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Will muscle atrophy worsen if I don't have surgery?

sunny1966ssunny1966 VIRGINIAPosts: 1,385
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:43 AM in Neck Pain: Cervical
As a lot of you know I saw my PM doctor yesterday. The two ESI's didn't do anything so he said the only thing to do is go back to the NS and discuss surgery. I want to put this off until fall (or forever if possible). He said that I have quite a lot of muscle atrophy in my left arm. I said I didn't think it was that bad and he said here I'll show you so he measured my arms. He said he didn't even have to measure because he could tell by looking. He also said that surgery would help my arm pain but not my neck pain? He said the muscle may or may not come back. I didn't think until later (of course) to ask if putting off surgery would make a lot of difference. In other words how fast will this progress or has it already progressed as far as it will?
Thanks for any advice. Hope you're all as well as can be.



  • Debbie,

    Happy Saturday! I can only speak to my experiences here of course. So far for all of my instances of it, without surgery, the muscles weren't getting the nerve signals/information, and thus atrophy began. A TENS unit helped me a little in that *it* helped contract said muscle groups so the muscle kept some of its definition and such, but without it, atrophy. How fast? Can't answer you there. I've had some areas take months to even show, other areas (like my wrist, and hands) it seemed like weeks or months!

    Did surgery help? For my Ulnar issues, 100%! For my neck so far I will say 75 or so percent. My C6/7 is different in much of the damage there is permanent, but for my C5/6 *most* of those muscles recovered during the course of 6 months to a year. So I guess the short answer is, if you have some method to keep working the affected muscles, you might be able to stave off atrophy until surgery, otherwise it will continue most likely. *hug*

    Almost forgot, remember if some of the atrophy is due to pain and as such your not moving or using that muscle group for that, you can possibly rebuild that muscle (yep, it might hurt). Nerve issues, hopefully surgery will fix and then you can build! :-)

    PCTF C4 - T2, Laminectomies C5, C6 & C7. Severe Palsy left arm/hand.
  • sunny1966ssunny1966 VIRGINIAPosts: 1,385
    He said the nerves were the cause. I'm really pretty active and use my arm almost normally except for the times it hurts unbearably. The pain used to be more in my hand but now it's from the shoulder down. I get so fed up with this stuff! (Just like everyone else) I've been taking quite a bit of tramadol and it's giving me a continuous headache. I started Zanaflex today but can't tell it yet. I took it two hours ago and my muscles are still in knots. It's times like these after doing to much all day that I'd almost agree to whatever they want to do. It's just the fear of being worse that holds me back. I'm sure it's the same for everyone. Thanks again Brenda for your help. I hope you're doing well.

  • Howdy Debbie,

    I have my consult with my NS tomorrow - would have been today, but he was called out for emergency surgery. Trying to stay positive till the 'expert' tells me what is going on now. :-)

    As for nerves Debbie, let me add one other nibblet that may help? On my C5/6 the disk herniation onto the cord was a slow progression, so fortunately for me on that level, once the disk material and spurs were removed, my 'signal' got through fairly normally and I got pretty much all of it back.

    My C6/7 was an instant snap when the disk went, and that pretty much damaged that part of my exit nerve. I just had an upper spine NCV/EMG, and it is still only 25%! On physical exam at the 4 month mark, my NS said I lost about 80%, so pretty good on his part when I see the EMG. I was told it was permanent 5 months out, and this just confirmed it. So in a nutshell, it not only depends on if nerves vs pain cause the lost of muscle, but if nerves....how the nerve was compressed. I hope you will find that your will come back - that is a very good feeling (no pun intended!) to get the strength, feeling and use back! Please keep us posted on how it goes!! *HUG*

    PCTF C4 - T2, Laminectomies C5, C6 & C7. Severe Palsy left arm/hand.
  • I don't know if there's an official "atrophy profile" that muscles follow, but I do know that if muscles are left denervated for an extended period of time, the atrophy continues to progress. My experience showed that depending on the severity of nerve compression or denervation the atrophy can progress quite rapidly. I went from having perfectly fine muscles in my neck to completely losing two of them in less than 6 months. The neurologist who was treating me at the time said that basically most of the damage tends to occur in the first 6 months to 1 year. I have no idea where he got that from, but all the reading I did after that discussion, seemed to support his statement fairly well.

    One thing that I would love to have the option of, is even having partial muscle function. If I had been given the opportunity to somehow stop the progression of atrophy before it became a lost cause ... I would have in a heart beat. I'd take 25% function!

    If your PM doc is concerned enough to bring this to your attention, maybe its worth discussing the issue with the neurosurgeon and getting another opinion or a second set of eyes on it.


  • sunny1966ssunny1966 VIRGINIAPosts: 1,385
    Thanks. Please let me know what you find out today. I hope it's good news.

    Take care,
  • sunny1966ssunny1966 VIRGINIAPosts: 1,385
    You've really made me think that maybe putting this off isn't a good idea. I think I'll try to get in to see the NS and see what he has to say. Thanks.
    I hope you're having a good day.


  • but I was wondering how you all are doing now.
    Did your muscle bulk build up again?

    I have some areas where I think I have reduced muscle size. In my left foot just down from my big toe and round my arch, on my right arm around the inside of my elbow and on my back over my shoulder blade, especially on the left side.

    No doctor has noticed this. I have thought for a while that my feet were getting slimmer! My husband thought I was mad (probably still does!! Lol)

    I see my neurosurgeon on 11th October, so I had better mention it to him. I am also hoping to get the results from my EMG and nerve conduction tests then. I wonder if they will indicate that there is denervation. My legs weren't tested, so it will be interesting to see if he thinks that the 'dents' in my foot are muscle atrophy. Does it sound like it to you?

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