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AnonymousUserAAnonymousUser Posts: 49,671
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:29 AM in Neck Pain: Cervical
I am an active 39 year old who recently has learned I have a herniated disc at c5-c6. I have been experiencing weird symptoms in my arms and hands for over almost two years and finally a hand surgeon ordered and MRI - thank god for him! Now at least I know the problem. I have since been to an orthopaedic surgeon and a spine physiatrist - both of whom told me that physical therapy and injections would most likely be ineffective and that surgery was probably my only option. I am currently waiting for an appointment with a highly recommended neurosurgeon for another opinion. I have been told that in addition to pressing on my nerve roots, the herniation is also pressing on my spinal column causing a "blockage" of sorts.

Since this is all fairly new to me and I'm not sure the right route to take, I would very much like to hear other people's experiences. If there is anyone who has a similar problem who either has or has not had the surgery...please let me know how you are making out.

Thank you.


  • Welcome to Spine-Health. As you can see by my signature, I had a 3-lvl ACDF w/hardware 5 months ago. I can totally relate to the strange arm and hand symptoms - I almost lost the use of my left arm before surgery.

    In my opinion, cervical surgery itself is a tad more difficult than lumbar surgery, but the recovery is easier. I consider mine a success, even though I still have some pain and muscle spasm issues. Thankfully, my surgeon understands this and doesn't have any issues continuing my muscle relaxers and pain meds. I take less than I used to, but I've learned that it sure takes a while to get through the healing.

    I'm sorry that you have had your issues for so long - but I'm very happy that you've found the root cause and are going to take care of it.

    Feel free to PM me if you have any questions or just need to talk. Take care and, again, welcome.

  • Hi d-roll,

    Welcome to spine-health. You will find a lot of members here going through the same issues as yourself. I'm so glad you are seeking a second opinion. I have also gone through the surgery and all though we knew it would never take away all the problems it has relieved some of the pain. Recovery and relief depend greatly on the reasons for doing surgery. When you go for your visit you want to be prepared with all your questions. Here is a ling to some questions that may help you out. http://www.spine-health.com/blog/sleep-and-insomnia/38-questions-ask-your-surgeon-having-back-surgery

    I can certainly relate to the arm pain you are experiencing as well. Here is a video that explains what radiculopathy means and what levels effect which areas.


    Anyway welcome to spine-health and look forward to reading more of your post. The video selections here explain the surgery in detail with out being graphic. Let us know how the second opinion goes.
  • I am post op 3.5 weeks from acdf C5-7 with hardware. I am in a soft collar and I am doing better every day. I still have some numbness in my hand and feel tightness in my shoulders and upper back but I think that is normal. I am glad I got it done as they told me that it was compressing my spinal cord and that if I fell again it could be bad news. The incision never hurt and it was no big deal but the long recovery is driving my crazy. I am not much for sitting around the house watching tv.
    Good Luck with whatever you decide to do.
  • I woke up on a Monday morning in June 2008 with severe neck pain. After an MRI showed spinal stenosis, bone spurs and herniation, I consulted with my chiropractor, ortho, and neursurgeons. I chose to skip the temporary relief of conservative treatments and scheduled my C5-C6 ACDF for October. I had talked to a couple people that postponed their surgeries because they were able to manage the pain with PT, and their recoveries were much rougher than mine and they now have permanent nerve damage.

    I am very pleased with the outcome of my surgery. I did not wear a collar post-op because my NS didn't want my neck muscles to atrophy or lose ROM. I was flexing, rotating and bending my neck as much as possible from day one and never had to have formal PT. Initially, the surgical pain was worse than the pre-op pain, but my neurological symptoms disappeared immediately. I was taking narcotics, muscle relaxers and heat/ice and massage really helped with the shoulder muscle spasms. I was back at work part-time after only 2 weeks and back full-time within a month. I was off all pain meds at about 2 1/2 months.

