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Herniated disc at C5, Shoulder, head, back pains, help!

ButterflyPainBButterflyPain Posts: 290
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:22 AM in Neck Pain: Cervical
I've had EMG, EEG, C-spine X ray for cervical and thorasic spine, MRI for cervical spine with my Neurologist.

The X-ray showed in C5 and C6 that I had mild to moderate osteoarthritis, with bone spurs growth especially on the left side. With narrowing of the nerve hole impingement. My thorasic x-ray showed minimal scolosis of the lower right side.

My MRI for Cervical Spine showed C5 herniated disc. But not enough my neuro said to go to a neurosurgeon and have surgery.

My thing is I get a lot of burning pains in the back of my neck, upper to lower back, left arm I get some numb or pain feeling that comes and goes, sometimes my left leg feels weak, and I get bad nerve pressure pains on the top of my head. Also have left shoulder pain. Muscle spasms, twitches, and anyhow I first noticed it 10 months ago first at night then it became an all day pain.

What is the best treatment aside from drugs that I can do ? I'm on Amrix, Tylenol with codiene 3, and psyche drugs for my depression/anxiety over this Klonopin, Cymbalta, Lexapro. I have a heating pad for my neck, cervical pillow, therapedic bed mattress.

Any suggestions???
My neuro said to be active to loosen it, but I can't be active all the time. I'm 26 year old female.



  • I know how frustrating it can be when you just want to know the way to make this condition better. I have tried many different things and for what it is worth here is what helped me at different times....meaning that sometimes one would work better than others it just depended on where the pain and or numbness was..

    tens unit - my ortho got one purchased for me by my insurance...sometimes this worked so great and it could be worn out of the house.

    stop pain - or probably other kinds..this is a topical that you roll on I got mine at a health food store...again sometimes this was the best thing.

    meds - before I was using tramadol twice a day (which isn't very much) which helped to kind of keep the pain/numbness in check. I know a lot of people either hate or love this one. I just happened to find it worked for me.

    ice or heat good for temporary help when at home.

    Anyway, those are a few of the things that did help keep some of the pain and frustration at bay.

    I hope you find some relief and something that works for you. :?


  • hi suffer some of the same problems firstly you are on a lot of pain relief . the nite time pain can be worsened by your pillow two flat or 1 high pillow is fine any more and it hurts. also try a gel like traxam, it takes the tabs out of your stomach as they can upset your stomach. the gel works with mild tabs like tradol the painwont go completly but you can learn to control it with meditation, try some deap breaths;breath in deap and release slow this may also help with your depression;try reduce drugs and it will help then find a hobby, if its something you enjoy you dont notice the pain when doing things hope i have helped, surgery releases some pain also and is needed with a herniated c spine disc.
  • Thanks guys! I will try to look into some of those things. I just have never had this before, and it took 9 months or whatever to get the mri test and conclude basically where the pain is coming from.
    I want to try physical therapy again, but my insurance will only pay three more visits. They have suggested a Tenns machine or traction, but no one did much on it since I saw him last week.

    I think if it gets bad enough I'll call their PA-C about trying other med combos or setting up PT again.
  • Hi ButterflyPain, sounds like we have very similar problems, though your symptoms are worse than mine.
    I'm going to ask for fresh X-rays, as it's been about 5 years since they were done.
    Battling the pain while living your life is a continuous challenge, day by day if not hour by hour.
    You get bad and whatever you throw at it doesn't work. Then you get a high, overdo it and can't sleep-then the sledge hammer hits, and off you go again.
    I asked my pain specialist what my options are. He said:
    1. Do nothing and bear it.
    2. Medicate.
    3. Injections.
    4. Burn nerves.
    5. Surgery.
    I'm up to 3.
    3 monthly steroid injections help, but still need pain meds. Tramadol during the day, codeine/ paracetamol evening and night, as Tramadol keeps me awake.
    For the shoulder spasms and soreness, a muscle relaxant.
    On bad days, it will be a mixture of all 3, as the various pains don't all ease with just the one type.
    All of this leads to gradual physical deterioration due to lack of movement and exercise, and that can cause muscle tension too.
    I have found that my very poor sleep is much improved by taking a muscle relaxant an hour or so before retiring. I usually take 1/4 tablet, but have a whole one weekly so I get at least one good sleep a week.Some nights though I'm a bit wired for some reason and just can't sleep, irrespective of what I take, yet it doesn't cause me any problems.
    I wonder if the body puts out pain endorphins in these cases?
    Good luck with your quest. You may want to look into steroid injections, as they can have a good benefit with inflammed joints. I get 7 injections, particularly C6-7 which affects the shoulders.
    It may take a few tries to find the right areas, but your pain specialist should be able to work it out by the pain pattern.

