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Radiculopathy - Cervical Herniations

Hello. I am new here and have done my reading and research, I hope what I am asking is not out of line for the forum. I have DDD, 3 herniations in my cervical spine alone (I am 32 yo) - lumbar and thoracic not imaged yet to determine the extent of damage at those levels. The worst herniation is at the C5-6 level- with an extruded left paramedian herniation that effaces the anterior thecal sac and causes mild spinal impingement. The other 2 herniations have not affected my spinal cord yet.

So, here's the issue. I have extreme right arm pain generating from my cervical spine (with swollen, tight sternocleidomastoid muscle and trapezius spasms). The right arm pain is severe, extends from my collar bone and shoulder down with progressive weakness, inflammation and tingling/numbness in my arm. I can't move my arm outward from my body more than a couple inches and it hurts to extend it fully as well. But... the MRI said my spinal cord impingement was on the left side. Should I believe the dr that said my arm pain is entirely from the herniations or should I seek a second opinion regarding brachial plexus or thoracic outlet issues? I don't see the neurosurgeon until Dec 7, if it is a brachial plexus injury, I'm worried it might get worse and not improve.

Again, I apologize. I understand this is a spine forum but I'm curious to hear other's experiences with radiculopathy from a herniated cervical disc. Is the wrong side being affected normal or should I be looking for other answers prior to my neurosurgeon visit? As an example, after typing these three paragraphs, I can no longer move my right hand and its in extreme pain and feels swollen and hot. I haven't seen that much weakness being a symptom of cervical radiculopathy. Has anyone else? Thanks.


  • jlrfryejjlrfrye ohioPosts: 1,110
    Oh the arm pain, I remember that TOO well. Not pleasant is it. Here is the strange thing I was told my herniations were to the right but some days it would be my left arm that hurt. Before I ended up in surgery both of my arms were hurting. Your Neuro will want a copy of the films and he will go over them with you and explain everything. Make sure you tell him of your concerns and if he feels it is something that needs to be addressed he will order more test. Good luck
  • First let me say welcome to spine-health. Have a look around and the one thing you will find is that each person's symptoms are different. As to your question about a brachial plexus injury a simple emg study will rule in or rule it out. Emg studies are not that accurate, but the one thing they are accurate with is diagnosing a brachial plexus injury. Keep in mind that imaging is only half the diagnoses, the doctor also uses the clinical exam as part of the diagnoses. It is not unheard of that surgeons will often come out and tell a patient it was worse than the imaging let on. I guess my point is don't bank all of what your feeling on the MRI. As to the major weakness that is without a doubt a sign of a cervical herniation of course other things can cause it as well. Like I say the surgeon may want a emg study, to test. Typically the emg studies can give false negatives but if it as active as you say, I am sure they will pick it up. But it can also diagnose issues such as carpal tunnel or a trapped nerve in the elbow.

    Take a look at a dermatone chart and see if the pain your describing is associated with the level you have issues with. Also just because a herniation isn't in contact with the cord doesn't mean it couldn't being causing issues. Sometimes the surgery is done, because the weakness in the hands is so bad and there is no contact with the cord. If you have contact with the cord, when you see the surgeon listen for words such as myelopathy. Actually if you look at the FAQ section at the top of this page, there is a link near the bottom of the page called "38 questions to ask a spine surgeon", One thing when you see the surgeon you want to be prepared to ask questions. You typically have limited time with them, so be prepared with your questions. Also take someone else with you, as sometimes we get off track and two sets of ears is always better than one. Also you might want to setup a second independent opinion now, so you know exactly what your options are. The opinions could vary and you might want a third opinion. Your doing the right thing getting informed and learning as much as you can prior to your visit. There is also some video's here that are animated that might help with some understanding.

    Once again welcome to spine-health. If there is anything I can do, don't hesitate to pm me. Good luck and keep us posted on how you get along and what you find out.
  • Tamtam,

    Thanks so much, that was great information. I think there are only 2 neurosurgeons in my entire town so a 3rd opinion might be hard to find but I definitely want to hear what they say and I will definitely look over the questions so I am prepared. I always need to write them down too because I will forget half the time.
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