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SO frustrated...

CatieCCatie Posts: 22
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:40 AM in Neck Pain: Cervical
Hi everyone, and Happy New Year!

I've only posted on this site once before and I got some great feedback, so I'm hoping for some help and advice.
I'm a 31 year old mother of two little girls (3 and 7). I've been married to my husband for almost nine years. Before my neck went down hill I was a preschool teacher for a local Head Start program.
My neck went down suddenly in May 2009. Long story short...My C/5-C7 are herniated, and C/2-4 are buldging. I have been seeing a pain managment dr at the spine center since the beginning. I've had three epidoral/cortizone shots and a two level facet ablation. The dr didnt advice pt until 2 months after I started seeing him. And...the physical therapist ONLY did traction...which ended up making my pain worse. I finally went against the dr.'s orders and started seeing a chiropractor on Sept.30th. I've been seeing him 2-3x a week since. He does manipulation and PT, and gives me stretches to do at home. He has been a huge help...but I still get very sore. And, my "good" days are no more than 2-3 in a row at best. I still have a lot of spasm and swelling in my neck and shoulers that I can usually manage with ice, stretching and meds.
Now there is pressure about me returning to work. If I don't return by 1/8/10 I will be fired. If I am fired I will have to cover my medical benefits by paying for cobra...This is so I can still recieve my disability benefits, because I need to have some kind of income.
My PM dr. and the chiro both "think I can do it". "Think" is not the word I wanted to hear! They both told me the first 4-6 weeks would be really tough...but it should get better. The chiro said he would know whether or not my body can handle it by about 8 weeks in. I had to talk to the dr about the issues Im facing with "he thinks". If I return to work and my body can't handle it...I won't be able to go back on leave for FMLA until May. My employer will terminate me and I will have no disability benefits, therefore No kind of income. My family finances can not survive without me having some kind of income. UGH!
He told me it's up to me. I don't know what to do. I feel like such a sissy...and I should just suck it up and do it! On the other hand I don't want my condition to get worse because I want to work and make some money. I want to be able to take care of my little girls...my house...my husband. Any advice would be appreciated! Thanks.


  • What does the NS advise? You may be at maximum clinical benefit as far as the PM doc and Chiro are concerned. The first time I heard the phrase max clinical benefit and still felt so bad I knew I was in trouble, lol. Some doc's push to much and other's not enough, you are your best advocate, you know how you feel, insist on seeing a surgeon at once, you are on a deadline. How bad are the herniations? Are they causing impingement? Good Luck
  • Thanks for your reply :) I saw a NS a couple of months ago. He told me surgery would probably happen but not for several years. He said because I'm so young I should exhaust every other option first. So...as you can guess..I'm trying every other option. The herniations are bad for my age, but their not "terrible". The c5/6 herniation is touching the spinal cord, and the c6/7 is a little worse. The NS said I have mild/moderate DDD. The chiropractor has been able to help with the pain in my hand, fingers and arm. I can't figure out what I'm doing wrong? Maybe not enough stretching? walking?...?!?! I feel like such a wimp! :(
  • First and foremost you are doing nothing wrong!!!! Age and injuries do not go hand in hand, my first surgeon put me off for 18 months, what did that time do?, set me up for chronic pain. There are several studies that suggest the longer we wait from injury to healing the more likely we are to suffer from chronic pain. I was 22 when I had my first surgery, 32 when I had my second, and 37 on the third. My nero once told me that if he did not know anything about me and had to guess my age from x-rays he would guess 75!!! and that was probably 7 yrs ago. I am probably headed for the table again this month, my second on my neck. I would really encourage you to not let the doctors push you around, they do not know everything. One of my favorite thing to say to my NS (we have a really good relationship professionally), is that "Hey doc, you don't perform medicine you practice it!!" He always laughs. But it is true, not every body is the same, not everyone is the same. If your doc has a know it all attitude, ask him/her if they perform or practice medicine. If they say practice remind them that practice means you don't know everything, and are still trying to achieve the pinnacle of knowledge. Again you are doing nothing wrong, PT, Pain pills, heck morphine doesn't work on everyone, manipulation etc may not be the answer. It isn't a guarantee the surgery would be a success but at least you do all you can to get better. Good Luck
  • I think you are way over do to see a new NS. You may be able to go on LTD while things get handled and you may be able to get some kind of assistance (not sure what your state has set up).

    PM guys can be good or bad. I went to one for injections who wanted to do a Micro D on my L5.... I was bone on bone- I had zero disc- it would have done nothing but cost money and had me suffering many more months needlessly. The reason for the micro d was not given to me he said lets just "try it" (just bill the insurance co).... He didn't care why I had no disc. My NS helped me find the real problem -instability.

