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PLEASE HELP..with MRI result interpretation and a few questions at the end..

KevlarKKevlar Posts: 5
edited 06/11/2012 - 9:00 AM in Neck Pain: Cervical

I saw my spine doctor again on Thursday of last week (my first appointment with him having been in September) and told him I was still having a lot of neck trouble, and he prescribed me Flexeril and told me to schedule another MRI, which I did immediately for the very next day, and scheduled a followup with him for early this week to discuss the results with him.

After I left his office, his secretary called and said the doctor didn’t want to see me for a month, to see how the flexeril worked and won’t return my calls.
I’ve obtained a copy of my MRI from Friday and reading it am alarmed, and LOOKING FOR ANY ADVICE OR OPINIONS.

I’m a 40 year old male

I’m special agent for a federal alphabet soup agency, spend lots of time at the PC as well as wearing a bulletproof vest, and doing warrant services in the field, sitting in the car for hours on surveillance..

I’ve always been Mr Fitness. Since age 15, I’ve been constantly out running or working out in the gym religiously.

I’ve never had any traumatic injury to my neck, have never been in a car accident etc..

Starting in 2003, I would have a lock-up or crick in my neck once or twice a year, that a chiropractor could fix in a visit or two, usually resulting from sleeping wrong , but twice I remember from doing over- head tricep extension with cables.
In late 2009, I had an episode of chronic trapezius tightness for a month or more, that resolves itself with chiro and massage.

In mid 2011, I began to get neck fatigue, light burning sensation etc. where my head felt so heavy, I felt like I needed to prop it up with my hands, and I can’t seem to get comfortable anywhere, even sitting on the couch is unconfortable and makes my neck ache.

A month ago, I was washing my hair in the shower and my neck locked-up again and the chiro visits began again. I feel better after the chiro for the day, and feel great after an hour long massage session, for the rest of the day, but then back to the stiffness and fatigue the next day. While this was at it’s worst, I had moderate pain right at the bump on the back of my neck, but this has gone away.
Last week I had a chiro visit in the morning and then massage in the afternoon, and after the massage, my right arm felt funny/numb and that persisted till I went to bed.

My symptoms are chronically tight traps and stiff neck now. The doctor does have me on Flexeril for the last 4 days, and I do feel better, feel good when I roll out of bed, but the neck starts getting stiff as soon as I get to moving around. A hot shower helps loosen it up, but over the course of the day, it will get stiff again.
I believe working on the computer through the course of the day aggravates it.
Here’s what I have done:

-Changed my chair at the office, got a big monitor and positioned myself at eye level with the center of the screen, a keyboard tray so my arms rest on the chair’s armrest when typing
-Orthopaedic pillow, combined with a towel roll per docs directions
-New high-quality bed
-Icing with a coldpack for 20 mins 2x a night
-Going back to the gym after steering clear for 2 months, doing very light range of motion exercises and elliptical machine for cardio


C2-3 Normal
C3-4 Very minimal disc bulge without neural encroachment
C4-5 Minimal disc bulge without neural encroachment. Minimal right neural foraminal narrowing
C5-6 Minimal disk bulge without neural encroachement. Minimal right neural foraminal narrowing
C6-7 There is minimal disc bulge. There may be a tiny middling annular tear without neural encroachment
C7 Normal


C2-C3 No significant disc bulge or protrusion visualized, No evidence of neural encroachment
C3-C4 Minimal disc dessication and disc bulge without significant neural encroachment
C4-C5 Disc mildly dessicated with loss of disc heights. There is a small, broad based right paracentral disc protrusion that does efface the thecal sac anteriorly and partially extends into the right neural foramina, resulting in moderate right foraminal narrowing. This is more conspicuous when compared to previous exam.
C5-C6 The disc is moderately dessicated with loss of disc height. There is a broad-based right paracentral disc protrusion that effaces the thecal sac anteriorly. There is mild central canal stenosis with AP dimension of the thecal sac measuring 9mm. The disc protrusion may have a small overlying osteophyte and does result in moderate narrowing of the right neural foramina. This is more conspicuous with compared the previous exa,m.
C6-C7 The disc is mildly dessicated. There is a broad based left paracentral disc protrusion with small annular tear that does efface the thecal sac anteriorly. No central canal stenosis is present. There is very mild narrowing of the left neural foramina.

Reading on the net, some of the results on this MRI scare me!

Stenosis, osteophyte etc..?Everything looked ok 4 months ago!

How could my neck have gotten so much worse in 4 months?

Can I turn any of this degeneration around and lead an active, healthy life, or am I doomed to be a cripple by retirement age or earlier?

Do others with similar conditions have a turn for the better?

Lastly, should I continue to see a chiropractor or massage therapist? I'm worried about a chiro causing more problems..



  • Kevlar, Unfortunately no one can give you the answer you're looking for here. Reading and interpeting mri results is for a doctor to do. I can say the nature of disc issues is they change over time and as we age, some get worse some stay the same etc.

    We're all different and react different to various external events. Sounds like you're taking the right measures at work to help with the resulting pain.

    I am recorvering from a c3 to c7 fusion with instrumentation which started as a work injury in 2007 and progressed over time to the need for surgery. Actually my second. So you'll have to wait for the results from your doctor.
    I know you want the information a.s.a.p. because that'll guide you in the direction you need.

    Also, and this is strictly my opinion but until you meet with your doctor and have a complete picture of your condition I would stay away from the chiro at least for the adjustments.

    I've had 3 mri's and every time they have changed in one way or another that's just the aging process. Degeneration can't be reversed again part of aging, stenosis depending can be corrected with surgery, that's a narrowing of the canal the nerves run through and once corrected usually helps.

