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Cervical Herniated Disc C5/C6 with Chronic Shoulder Pain. 23 years old and unknown cause. Help!?

GBSmithGGBSmith Posts: 4
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:57 AM in Neck Pain: Cervical
Hello,

First of all, I'd like to say that I'm new to Spinal Health, but have been doing a lot of research lately, and was hoping to get some helpful input. I'm a 23 year-old college student, and am really in need of some guidance!

I have always had shoulder pain, as long as I can remember. Always on the inside of my left shoulder blade, and it's always a "knot" about the size of a ping pong ball. I usually attributed it to sleeping wrong, and have received chiropractic care multiple times. I've also had numerous massages both Shiatsu and Deep Tissue.

I recently woke up with the same shoulder pain, and began regular chiropractic visits. The problem seemed to stay the same, and I received a deep tissue massage per my Chiropractor's suggestion. Over the course of two weeks my shoulder began to get worse, with the pain spreading specifically into my deltoid. The pain had changed from a normal dull ache to a sharp spasm that resonated through the top half of my arm. I also found that my thumb and index finger had a tingly/numbness feeling.

I continued seeing the Student Health clinic here on campus, and was prescribed minor pain meds, given and X-ray and told to "ride it out". The pain got worse and worse, to the point I was only sleeping 2-3 hrs/night. I should also mention that I've been using both heat and ice of the areas.

I was finally given an MRI (after many ER visits) and my results were a Herniated C5/C6 Disc. I wasn't surprised by the results, due to the amount of research I had done, but the Doctor hasn't been able to figure my shoulder pain out.

My doctor has started me on a smorgasbord of medications(Vicodin, Valium, Naproxen, and Nortriptyline for the nerve pain). He also has be wearing a Miami J collar 24hrs/day. The plan is to monitor my pain for the next month, and see where what happens. I'm glad that they believe it can be cured without surgery, but after a month of excruciating pain trying to get the diagnosis, another 2 months seems like a long time to wait for relief. I should also mention that before the Naproxen I was eating Ibuprofen like candy.

However, I can deal with the neck pain, but my BIGGEST and most painful concern is my shoulder spasms and overall muscle pain in that area. Even with all of the painkillers/ muscle relaxers I'm on the pain is almost unbearable. I still use heat/ice multiple times daily, and have found most relief from taking long hot showers. It does feel good to lightly massage and stretch the spasming muscles, but my Doctor has discouraged strenuous neck movement (made obvious by the neck brace :/.

So I'm okay with the treatment for the actual Cervical Herniated Disc, but my question really dwells upon my shoulder pain. Has anyone experienced shoulder/arm pain like this associated with a herniated cervical disc? I'm fairly young for this type of condition, especially with no known cause for the issue. What are the best treatment options to relieve the pain in my shoulder? Like I said-I can deal with my neck, but the pain I experience in my shoulder is unlike anything I've encountered (even with the pain killers).

Any of your input is more than welcomed. I'm really just looking for some advice and or reassurance with my condition. I'm scheduled for a consultation with Neurosurgery at the end of the month, but in the meantime, any words of wisdom would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks all!

GB
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Comments

  • Hi there and welcome to spine health.

    Let me start by saying.............. I think we are twins or something!

    Your symptoms, age and cause, also what you are going through sounds exactly like what I am/was going through.

    The shoulder pain is the worst isn't it? It starts with a bad muscle spasm that feels like a huge snake in your shoulder, then it ends up traveling throughout your upper arm and neck. That's accompanied by severe shooting and stabbing pain throughout the whole area.

    Here is a link to my blog...

    http://donnabeauchamp.blogspot.com/2011/06/acdf-surgery-today.html

    I would love to chat more with you.
    ACDF C4-5 June 23rd, 2011

    Another surgery in the near future. I am 26 years old.

    Current Meds- Norco 7.5/325, Cymbalta 60mg, Gabapentin, Adderall 20mg
  • Hey Donna,

    Wow, our conditions are eerily similar. You're completely right about the shoulder pain. Not only is it excruciating, but it's debilitating as well.

    I'm curious about your recovery from your ACDF. How are you feeling? How long did it take before you felt real "relief" from the pain we've grown so accustomed too?

