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c5 c6 what?

Hello, I'm new here, so here goes... couple of weeks ago I woke in the morning with both of my hands asleep. It progressed from pins and needles to burning/crushing pain from both elbows to my fingertips. I went to see my chiropractor, he did an adjustment and told me to come back the next Monday. This past Monday I was no better so I had an adjustment and x rays. Doctor says I have no disc at all between the c5 and c6, probably from an accident 20 or more years ago. I am bone on bone and the bone is trying to grow together not in a good way. Tomorrow I'm taking my x rays to see the GP, but I'm not sure what or where to go from there? I'm having to sleep upright in the corner of our couch because lying down makes both my arms scream, it's very difficult to say the least.
Oh, forgot this part, I'm a 53 year old woman that had an active lifestyle to this point, lots of working out with 3 or 4 hours of cardio per week and free weights. Be so happy if and when I get this behind me and go back to my normal life.
Thanks for letting me share.

Sue :-)


  • RangerRRanger on da rangePosts: 805
    edited 02/06/2013 - 2:17 AM
    hey SueAnn,
    Just guessing from the info you provided I would assume your GP will refer you to an OS or NS. They will probably want to get more imaging either, MRI, CT scan, myelogram, etc... That will give a more definitive view of what is going on. Do a lot of research, ask a lot of questions, and don't be afraid to get another opinion. There are a lot of positive outcomes to these issues and you can also get the pain relief you deserve.
    Stay positive,
  • Hello Ranger and thanks for your encouragement. Saw the gp today and he thinks it's carpel tunnel, barely looked at the x rays from my chiro. Said he can't use them, he is how ever sending me this next Monday for new x rays and an MRI of my neck. We'll see then.
    Sue :-)
  • dilaurodilauro ConnecticutPosts: 9,877
    I hope some of these articles can help you understand more

    Spinal Anatomy

    Cervical Vertebrae

    I know that when you fist come upon spinal problems you have so many questions, you are worried, you are scared, etc
    This is all very normal.

    Knowing more about any condition is very important
    Ron DiLauro Spine-Health System Administrator
    I am not a medical professional. I comment on personal experiences
    You can email me at: rdilauro@veritashealth.com
  • Of course Im no doctor..however I had alot of the same symptoms also.After an mri and xrays I was diagnosed with DDD,spinal stenosis and some other jargon...lol. After a few months passed my problems and pain persisted as yours. My spine/ns and I both agreed a level 3 acdf was only option if I were to have a chance of being pain free again abd to stop progression of possible further damage. I had acdf surgery..levels C4-C7..and now so glad I did. I woke up pain free..except from my hip where they took bone for fusion..this was my decision to do so..and so glad I did it now.Just have to wear a rigid neck brace 24/7 for 6 weeks. All is good for me...hope all works out for you. I would recommend seeing a spine/ns surgeon for a consultation and go from there..Good luck..if I can be of any further assistance just ask.
    Thanks Matthew
  • FrancineSFFFrancineSF Posts: 318
    edited 02/07/2013 - 6:50 AM
    .,, and after trying other solutions and in order for the bones to not fuse together in that position, three months ago I had ACDF C3/4 C4/5 fusion.

    I wore a rigid collar for three months and I was one of the lucky ones - zero pain at all - even from the surgery - although I did lose my voice for 35 days. But, to me that was a small price to pay for no pain, no pain meds and now - only three months later, I am nearly fully fused.

    Mine started after a visit to my osteopath - who referred me to a neurologist - who referred me to an orthopedic and neuro surgeon. I chose to see both because I wanted to see how vastly different they were in their recommendations.

    So far, I am pleased with the results, although I do still have some minor tingling in my fingers. That may or may not go away (I was told that before I had surgery) - and that if it does resolve itself, it could take up to a year for the nerves to regenerate. Because of my schedule, I had waited 2.5 years before I had the surgery, so who knows if that will play a part in this part of the recovery or not.

    What I do know is that my neck is more stable now and the bones are not auto-fusing. He also removed some bone spurs while in there, too.

    I didn't use my own bone (although my own bone - whatever he removed from my neck was mixed in with the cadaver bone he used), and that seemed to work really well for me. The proof of that is that I am nearly fully fused.

