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Which came first .......

jellyhalljjellyhall Posts: 4,373
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:47 AM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
the cervical or the lumbar spine problems?

I am wondering if there is a normal order of the spinal problems developing. Obviously people are different, but am interested to compare to see if there is an area that usually shows up the problems first.

I am also interested to learn of people's experience of how long it took for the other area to be bad enough to demand attention.

If you had surgery on both areas, how long did you have between the surgeries.

If you have problems in your thoracic area too (Sorry if you do :S ), how long did that take to develop and which came first.

Another question; Do you know what caused your spine to have so many problems at so many levels? Was it an accident (helicopter crash!!), sports or genetics?

How long ago was the accident, if that is what is blamed?
(My spondylolisthesis was blamed on a fall from a high tree when I was 7! I very long time ago!!!)



  • My cervical problems started first, in May 2008 with severe pain in the middle of my back. (Actually it began about a month previous with strange arm symptoms, where I'd get very painful goosebumps, then my arms would get so cold I'd have to put on a coat, then muscle pain in both arms that lasted for a few hours. I thought it was too strange to go to the doctor for.) Anyway, the pain the middle of my back were muscle spasms, sent for x-ray, said cervical looked bad, sent for PT, did that for 6 weeks without any help, then on to OS who said no more conservative measures, I needed surgery now, not if, but when. So, had 3-lvl ACDF, C4-7, on Oct. 21, 2008.

    All my doctors agreed that my problems began with a very bad head-on collision with a drunk driver about 30 years ago where I was thrown forward, my head hitting the windshield and my jaw hitting the metal dashboard. It took 6 months of ultrasound at the time to get my mouth open enough to eat solid food. They believe that it began at probably C6/7 and during the years, each level above had so much additional pressure that eventually all three levels (C4-7) collapsed. Why I never felt anything before then, I'll never know or understand. I'm sure many things I did after that accident didn't help and know that I did many things that exacerbated my problems, but not knowingly of course.

    I was recovering from my ACDF and back to work part time in February when I began having pain down the back of my legs and severe pain in my lower back. My neck got to a recovery level that was tolerable with meds, but never got better than that. From February to June, my lower back got so bad that I couldn't stand for more than 5 minutes. I had severe pain in my lower back and hips, and pain running down the back of both legs past my knees. The pain in my lumbar at that time totally overshadowed my cervical pain.

    Got sent for an MRI for my lumbar, and they found diffuse disc bulge, stenosis, facet problems and spondylosisthesis at L4/5 so was sent for injections. The ESI in addition to a 5-day Medrol pack worked for the pain down my legs, but not the other pain. FJIs (2) did nothing. Then I started having a different pain down the back of my legs, but not past my knees, that I can only describe as wider and deeper than the previous sciatic pain, and it turns out it was coming from my stenosis. Only option was surgery, so one year, two months and 16 days after my ACDF, I had my 1-lvl TLIF, L4/5.

    I'm now having more problems with the levels above my cervical fusion and have compared my MRI from 2008 to my MRI from two months ago and I can see the digression, so can my doc. But since this next one would probably have to be a posterior surgery, I'm waiting as long as humanly possible to do anything other than stretching and medications for these additional problems.

    So there you have my history. Sorry it's long, but it's been a long and interesting journey and I'm able to answer every one of your questions without having to refer to paperwork. Amazing how we remember every moment since our spiney journeys began.

    You might be sorry you asked...

  • My back problems started with lumbar, then thoracic in one spot, but my first surgery was on my cervical spine (C6-7) for herniation. The herniations in my lumbar spine were there first, but didn't get formal diagnosis/treatment until recently. My thoracic problems are recent--in the area of 6-7 years ago--when I started to develop degenerative scoliosis. Problems are not severe enough to pursue treatment at this time.

    The time between my cervical surgery and lumbar fusion was 1.5 years.

    Hope I've answered all your questions. Been at computer too long. Ice pack and sofa are calling me. :)

    2009 Foraminotomy C6-72010 PLIF L4-S1Multi RFA's, cervical inj, lumbar injLaminectomy L3-4 and fusion w/internal fixation T10-L4 July 17Fusion C2-C5 yet to be scheduled
  • Early 2005 I started having a lot of pain in my neck that chiropractor no longer helped - MRI showed C5/6 with a hernia. Referred to Neurologist to assess - surgery recommended. I held off until March of 2008 and underwent ACDF C5/6.

    April 2009 blew out my C6/7 (yawning of all things), went back to my surgeon. 2 MRI's, X-rays and EMG/NVC confirmed violent herniation to the right. Tried to hold off, but in July trying to qualify in our quarterly firearms, right arm basically "died." Had additional fusion 2 weeks later for C6/7 - add's a wing thing!

    Additional for me, lumbar and thoracic have been on an off since 1985. March 2010 after EMG/NVC hernias at L2/3/4 (protrusion actually) but on both exit roots and cord. Neuropathy also diagnosed.

    Causes..contributors would be better I guess. Formal gymnastics training for 11 years, ended due to a fall thanks to someones stupidity and water!! (neck over flexed - sprained it).

    1981 upon landing had a nose wheel failure, slammed forward but did not make contact with the instrument panel. (whiplash, sprain - neck and mid thoracic)

    1985 thanks to an engine failure at the wrong time (I know, is there a right time?) had to take the controls from a Flight Instructor applicant I was examining (yes HE failed!). Hit vertically (about 6gs) then swung (whipped) hard right with a rolling moment, then the final as the aircraft dug in, and whipped us 180 degrees. No MRI's back then... "Sprained and strained my entire spine to the tailbone!" 8 months of therapy after that due to the trauma induced double scoliosis. They were able to straighten me back out (1.5 inches!!), and had to maintain in PM mode until surgery became my only option, so the ride continues. Also in this, broken hand, sprained ankles (from the peddles).

