Hi guys, I'm relatively new here and honestly don't know where else to go for help. I would really appreciate any advice, information, or reputable sources for me to check out. I would really appreciate someone with the time to read this lengthy note...
I guess I'll start with a little background. My name is Niki and I'm 22. About a year or so ago I started having strange excruciating pain in my back, between my shoulder blades. Being someone who tends to blow things off, I didn't really pay attention to it. It would come and go for a few days, then disappear for a month or so, just to come back.
After that, I started waking up with numb arms and hands (more specifically my pinky and ring finger). I was sure it wasn't from sleeping wrong, because I've slept the same way and never had I experienced this. That lasted for a week or so, then disappeared. Following that, I started having dizziness (not vertigo, but that "off" feeling) 24/7 for 4 weeks. Towards the end of that episode, the hand tremors, decreased fine motor function, pain in my arms/elbows (that good ole funny bone feeling,) and weakness in one of my hands.
That lasted 2-3 weeks. Then the real kicker happened, my feet went completely numb...for a month straight. I would stumble, lose my balance, trip over my own feet, and have pain from standing on them all day at work.
Mind you, I really haven't had any real "abnormal" neck or back pain since that first incident.
So onto what I did about all this. I have no insurance, so I found a free clinic that ran some free blood work, all came back negative. B12 levels, thyroid levels, blood sugar levels, comprehensive panel, etc. So, they referred me to a neurosurgeon (also for free). A very good one at that, so I've read. I outlined my symptoms and he seemed very concerned, but never really told me what he suspected would be the problem...except that he wanted to take me on as a charity case and it probably had to do with my spine, then ordering both an MRI and an X-Ray on my cervical and lumbar spine (free) and told me I need to be open to surgery pending the test results. He also told me to take it easy at my very physical job, so I did. I started discovering that the pain I had in my back was a muscle spasm, and now they were everywhere, and painful...but nothing too intolerable.
Fast forward to today, 2 months later, when I finally got my follow up appointment with him after my tests (still free). It came as a surprise to me, but after some doctor lingo and other stuff I hardly understood...he recommended surgery, more specifically fusion and something to do with "cables."
I was so upset by what he was telling me, that I don't know if I fully understand what exactly he said my issues were. Now I've tried to scan through the pain forums here, the neck and back forum, and the surgery forum, but I feel like everyone's comments that I read are from people with multiple serious issues, and I don't think mine is to the degree of needing surgery. I'm still a little unclear on what he was trying to explain...maybe you guys can help decipher what I do remember, and maybe someone else has the same issues.
He started off with telling me I have soft bones, asked if I was a smoker (which I am), then seriously scolded me about quitting and said to start taking 3000mg of Calcium and 1000 IU of Vitamin D daily. I'm still with him. Then he goes on the explain that even though he didn't see anything major on the MRIs, that I have loose, torn, and damaged ligaments in what I believe he said were C4-7 and in L4-5. He also mentioned that I have a partial lumbarization at L5-S1. Okay, I'm still kind of with him...Then he went on to start talking about slipping disks and dislocations (though I'm not sure if he was talking about the discs or the vertebrae.)
I eventually just started to tear up and get upset at this point (I have a lot going on in my life right now, I didn't need to hear this) and kind of lost him when he was going on about surgery. I could hardly compose myself enough to get out any questions I have now. He explained what fusion was and some other "newer" options for surgery that could allow for more range of motion in the long run, but will put stress on the surrounding areas. He started talking about losing my mobility and range of motion as I got older without the surgery, because of my body "pouring cement" to compensate for what's going on in there, and explained that surgery would basically propel my body forward 50 years and artificially create those "cement pieces" and alleviate pain by 70%.
Now like I said above, this guy is apparently one of the top neurosurgeons in my area, has done all of this for free, and told me he would do the surgery for free if I could show him I have the motivation to quit smoking and get my bones back into shape. Free back surgery? What? People do that? I've been so confused. I'm inbetween, "he wouldn't offer to do the surgery for free if he didn't think it was imperative for both my current and future quality of life" and the good ole "if all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail" phrase. I've done as much research as my brain can handle, I still don't understand much of the terminology, I'm confused, scared, noticed that most people are older than I with bigger problems than I, and hope someone who can help has read this far. He didn't really define any of it as a particular disorder or abnormality, so I don't even know what I'm looking up. Though he didn't really suggest conservative options, and when I asked, told me that surgery was the way I needed to go so...
I guess some of my other questions are:
If I'm not really experiencing pain now, does that mean it's not an urgent matter?
Would doing this kind of surgery now prevent all this stories I see about people going through tons of conservative options, medications, pain pills, and PT just to end up getting surgery when it might have been too late?
Even if I got surgery, is it going to cause more pain than the tolerable aches and pains I have now?
I've been seeing him pro bono and I don't know how long I'll have to wait again just to ask some serious questions I have in regard to this...please help me understand.
Thanks in advance,