    Anyway, I'm glad that you replied, and I really look forward to speaking with you more about our condition/situation.

    Thanks again!

    GB
  • Although I still get pain in my shoulder blades and neck, it is no where near the severe pain I got pre op. My post op pain was nothing compared to a bad pain flare. I haven't had any of the severe stabbing shooting pain since before the operations.

    I am currently 4 months post op and I still get a lot of muscle spasms in my neck and shoulders, also the rest of my back too. I am taking skelaxin 3x a day for that (which may change soon because I don't think its helping), and I take Vicodin es maybe 2-3x a week because the spasms prevent me from sleeping. This I can live with.... What I had pre op I couldn't live with.
    ACDF C4-5 June 23rd, 2011

    Another surgery in the near future. I am 26 years old.

    Current Meds- Norco 7.5/325, Cymbalta 60mg, Gabapentin, Adderall 20mg
  • There is definitely a connection between shoulder pain & a cervical herniated disc. I have a herniated disc at C6-7 & am having SEVERE shoulder pain, neck pain, and numbness/pain in my arms & hands. It feels like somebody sticking a knife in your shoulder blade. I am taking Lortab, Lodine, & Soma to help me sleep. These meds are just barely taking the edge off & the Soma is hit & miss. Some nights I sleep, some I don't.
    My OS says it's up to me whether to do surgery or not. He says I will never be completely pain free so I am hesitant to go through with it, but my quality of life right now is very poor. I can only use my arms for a few minutes at a time before my pain becomes unbearable.
    I hope you find some relief, if you have any other questions or concerns I would be happy to try to answer them.
    Donna, I am happy to hear your surgery brought you some relief. I am hoping I have the same luck if I decide to go under the knife!
    Junipurrwind

    ACDF C5-C6 01/2002
    ACDF C6-C7 12/2011
    Prognosis: Permanent nerve damage in hands/arms, all treatment options exhausted-- lifetime CPP
  • I'm sorry to hear what you are going through but wanted to see if you have tried PT including traction? I had a herniated disc c5-6 last year with the unbearable pain and after a few months of traction it did help. I also did chiro for the 1st few months of pain then integrated the traction. I wish you relief!

    Take care,
    Jo
  • Hi Jo,
    I had an ACDF previously, so no chiro will touch me. Sorry I cannot be of any help there. PT has helped (massage, ice, heat), but only temporarily, & some days, depending on what they do, I am even more sore from it.
    I'm not sure about this, but I think once they do a fusion, traction would be out of the question. Before my surgery I found it did help me for a period of time.
    Junipurrwind

    ACDF C5-C6 01/2002
    ACDF C6-C7 12/2011
    Prognosis: Permanent nerve damage in hands/arms, all treatment options exhausted-- lifetime CPP
  • Thank you Junipurrwind! As you stated its all temporary and basically depends on how well they stick the bandaid on LOL. I now have 2 bulging disc (c5-6 c6-7) and could not handle the PT the 1st go around. I just had a Cervical ESI last week and the Physiatrist wants me to start PT asap. I'm going to give it a try even though i dont think the Epidural really worked. Still feeling the pain in neck, shoulders and arms.

    So good to hear others stories and know we are not alone! wishing you a great day!

    Jo

  • Hi all!

    I just had my first PT appointment, and have my plan of action. The PT I saw was incredibly knowledgeable and within the Spinal Health dept. at the University of Iowa's Hospital and Clinics. He also informed me that it is my C6 nerve that is causing my discomfort.

    Because of my age we've decided to go the most conservative route. My Miami J collar has done wonders in relieving the stabbing pain in my shoulder blade. (presumably due decrease in nerve aggravation). The spasms continue to be extremely painful, but the combination of my meds and icing BOTH my neck and shoulder, I've been able to manage the pain.

    My PT was able to get me into a Neurosurgeon from the same Spinal dept. on Friday, so I will have more information to follow. But for now here is a breakdown of my diagnosis so far:

    1. Continue the Miami J collar 24hrs/day (or as much as possible)

    2. Continue the Lortab, Valium, Nortriptyline, and Naproxen.

    3. We will start an oral steroid over a course of 6 days. After those 6 days, if there has been no progress, we will attempt another 6 day treatment. If still no progress, we will pursue a steroidal injection.

