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? for Neckies who have had surgery

lisa burekllisa burek Posts: 855
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:42 AM in Neck Pain: Cervical
Hi Fellow Neckies,I am a veteran spiney, but new to the neckie club.

My MRI from last april showed multiple disc herniations, severe DDD from C3-C6/7 and kyphosis. I had neck soreness,pain in my arm and tingling down to my wrist, mainly on the right side.

Things quieted down for a while when I had my ALIF in Nov. 09, but they are back full force again. The squeezing feeling in the bicep and tingling down to the wrist. Also, my hand strength has deteriated a lot.

I will no doubt be getting another MRI in the near future. I guess I am just wondering how and when you decided to have surgery: a preemptive strike to prevent any possible nerve damage? Or wait until you couldn't take the symptoms anymore?

I am well aware of what a mess my neck is, but I am just hoping I can put it off (safely) for a bit. My family has been through enough with the last surgery and I don't know if I can do this again so soon.

Any personal stories you wish to share with me, please do so! I am well aware that we are all different, but also similar in some ways. Thanks for any input.

Take care, Lisa


  • I really think you need to let the doctor determine when you need surgery or what you could be risking by not doing surgery. For myself it was really easy surgery or risk paralysis. The nerves were already damaged although they hoped maybe they would improve but that is a done deal now. Have you had a emg study yet to see if there is active denervation going on? Keep in mind when dealing with the cervical spine the cord is there. Which is why I now have myelopathy. Sounds like you better get the new MRI and see what it says. Lots of cervical issues are handled through conservative treatments first. If surgery is a matter of stopping pain, then the answer would be when you can't handle the pain. If surgery is being done cause paralysis is going to be a issue then the surgeon pretty much makes that call for immediately. Most of the major insurance groups won't approve surgery if it is a pain issue till all conservative measures are tried first. I always tell members to try conservative treatment first.
  • RangerRRanger on da rangePosts: 805
    hi Lisa,
    tamtam said exactly what I would say as tamtam and I had similar issues, similar risks, and similar surgeries. Also in addition to an MRI your Dr may
    schedule an EMG to see which nerves are affected and where.
    Pursue the answers to your questions aggressively, be your own advocate.
    I understand your concerns for your family but you need to do what is best for Lisa. You can educate them on what you are going through and they will need to understand and support you.
    Keep us posted and I hope all goes well for you.
  • Howdy Lisa!

    As was stated above, surgery will be offered by your surgeon when certain thresholds are met - offered mind you, the final decision of course will be yours. On my C5/6 conservative methods were tried for about a year and a half as my "main" issues on that level were pain and some numbness. Once the hernia was on the cord, and my pain had strongly affected my quality of life with no improvement - actually slowly got worse, surgery was offered. I could barely handle the pain anymore and opted for it. That was the best decision in my life! :-)

    Fast forward a year and a month my C6/7 went. This level went fast, and although the pain was through the roof on it, weakness was the big concern. It was instant with the disk herniating onto the exit root, pain was intense, numbness all the way down to the finger tips, and 80% loss in strength backed up with EMG testing. Surgery was 5 weeks post "pop" to reduce any further nerve damage. 7 months post op now, and much of the pre-surgical issues are back, but there are "things" going on at this level that are affecting it (much of which started 7 weeks post op).

    My point here is that I've had 2 surgeries, but for 2 different reasons, and time-lines between diagnosis and surgery. Your doctor along with his exams of you will decide if and when surgery is going to be offered. As stated above, "pain" is the main reason, insurance wants x, y, and z done first, if nerve damage or strong potential damage, or instability issues, they aren't as restrictive on the doctors decisions, and as such surgery can be immediate or close to it.

    I hope you can get an MRI or other testing soon to see where you are at, and too, to see that there aren't any new issues requiring attention. Supportive *HUG* there Lisa!!

    PCTF C4 - T2, Laminectomies C5, C6 & C7. Severe Palsy left arm/hand.
  • Thank you for your input. I'll talk more to my Dr. at my next appt. in April and see what the MRI and my surgeon says.

    I think I am just feeling anxious about the next mess I have to deal with.
  • Not much I can add to the above posts, all great input.

    Once I went for the second MRI and to the new NS it was a done deal for me, surgery within days. My first OS thought I was causing my problems by returning to PM and refused to treat my neck unless I stopped all meds. I waited almost 10 months between the first MRI and surgery, my disk was on the ventral motor nerve root and impinging the spinal cord and causing lots of motor issues not to mention sensory. Now I just need to play the wait and see game for what I end up with.

    It is very intrigueing how the spine and nerves work. Nothing is ever the same for 2 people. Tiny herniation can cause major problems for someone and nothing for others.

    I hope for your sake you dont need another major surgery, just be prepared for your appointment with a list of questions and senarios for your doctor, that way you dont miss anything.

    Good luck, meds are catching up to me, its time for a nap. hopefully,lol.


