As I imagine most people do, I came across this site having searched for information and advice on whether or not to have ACDF surgery, as here in the UK they just tell you it's an option and let you make your own mind up.
I would welcome any thoughts as to whether to go for it based on my history below:
I'm 34 (almost 35) and first had neck/ arm issues about 12 years ago. Finally saw a Neurosurgeon who grudgingly did an MRI but said he would eat his hat if there was anything wrong. Turns out I had a bulging disc - advice was to live wth it. I did, with a pretty good recovery over time, to just one spot on my inner right forearm that always felt a bit numb.
Fast forward to November 2011 - for a couple of weeks I had an ache in my right shoulder blade, like I'd been in a draught. Over a couple of days it then went from a slight ache to excruciating pain in my right upper arm, neck and shoulder blade, loss of movement, pins and needles and numbness. There was also a shock type sensation down my arm if I tried to drop my chin.
I was refered to an ortho surgeon who took x-rays, and ordered an MRI. I had issues at C4/5 and 5/6, with one bulge and one prolapse. I had 2.5 months off work, PT twice a week, and the arm gradually came back to something approximating normality.
A phased return to (desk) work, occupational health assessment of my work station, less air and train travel and I was just about doing okay over the summer.
September 2012 BOTH arms started giving me grief, and over the time since the left has overtaken the right in terms of weakness, pins and needles etc. and now they are both about the same. I have the shock sensation down both arms, one reflex in my left arm is sometimes present sometimes not, and my right arm is "significantly weakened". My handwriting is now dreadful, and anything I have to do with an extended arm just won't happen. I also get a lot of headaches, from the back of my skull over into my eye socket.
I have tried lifestyle changes - I no longer wear high heels as I feel wobbly on them, I have changed my car from a sporty low 2 seater to a standard hatchback, I try to avoid anything that involves sitting in one position for too long etc.
I have had weekly physio/ traction/ acupuncture or a combination therof for the last 10 months, and the issues remain, and have got more constant/ worse if anything.
(I have an awesome physio who is fast turning into a friend - I see her more often than most of them!)
I still drive (short distances) and work, some days are better than others, the pain is medium to medium/ low level most of the time, although the sensory changes, stiffness and weakness are a nightmare, as is the constant tiredness. I have also lost about 50% of my sideways neck movement, but how much of that is due to my neck muscles being in overdrive we're not sure.
Travelling by plane or train (which is an essential part of my job, every couple of months) is a nightmare, and I know it will put me out of action for a good few days on my return.
I try not to take pain meds unless absolutely necessary, as they don't do much to help, and affect my ability to drive and work. I have tried (in no particular order and in various combinations) amitriptyline, valium, dihydracodine, codydramol, ibruprofen and tramadol. Most just put me on the ceiling!
I have had 2 more recent MRIs, in Dec 2012 and July 2013, and seen 4 different specialists.
After the first MRI I was told I would need a single level decompression surgery "at some point".
After my last MRI (7 months on) I am told by two surgeons that the option is 2 level ACDF surgery, 4/5 and 5/6. One surgeon recommended bone from my hip and the other artifical bone, whatever that is!!
4/5 is not bad enough on it's own to do anything surgical, but 5/6 is, and they both said they would do both to be safe. I have bone spurs at 5/6, and the nerve exit pathways are extremely narrow on both sides. There is a narrowing of the spinal canal, but no cord impingement (yet?).
It is up to me to choose whether or not to have surgery - thoughts/ advice greatly appreciated...
Thanks in advance