    I am now 5 months out and it feels like I've never even had anything done to my neck. Right now I can shovel snow, dance, bowl, ride an ATV, I went downhill skiing last Wednesday and I'm going horseback riding this afternoon. I will be rowing my raft down class III/IV rapids on a six day river trip in less than 2 months. The surgical risks and recovery have been well worth it to get my normal active lifestyle back (I had to miss out on all the fun stuff last summer)and I wouldn't hesitate to do it all over again.

    Not everyone responds the same way, but I thought I would share my success story.
  • I had a 2 level anterior cervical fusion due to severe stenosis and ruptured discs at C5-C7 on July 16th. I has my post surgical appointment on July 24th. I had put the surgery off for 2 years and dealt with pain because I was afraid of surgery and had heard horror stories of recovery from spinal fusion. Imagine my surprise when I had almost zero pain post surgically and one week after surgery, my doctor cleared me to resume all normal activity, including mountain biking (a severe crash is what lead to my injury!). I started biking again a few days afterwards and I'm in awe of the fact that Sunday I'm doing a cross country mountain bike race only 3 weeks post surgical. I wish I had surgery 2 years ago!
  • did you have those of you that have had the successful surgery?
    I have just started having the horrible arm pain....WOW...now I get it (from what all have said)since my pain started early this year, diagnosed in June. Collarbone, neck, base of neck, skull....major pain....but arm is now kicking in, even under my arm and on my side....really scary having new pain. I'm used to the old.....
    Just curious of your symptoms prior....and if all were fixed. No guarantee's of course. I've had 2 opinions...and both agreed to try and what would happen.
    Thanks for your input.
    Best to all, kimber
  • (is that what it's called??)
    I'm still "newish" here too...If I did and need to restart this somewhere else, let me know.

    I'm tired and in pain and can't follow instructions too well right now ...bummer!
    :) kimber
  • After several years of putting off surgery - I had ACDF with corpectomy on July 29th. Honestly, the surgery was fine and the nursing staff and my dr made sure I was very comfortable. I am 11 days post op, and I feel great. I do get tired, but that is due to the meds. I am still taking them, although I really do not need them for physical pain. Being in a Miami J collar my whole neck and back get very stiff - which is the reason why I am taking the very min. of my pain meds.

    Next Fri, I go for my actual appt and I hope to either have the neck off or put into a soft collar. Either way I feel great.

    I do have a bone stimulator that I wear for 11-12 hours a day.

    I will keep you posted.

    But truly the surgery is not a big deal :)
  • Hi! I'm 4 weeks post op for ACDF C5-7. I had been in a car accident with whiplash 15 years ago, and was never put back in place. Prior to surgery, I had bilateral carpal tunnel release, bilateral ulnar nerve release (at the elbow), and right ring trigger finger release (spaced over the last 15 years, most recent the ulnar nerves last year). Earlier this year I went to a chiropractor that adjusted my neck and it felt like she nearly twisted my head off my shoulders. I had pain mostly down my right arm, down to the center of the palm of my hand.

    Though I'm going through a bit of a bump in the road (I'll explain in a separate post when I know what's exactly going on) I am very happy I went through this surgery. When I woke up, my neck and arm pain was nearly completely gone, and aside from feeling like someone stabbed me in the neck, I felt pretty good! I actually got to go to the opening day of the new Harry Potter movie 2 days after my surgery. I slept through most of it due to the pain meds, but I've a good excuse to go see it again at the theaters ;)

    I've been a fibromyalgia patient for years, and my worst spot has always been by my right shoulderblade. Since surgery this spot has gone from sharp, stabbing, and usually 6-7 on the pain scale down to a 1-2 most of the time.

