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Any Help Appreciated - Cervical Stenosis, etc.

MsRickiMMsRicki Posts: 4
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:55 AM in Neck Pain: Cervical
Hi - I'm a newbie here, but not to cervical problems. I'm 55 and have suffered from neck problems as long as I can recall. I was in a bad car wreck as a child and took the brunt of the impact with my face against a metal railing on the back of a front seat (cars have come a long way)! I'm not sure if this caused or contributed to my problems. I worked for 25 years in an office, first with typewriter, then computers way before the term office ergonomics was a part of every day language. I've done chriopractics, massage, common analgesics and the typical rest, heat, ice, physical therapy, orthopedic surgeons, neurologists, etc. I've been diagnosed with: lupus, fibromyalgia, degnerative disc disease, cervical stenosis, multiple herniations and bulges, bone spurs, lateral cervical dystonia and probably others I'm too tired to think of. You all know the story, I'm sure. Ten years ago, I had a cervical fusion of C5-6. Things were ok for a year or so, then the pain gradually came back and has been a down hill slide. I've also done all the things eastern medicine has to offer (and still do - they keep my mind a little more balanced and able to cope). Physically, massage helps the most, combined with medication and TENs, but will insurance cover massage - no. They happily paid the $20,000 surgery though. Go figure. That was ten years ago. Since then, it's been a roller coaster of this doctor saying it's this, that one saying it's that. Fortunately, I have a good PC who prescribes pain medicine but frankly, I'd like a better solution if possible. My latest MRI shows central and forminal stenosis in all my cervical discs plus a ridiculous amount of bone spurs all over. Frankly, to me, it feels like it would feel good to take a knitting needle and stab in through my shoulder, under my scapula and just pull out until whatever is pinching it pops. The shoulder surgeon says there may be bone spurs, but since my pain in relieved by raising my arm, he thinks it's my neck. Well, I'm not 45 anymore and I'm not as brave as I was - I no longer have kids at home to keep up with and work is something I could no longer do as of two years ago. I don't know if I want another anterior disk fusion - or two or three. I have so little movement now, but the pain is constant. It's bearable with the meds I take, but I'm sick of running my life around a schedule of when I will have pills and will there be enough to last my trip here or there. And I'm tired of everyone who finds the meds I'm on looking at me like I'm a drug seeking junkie and I'm too tired to explain the major difference between physical dependence and drug seeking behavior. I just want a life. Have any of you had a pain pump for this? What kind of medications do they use in them - steroids, numbing agents, narcotics? Combinations? Any success with any of they types of injections and can you please explain the different types of them? Along with the degenerative disc disease and stenosis, I have radiculopothy in one arm, shoulder, affecting my little and ring fingers, scapular pain, rib pain that I can't even stand massage on. I'm scheduled to see a new pain management doctor and am looking for whatever suggestions anyone has please. Injections? Pain pumps? Arthoscopic surgery? I don't mean to be so darn wordy or pitiful sounding, I'm just tired and frustrated and really appreciate your help.

Bless you all - I know you have problems too,


  • I can understand what you've been through. I'm 52 and have had serious neck & shoulder pain and periodic low back pain and other pains, especially over the last 12 years. I have been diagnosed with ankylosing spondilitis, fibromyalgia, osteo arthritis, etc. Until this spring I was told I was not operable, and then with new doctors it was "you need surgery sooner than later". I had 4 level ACDF on May 2. The surgeon I decided on wouldn't promise me that it all would go away - the pain and the stiffness and lack of mobility, but it shouldn't get worse. Recovery is a slow process, but it seems that range of motion if not better at least I can turn it as far as I can without pain.

    If you're having pain down your arms and in your fingers you ought to talk to your doctor, ask about an MRI and be seen by an Orthosurgeon or Neurosurgeon for review.

    As far as pain management is concerned, I have had cervical steroid shots and nerve block shots. For a number of years they helped, but eventually they stopped working. If that's an option for you, it might be worth a try while you are reviewed for your cervical issues.

    When I next go to my surgeon he is going to look at my MRI of my lower back...I've had pain down my legs. The issues continue but so do we, and we do the best we can.

    Feel free to PM me if you want.
    4 level ACDF C4-C7 5-2-11, laminectomy & discectomy L4-L5 1/26/12, ALIF L4-5, L5-S1 12/10/12.
  • Hi Ricki and welcome to the site. You've certainly been through the ringer, haven't you? I have some of the same problems as you, with my neck. As Karen suggested above, I would also say maybe seeing another surgeon or two for opinions, especially if you're having neuropathy and radiculopathy in your arms and hands. There are less invasive procedures that can be done, other than fusions, that will get rid of the bone spurs, herniations and protrusions and relieve the stenosis. Myself, I have had 2 foraminotomies, one on each side on multiple levels. They remove the parts of the discs that are pressing on nerves and the spinal canal and remove bone spurs, as well as open up the foramen that can pinch the nerve roots. Both have been successful for me, however bone spurs can grow back, as I've found out. As Karen also mentioned, her surgeon said he couldn't promise that all the pain would go away, as any reputable surgeon should. Once arthritis sets in, we will always have pain and stiffness.

    I'm also in pain management, and have had (and still get) trigger point injections. I've also had facet joint injections and medial branch blocks, which only helped for a few days, but that little success led to radio-frequency ablations (RFA), this procedure burns the nerve endings, thus breaking the path of pain signals. The RFAs lasted usually 2-6 months for me. I've had both sides done twice.

