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Running out of options and conditions are worsening =(

swy81sswy81 Posts: 5
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:55 AM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
Initially had a cervical herniation (C5 and C6) about 3 years ago. I don't recall what caused it but may have been a combination of over-exercising and sitting on a chair all day at work. I've had constant pressure at the base of the skull. Pain, burning, numbness in my left arm/hands. Pain between the shoulder blades, etc.

For the past 3 years I've been trying to make the best of the condition I'm in. Tried an epidural injection and did not like it at all. Physical therapy didn't help much.

I recently went to 3 separate doctors to see what I could do about my situation.

The first doctor told me I needed to get surgery immediately (laser endoscopic discectomy). The 2nd doctor told me I should probably get a fusion done. The 3rd doctor told me it would probably if I didn't do either and to just to live and manage the pain. Told me that with laser surgery it's still relatively new and there is not enough medical evidence to back it up. Told me there is also a big risk of scar tissue forming. And ultimately that the risks of surgery could possibly make things worse.

To make matters worse I think the conditions may have worsened. To try and keep myself in shape I did some light cardio and some pushups to try and maintain a healthy body. I asked multiple doctors and they mentioned pushups shouldn't be an issue. But lately, my whole arm is numb when I wake up now and the pain frequently travels to my right arm (it never did in the past). I think I may have injured my lumbar (possible herniation?) as well as I have back pains and my left leg frequently has a burning sensation.

I'm about at my wit's end right now. My body is getting worse and I've been very depressed lately. I just feel like lying in bed all day and not moving around. I don't feel that I'm that old yet (30) and already my body is falling apart.

I guess I'm just looking for some help/answers as I'm completely lost right now. =(



  • Hi, Just wondered if you have tried massage or trigger point release. Alot of times pain and pressure at the base of the skull is due to tight knotted up muscles in the neck that refer pain up into the head.

    There is a lot of info on the net about trigger points and how to release them, basically just by putting gentle but firm(not too hard of course) pressure on the knot with your finger until it loosens up a bit.

    Herniations can make the muscles tight due to the nerve being irritated. Also when I experience arm pain, I have found using an ice pack on my neck for 20 minutes off and on helps numb the nerve irritation. Obviously this is not medical advice, but these things have helped me.
  • I know that chronic pain can really take a toll on your mental well-being. Your symptoms seem to correlate with disc herniation at C5/6. I also tried all the conservative treatments and had no relief.

    Surgery is a very personal decision. If your pain has reduced your quality of life to laying in bed, then you have to decide if surgery is worth the risk. Many people on this forum made the decision to manage their pain with medication and some bit the bullet and had surgery. There's no guarantee surgery will eliminate you pain.

    Please keep us posted on your decision! Good luck! :)

    2011 ACDF C5-6 for Spondylosis with Myleopathy
    2012 L4-5 herniated disc and hernated disc at C4/5 2013 Taking Amitriptyline for headaches
  • Thanks for the comments.

    Therese, I will keep your suggestion in mind. Thank you.

    At this point, I am seriously considering surgery. I honestly don't know how much more I can take of this.

    But the 2 methods the 2 doctors have pointed out, I'm a bit unsure now of what method is best.

    Is the laser endoscopic discectomy surgery a good idea? Some doctors seem to think it's a scam and that there is not enough medical evidence to back it up.

    On the other hand, I feel like a fusion is the ultimate last step. Is it not true that with a fusion, your other discs will need to ultimately be replaced due to the pressure they take on from the fused discs?

    I'm just not sure of what the right approach is.
  • The gold standard these days is an anterior cervical discectomy and fusion - ACDF. Laser surgery does not have enough research to back it up because it is a relatively new approach. Have you considered a microdiscectomy, instead of the laser discectomy? Did you ever ask about artificial disc replacement as an option? This is also a relative new approach, but I've heard a lot of positive results from members on this forum. A fusion definitely changes the dynamic of how your spine moves. 3 months after my fusion, I herniated 2 discs in my lumbar. I knew that I had issues there, but the fusion caused it to get worse.

    Trigger point therapy definitely helps with symptoms, so give that a try. Ultimately, if you pain is from the disc, then trigger point therapy is only temporary.
    2011 ACDF C5-6 for Spondylosis with Myleopathy
    2012 L4-5 herniated disc and hernated disc at C4/5 2013 Taking Amitriptyline for headaches
  • Another alternative to the laser is the hydrocision curette.
    Of course, there is also the traditional grasps/grabbers.
    Some are even made of flexible plastic!

