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how long did you wait to have surgery?

willowswindwillowswind Posts: 6
edited 06/12/2014 - 4:59 AM in Neck Pain: Cervical
How long did you wait after initial symptoms to have surgery? (I have a herniated disc in my neck and/or myleopathy haven't had an MRI yet so it's not diagnosed officially yet)

I have been basically disabled since about March 1. Since about March 1st I have not been able to carry more than about 3-4 pounds if carried in front of me and close to my body. At that time, I initially thought I had somehow managed to tear both rotator cuffs whilst swimming. Tearing the rotator cuff is a common injury in swimming (though it would be unusual to be bilateral) and the pain first occurred after swimming, so I thought it was that. I even went to a shoulder specialist and they did rotator cuff tests on me, told me I was "weak" and told me to go to PT. I went to PT, they told my my posture sucks (admittedly it does - I also have scoliosis which is a big reason why). The "fix" for the posture wound up changing the pain and making it worse. My shoulders feel "heavy" including my trapezius muscles. My arms and hands tingle and feel warmer than they should. My neck hurts a lot - tried driving today and could barely drive 10 minutes. When I don't turn my neck at all it's alright but driving I have to move my neck and I never knew it could hurt so much.

I've been seeing a family doctor since May 30th. He prescribed a muscle relaxant and prednisone. They do make it so I can sleep, for the most part. But my shoulders and traps are still "heavy", my neck hurts a lot (trouble doing any driving). The one day when I felt pretty good and so tried lifting something 6 pounds resulted in a worsening of my condition. I haven't even been doing grocery shopping this past week - which I had been doing on a limited basis purchasing items based on weight etc.

So when I first saw my doctor I thought we were doing an xray (which he said wouldn't show anything but was needed by insurance before an MRI could be ordered) and then an MRI. I thought that the plan was then we'd know what was going on and if PT were next then at least it would be informed.

Well now it's been a week and now he's saying I should try PT before we get an MRI. Well, I did that already and it made it worse. But I did make an appointment for tomorrow morning to see a different PT.

My neck hurts so much it's hard to do anything. Using a laptop (the only computer I have) is hard because it's hard not to look down and so using my laptop winds up hurting my neck. Driving even ten minutes hurts a lot. All I can do is walk (I got a hands free leash for my dog) and watch television. I'm unemployed and haven't been job hunting these past weeks because I feel like even doing a job interview would be difficult for me physically (even moving my laptop to a quiet area is physically daunting) and I can't start a new job if I can't drive to it and if I'd have to take a lot of time off for medical appointments. I can't live like this.

My neck feels swollen and hot and weird right now - here I go using my laptop again and I can't even do this.

Anyway. My doctor seems to want to steer me to "conservative care" and away from surgery. I get that. But on the other hand I don't know how long I should just wait for this stuff to get better "on its own". How long did you wait? How did you know to start asking for surgery? Do you regret going into surgery or do you wish you did it sooner?




  • They can't offer more treatment until they know what is causing the problem . There are steps in getting treatment for suspected spine conditions, that include the least invasive treatment options first, and if those fail to relieve the symptoms or provide enough improvement, then the next step is taken.
    Read this link below so that it explains what steps are taken, when.......



  • Well, that's my frustration. I thought I was on track to get diagnosed and get somewhere. I thought the path was xray -> mri -> make a plan based on evidence. Now I've been sitting around for another 10 days only to be told, "I don't know if the insurance would approve an MRI. Let's do PT first.

    Like I said I already went to a PT and they told me to work on my posture. I did that for a day and a half and developed a bunch of new weird symptoms (neck pain, dizziness, tingling arms, heavy feeling shoulders and traps etc) that have not gone away. That's WHY he initially said we were going to do an MRI so PT (if appropriate) would be informed rather than guessing and possibly making things worse.

    So now I'm going to a PT (a different one that I hope is better) this AM just to jump through that hoop AGAIN.

    My feeling is that my doctor COULD order an MRI IF HE WANTED TO and he's just pushing me off of it because he doesn't want me to do surgery. However, I'm not getting any better day by day and I'm disabled and can't function independently like this.

    I guess my feeling is, this is completely up to me. If I I decide I want to go this route then I could just push for it and I don't feel like my health care provider is really helping me make decisions. I feel like my lack of functionality/disability isn't seen as a problem by my doctor. He only asks about level of pain. Well, if I don't do anything the pain isn't that bad. So I do nothing. then they ask about my pain level and I say it's okay. They don't ask if I can function day to day and live my life, that's not something that prompts them to action.