    Glad you are on it and taking care of it.
    10/26/2012 ACDF C3/4 C4/5 surgery
    No pain; no pain meds - thank goodness!
    04/01/2013 - 5 months + 1 week - FUSED
    Doing some physical therapy for even better range of motion
  • Thankyou all for your replies!
  • I did go and get the MRI and new x rays. They seem to agree with each other. From the MRI report: "degenerative endplate marrow signal abnormalities @ c4 c5 through c6 c7." I've got some moderate bone spurs @ c4 c5 and " mild central acquired spinal canal stenosis" " this is causing at least moderate left sided foraminal encroachment"

    From the X-ray: "Impression: severe degenerative changes at the c5 c6 with bilateral neural foraminal encroachment which is severe on the right and moderately sever on the left. More mild degrees of degenerative changes are seen at c4 c5 and c6 c7"

    I'm supposed to have a nerve test/studies on Tuesday, I understand it's little electric shocks and I am not happy to be going! Beginning of March I'm going to see an orthopedic surgeon and see what he says.

    I've got two questions, will I be able to avoid surgery, maybe physical therapy?
    Also I love my chiropractor, if I have to have surgery does that mean I can't go for adjustments any more?

    Thanks for your replies :-)

  • Unless you are having something else done, I could call the nerve test more like 'electrical pulses' than shocks.
    They don't hurt and it's just to see if the nerves are fully functioning. Don't stress about it. It's actually kind of interesting. I had it done to see if it was carpal tunnel vs. neck issues. It wasn't carpal tunnel, determined from this nerve test because the nerves were still active, just being squished.

    To answer your questions - the purpose of the test is to determine what is going on.
    No one at this point can answer the question whether you can avoid surgery. Once you have your tests done, your doctor will be able to provide you with the results and the alternatives. This isn't something anyone can answer on here without hearing what the results of these tests are - and even then, it's probably best to get the opinions and recommendations of your doctor and then everyone on here can pick the options apart. :)

    And, re: your chiropractor - same thing - and despite the fact that you love him/her, perhaps you won't need to go for those adjustments if you get the other issues resolved. :) It's definitely a question to ask your doctor AFTER you learn what is going on.

    Keep us posted.

    10/26/2012 ACDF C3/4 C4/5 surgery
    No pain; no pain meds - thank goodness!
    04/01/2013 - 5 months + 1 week - FUSED
    Doing some physical therapy for even better range of motion
  • Luna11LLuna11 Posts: 15
    edited 02/23/2013 - 4:19 AM
    Hi Sue,

    I just saw my Neurologist on 2/18/2013. I had went to a Chiro for years and back in 2008 my xrays showed I had some degeneration and bad alignment of my cervical spine. But an xray can only show so much. When my headaches and left arm pain became too much to handle I finally got a referral to a Neuro and he ordered my original MRI last March 2012 which showed Mild/Moderate/Severe foraminal stenosis at multiple levels C5-C6 the worst with a minor bulge into the central canal but not touching the cord at level C7. Along with that I have DDD and osteoarthritis. Oh I am 37 female who is also very active with a 9yo and 6 yo....not ready to stop my life!

    When I saw my Neuro this past Monday he ordered a second MRI had it done but waiting for the report. When I was speaking with him I asked about the EMG test ( electro nerve testing). Now this is only his opinion BUT he said unless I really wanted the pain of being electrocuted that he would not give one to me. He does do them in his office but usually only when a pain management Dr needs to know the exact nerve root to treat with either steroid or nerve injections. Sometimes before surgery the Surgeon would want an EMG performed so they can know which nerves are the MOST effected if they can not help all of them then they will help the worst ones. So I think I would wait to see on the nerve studies unless you have no feeling at all in your arms/fingers. See what the Surgeons say. Sometimes it is just another test to bill for....

    As for PT, some people get short term relief. But you do have a mechanical problem where bone is on bone...soon that bone will fuse together incorrectly and will cause you a lot more problems. You also stated that you are a pretty fit person to begin with, so PT may show you different movements but usually it is a first step. If your Chiro feels comfortable adjusting you differently then continue to go. You do not have to be "adjusted" but the tens unit, heat, massage, stretching, and easy manipulation should not harm you. Have your Chiro look at your MRI report and your disk. Let him decide if he feels comfortable working on you. Some will be honest (like mine) and others will just want the $$.

