Here's my story...
I'm a 31 year old fairly healthy female. In July 2008, after failed attempts at injections and physical therapy for a herniated disc at the C4-5 level (result from a car accident years before), my neurosurgeon suggested surgery. He said that the "new" thing was to use an artificial disc instead of the typical fusion. He told me the advantages would be more range of motion, mobility, less chance of future need for more replacements, etc. I was in a lot of pain, so I proceeded with the surgery.
For the first few years things seemed alright. I still had some localized pain on the left side of my spine in my shoulder, but had no issues with mobility, range of motion, lifting things, basically no restrictions to physical activity at all. The last couple of years though, there has been increasing chronic pain on the left side of my spine. It's hard to describe, except to say it is a constant dull ache. I saw someone on a forum once describe it as though there was a bruise in a certain spot deep below the surface of the skin, and that fit quite nicely. I can put my finger on the exact spot where the ache is. Pushing down doesn't hurt, not in a painful way, but in a way that a good massage hurts. Like I'm trying to loosen something up.
Anyway, I've tried lots of things to help this pain. I take ibuprofen regularly for inflammation. I do neck stretches. I have found that traction helps tremendously, even if it is only temporary. I try to get a massage at least every other week (if I can afford it) to help with some of the muscular issues. My whole back seems to be affected by this. Most of the pain, as I said, is centralized on the spot to the left of my spine, but my entire left shoulder generally aches. I have many trigger spots that are painful to the touch when I get massages. I occasionally get numbness and tingling in my hands, but it isn't as bad as it used to be.
I saw my neurosurgeon last year, thinking maybe I had another herniated disc due to the pain I was having. After two failed MRIs (apparently whatever disc he used distorts them), and a myelogram that didn't take, he basically said that nothing was wrong with me. I haven't been back to him and don't plan to. My primary physician referred me to pain management at one point a couple of years ago, after she didn't feel comfortable writing me a long term script of pain killers for this issue (which I understand...but, for the record, I have never had any tendencies towards addiction of any medication, and I've taken pain killers a lot over the years for this and other chronic pain issues; at present time my only pain medications are ibuprofen and acetaminophen and have been for a year). The pain management doctor was a complete asshole, saying that for someone my age and with "only" having a cervical disc replacement, I should not be having pain and basically called me a wuss and referred me to the "addiction specialist" in the pain clinic, which infuriated me. I am not a drug seeker. That's the thing about being young with chronic pain--any time you tell someone you know what works for you, they automatically think you're just looking for a fix. If I have spasms in my neck that are bad enough to go to the ER and tell the nurse on duty that Dilaudid and Flexeril help, I'm immediately red-flagged as a junkie. But I could go on for a long time about that.
Anyway, here I am today, sitting at my work desk, doing neck stretches, using a "theracane" for self-massage purposes (I work with people with disabilities, so we have a lot of therapy type devices around the office). Right now the pain is at about a 7, at least. The spot to the left of my spine is aching and throbbing, and the pain seems to be from under my ear, down the side of my neck, to the end of my shoulder, and then radiating down the back, but definitely comes from that one spot. I feel like if I could lay down and have someone do traction on me, i.e. pull my head away from my body to stretch my neck and take the pressure off of it, that it would help tremendously, but how do you approach a coworker for something like that? I've tried rigging homemade cervical traction devices that do not help. I lay on my bed at night with a towel under my neck and it hanging off, to try and relieve pressure. My masseuse also does some traction along with working the knots out. I've accepted the fact that this pain will be here forever. I've been exercising a lot more lately, stretching, yoga, etc., but physical activity does not seem to aggravate or relieve the pain on any level. Weather definitely affects it. On a rainy day like today, it's in full force.
Apparently when I had the surgery in 2008, it had recently been approved by the FDA. I am curious as to if anyone else had an artificial disc replacement this far back, and are experiencing any symptoms like this years after the surgery. I can't imagine what a day without the constant sometimes-dull, sometimes-throbbing pain would be like.
Any advice would be useful. Thanks for reading.
He felt as though his life was a dream, and he sometimes wondered whose it was and if they were enjoying it.