    Endoscopic instruments are wonderful advances in medical technology.
    On the sunny and mild Central Coast of California

    L4-L5 endoscopic transforaminal microdiscectomy June, 2007
    L5-S1 endoscopic transforaminal microdiscectomy May, 2008
  • Surgery is a very personal choice, but something to consider. First off when reading these forums or any forums keep in mind people post when they are at their worst facing surgery and confused. So you are reading those post. Many get better, move on and are living a normal healthy life and have no need for the forums so don't post the success of the surgery. But, I have been around for a while now and there are many whom have had the surgery woke up with the pain completely gone. The question you need to be asking the doctors is without surgery, are you risking permanent nerve damage. Or worse yet end up with myelopathy. I suspect by your description that your original herniation was to one side, and if your having pain down the other side, it may have gave out and be a central herniation. Those are the ones that will cause myelopathy, not saying that is what you have, though. Also your lumbar may not be the issue at all as cervical spine issues can cause leg issues. Once you have myelopathy surgery is done to stop progression but not reverse what has been done. I am not trying to say have surgery, but to be informed of the risk your taking with and without surgery?

    You do need to research the doctors and their success. It sounds as though you are rather healthy, and are a non smoker, so your chances are better in surgery. Also so you know their are actually professional athletes whom have had the surgery and out playing.

    Look at the FAQ section and their is a list of 38 questions to ask a spine surgeon. Go through the list see what you can answer. Those you can't answer take back to one of the surgeons and ask them. As lil said fusion is the gold standard. On the lazar surgery I would check what is the risk of re-herniating and your being in this shape again. Also I am not sure how bad your herniation is, but what happens if there isn't much left, after the surgery and your bone on bone?

    I know it is hard being in pain and trying to figure out what to do. The first step you need to do is select a surgeon and then trust them and go with their recommendations. Having multiple opinions is a good thing and it is not uncommon to get different opinions. You have to do your homework and select one of them and go with their recommendations. Check the credentials and if they have a fellowship in spinal surgery. Call the hospital they are affilated with ask a nurse on the surgery floor, or better yet go there and talk to them in person. The have the low down on the doctors. Also research each of the procedures, to help you be more informed. Most of us here can tell you about fusions, a few about ADR's but not many about lazar surgery. Also check your insurance policy, as they may not pay for the ADR or the lazar surgery, even though a doctor is suggesting that procedure. Good luck on your decision, and keep us posted. If i can help don't hesitate to pm me.
  • Like Tamtam said, surgery is a very personal decision. Couldn't agree more. Many of us sadly have been moved to the 'been there, done that, have the shirt' mode.

    You have to be comfortable with the surgeon, and too the procedure he wants to do. You have to educate yourself on these procedures to see what *you* feel is in your better long term interest.

    Even though my body and brain was screaming at me that something was wrong, I had 2 Neurosurgeons offer me minimum repair (surgery doesn't alway fix with the spine), another blow me off, and a Neurologist tell me "no surgery anticipated, and your spine is stable."

    Still not happy, I found a top Orthopedic spine surgeon that works re-constructive and revision surgeries of the spine. He is more for the minimally invasive, but I found I've been high risk should an accident happen for two years due to non fusion or pseudarthrosis for the technical term. Due to going so long with the blow offs, and too being told I was stable, I lost 2 more levels! In the next month or two, I am being revised and raised from 2 levels to 5!

    Not trying to scare you, but trying to tell you to be your own advocate. If it doesn't feel right, seek a doctor/surgeon you trust and see what happens and what is offered. I got 3 consults before I decided on this surgeon whom right now I have a zillion percent faith in. :)

    It will be great if no surgery is needed and conservative methods work, but please look at all the options so you are comfortable. As a spring off of "Neck of Steel Cindy"... she says "You only have one neck", but lets kick it to "You only have one spine."

    Please let us know how it goes.

    PCTF C4 - T2, Laminectomies C5, C6 & C7. Severe Palsy left arm/hand.
  • dilaurodilauro ConnecticutPosts: 9,859
    I believe the question is as to which option you need to take.

    Tam pointed out some very valid information. Much of what you can read on this forum as well as other medical forums deals with people who are having problems, just had surgery and/or recovering from surgery. Many also did not have all that much success from it all.

    Once folks get better, they tend to fade away from forums like this. There are a number of members, like Tam, who stay on to offer help where and when they can.

    Take a look at some of these Spine-Health articles:

    Neck Pain

    Spine Anatomy


    Back and Neck Surgery

    Alternative Care

    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
  • Thx for the opinions everyone.

    I actually went and saw another very good spine surgeon but the interesting thing is that like the last spine surgeon he didn't seem to think it was an emergency and in a way seemed to deter me away from surgery like the last surgeon.

    It seems they'd rather I try the traditional pain management route first.

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