  • I know what you are going through. I jumped threw all the hoops with no relief. I am haveing surgery on the 19 to fix c5 and c6.
  • Thank you so much for taking the time to tell me your story. What specialist should I really be seeing for this? I've been seeing a neurologist...Should I be seeing someone else, who would know more about this problem?

    Ive had two injections before. My neuro said it was the stuff dentist use, I guess to numb ? They didn't really work for me.

    It helps me to move and go out, but there is still pain. I can sit anywhere and have the pain start to build up. Laying down helps, showers sometimes help for a short bit, I'm on Amrix and it seemed to help at the beginning, but now I'm not sure, since my body is used to it by now...Soma seemed to work best for pain, but it didn't last long.

    Right now I have ice on it, then I'm going to use my heating wrap. I want to try to do this with as little meds as possible, but this burning pain is so hard for me to deal with. Sometimes I just feel like sleeping all day or can't wait for the night, when I don't have to deal with it.
  • I'm sorry to hear of your pain, and having to go in for surgery. I hope it helps you. My neuro said mine isn't enough for surgery, that I will forget it exist once I go back to school and I'm out moving. See at home we don't do much, but sit around all day, which probably doesn't help the situation. But it's like I can't be active all day, and on the drugs I'm on that sometimes make me sleepy.

    It definitely is a battle.
  • Well, in Google I found that a neurologist is a specialist of the central nervous system, so he should be able to treat you.
    I go to a specialist anaesthetist, who is also a specialist in pain management. As such, he treats only pain problems, so to my mind would have more of a working experience with pain causes and treatments. All oh his patients are there for pain treatment, and he has them back a few weeks after for a follow-up.So he has a good knowledge of what works and what doesn't.
    Steroid injections include a short lasting pain killer as well. The main relief is from the steroid lessening the inflammation.
    With a lot of these things, it takes a bit of perseverance to find just what works for you. There may also be little that can be done, so bear that in mind, as unpleasant as it sounds. There is always very strong pain med, but keep that up your sleeve.
    When I told my specialist where my pains were, he immediately knew the causes, as they were so typical of cervical nerve irritation.
  • I've been dealing with unbearable neck/shoulder/arm pain on left side since I woke up one morning in March of '07. Ever since it is very painful to lay on left side (in shoulder). Some days are absolutely unbearable and others are just really painful. Have been to Orthopedic Doctor, and 2 neurosurgeons. Nobody agrees with each other. Have ostophyte between c6-c7 I believe. Some want to operate, some don't think it's significant enough. One doesn't even think pain is from that... Also, just found out from CAT scan for jaw problems that c1-c2 are WAY too close together and may have bone fragments...Have not been in an accident so how does that happen? Wish my orthodontist would stick to teeth and jaws :) Anyway, I take Lexapro and my husband who is a nurse just discovered that this can cause neck/shoulder problems as well as increased muscle tension. I have Fibromyalgia and have been going to PT since Jan. but pain is only helped by the PT, never relieves completely and now wondering if the lexapro is making it worse. My PT said she doesn't know why the trigger points never let up.

    Does anyone else take Lexapro and have anything similar going on?

    I'm new to this website. Good to hear that I'm not the oly one going thru this stuff but also sorry that so many people are!! Constantly being told I'm too young for so many problems (31yrs old).

  • ButterflyPain:

    I know how you feel. My left shoulder had more pain than my right, at first it was just all over from my shoulderblades up through my neck. I tried 5 months of Physical Therapy. At first, because my muscles were so tight, they did trigger points and e-stem. We tried ultra-sound with e-stem and it just made everything worse! I did some traction and it felt good, they just have to go at a low point when you start out and then go up to the right amount of lbs. that is tollerable for you. My doctor put in a referral for pain management and physical medicine and rehabilitation with an Ortho. My Ortho surgeon was my first appointment. The referral was a suggestion to do botox injections in my muscles to relax everything out, sine regular doctors looking at my MRI results didn't think that it was a serious enough situation to do anything else about it. They were WRONG!!!! :O At this point I had about no strenght left in my left arm. If you took your pinky and touched me lightly in the shoulder with it, it was like someone stabbed me with a pen!

    The doctor I saw only had a brief discription that said ongoing pain in shoulders and neck from my doctor. He didn't even know about all the pain I had down my arm or how intense the pain in my shoulders were etc. He just looked at the MRI pictures and already thought before I met him I need surgery. It turns out from the time my MRI was taken to my surgery (about a month and a half) it had gotten worse! Boy was he RIGHT in saying I needed surgery sooner than later! I had my surgery 12days after I met him! He showed all the confidence in the world, was very knowledgable, etc. Maybe I am crazy for not getting a second opinion, but that would have just prolonged my process. Turns out the disc was severely degenerated and the nerve along my spine was in the shape of a kidney bean! He didn't even expect to see that!

