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HELP! Surgery or not?

Hi. I am 21 years old and I am an active, gymnastics coach. over 18 months ago I woke up with a stiff neck, this stiff neck turned into extreme neck and shoulder pain. I got tests done and a slight herniated c5 c6.. I have seen 4 physical therapists, 2 chiros, I had cortisone injections and epidural injections. I finally went to get a third opinion and he said it was time for surgery, this was Feb. 2014. I have the surgery scheduled for May 5th. I am still in a lot of pain every day, but I started doing core strength and some cardio and have hours where I feel a little bit better. I still can barely drive without being in pain or icing. MY pain has gone done my back into my shoulder blades and my lats. I am so confused. Is there anyone that can help me feel better about getting such a serious surgery? I want a better quality of life for my younger years, I understand I will probably have more issues down the road.
T. Horne


  • I'm quite a bit older, 53 and have had back issues most of my life but this is the first time I've had this issue.. My disk blew up last November and I had pain in my right hip and above my right ankle. I tried oral steroids, epidurals, and physical therapy and I only got worse. It got to the point that I could only stand/walk for about 10 minutes without needing to sit down to relieve the pain. Surgery was something I wanted to avoid but I couldn't have much of a quality of life with the pain. I met with the neurosurgeon and he recommended microdiscectomy L4-L5 and he had an opening the next day for surgery. I jumped on it.

    After surgery, I had to go to the bathroom and as soon as I stood up, I realized all of my pre-surgery pain was gone. I had very little pain from the surgery. They gave me 1 pain pill in the hospital but that's all I needed. Now, that was only 3 weeks ago so I'm still recovering. I've had no surgery pain for the past 2 weeks and I can walk/stand without pain.

    Yes, the idea of spinal surgery is scary but for me, it was better than living with the pain for the rest of my life.

    March 20, 2014 - L4/L5 Laminectomy and Microdiscectomy
  • Everyone's case is different. That is why you need to work with doctors whom you trust. The short case history that you wrote is fairly typical of steps leading up to surgery. First, try more conservative approaches and than get increasingly aggressive. As a final resort, there is surgery.

    My case history is similar to yours other than I started on the path at an older age than you and it took more time. What you did not mention is if you think that your condition is a result of something that you did in gymnastics. Can your neck stiffness be attributed to a specific injury? When I was your age I played judo and had a rock climbing accident. I did not have any specific back or neck issues at the time. That came later. Can I attribute my back and neck issues to my sports, or just getting older? I don't think I can conclusively answer that question.

    For me, I have had both back and shoulder surgery. Both fixed specific issues. I still have issues, but the surgery did help me. In the case of a herniated disk, surgery frequently helps. Also, many report success without surgery by going through long periods of physical therapy. If being a gymnastics coach is your profession, that raises additional questions. If my livelihood depends on getting my neck back into shape, I would get opinions from more than one surgeon. Your on the young side to make a bad decision on something that could put you on disability from your chosen profession. You can always change what you do, but if you are like me, you want to choose and not have life events choose it for you.

    Surgery is a logical choice and might be the best thing for you. If you are struggling with the decision, write the pros and cons down for having surgery and any alternatives to surgery. I would do this after getting another medical opinion.
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