    Chiro I don't see any more but only because I have too many issues. I have met several over my life time and only one was a keeper.

    What are your symptoms right now? What meds are you on?

    I'm only taking norco/flexerile but if I wasn't a surgical candidate I would be looking at better meds. As it is I live in a daze. I am thinking the occipital neuralgia makes me tired & fatigued. I have dizzy spells and always feel as if I just woke up (in a fog). I have a mixture eye pain, headache, sharp neck pain, arm pain, hand pain/numbness, and intense muscle spasms.

    I am still working but just barely. I would have asked to be on STD but I work from home (outside sales). My work performance has suffered and I am lucky enough that my employer knows whats going on. They help me out. If I worked for a large company in an office I would have had to leave. Many days I work in my pjs from inside the comfort of my own home.

    When I heard I had arthitis in my spine I was 27. When I heard I had DDD I was 32.

    Find a new doctor. If you have to manage to go back to work until you can take FML again you will be amazed how fast time will go by. Specially if you are planning on the fusion (or something similar) when you have a date you see a light at the end of the tunnel (at least I do).




  • Do you have short term and long term disability? If you do, I would contact your human resources department at your job. I also go along with the suggestion that you need to seek another opinion. Is there a spine center in your area? I think you need a surgical opinion or an opinion from a physiatrist before attempting returning to work. What kind of work do you do? And, just in my humble opinion, I would never see a chiropractic for my neck.

    Best wishes,

  • Retiredbosn said it well. Age has nothing to do with back injuries. I suffered my first back injury at 17, training for football. Dealt with it for 13 years until finally at 30, I had my lumbar disc replaced with an artificial disc. That surgery worked. Now I'm 35, 4 months out from having 2-level ACDF as my neck went bad in February this year. I am struggling with this surgery as I'm just 4 months out, but I also struggled with the artificial disc until almost 2 years out, it all of sudden got really good for me.
    Time is of the essence for you to seek an NS, get a note from the NS to provide where you work if there are STD benefits or LTD benefits to take advantage of. Not sure what State you work in, but there are some labor law rules that apply here possibly, such as perhaps a workers comp claim or does your husband have insurance. Use everything at your means to get well. Don't expect the Obama health care plan by the way to be of any help for you. I think it may actually lower options and opportunities for spine patients in the future. So once more, time is of the essence.

    I wish you the best.

  • By the way, Chiropractors messed my world up with my neck this year, taking my C6-C7 bulge from 3mm to 8mm in 4 months according to my March and July MRI, causing an obvious encroachment of my spine. Not knocking them in general, but for some people they do more harm than good. Be careful.
  • Thank you all SO much for your advice.
    Here's the thing...
    I live and work in Delaware. I am a preschool teacher for a local Head Start. I have exhausted my FMLA and leave time. According to my HR person. If I come back I won't be able to take leave again until May due to the FMLA laws(because you can only use FMLA for 12 weeks a year). So...If I go back and things don't work...I'm fired. Therefore I wont be able to get back on disability through my current insurance and my husbands insurance doesnt have disability insurance.
    The dr.s think the injury happened 9 years ago when I was rear-ended. I was out of work for almost three weeks, but there was never an mri. Because it's been so long I can't blame the dr or the insurance company...There are also several things that couldv'e happened at work...but I couldnt pin point anything specific.
    I am currently on LTD. The way things are going right night with my neck it doesn't look like I will be able to get back to work on time. It has been a really aweful couple of weeks pain wise. I'm so fed up with all of this. I think I'm gonna take your(s) advise and make another appt with the NS. The chiro says that my condition is chronic because it sat for so long. He told me that my pain level would never be better than tolerable pain. I'm really having a hard time grasping all of this...UGH!
    Is this the way it really is with this condition? Will it get better? Is life gonna be this way for the rest of my life? It makes me sad that I have to tell my girls that I can't come lay with them before bed...I can't give them piggy back rides...I can't play catch with them outside. This all just really sucks...and I need it to get better. To top it all of we're broke. We can pay the bills...but that's about it...I'm sorry to sound so down...but I'd like to know how everyone else deals with this...I just don't get how I'm supposed to do it. Should I suck it up and go back to work? Do I do what's right for us finacially or do I do whats right for my well being?
  • Catie,

    Check out the link on teaching hospitals. You might be able to find some information that will help your situation.


    I suggest that you get at least a second opinion from another NS/OS. I wouldn't have a lot of faith in one who didn't take you seriously the first time around.

    I am not sure what meds you using to manage your pain, but there are many different choices. I hope that you pm is giving you the best for you.


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