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Please Help With This Paradox

my3sonsmmy3sons Posts: 1
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:51 AM in Neck Pain: Cervical
The docs seem to be puzzled that my MRI's only show "mild DDD" (mild bilateral foramenal stenosis C3-4 with mild uncovertebral joint hypertropy). Mild DDD and small osteophytes at a couple other cervical segments.

Mild DDD in thoracic spine as well.

But here's the thing: I FEEL LIKE DEATH WARMED OVER. I am in intense pain every day, my fingertips hurt when I type, my neck is in constant spasm, my range of motion has been limited, etc.

Are there others out there that have "mild" DDD on imaging, but the pain level is anything but mild?


  • Hi - I have "mild" DDD, a "small" bulge, a tear (and I used to have a herniation) - all at L4-L5. It's very hard, because Dr's can be dismissive about it - But I take a LOT of medication, just to manage 4 hrs of sendentary activity a day; I can take more meds and maybe get up to 8 hrs a day of sedentary activity, but then I'll have to pay, and stay home all night and the next day to recover from the pain. If I take extra, extra, meds so I can just keep going, within a day or two my legs will be ripped out from under me, and I can only walk in a kind of crooked/hobbling way, with support, and can't sit at all. I spend 20 hours a day reclining or lying down, to take pressure off that little tear, which cripples me, and has done for the past 3 1/2 years.

    One thing I would suggest that may give a better picture is a standing MRI. Laying down, I only have mild pain, and of course, there's no loading on the spine. A standing MRI can in some ways give a more accurate picture of what's going on - because usually the pain is most intense when standing or sitting. I have not had one, because there aren't many of them around. Also - I don't know that a lot of insurances cover it, because the image quality is poorer, and the research is out on whether it provides a more accurate picture. But another MRI I recently found out about, which may be more available, is called a loading MRI - not really sure how they work, but you go into a regular MRI and lay down, and they put some special belt on you that "weights" your spine, making it like you're standing.

    There are also people who've posted that they had "mild" symptoms on the MRI, and when the Dr goes in for surgery, they see the problem is much bigger. The MRI doesn't detect or show everything - lets face it, it's a bunch of gray shadows. It's great that we have them, but - they're not perfect.
  • Hello My3sons, and Welcome to Spine Health!!

    Coyote is right in that many times a recumbent MRI may not show what is going on, and a Positional MRI might be the better tool. I do want to clarify the image quality of the Positional MRI's - they are just as good and some machines are now even better than the average MRI out there. My last 6 MRI's have all been positional (for the spine you're actually sitting) with one recumbent mixed in. The quality could not be differentiated from!

    My surgeon even commented on how good the images were. He was skeptical when I first asked for one as he too 'heard' the quality was less. Just wanted to clear that up a bit.

    As to your pain and the images...One can have a messy nasty MRI and no symptoms, and another can have minor bulges and be in all manner of pain! I'm similar to the pain levels in your post, my thoracic is like that, DDD and 2 osteophytes (bone spurs) and the pain (neuropathic) is constant. I hope they are able to address your pain and see fully what is going on. Take care, and again, Welcome aboard!!

    PCTF C4 - T2, Laminectomies C5, C6 & C7. Severe Palsy left arm/hand.
  • I was diagnosed with moderate DDD, but after the surgery, my doctor told my husband afterwards that my "disc was completely shot". Prior to surgery, I spent half the day laying on the couch and my social life had been non-existing for 7 months.

    Good luck with your journey! :)
    2011 ACDF C5-6 for Spondylosis with Myleopathy
    2012 L4-5 herniated disc and hernated disc at C4/5 2013 Taking Amitriptyline for headaches
  • I also have been diagnosed with DDD have problems with cervical and lumbar.
    the cervical MRI showed very moderate changes and osteophytes yet I was in extreme pain at times. I had a neurosurgeon due a myleogram which also showed only mild changes. While the dye was still in my spine they did a CT scan which low and behold showed a pinched nerve at c4/c5.
    I ended up having a lamenectomy at one level, one side that was to last about 2 hrs. When the surgeon got in there the nerve was extremely tight and had adhesions on it from scar tissue, due to being pinched. It took him an additional 2 hrs to get the nerve free so he could finish the lamenectomy.
    The surgeon I am seeing now listens to the patient and believes them more then some of the diagnostics.
    Your body is unique and won't react to stimulus the same as someone else.
    laminectomy c4/c5 2008, ACDF c4-c7 Jan 20 2014 sched
  • One thing that is so important and key is that your surgeon or doctors need to use imaging to correlate with their clinical findings. There are many whom could have a mri done and show a bulging disc which has no symptoms whatsoever, which is why the clinical findings are so important to add into all the testing.

    One thing that can help along with imaging is emg studies. Other times the may use selective nerve root blocks to see if that is indeed the area of issue, especially when someone shows multiple levels of issues. Of course there are many others but you doctors need to work those out to correlate with their clinical findings.
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