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Herniated Disk at C6-C7 - No more pain, but continuing weakness.

nosnorannosnora Posts: 1
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:51 AM in Neck Pain: Cervical

About 6 weeks ago I herniated the disk at C6-C7.

I had moderate pain (it was occasionally severe), but now, after 6 weeks and an epidural cortisone injection a couple of weeks ago the pain is all but gone. What remains is significant weakness in my left tricep. I'm doing physical therapy, but as far as I can tell the weakness has neither improved nor worsened since my diagnosis. It's fairly severe, I'm a 37 year-old male in decent shape and I'm left handed, but I now, just as an example, have trouble using a knife to slice down through anything other than the softest foods.

I saw an orthopedic surgeon today, who recommended surgery. Basically, he thinks that my best chance of regaining strength is with surgery. Obviously, no guarantee that it'll work, but he thinks I'll have a better chance with surgery than without. He also thinks that if I take a wait-and-see approach there's a higher likelihood that the surgery would not be effective if I ultimately decide to have it, that is if I wait much longer the nerve damage is more likely to be permanent.

Thoughts about undergoing surgery now versus just giving it more time, along with more physical therapy? I'm having a very hard time deciding which is the lesser of the evils.

Thank you!



  • Nosnora,

    Welcome to Spine Health!! Sorry to hear about your C6/7 - was in those shoes in May of 09 when mine went. From hernia to surgery was 9 weeks. It is now a year and a half later, and I have not regained my strength back, and where the triceps was is a deep grove!

    My EMG studies prior to surgery, and then 6 months and a year after surgery = no change. For mine, the damage is most likely permanent. Hopefully you won't find the same. I too am a lefty, but mine went to the right. I cut food with my right hand, and have had and still do, have issues trying to cut a regular steak - even flicked my steak onto the floor once because of my hand and weakness.

    When my disk herniated (I was yawning of all things) it was a fast and hard hit from the disk. My surgeon feels the nerve damage for me most likely occurred at that time. Within minutes I had burning pain down my shoulder and arm, and too the bottom half of the shoulder blade felt like it was on fire. 10-15 minutes later my triceps was "gone" in the strength sense. I still have transient pain in my arm, and most of my hand (my next level is going now) and fingers are numb, and my finger control most times is non cooperative.

    I'd listen to your Orth.... Again, welcome aboard!!

    PCTF C4 - T2, Laminectomies C5, C6 & C7. Severe Palsy left arm/hand.
  • I had c6-c7 fused in 03; had pain in arms and sholders afterwards. Kept having headaches and the feeling that my neck was bulging out the side. Spent many a days in the docs office trying to get headaches under control. Tried cortisone shots, had little relief. After 7 years of complaining went for a second opinion and found that c5 was in need of surgery now. Had that done in Sept last year; Felt fine following until now. The headaches have started again. As has the bulging feeling in the neck. Has anyone else felt this and what did your doctor say may have been the reasons? Trying to gather basic info for my next follow up appointment to talk to doctor about.

    And has anyones doctor said not to do any heavy lifting as it will cause the next ones to go out?
  • HI Nisnora,

    First let me say welcome to spine-health. As far as having surgery it is a very personal choice and each person arrives at the decision differently. Basically have you researched this surgeon and know as much as possible about him/her? The other thing is I strongly suggest getting a second opinion. What the surgeon is suggesting that you can gain permanent nerve damage is true. The other thing if the weakness remains I wonder just how long it will take for the injection to wear off and the pain to return?

    I guess if I was in your shoes I would get a second independent opinion and move forward from there. If the opinions are different you might find yourself getting a third opinion.

    As far as the surgery itself did he/she discuss it. Such as was it ACDF(anterior cervical discectomy fusion)? Which means they would go in from the front side of your neck and remove the disc and replace it with a graft(allograft, autograft or some other material as bmp). In your case it should be a small plate with 4 screws to hold it in place, if that is the surgery they are suggesting. Did they say how long you would need to be off work? Typically depending on the job it is anywhere from as little as 4 weeks to 10 weeks. Post surgery just be prepared to walk and walk to maintain your core body strength. We have had many members come through with one or even multi-level fusions and have done great but out living normal busy lives and no longer posting. Another thing I would ask is about the level surrounding that level and ask specifically what is your risk for adjacent disc disease?

    Anyway just thought I would stop by and welcome you to spine-health. If I could be of any assistance don't hesitate to pm me. Take care and keep us posted on your decision.
  • HI Rawpd,

    First let me say welcome to you as well. You might find it easier to open your own thread so you can easily follow any comments that someone might leave you. But as far as having a lifting restriction the answer is yes, but I also have four levels fused. I like you had the adjacent disc failure issue.
  • FWIW - 36 year old lefty. Blew discs C5-7. Significant loss of strength in left shoulder, lat, forearm, and especially tricep before surgery.

    I am now 18 months post-op. Back to full strength in lat, shoulder, and forearm. Only regained 60-70% of tricep strength. Most likely permenant at this point.

    My personal opinion is that I waited too long in seeking treatment post injury. Went 3-4 months with severe pain before seeing my primary doctor. By the time i went thru the process of testing, seeing several surgeons and scheduling the surgery it was 7 months post injury and nerves were too far gone in the tricep.

  • Ive had a similar issue. No pain at all but woke up one day 6 weeks ago with only 15% strength in my right arm. A week later my legs had numbness and weakness and balance issues especially when I laid in bed.  MRI showed hern disc c4.5. and c6.7. 

    The good news is that i started getting my strength back about 2.5 weeks ago. I went from having 15% strength to having about 75% strength back in my right arm. Leg issues are almost completely gone. 

    It looks like many of us can recover from this as herniated will self repair. Good luck
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