    In the end, it is your body. If someone is telling you it isn't reason enough for surgery, and you feel nothing else is helping and you aren't getting better, then seak out another professional. Many other people's experiences on here show sometimes the doctors can't agree with one another. Listen to each one and make an ed. assessment. If nothing is working then maybe surgery is for you. Maybe seeing an Ortho doctor would help because he/she specializes in these sorts of things. Personally, any hope of getting better, feeling better, and returning to a normal life eventually was a blessing in itself. The whole time I knew there was something more to my problem than just a stiff neck and barely noticable arthritis in my neck.

    Even the surgeon himself said that I am 1% of his patients- only 1% he sees needs this type of surgery, and even more he has never seen someone so young need it. Usually this happens to people in their 40's-60's.

    Well I know this was long but I hope it helps. Let us know what you decide to do!!

    Best Wishes! >:D<
  • Just last Thursday I started taking muscle relaxers for the pain and tightness in the neck/shoulder/arm. On my not so bad days, they really have helped however yesterday and Sunday were both horrible days they didn't touch it. I have herniated discs at c4/5, 5/6 and 6/7 but doc says they're 'minor and nothing to worry about'. I'm beginning to disagree more and more with this statement though. My hope is that physical therapy and massage therapy will help (I start next month with both of those). I got the cervical epidural injection and it did nothing for me but there are some who do get relief from them. Maybe you should ask your doctor about that option. I hope you are able to find something soon to help you. Good luck!! :)))
  • Could anyone tell me what the symptoms are of any of these levels? The doc keeps telling me that it looks good on x-rays, but it sure hurts. Please pm me about this.
  • Angela:

    I wish you all the luck in Physical Therapy and Massage Therapy. They do help. They couldn't cure my problem but it is what I had tried first in figuring out what was wrong. If your lucky, you can get a man with really strong hands to work some of the pain out for you. I felt much better getting some alleviation of pain from the e-stem (electric shock thingies) and the nice massages. Nice big heat packs too. :X Love that stuff! It just feels so good :D Good Luck in feeling better!!
  • I was on Lexapro for little over 1 year for fatigue. Worked fine for a while, but stopped working. I am now on Cymbalta.
    Ask your doctor to give this a try.
  • It is my understanding that cervical disc/herniated disc problems give you pain in the side and back of neck, arm/arms, and hand/s. The pain can be described as achy dull naggin pain, burning pain. Also can have numbness off and on in the arm or fingers. Depending on what levels it affects certain fingers or muscles in the hand and arm. It can give weakness in the hand or arms depending how bad it is.

  • Thanks guys for telling me your stories and experiences. It is good to know there are other people I can relate to right now. Being 26 I just never thought you could have problems with your spine. I was a dancer for a number of years, had a difficult birth, and passed out once at a doctors bathroom and ended up on the floor, and was in one car wreck where it spun the car around and I blanked out for a few seconds. So I mean all these things could have lead up to my problems now...
    I'm going to my reg doc for something else in a few days, I'll ask him what he thinks and I see the neuro in two weeks.
  • I have levels C5-T1 fused already and I am having problems again, I was wondering if these symptoms that I am having could be from the levels above the fusion. They keep telling me that the tingling in my arm and hand could only be from C6-C7. PLEASE HELP!!! Could whoever answer this please pm me?
  • In April, I had ACDF surgery on C5-C6 and C6-C7. I had a bulge (herniation) in the disc at C5-C6 that had reduced the width of my spinal cord by more than half. At C6-C7 I had a bony growth pressing on the nerve exiting the column. The surgery was performed due to the severity of the C5-C6 problem, and the other was repaired at the same time. My symptoms were varied, as (in retrospect) time progressed and the damage worsened. I had pain and tightness in my shoulders for several years that I attributed to stress. I had developed a burning pain in one shoulder blade. I never had numbness in the arms or hands, which my doctor found unbelievable. Then during the holidays, I began experiencing a tingling sensation all over my body, literally from head to foot. It would begin at any time and last about 30 seconds, and the frequency of the 'spells' grew rapidly. My doctor sent me to a neurologist, who ran many, many tests. The last was an MRI, which showed the compromised spinal cord. After that, surgery was a foregone conclusion. Before the surgery was performed, my left leg "blew up" on me....it literally felt as if there was a blowtorch on it from the knee to ankle. I've never had pain as horrendous in my life. I was lucky to get the best neurosurgeon in the metroplex, and all has gone well since surgery, with the exception of a few little "shadow" pains that occasionally crop up again, but go away. That's when I learned that pain can occur at any point in your body below the area of your herniation. The cervical spine can literally cause pain anywhere in your whole body. My neurosurgeon gave me a medication that was originally used for seizures, but has been found to work well on nerve pain. Normal pain meds are not designed for nerve pain. It is called Neurotin. The generic name for the med is Gabapentin. It is a godsend.