    You mentioned chiro. I can say that my neurosurgeon told me to never go to chiro for my neck, if you see the wrong one, you could end up with permanent nerve damage. Having never been to one anyways, because of all the horror stories I've heard, and the fact that everyone says once you start going, you have to keep going back (not sure if that's just an urban legend or not) but it's a risk I'm not willing to take.

    One other thing I haven't tried but have heard good things about, is seeing an osteopath. They are more hollistic in approach, and specialize in both muscular and skeletal issues as a whole, instead of just treating one area and certain symptoms. Might be something you would be interested in looking into, as you are open to the more eastern medicine practices.

    I wish you luck with your new pm, I hope they can find an appropriate action plan to help with your pain. Let us know how it goes!
    APROUD CANADIANveteranButNOTa doctor, my thoughts are my own
  • Thanks for your welcoming words. I'm glad surgery has helped you. Reovery is a process & you're right to take it slow. Looking back, I'd have continued with a physical therapist as long as possible, then indefinitely on my own. The work I did for another decade didn't help & I should have been insistent about my area being ergonimcally correct. I'm sure most of us have something in life about which we say we wish we knew then what we know now. ;)

    I saw my new PM specialist. He didn't make promises, but felt a series of nerve root blocks and branch injections were worth trying. He went over my MRI results in detail & explained what he was looking for during the exam. He listened and was respectful which I really appreciated after my disastrous appt with the first one.

    I'm beginning the injections next week and see how they work. My daughter will drive me to/from the appt. I was given a valium RX, instructed to take 2 upon leaving home and the other 2 upon arriving if needed. He said it won't be pain free but probably not any worse than the pain I already deal with.

    He told me about less invasive ways to eliminate bone spurs & relieving impingements. I was also given info on neurostimulation therapy pumps, his last resort. It looks like a combo of my husband's pacemaker and my daughter's insulin pump. She's been a Type 1 diabetic since the age of 12. At 28, she knows how much it has helped control her health issues.

    Since my legs have become involved, I've felt an inner urge to find another way. I want more of my old life back - I miss the coordination and energy and the things I enjoyed. So, off I go, in search of something better.

    I tried to send you a PM, but as with most programs, it will likely take me a few tries to get everything figured out. You can PM me anytime too. Thanks again and I hope you continue to get better each day.

  • Thanks for welcoming me. It sounds like you've been through a lot too. Exhausting, huh? I'm in a phase of finding a better way to cope. Reaching out to this site is a step I haven't taken before. I appreciate you & Karen sharing with me (and anyone else too).

    RFA is a new term for me - though my husband has had cardioablations. The process is similar, just in different locations. My days with a chiropractor were long ago - I was in my 20s. At that time, the adjustments helped. As I became older and stiffer, I instinctively didn't want anyone trying to adjust my neck. My PC and neurosurgeon both asked me to leave chriopractics alone - they didn't feel it would help my neck at all.

    I've read (with much interest) about osteopaths. My insurance won't cover osteopathy or massage therapy. I'm sure what insurance will/won't cover is influenced by the AMA, and powerful pharmaceutical companies who are political lobbyists. With healthcare so expensive, I have to play along with the company who has the upper hand.

    The other new thing I'm doing is searching for a therapist who works with chronic pain patients, someone to offer constructive suggestions and or criticisms. Ultimately, I'm looking for help in getting my life back - I miss it. I miss the me I used to be. I'm not looking for pity, just trying to be clear about this chronic monster eating away at my life and self esteem. I don't want to fall into the pattern of pity parties.

    Thanks for listening to me search though my thoughts, Kelly. Please feel free to PM me anytime.

  • Some pain management clinics have a therapist on staff, you might want to check with your pm if they do, and if he can refer you, or if he knows of any in your area. You also might want to look around your community as well, a lot of cities have support groups for chronic pain patients.

    You mentioned that you have found the more hollistic/eastern medicine venues have helped you. Have you ever tried using Guided Imagery techniques or other relaxation/meditation techniques or deep breathing exercises? If you haven't, and would like some links, let me know and I can pm some to you that I've been given through my own psychologist in dealing with ptsd. The great thing about that, is they've taught me a few things in dealing with chronic pain as well.

    There's also reflexology, as another member here just suggested to me, look in your city for a school that teaches it, the students need so many hours of experience to get their license, and many will give you free sessions so they can get their hours and practice (if you don't mind being a guinea pig, lol).

    It's great that you are open to other ways of dealing with pain. If you look in the FAQ section, you will find the link to a post that Ron, the site admin made, about "The Blend". It's a list of all sorts of different things we can do to help us deal with our pain, other than just meds, injections or the other typical medical treatments. Keep up the healthy and positive attitude, and you will find ways to enjoy your life again. You might have to do things a little differently than what you did before, but when we put our minds to it, we can find ways to find enjoyment and live with our new lives as chronic pain and spine patients.
    APROUD CANADIANveteranButNOTa doctor, my thoughts are my own
  • Thanks for the info above - I will look into it. I've worked with guided imagery - some I've found helpful, others not so much. I do like several by Belleruth Naparstak. I'd very much be interested in one that would guide through mild exercises. I am most comfortable working out in a pool but would like to check into those 'on land' as well.
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