    Good Luck
  • And the do show I've got carpal tunnel. Saw the orthopedic guy today and he showed me on the MRI where I'll need a three level fusion. From c4 thru c7. Told me all about loss of movement in my neck and maybe won't even cure my symptoms. Pain, stiffness, numb. Suggested I try conservative measures 1st. Epidural injections. Gee, went so hopeful to this doctor's visit and feel that not a whole lot was offered to me. Oh, did I mention I'll have to use my own bone for the fusion? I really didn't want two surgeries.
  • FrancineSFFFrancineSF Posts: 318
    edited 03/06/2013 - 6:46 AM
    Hi there, SueAnn:

    Is this the first opinion you've received? I sure hope you check out someone else before you commit to neck surgery. Now that you hvae the nerve test results, you may want to take those and the MRI to another surgeon - whether orthopedic or neuro surgeon to see if you receive a different opinion. I went to three surgeons, each giving me varying solutions. All involved surgery, but some were far more extreme.

    Also, why will you "have" to use your own bone for the fusion? Since I didn't have to, it wasn't even something I explored. Again, perhaps another surgeon will have a different opinion.

    They tried giving me an epidural first, too. It did help with the burning sensations I was having, but of course did not correct the tingling feeling I was having.

    From this side of the screen it appears you have more research to do. I personally wouldn't jump into this without getting more opinions.

    And no, they never "guarantee" that any of this will fix anything. The surgery I had did not correct the tingling in the fingers of my left hand, but I was going into the surgery to correct instability and further problems in the future. It would have been a bonus if the tingling went away - and it still could go away, from what I am told.

    Keep us posted!
    10/26/2012 ACDF C3/4 C4/5 surgery
    No pain; no pain meds - thank goodness!
    04/01/2013 - 5 months + 1 week - FUSED
    Doing some physical therapy for even better range of motion
  • SueAnnSSueAnn Posts: 16
    edited 03/06/2013 - 10:02 AM
    Today I went by my GP's office and asked them to refer me to a neuro surgeon. In no way was I going to go by the opinion of just one man!
    Thanks for being so sweet, I'm honestly not sure what I'm going to do. Scary to have this hanging over my head.
    Sue :-)
  • I was told that because it was going to be multi levels (3) using my own bone would better ensure fusion.
  • I was told that because it was going to be multi levels (3) using my own bone would better ensure fusion.
  • SueAnnSSueAnn Posts: 16
    edited 03/06/2013 - 10:21 AM
  • ...One step at a time.
    I am your age and my surgeon didn't even go down the route of using my own bone and I am otherwise very healthy. I am glad I didn't, mostly because I would have had to heal from that, too!

    He did have me use a bone growth stimulator and within 3 months, I was nearly fully fused. Perhaps when you speak with this and other surgeons, you can ask if they use that as part of their protocol. My surgeon seems to have had great success with it and given the results, I would have to agree.

    When I saw him at three months, I had just a little more fusion to go and he wanted me to wear it until I see him next week, but for a variety of reasons, I have been negligent in wearing it. In a way, I am using this as an experiment to see if I will fuse this little extra bit on my own without the stimulator.

    I will know more next week after seeing him and having another x-ray. I will fess up either way - but only after we look at the x-ray! haha If I haven't, I will start wearing it again until my next visit.
    10/26/2012 ACDF C3/4 C4/5 surgery
    No pain; no pain meds - thank goodness!
    04/01/2013 - 5 months + 1 week - FUSED
    Doing some physical therapy for even better range of motion
  • Hi SueAnn
    Sorry to hear that your starting down this path, keep in mind it turns out well for many.
    I had two levels done C5,6,7 and my surgeon used donor bone. My fusion went very well.
    This was in 2006 and I was part of a trial with a bone growth simulator that seemed to help
    The speed and quality of my fusion. Back then my insurance Co did not cover the growth stimulators
    but today they do so the testing must have been positive.

    Not to cause you any more worry at this time but I had a neighbor fall off the roof and break his neck.
    They used his hip bone for the fusion. Today his neck is fine but his hip is in pain.
    Keep asking them the right questions until you feel good about it.

    Good Luck
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