7 years ago I was 23 and in perfect health. One day I was at a surf festival where a booth was advertising chiropractic. I checked it out and was told one leg was longer than the other, that chiropractic is the ultimate preventative medicine, and was then given a coupon for a full evaluation for only $20.
Being totally naive and very interested in preventative medicine, I went and had the evaluation. He then convinced me to try a 6 week series of adjustments. I said I'd just try a couple adjustments to see what it's like. So many people told me it works wonders, and the chiropractor himself assured me that at the very least, nothing bad could come of it.
He did two high velocity adjustments. One on my upper back, and another on my low back, which I believe he called a "hip drop" where the whole table moved with the adjustment. I felt a bit sore the next day but that was about it.
Slowly but surely over the course of the next 3 months I began noticing tension in my hip which eventually turned into sharp stabbing pain, and later into sciatica. A few months later it was in both hips with sciatic going down both legs. 1 year later I was limping.
I saw my GP and a neurologist, both of whom said there was nothing wrong with me. I tried some physical therapy with no help. Then yoga, which actually made it worse. And then one day out of the blue, I was looking down at the ground and felt like I had just been stabbed between my shoulder blades. It was excruciating pain. For a whole week I could barely turn my neck left or right.
Over the next few months this "back attack" as I began calling it started hitting me more and more frequently. I went to an orthopedic surgeon and got some MRIs taken. All that came up was some mild degenerative disc disease in C5 through 8, and some foraminal narrowing at L5-S1.
Over the years I tried 3 more forms of physical therapy, acupuncture, series of chiropractic adjustments with 2 different chiropractors, osteopathy, biofeedback, every kind of herbal supplement (all prescribed by acupuncturists, herbologists, chiropractors, and oriental medicine specialists), juice fasting, gluten-free diets, and finally drug therapies.
Cymbalta really helped, but made me constipated, Savella was the same. I am on Wellbutrin now which has turned out to be the best for me. Baclofen has been a good muscle relaxer for when things get really bad. I take a heck of a lot of Aleve. Neurontin turned me into a zombie, although it toned the pain down drastically. I switched to Lyrica which is almost as good but with far fewer side effects. Amazing it is not covered by insurance for back pain. And most recently I have been getting Botox and Cortisone injections.
The Cortisone injections gave me temporary relief with a lot of side effects. The Botox injections have been incredible! About 3 months of substantial pain reduction. Of course, not covered by insurance and very expensive. And worst of all, I developed a tolerance to it so I had to stop taking it.
Last year, after being told by all my doctors that "there's nothing wrong with me" I decided I'd go surfing, even though everything in body was telling me that would be a bad idea. I was so depressed though, and hadn't surfed in longer than I could remember, and it used to be my life passion before seeing that chiropractor, that I decided I'd just go for it.
Most unfortunately, my board hit me in the head while I was surfing. It cut my head open so I went to the ER. And I noticed uncontrollable dizziness when tilting my head backward. So I got a new MRI of my neck and it showed that I had an annular tear at C5-C6. It also showed the discs from C6 to T1 had become worse since my last MRI.
I asked a surgeon about it and he said "it's barely anything. I'd say you could go back out surfing tomorrow if you wanted." I didn't tell him I'd just spent the previous 6 years with pain progressively worsening between my shoulder blades and shooting down to my hands.
Eventually through happen-stance I met a woman with the same story as me, having suffered from the same symptoms of stabbing pain between her shoulders and pain shooting to her hands. Except worse. She fell off a horse in her 30s and had neck pain for 15 years. She had scans but nothing it only ever showed mild degeneration. Finally, one day her disc between C5 and C6 herniated. She had the disc removed and the vertebrae fused and hasn't been in pain since.
I was blown away. I went and saw her surgeon and he ordered me a discogram. It test positive for C5-7. Oddly he didn't order one for C8. I asked why and he said it was highly unlikely that C8 was causing my pain, and that it is responsible for a lot of mobility at any rate.
Just last week I had C5-7 fused. I spent a day in the hospital and have been home since. It has been very painful but I have been on Norco and Zofran, which have been working great for the pain. I also have a collar that I will be wearing for a month. Sleeping is very hard. I am walking daily but generally taking it easy.
My big concern though is that I am still getting pain shooting to my hands. In particular, my pinky fingers. Looking at nerve charts, it is C7-T1 that causes this pain. It has only been a week, and my surgeon was confident that after a few months I'll be doing significantly better, but I am very worried since I've been told that the discs above and below a fusion get compromised over time. C8 was already compromised, so, I'm just really worried.
My other worry is the severe sciatica I have. I never even asked this surgeon about it because I just wanted to focus on the worst of my pain, which is in my neck. My neck pain prevents me from spending much time on a computer, which has killed my career prospectives ever since finishing a degree in digital media just before all these problems began.
I've actually been living with my parents for years now, working odd jobs, rarely sticking to them due to my pain, and getting flack from just about everyone that doesn't understand back pain. And being in my 20s, looking as though I'm in perfect health hasn't helped either.
At any rate, this has been my journey, and I noticed this website with so many informative personal stories, so I decided I would write my story, and perhaps ask questions as I go through the recovery of this recent surgery.