    I'm now back to working out, riding bikes, doing yoga, and using my inversion table. I really think that stretching and staying limber helps a great deal, as does strenthening the muscles around weak areas in your spine. The inversion table is very relaxing...try it with soft lights and music. Best of luck to everyone with back pain.......it's just not how I pictured myself at this age.
  • I had mine out of the blue.
    The burning pain on te right arm and sharp pain on the right back shoulder blade. The numbness on the right fingers (thumb, index, middle and ring)came over the weekend while in the hospital. They turn cold feeling.

    Surgery is an option for me else I will be paralyse for my right arm and hand.

    MRI will be a good option to see the details. I was x-ray by the A&E doctor and she said nothing wrong with me and send me home. The pain persisted and I persisted with her and finally I was place in observation ward for 3/4 day and they did a fast track to admit me. While in the observation ward, I received 5 painkiller injections and they didn't help at all the relieve the pain.

    The A&E dortor was very wrong to tell me that mine was a muscle spasm.

    Finally admitted and in the hospital room, the right doctor came to see me and after assessing me, he knew what was already wrong and causing the pain. Next scheduled me for MRI and the rest is history. YOu can read more of my happenings in my thread in this forum.


    1. We have this forum with so much information to share and find out
    2. Seek 2nd opinion
    3. The doctor is not always right
    4. Google more
    5. Insist on options to be open to you

    I only find out this forum after I am back home from hospital after my surgery. I am glad I made the right decision for the surgery.

    As a avid runner, I listen to my body and I knew the pain is no ordinary pain and nor muscle spasm.

    I looked straight into the A&E doctor's eyes and said "Are you sure....Are you really sure?". She was in fear and thus decided to put me to the observation ward. If I have taken her words and went home that morning 9th July, I would have to come back many times seeing different A&E doctor on duty and it could be worse.

    Cheers !
  • Hi, I have herniated c5 & c6. Dealing with it since 1989 & I'm 38 now, but no surgeries... yet! I love heat & traction. I have 2 traction devices at home (1 is the Posture Pump & the other is Pronex), oh & I also have a cervical massager by Inter Health (interhealth.com). I purchased all of these off of ebay for much less. I don't really like the pronex traction because I pump the air to the max & it crushes my ears... ouch. I'm planning on getting the Saunders Home Traction Delux (around $200 on ebay). It looks & sounds much more efficient than the one I have. I would prob. do that with heat + ice after. I do really like my cervical massager, its very strong + I can lay my neck in different direction, so that it massages directly on my cervical spine area + it's awesome on my shoulder! It really gets my circulation & blood flow going to those "dead areas".

    I do go to my chiropractor every so often when... could you believe... my neck is even more out of place than norm & I just want to chop my head off!!! I also have her do ultrasound on the area (this repairs + goes much deeper than the tens machine, but tens feels really good too).

    For meds I use to take a bunch of different things, but now it's just 10 or 20mg of Flexeril & either 2 Advil or 2 Aleve at bed time. If I'm in a lot of pain during the day then I'll take some of the above. Oh, and you can also try Medical Marijuana. I have used it before and it really relaxes my muscles, but I could only use when I was home + didn't have to go anywhere. I also take vitamins.. a daily multi, B complex, Glucosamine and Chondroitin (helps to repair damage)& a Flaxseed with omega 3 (i get a nice organic one at costco for a great price).

    I find that stretching helps a lot & a good nights sleep is PRICELESS! I sleep with a Temper Pedic pillow & recently just purchased a latex mattress (had it for 3 weeks now & I've been sleeping really well on it). A really long, hot bath with epsom salts & lavender oils really relax & sooth my muscles.

    I've tried Prolotherapy, acupuncture, cupping & cortisone injections directly into the c5 & c6 + surrounding areas. Unfortunately none of these helped me.

    Hope some of this info. is useful :).
  • SweetyG,

    What kind of surgery did you have? My Doctor is
    reccomending that I have Anterior Cervical Discectomy
    which involves removing a portion of the bone and replacing it with bone from the bone bank because I have a Herniated Disk which is pushing up against the Vertibrae causeing numbness and weakness in my arm and neck. I've only seen a lot of negatives on this surgery so I'm kinda worried about having it.

