thanks as the information and stories made me feel a bit better that I wasn't going crazy.

My story is pretty simple. I'm a 32 year old man, last December I woke up with a bit of neck pain and just assumed I slept on it wrong. I was going through a rough breakup and work was stressful, so just assumed it would pass. It actually grew worse, and got bad enough that I went to the emergency room the week after Christmas-7 hours later, walked out with a diagnosis of "probably a muscle tear" and a prescription to Vicodin for 10 days.

Life continued but my neck continued to cause pain- always at the same spot, a bit above the shoulder blades. I bought a travel cushion and started to use that at nights and when I slept. In March of this year, a friend pointed out that 4 months of neck pain was probably indicative of something serious- so I saw my GP who referred me to a Neurologist- the Neuro sent me for an MRI and to date, nobody has explained the first MRI results "partial disc dessication, evidence of facet sclerosis and hypertrophy" "at c3/c4 mild marginal hypertrophic changes resulting in moderate left and mild right foraminal narrowing. At c4/c5 there is mild disc bulge (more on this later) and mild marginal hypertrophic changes resulting in mild central spinal stenosis and mild foraminal narrowing. Mild reverse lordosis of cervial spine"

I felt better after this diagnosis- especially with the frequent use of the word "mild". The neuro referred me to a physiatrist who recommended lidoderm patches and physical therapy.

Physical Therapy was....ok. She would do 15 mins of a TENS unit, 10 minutes of a biofreeze massage and then had me do about 10 minutes of exercise with a weighted bar. Shrugging with the bar, lifting the bar behind me, etc. SHe showed me the exercises one on one at first, but after that would just be running around with other patients and would just say "do your 5 exercises and you are done".

After leaving therapy, I would rate my pain level from a "6" to a "3" for the first hour or two, then it would just gradually return. It began to seriously impact my quality of life- carrying bags from the supermarket to my house was painful- driving was a painful activity- travelling on an airplane was torture. I began to not even carry my laptop anymore because of the strain.

In June, I met with the physiatrist again and we got into an argument because in all honesty, I felt worse then when I first walked into his office. He wrote a prescription for Flexiril and recommended a Cortizone shot and continued therapy. He continued to never offer an explanation of what was wrong.

I decided to go to another Neuro on my friends advice- he explained a bit of the diagnosis (Specifically the reverse lordosis, still not sure what the rest menat) and recommended a McKenzie book and a different physical therapist.

Upon going to work the following day, my muscles suddenly siezed in the middle of me giving a presentation. I was able to finish it, but essentially my head was locked in a forward position- the pain level was an 8-9 and any movement of my head, either left to right or up/down brought it to a 10. I called my first physiatrist who was able to see me within the hour- he scheduled an MRI that took 3 hours because I couldn't lower my head enough to get into the machine. Prescriped Gabapentin and Tizanidine, and a cervical collar at all times except while sleeping, scheduled an EMG and more therapy.

The MRI revealed disc herniation in C4/C5. About 2 days later the muscles finally relaxed and some motion returned in my head. A friend who was taking care of me suggesting some yoga exercises and commented that my posture was very poor and that I probably had protruding head syndrome.

Within 10 minutes of simple neck exercises- I felt a substantial relief- I'd guess 7.5 to a 2-3. I now have my phone set to go off every 20 minutes at work with a silent alarm to fix my posture- I bought a lumbar pillow for my chair at work and constantly adjust to "suck in, shoulders back, neck recessed"- it's pretty difficult to stay in the habit, but gets easier day by day.

My pain is generally a 3-4, going up to 5 when I get home and sit on my couch, and about a 6 when I wake up in the morning- against the Dr's order, I sleep with the cervical collar as I apparently play a contortionist when I sleep.

Well- that wasn't quite as simple as I hoped, but finally to the questions:

1. Is anyone or has anyone experienced what I am going through and if so can you share your story and any advice or recommendations?

2. My first physiologist referred me to a Neurosurgeon- all the doctors I've spoken to are counseling against surgery for now and indicating that PT and posture correction should work and that surgery should be a last option. I'm inclined to agree, but wondered if I'm missing something or if that's a common enough treatment plan.

3. I've been pretty upset to learn about the "Dark side" of physical therapists, from friends and articles there is apparently a concern that some PT's deliberately drag out the process in order to ensure continued business-I don't get the impression my PT is doing that, she just seemed overwhelmed- but does anyone have any experience with a good PT for my issues within the NYC area?

Thanks for taking the time to read all this and for all of the info I've read so far.

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