    4. If the steroidal treatments don't solve the problem we will pursue my last option which is to go under the knife.

    The diagnosis is obviously not ideal for immediate relief, but because I'm younger my chance of healing naturally is better, and my PT assured me signs or looking up.

    Obviously, surgery has not been ruled out of the equation, but it should be the last option if you're able to avoid it. However, my PT did give me some great insight about the surgery that I'll share:

    He said that about 90% of the time my condition can be cured without surgery. But one of the positives about surgery is that it does usually relieve the pain almost immediately. He also said that as far as spinal surgery's go, it's about as low-risk as they come. He stated it was right around a 99.9% success rate. So essentially he left it up to me; Either spend the money to have the surgery, or attempt to tough it out and heal naturally. I chose the latter, but if I had an older body or other body ailments, I would seriously consider the surgery.

    Anyway, I feel positive about the direction I'm heading. Junipurrwind and my experience sound pretty similar, and I'd like to thank you and everybody else for your kind words. I will keep everyone posted after my appointment with my Neurosurgeon.

    Until Friday everybody...
  • I also wanted to make a post for the younger people who maybe away from home, or haven't had an experience like this before.

    In my particular situation it was a matter of getting in touch with the proper Doctor's. Everyone know's their body better than anybody else, and if you're not hearing what you think is right, I urge you to get a second opinion. Places like Student Health Clinics, etc. are often times underfunded and/or understaffed, and it's very easy for serious conditions like mine to be over-looked.

    Let's face it: There are a lot of drug-seekers in College towns or cities with a younger population. Although, it's not fair that regular people are being misdiagnosed or over-looked because of skeptical Doctor's, it's a reality that you have to deal with. Pursuance along with patience are so important in times like these that I can't stress it enough. I also urge you to communicate with that practices Chief of Staff or the person in charge, and share your story with them. Not in a malicious attempt to get the Dr. in trouble, but this way the next person that is in your position doesn't have to go through the same painful experience. This doesn't excuse the Dr's negligence, but it does help explain it.

    As much as it sucks YOU have to be your own advocate. As difficult as it is YOU have to ask to difficult questions pertaining to pain, medicine, etc. that you never had to do before. You also have to stay on top of your situation. If the Neurosurgery clinic can't get you in for 2 mo. call that clinic and there's usually a list for cancellations. If not, call back periodically to check for cancellations. It's so important to get treated properly, not only for physical reasons, but for mental reasons as well. Experiences like this can not only be be maddening, but also very depressing. For a Dr. to look you in the face and say "ride it out" is a major blow to your self-confidence, especially if you know there's something wrong.

    I was lucky enough to have the resources necessary to finally get the treatment I needed, but unfortunately not everyone can be so lucky. My advice to you would be to stay positive, pursuant, and patient. Because nobody knows their body like you do, and you have to advocate for yourself and not rely on the Dr. to read your mind. Believe me, I know how painful this whole ordeal is, but it DOES get better with the proper treatment! :)

    If anyone has any questions feel free to comment or pm me and I would be glad to offer an support I can.

    GB
  • Hi GBSmith,
    I hope you are doing better by now. I have the same condition, the only difference is the mine was a large ruptured disc C5-6. Is good you don't need surgery, but I know the pain is awful, why don't you try a combination of spinal decompression and acupuncture?..For me it worked, because they actually help relaxing the muscles in the neck where the nerves are been pinched. I was 23 days without sleeping and miserably in pain, only the combination of this treatments helped. Wish you the best.
  • WishaWWisha Posts: 1
    edited 12/29/2013 - 6:48 PM
    For 10 years I had been suffering for pain in my neck,shoulder and in my ribs . Everything start with pain in my neck and then my shoulder. Doctors said nothing was wrong with my shoulder. They said i only have c5c6 bulging disk , not too bad. . Years past and my shoulder started snapping. Pain was awful. This year dr. xxxx in Minnesotta performed a bursectomy scapular surgery in my shoulder. This was in september 2013. In december , same year 2013, a disk fusion c5-c6. Only 2 and a half week has been pass . I am feeling better, much better. Most important thing to know , if that after the shoulder surgery my pain in my shoulder continue. Everything change after the disk surgery. Good luck.

