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Which type of doctor should I try now? Seeking direction for bulging discs

bdiskmanbbdiskman Posts: 2
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:59 AM in Chronic Pain
I'm really hoping someone here can give some advice on which direction to go next in my battle with bulging discs. I'm 38 and four years ago I was diagnosed with two bulging discs in my cervical spine (4th and 5th vertebrate) and possible bulging discs in my lumbar region (unsure since I only had an MRI of my cervical and mid back). This initial diagnoses was made by a very reputable orthopaedic sports medicine doctor. I went through supervised physical therapy ffor a few months and continued on my own, with mild success. 18 months later I got a second opinion from another orthopaedic doctor at a spine center. He felt that my pain was probably more from joint disc strain rather than bulging discs. So I went through another round of supervised physical therapy with a different physical therapist and have continued on my own with mild success. In all honestly, my physical therapy has not always been consistent and I could do a much better job at it.

Recently, I took a new desk job which has worsened my pain. I am having a very mild, yet persistent tingling/numbness in my right arm which in the past I would only feel on rare occassions for less than a day. I feel like perhaps I should get a 3rd opinion, but I'm confused as to which type of doctor to see. Instead of another orthopaedic doctor, should I try a nuerosurgeon or other?

I've read online that ignored pain in arms or legs can lead to permanent nerve damage. I have no idea if this is true, but I'd rather not take the risk. So my second question is, am I better off getting extremely serious and consistent at the physical therapy for 6 weeks before getting a 3rd opinion, or am I risking nerve damage not seeing a professional first?

Thank you for any guidance on this.


  • I have a bit of experience with both cervical issues, and lumbar issues. You mention that you've seen ortho's both times that you were looking for a diagnosis, and for some people that's fine, me I am of the school of thought, that the spine belongs to the Neurological system, and that the best Doctor for diagnosis is a Neurosurgeon. You mention that your have 2 levels on your cervical spine herniated, for the most part, herniations in the spine will get better with rest, PT, meds, etc., but there's those of us that get nerve impingement, and usually this is when some Doctor's will recommend a more invasive route.

    In my case I had one level cervical herniation with severe nerve impingement, I went to one of the best NS's in Fla., and since I was having so much numbing feeling in my left arm, migraine headaches and even dizziness, so in March of 2010 I had an ACDF (Anterior Cervical Discectomy with Fusion), I was very hesitant to put myself through another surgery, since I already had a 3 level spinal fusion that had failed miserably but when me and the NS talked about the Pro's and Con's, I decided that I would have a good chance of at least loose the darn migraines, so I went for it!

    I went in the hospital on a Tuesday at 7:00 AM, the surgery only lasted 2 hours, and I almost inmmediatly felt relief, so that was a good sign! As the day went by I started feeling better, I felt so good, that the next day when my NS came to do the rounds, he was amaze at how good I looked, and he said; "well, do you feel good enough to go home?", and of course I did, and went home! So for me the experience was a very positive one, but I think that the success was because it was only a one level surgery, any time that 2 or more discs are involved, things get a bit complicated...

    Another thing that I learned through my journey, is that fusions do not guarantee for pain to go away, a fusion only fixes the structural part of the spine, and I think that this is why a lot of people get dissapointed when they realize that the pain is still there... so if you can avoid any type of invasive procedure, do it!

    Again, make an appointment with a good NS in your town, some hospital's have the "Ask a Nurse" program, were you can ask nurses online, who the best NS in your city, and let me tell you, I always trust nurses! Hopefully the NS will perform tests to see if the numbing is coming from the cervical spine, or if it maybe is carpel tunnel! Try every conventional treatment before deciding to do anything invasive like a fusion, since once you start having fusions, you become a "spiney" for life! Good luck, and keep me posted, I will like to know how it goes. :)

  • Thank you Enid for your reply. It sounds as though you were in worse shape than myself at the time of your surgery. I think that's where my confusion comes in when it comes to the difference between a Ortho and a NS. From my research I've gotten the impression that NS's are for more serious cases where the patient is having severe, life inhibiting pain. Of course I could be wrong, which I why I'm here, to learn. It's just confusing, because for every one that says to just see a NS, there are just as many who swear by the Ortho Spine specialists instead. Guess I'll just have to flip a coin and see what happens.

    My pain I would describe more as mild to moderate, more of a nuisance than anything. I think my concern comes the newly persistent mild numbness/tingling in my right arm, and the overall soreness of my back being worse since taking this desk job (which I desperately need to hold onto).

    Thanks again for your feedback though, glad to hear you found someone to help you. By the way, I'm in Florida also, may I ask who the NS is that you saw?
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