  • Wow, this was very useful. I'll definitely ask the neuro to set me up for traction and possibly a tens machine, and anything else aside from meds that he can think of that would work. I do find warm water in the shower helps a bit shortly afterwards.

    Sitting is the worst. Even with a proper back supporting chair, I can still get back and neck pain. Laying down on heating pad or a u shaped foam pillow with ice pack insert helps most. But of course it mainly only helps when I am using it. I just really have to figure this stuff out or I'm gonna go insane.
  • Did the posture pump help? I got the pronex also and your right it hurts my ears. what about the saunders? We both have the same mindstate because the High Grade Marijuana also helped me more then anything ese including meds so far.
  • I got the Pronex and your right it hurts my ear. The high grade marijuana is the best treatment I tried yet. What pillow did you get? I just got the large thick queen size temp pillow for xmas but I hope its not to thick and maybee I should have got the medium size. What kind of heating pad do you have. Did you ge the saunders traction?
  • Hi Butterfly,

    I know exactly how you feel. My MRI results showed that I have a herniated disc C4-C5 of which C5 is severe. My pain is very bad at night. I make sure that the pillows I sleep on are not flat. The best position for me is sleeping elevated on my back. For some reason, this relieves the pressureand sharp pain coming from my neck and shooti down my right arm.

    As far as medication, when the pain comes, the only prescription that helps me is percoset. I hate to take pills, but sometimes in order to sleep pain free, it helps.

    Using medication like this should be a last resort.

    I have been seeing a Chiropractor and have had a few sessions of acupunture. The chiropractor has helped out a lot especially when my neck is stretched in the machine. It relieves the pressure.

    Hope you feel better and any information I receive that is relevant to your situation, I will let you know.
  • I really like taking glucosamine, chondrointin and msm all in one, i had a powder mix with 2000mg, 1500, and 500mg of the supplements it worked really well for me along with some light exercise. I just got some discount vitamins and other herbs online to take daily.
  • I hear ultrasound tens or articare may help. And a massage cushion. I hope you're feeling better.Charry
    DDD of lumbar spine with sciatica to left hip,leg and foot. L4-L5 posterior disc bulge with prominent facets, L5-S1 prominent facets with a posterior osteocartilaginous bar. Mild bilateral foraminal narrowing c-spine c4-c7 RN
  • First off I just want to say I feel for you tremendously! I am 21 years old and have just had a back fusion almost two months ago on my L-5, S-1. Plus my L-4 is also bugling but my doctor wanted to leave that one alone.
    The best advice I can give to you for the tingling, burning, numbness, is to ask your doctor about a medicine called Lyrica. I myself take this. The dosage comes at 75mg but I take it three times a day to help with all those complications that my nerves have caused me. And believe me, it has been a life-saver!

    Just from the past year and a half from dealing with my back problems, there's not much you can do to help with the pain. Little things like taking a hot bath before bed helps, sleeping with a pillow between your legs and also underneath when lieing on your back. Oh and never sleep on your stomach, that is a big No, No for sure! But most of all that I have learned from all the doctors I have seen, physical therapy is the best treatment for pain. Strengthing your back and stomach muscles will help support your back in the best way possible. Getting a back brace helps too. Back pain is a very hard thing to deal with. Just know if it starts to affect your way of life in a negative aspect, then do something about it, even if it boils down to surgery. Nobody ever wants to go there and I never did but it was the best thing for me. I'm slowly seeing great results and I'm young for having a back fusion. Most doctors don't like doing it, but nobody should have to suffer so much. If you have any questions or need to ask any other advice on what I did to help myself, feel free to ask.
  • I've been in pain since 2004. Taking meds,physical thearapy, epidirial injections,tens unit,traction unit. Now in a wellness program. But the pain still there today is one of my bad days hurting bad just took meds.
  • i have had a neck operation on c5 and c6 after numbness in my fingers and shocks down my arms, the trouble is that now the disc below the plate in my neck is inoperable and the pain i get is unberable, i take tramadol but thats all, i get pain from sleeping and get how i describe as electric shocks up both sides of my neck especially during the hotter weather. I tend to drag me right leg in the colder months and have really cold feet as well. The pain accross my sholders is unbearable and it gets worse when im in the garden (Which is my passion) i suffer with the pain and dont complain but i dont know how much more i can take..im only 52 and i have been very active up till the last 2 years so i am losing the will to want to walk and take the dog out to the park, if im like this now what does the future hold in the way of pain????
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