    Post edited to remove specific doctor's name. Please read the Forum rules
    Post Edited by Liz The Spine-Health Moderator Team
    Jdeya
  • To all those who have commented I'm glad to know others suffer the same way I do and I am not nuts. I really do feel sorry for all of your suffering but am happy to hear from others that suffer as I do. Thirty years ago I started having pain between my shoulder and spine directly center of my shoulder blade. It felt like my ribs had separated from my spine . That space between the ribs and the spine about the size of a"golf ball" as a previous reader stated. The pain is so intense and bothersome that I would swear to my wife it was going to drive me nuts. After years of therapy, acupuncture, chiropractors, nerve injections, 3 shoulder surgeries for impingement syndrome and having a bursa removed and countless X-ray and MRI's and years of suffering I finally know what the problem is. The pain has been pretty much non stop radiating down my arm and into my thumb at times. It hurt into my chest even. Massive back shoulder and neck spasams and all on the left side. And now about 30 years later it is starting to atack my right side as it did my left. The best relief I ever got was therapy massage to my neck and shoulder. Years of not sleeping and at times so I'll i could not eat. I ended up sleeping on my recliner for the past 2 years. I thought I had cancer or a lung disease or even some kind of blood clot or annuresim. What it ended being? A bad disc in my neck at c5-c6 level. You ask why it was not discovered earlier after all the testing. Well in a way it was. The MRI in the very beginning showed a slight bulg at that level and after seeing so many doctors I can't count and taking my films to every one of them they all said this is so minimal it can't be the cause. No thirty years later and spending over half my life suffering daily the disc has totally ruptured and every pain I had in the past has been magnified and the right side is a carbon copy of the left. I am currently waiting to have an artificial disc put in and am looking forward to the day when I can feel better. The chances of total relief is probably asking for too much at this time because of the problem persisting for so long. But at least I now know what the problem is and you cannot imagine what effect just that has had on my mind and body. Not knowing for sure all those years has been horrific to say the least. So to all you suffering as I did I truly wish you well and pray that you can get some relief as I hope to do because the effects of this type of pain is incomprehensible. I truly felt like I was dying at times. God bless you all and never give up fighting.
  • Jhami WunschJJhami Wunsch Posts: 1
    edited 09/04/2015 - 8:54 AM
    New to this forum.. Going for the surgery now after no help from Phy Therapy, Steriods, cortizone shot, 5 months of pain in shoulder, arms, pulsating nerves. Using a neurosurgeon instead of ortho. Turns out my disc is severely swollen and penetrating my spinal cord. If anyone with this long a time period of pain and disc moving into the spinal cord had results with other options instead of surgery, please advise. Thanks very much
    Jhami

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  • I know this original post is from several years ago, but I have the same symptoms. I have three herniated discs in my neck (C4-C7) and am scheduled for surgery next week. The pain in my left shoulder is horrible. I thought I had dislocated my shoulder somehow.   I had a massage today in the pain is much worse. I would advise against massage if you have herniated cervical discs. Not that I'm excited about surgery, but I am ready to get rid of this pain. I'm going the outpatient route and will post my thoughts on my experience. Thanks, and good luck to all of you who are suffering. 
  • paula67ppaula67 TennesseePosts: 1
    I woke up a week ago with a very stiff neck. I went to my chiropractor and had an adjustment, the mobility in turning my neck improved but I could not sleep due to acute pain that feels like an acute muscle cramp the will not release and last sometimes 10-45 minutes before it lets up. The pain is through my shoulder and in the arm mid way down. I returned and he added traction after my adjustment and is leaning towards possible herniated disc most likely in C-5.
    Another sleepless night, I returned for another adjustment, and per his recommendation a visit to my primary for a med dose pack. My Primary gave me a steroid injection with a booster and a mild muscle relaxer. I did sleep for approximately 3 straight hours before the pain woke me up again. This is very exhausting and confusing. I have not had ongoing issues but realize at 49 my age can be a factor. As I read through the post and only a week in I feel ready for a straight jacket. Seeing many dealing with the pain and searching for months puts me in a state of panic. 
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