    It really will be up to you on how much discomfort and/or pain you want to live with before any surgeries are considered. Your doctor will discuss the non-surgical treatments available when you visit with him/her.

    Let us know how things go and good luck!

    Hang in there and I seriously doubt your "doomed to be a cripple" by retirement.
  • Dave D,

    Thanks for the kind words.. I'm a worrywort by nature and always expect the worst. I have read so many horror stories on the net from people with neck issues etc, that seem to be completely disabled...that it is disheartening.

    I have a job that takes me from driving a desk doing computer work, to surveillance in a car for hours that turns into a full blown foot chase, so a chronic injury that could get worse at any moment is scary.

    If I were to have to go on light duty, I would lose all the good things that come with this job...
  • Kevlar,

    As my wife says no need to worry! Yeah right. Anyway, once you get the results from your doctor at least you'll know where you stand and that's a big deal. More than likely he may send you for some shots, these are diagnostic to narrow down exactly where the pain is coming from, they also will "turn off" the nerve giving you the problem. These work for some people for months, some they don't such as myself.

    One thing to keep in mind is surgery is a last resort and should only be done when all else fails. As for the job you at some time will probably have a decision to make and only you can make it unless a triggering event makes it for you.

    I work in the overhead crane industry and have for 16 years, I love the field service work but haven't been able to do it for the last 5 years. I now like you sit behind a desk most of the time as a trainer for our technicians. I have no choice it's all the more risk I'm willing to take and all that my employer will allow. But I'm thankful for that.

    My biggest concern right now is whether or not I will be able to ride my HD again. That's got me a little stressed but it is what it is and if I can't than I'll have to accept it and move on from there.

    At the end of the day only consider surgery when every other option has failed. And by the looks of things you're quite aways away from that anyway.

    Keep us posted on what your doctor says we're here for the support. Good luck.
  • Ok...the Spine Dr actually just returned my call from a few days ago and we talked about my MRI results.

    He asked if I'd like to try neurontin to deaden the pain.

    I told him my "arm going to sleep" issue has resolved itself and I no longer have pain over my spine anymore where it originated.

    I told him that the main issue that is causing me so much torment is chronically tight neck and trapezius muscles...just aching/burning all the time, making life miserable enough that I don't even want to leave the house..

    And he said: "that is something muscular in nature and has nothing to do with what I see on your MRI"..

    Does that make any sense?

    Is it possible that it's not related?
  • Kevlar,
    As with any medical condition that you may have a doubt about I would suggest getting a second opinion. I'm actually on my third doctor and between him and the previous one their conclusions were vastly different even though they both had the same infomation i.e. mri and diagnostic shots results etc.

    There's nothing stopping you from seeking a second opinion. Research neuro-specialist in your area and have them take a look, what could it hurt?

    I don't see any mention on your mri report about arthritis in your neck which for most of us is pretty typical and one of the main causes of the "stiff neck" pain we all have and live with daily.

    Anything is possible and your doctor may be correct and it could be muscular. You may want to read up a little on "tendonitis", I had a bad tendon in my left arm a couple of years ago and it took a good year for the pain to go away. Since tendons are how muscles are connected to the bones and the trapezius muscle connects from the neck to the the T-12 region of the back it could be possible.

    Anyway, don't hesitate to get a second opinion and if you get the same answer it may be time to explore other possible causes.

    Good luck and keep us posted.

    I've had both left and right hand numbness since i last wrote , and my left foot for a few hours yesterday..

    The chest pressure has not returned.

    I'm pretty stressed about the numbness turning into something worse that will cause me to have to medically retire from my dream job..

    Wish me luck...

    Thanks again or your wonderful and informative replies..

  • Hi Kevlar. I'm sorry to hear about your current condition. Do you have numbness constantly or just on occasion? Try not to stress so much, since that in itself can cause the nerves to flare up.

    I agree with DaveD that you should speak with other doctors if you feel like you are not getting the answers. MRIs are not the only tool used for diagnosing a spine problem. My MRI did not really match my symptoms, but I definitely showed symptoms of myelopathy. Get a few different opinions. I know exactly what you are going through. I do wish you much 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
  • Lili,

    My symptoms are all over the place to be honest.

    As an example, i woke up feeling pretty good as usual today, but stayed in bed till 10am, mainly because bed is where i feel no pain, so i just enjoyed dozing on and off for a couple hours until 10am.

    At noon i took my daughter to the local dept store so she could sell girl scout cookies with her troop. I stood around for 2 hrs while she sold cookies, noticing that my left hand, then my right, then mostly left were numb and cold.

    The numb and cold hands were off and on all evening, until the neck/traps burning started and the numbness went away.

    It's like i have one or the other...But not both at the same time.

    Is something in my neck shifting one way causing one symptom, and then another direction causing another?

    Friday, while out in the field, i was having the typical "traps burn all day sensation" while driving back to the office, and then like someone flipped a switch, it went away...and i though "GREAT" almost giddy that i had no pain for once!

    Moments later, i noticed that my chest had a heavy feeling, almost like i needed to yawn to catch my breath and had the sensation that my chest was heavy....numb right and then left hand started shortly thereafter. I could breathe of course, just had a heavy chest like the feeling you get with a bad chest cold or pneumonia.

    Also disconcerting is the hand that gets numb is cold when i touch it the side of my face in comparison to the one that is not numb. They don't get completely numb, but just a bit, and i still have a strong grip etc..

    This is driving me crazy...but i'm trying to stay positive.
  • I am truly convinced that the Chiro made my neck much worse!!!! It is not healthy to have your neck manipulated!!! Read up on it… As far as the flexeril that's just a muscle relaxor. The numbness is a sign of nerve issues. Find a good neurologist and stay away from the CHIRO!!!! Good luck!!!
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