  • I wasn't going to post because Tam et al said everything I was going to say, but I'll post just to reiterate. The decision for me to have surgery on my neck was made after only trying PT that my GP prescribed. When that didn't work after six weeks, she told me to find a spine surgeon. I was referred to my surgeon by a friend of a friend, but loved him after our first meeting. He told me that it wasn't a matter of if I had surgery, but when, and since it was September, we decided to go ahead because I could wear the brace during the cold winter months (the brace gets very hot) and he told me he'd have me back on the golf course in the Spring.

    So, really, the decision is up to the spine surgeon. Cervical spine problems are nothing to just "let go and see what happens". There's a real possibility of major problems if left untreated.

    I'm sorry you're joining the neckie club, but I understand the multiple problems as I was a neckie in the beginning and have recently joined the lower backie club.

    Take care of yourself and please keep us updated as to what your surgeon says.

  • I agree with tamtam. I also had to have surgery or risk paralysis. I still have pain every day but some days arent to bad so Im glad i did it. Hope you can find out what to do. Love and Hope to you
  • I agree with all of the above, although my situation was different as far as conservative treatments prior to surgery.

    I had an MRI in June 2006 in which C4-5 and C5-6 were buldging discs and severe DDD was also noted.
    The only treatment I ever received was an EMG test, which came back good and my doc just threw pain meds at me and said there was nothing they could do for me. I was told to go see a chiro and maybe that would help. I had neck pain and both of my hands were continually going numb and I had "on fire" burning in my upper shoulders constantly. The next EMG test I had, they said I just had mild carpal tunnel syndrome and the wrist pain was from a broken wrist I had in 2005. "So they said..."
    At the same time I had 2 discs also buldging in my back.

    In June 2009, 3 years later (how ironic), I started having severe neck pain on the left with a radiating lightening shock down my left arm into my hand and the numbness was more constant as well as the burning shoulder pain. I knew something was definitely not right with my neck and I requested my doc refer me for an MRI. Low and behold, C5-6 was herniated in 2 areas and severely compressing my spinal cord and nerve roots and C4-5 was so degenerated it was barely there. I was sent straight to a neurosurgeon and immediately told I HAD to have the surgery or be paralyzed.

    By that time, they couldn't estimate how long my cord and nerve roots had been compressed so they could only tell me that the surgery would only get me out of danger and hopefully without much permanent nerve damage. I had the 2 level ACDF in Nov. 2009. It's been 3 months and 2 days since and unfortunately, I didn't walk away without the permanent damage. I don't have the same left arm problem anymore but my neck pain is worse, and my shoulders are worse than before the surgery. The pain actually runs all the way down to the bottom of my shoulder blades. I've lost range of motion and I have lost strength in my left arm and hand. It was explained to me by my surgeon at my last appt. that the surgery was a success as far as getting my spine and nerves decompressed, but when you have any compression on your spinal cord, it's considered an injury to the cord. The same applies to nerve roots. The longer the pressure is applied, the more likelihood and risk of permanent damage. In some cases, the nerves don't heal and re-juvenate themselves, thus permanent.

    Conservative treatments are the way to go if they're offered to you and all of the testing that you need to make a decision as to what's best for you. I wasn't given much option beforehand, only after I was in the "danger zone".

    I've just found out in Jan. 2010 on my most recent MRI of my back, that the 2 buldging discs 3 years ago, are now 4 herniations in my thoracic and now a buldging disc in my lumbar. "Imagine that", the timing is totally "ironic" as my cervical. All areas depreciated at the same time frame.

    So, the decision is yours and yours alone to make. Just get all of the tests you need and go from there. Weigh all of your options. Surgery is a "catch 22" for everyone. It all depends on your situation and if, why, and when....

    I hope this added some input and if you have any questions, please don't hesitate to PM me.
    Good Luck with your testing and any decision you may make. I wish you the best and freedom from pain for all "spiney's".

  • You absolutely need to talk to your surgeon and find out what they think before you make any decisions about surgery. Where i am is very different i had to be refered to therapy,i was in that for years trying to get my neck to settle down. Then referred to a neurologist,put on nerve pain meds. nerve tests and mri's to see how extensive my problem was,by that time i wasn't walking well.I had a cane and was having many falls because of muscle weakness. Finally was referred to a neurosurgeon,it took a year before they called with the apt to see him then when i decided to have the surgery i waited yet another year and a bit before i actually had it because i was put on his waiting list.So even though i probably should have had surgery much sooner then i did and i know that ihave permanent nerve damage because it took so long sometimes it just doesn't work out the way we would like it too.
  • For all of your comments. I think spiney and neckies are like snowflakes: no 2 are alike!

    If I could just have that crystal ball I would feel so much better. I would think that my back pain meds
    are also helping to mask the neck pain. I'll feel better once I have another MRI and see where we are. I'm one of those people that does better knowing what's going on, even if its bad.

    Oh, and if My surgeon at any time says it needs to be done right away and not put off, I will most certainly go with that. I completely trust him and if the timing is "inconvenient", that's too bad (thanks Ranger for reminding me of this, I tend to put my needs last, drives my husband crazy).

    So again, thanks for all of your input, take care all, Lisa
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