    All in all, surgery was the best medical decision I've made for myself. Everyone is different, and only you can make the decision, but there are a LOT of success stories out here! I hope that you find the right route for yourself, and soon you are pain free and loving life again!
  • d-roll,
    Sounds like we are in the same boat. I just got diagnosed with central stenosis, bone spurs and bulging disc at C5-6. We're talking about eventual fusion surgery--I myself am wondering what else is out there. I'm doing PT right now and of course pain meds. But I'm not really having arm numbness--just lots of intense pain in my neck and right shoulder. This site is great. Lots of wonderful people with helpful comments.
    Have they told you that you can go back to swimming eventually?? I am a cyclist that stopped riding about 9 months ago because of a hamstring injury and started swimming instead. Thats when my neck pain started!! I was swimming about a mile 3 or 4 times a week. Probably too much too soon (I used to do triathlons many years ago). I stopped swimming about 3 months ago but pain has continued. Now I want to start riding again, but doc says I cannot risk a fall because of my neck. Sheesh, I am active and need to exercise. Not sure what I should do at this point. I miss swimming but figure I will never be able to do it again.
  • I had a very similar situation. I am 38 yo active female. I work in the healthcare industry and recently switched jobs. I started noticing more symptoms and would leave work everyday and go home nauseated and place ice packs on my neck. This went on everyday for 4 weeks. I did not get too worked up until i had tingling in my pinky finger and palm of my right hand. I also had terrible pain in my collarbone and shoulder blade. My MRI showed a herniation of c5/c6. I had an appt with a well respected neurosurgeon who told me since I was at the 6 week symptom mark, physical therapy would do more harm than good. I would need the surgery. I rescheduled another appt 2 weeks later to check my progress and decide to have surgery or not. My symptoms actually lessened and I started to second guess my decision. I talked to many people (nurses,PTs,etc). I decided to trust my surgeon and go ahead with the procedure. (I would need it sooner or later and did not want to interfere with my husband's "hunting" season!). I had the surgery on 8/13. I woke up from the surgery to my husband telling me that the disc had actually ruptured and had to be pulled out in pieces. I was really surprised. I felt then that i had made the right decision. Do not just go by what your symptoms are at the time. It may actually be worse that initially diagnosed. I did not have any conservative treatment done or have years worth of symptoms. I had also been told by a spine PT that it is a relatively simple procedure (one level). I could have committed to one year of PT with same results (this was when I thought the disc was herniated) or have the surgery and be back to "normal" in 3 months. I took the surgery route and now I am so glad I did. If you need any more advice, let me know. Good luck to you. You will make the best decision.
  • Hi! Been there. I wish they would have had the disc replacements back when I first hurt myself. They only do one level replacements in this country. I waited 17 years and just had to have a 3 level fusion cuz my neck got worse. They used my own bone shavings inside a peek so I should heal well.

    Keep us posted as to your progress. If you need surgery there are lots of great posts to learn from. Feel free to send me a private message if you need more info
  • Are you fused now? My doctor is super cautious. I'm not allowed to lift for 6 weeks, do housework or yard work. I had my surgery a day after yours. I had a 3 level. That's amazing that you are able to do all that. I was told I wouldn't fuse if I went wild. I'm in top shape and healthy as a horse so that's not why my doctor limited me. I'd love to hear more about your situation.
  • My doctor said that after recovery 3-5 months, I can jog/run, do any activity I want to do. No restrictions. So I feel like cycling should be fine, just get it approved by the doctor. My doc said my neck will actually be stronger with the fusion/plates. I also only had a single level c5/c6 fusion. It many be different for multiple level fusions. The success rate for my surgery is almost 100%.
  • D-roll I am male, late 50's, active, healthy ..................until
    I had pain in my shoulder first, then neck, then both. Thought I was mentally losing it. Headaches that felt like my head would explode. I wasted 3 years with orthopedic surgeons and. pain mgmt. doctors who shot me up, did nerve blocks and an epidural. They said I had stenosis. Finally I got to a Neuro surgeon and had a ACDF done (5 thru 7) June 8, 2009. I had the same thing as you - both discs pressing on my nerves and spine. I am still in allot of pain. The NS says partly because I was in pain so long ( no one else I saw suggested surgery !!!!) The meds don't work much, I get PT which helps a little, but I mainly go because the PT is attractive and it gets my mind off the pain ! I am hoping for better days but not sure when they will come . Good luck to you.
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