    25 years of flying, sometimes with helmets and night vision goggles (bad for neck posture - took my curve out), tussling with bad guys, general wear and tear added...

    Surgery pending L2/3/4. Revision pending "crack" (if it will heal on its own?), and or if it does, addition of C7/T1. Thoracic spurs, arthritis and DDD - thankfully, painful yes, surgical no! :)

    Whew, I think that covers it? I would guess for me, Cervical, then Cervical/thoracic/lumbar together? I think that about covers it. Now retired due to this stuff...only 2 years early from my original date!! :)

    PCTF C4 - T2, Laminectomies C5, C6 & C7. Severe Palsy left arm/hand.
  • dilaurodilauro ConnecticutPosts: 9,839
    Years before I had my first lumbar surgery, I had multiple back problems, most of them muscle related (at least when I was 16 we thought so) My first lumbar surgery was when I was 28. Fast forward to 1996 and then I had my first cervical surgery.

    My doctor, had this to say:

    You can start at the cervical or lumbar area first, and then because of fusion or even scar tissue, there will be strain on the other parts of the spine. Normally, for most modern day folks, its lumbar that goes first, only because we mis use our backs.

    So, I had my lumbar, 4 of them, and since that weakened my spine, it was only natural to cause problems somewhere along the line. That was cervical.. Because we all know that there is no such thing as thoracic problems! I have my lumbar spine all screwed up, then it was my cervical area, so guess what? What took the brunt of all movements ? The Thoracic area.

    So, even though this does not answer the question, it just shows that when we weaken one part of our spine, we are bound to have problems somewhere else.
    Ron DiLauro Spine-Health System Administrator
    I am not a medical professional. I comment on personal experiences
    You can email me at: rdilauro@veritashealth.com
  • I had whiplash 20 years ago and had x-rays and it showed the reversal of lordosis neck then but after 9 months I was fine until 2 1/2 years ago with my lumbar issues and then started a little with more neck issues. I haven't had surgery yet so hopefully things aren't getting worse too rapidly. Also I didn't have any DDD in my lumbar on my first MRI but I did on my second which just goes to show within 18 months the trauma I went through with my back injury gave me DDD disabling me.
    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
  • I badly herniated one of my lumbar disks 9 years ago (do you believe I don't even remember which? Either L4/L5 or L5/S1 though). And then it was mostly OK for a long time (no surgery, just conservative treatment).

    Post-accident (fracture was in 2007), it remains mostly lumbar. I have some thoracic pain, and a little bit of cervical "stuff," but nothing that I don't figure will be vastly improved once my spine is aligned correctly and I can be more active again.

    Unless they end up fusing me from L1-L5. Then I'm screwed.

    Bahahaha, get it? Sorry, just shoot me now.

    Anyway, my fracture has referred damaged down- so I have damage at every level below L2 (disk bulges, facet arthropathy, retrolisthesis), including what appears to be sacroiliac issues and hip bursitis- all aggrivated by this single little kink in my spine.

  • I started our with mostly lumbar and thoracic when I was about 7...I believe it was due to a congenital issue. I had a lot of problems with it growing up, but I thought I had grown out of it.
    When I was about 20, I got jumped walking to the bus stop after work one night... the guy picked me up by the front of my shirt (and the skin under it!) and threw me... I landed half in the road, half on the sidewalk...he stomped me, cracking a rib or two and fractured one of my thoracic vertebrae on the curb. I walked home, about 3 miles because I'd lost my money in the scuffle and neither the guard at the facility near my job nor the bus driver could/would help me (lovely gentlemen they were... i think the guard watched me get beaten up actually, must have been a thrill for him, bleh) The hospital told me there was nothing they could do and I should rest... when I got home again, my grandma wrapped me and that gave me some relief.

    Anyway.. I don't think one had any bearing on the other... perhaps favoring things has made a difference? The congenital issue was called epiphysitis of the vetebrae nothing other than pain killers and bed rest as needed, was ever done. A body cast wass suggested, but I think we thought I would grow out of it.
    I've been getting some numbness in my hands/arms and I wondered if it has to do with the thoracic issue of if it is something new.

    I haven't had any surgeries for my back issues and I hope to continue not to do so ;)
  • I first started with back pain when I had a herniated disc 15 years ago. It cleared up on its own and everything was fine.

    Then 5 years ago, I had another herniated disc but unfortunately the pain didn't stop. After 5 months I had a discectomy on L5-S1, and because that failed, I had it repeated one month later.

    Ever since then I've experienced low back pain and was officially termed as being 'chronic'. Because of degenerative disc disease, facet joint osteoarthritis and right foraminal stenosis, I underwent spine fusion at L5-S1 and L4-L5 (because by this time both discs were affected).

    Is it hereditary? It could be, but there's no proof (as far as I know). My dad had numerous episodes of slipped disc that I can remember and my mum had spondylosis in her upper spine, so maybe there's a genetic weakness, I don't know.

    I do not have any physical problems with my cervical spine - however, if I do get aches and pains, it's usually because I'm trying to protect my lumbar region and therefore may strain other parts of the body (i.e. referred pain). That's happened a few times in the last 5 years.

    Interesting thread.
    2 x Microdiscectomy 2005 / PLIFusion 2-level 2010 / revision surgery 2011 / NEVRO Senza spinal cord stimulator implanted February 2013. I WILL NOT GIVE IN / UP !!
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