  • He has to provide the insurance company with a basis for needing one.......a diagnosis and proof that you have tried the lesser invasive modalities for a period of time , and then, and only then will they approve the MRI.
    Xrays to check for a fracture/dislocation, alignment, physical therapy not just for a day or two, but for 6 weeks or so, to prove that there is no improvement, possibly an injection or two, then the insurance may approve the authorization for an MRI.
    By and large, the majority of us have had to wait, and go through these same conservative treatments, several times before we ever got to the stage of our doctors being able to get an MRI authorized.
    Phyiscal therapy commonly causes increased pain in the beginning.....it is about using muscles properly, and maintaining them with strengthening excercises, and stabilizing your spine. Over time, that should improve.
    Spine surgery is not an easy fix, nor is it something to consider going under without having exhausted every other option, before considering it, unless there is severe problems or nerve damage is possible.
  • willowswindwillowswind Posts: 6
    edited 06/11/2014 - 7:55 AM
    In that case my doctor should have told me that. He told me that I would get an xray in order to get an MRI approved and then that would inform PT. THAT IS WHAT HE SAID. Instead he changes his story a week later and says I can't have an MRI without PT. Well, we discussed how everything turned to EDITED at PT last time.

    Also, the reason I only did the posture exercises for a day or two was BECAUSE THEY CAUSED MASSIVE PROBLEMS. In that short time I had a severe reduction in function. It's not like it caused a little pain, it caused nerve impingement that was not there before and caused me a lot of very very wrong problems.

    I do have severe problems. I can't sleep. I can't take care of myself. I can't live independently. I haven't washed my hair properly in months. I can hardly drive a car ten minutes.

    Post edited by Sandi- the use of foul, obscene or vulgar language is NOT permitted on Spine Health.

  • I understand you are frustrated, but insurance companies have standards that must be met before doctors can order tests that cost a thousand or more dollars. And before the doctor can order the MRI, you have to try the conservative treatment options first.
    No one is saying that you don't have pain or that your problems are not serious, just that there are steps that need to be taken, and things you have to do to get to the next step.
  • My experience was ER visit in mid-March (cervical radiculopathy, in tears, pain worse than any natural child birth I ever experienced), got an x-ray and really good muscle relaxers. Xray showed no bone deformities so they sent me home with instructions to see my primary dr if it didn't improve. After two weeks (and the meds ran out) the pain came back with a vengeance. Pain radiating up my arm, burning in the back of my neck, even where my shoulder blade "rubbed" my back muscles hurt. I also had disturbing numbness and tingling in my right (dominant) hand and forearm.
    First week of April my primary dr sent me for an MRI. MRI showed spondylosis (or however it's spelled), herniated discs at c-4/c-5 and c-5/c-6 with spinal stenosis at c-5/c-6. That earned me a referral to an orthopedist. The earliest I could get seen was mid May. The ortho was surprised my primary dr didn't send me for p/t, but even he admitted it wouldn't have done much good considering how "cramped" my spinal column is at that bulge. It has no give room at all. The bulging disc is pushing it completely over.
    Now I'm finally looking at surgery in mid-July. It's a long, painful process. I hope you get some relief.
  • willowswindwillowswind Posts: 6
    edited 06/11/2014 - 9:53 AM
    I have paid Aetna thousands and thousands of dollars out of my own pocket to have health insurance each month. Now, WHEN I AM DISABLED you sit there arguing that I am for some reason not worthy of the health care I have paid through the nose for. It's an MRI. That's a standard test. I am not able to live. I do not have someone to take care of me. Obviously it is a very precarious situation. I do not have family I can move in with while I try to get better - they are long dead and gone. I have to be able to take care of myself. This is exactly the situation in which surgery does, in fact, make sense.

    The outcome of surgery is generally very good with few risks and a 95% success rate. Over a 2 year span those people who had surgery ended up at the same functionality as people without surgery BUT the people with surgery were able to get back to work and functionality much faster. When you're in a situation where you have to be able to work and take care of yourself it does make sense.

    Also, I have waited and been patient and done conservative care. This is now month 4. If I am a "good little girl" and try to save the insurance company some money because, goodness gracious, I wouldn't want to cause anyone any trouble, then I'm going to be bankrupt and on welfare because I'm unable to work or care for myself.
  • sandisandi Posts: 6,343
    edited 06/11/2014 - 11:33 AM
    Where did you get that I ever said that you weren't worthy of healthcare????????? You are angry and upset, that much is obvious from your posts in this thread. Please don't take your frustrations out at the messenger for something that I have nothing to do with. Insurance companies dictate what and when they will pay for a specific test. If you are unhappy with the way that your doctor is treating you, then seek a new doctor.
    And that is the end of the advice that I will offer you.
  • You implied I do not have a serious problem.
    - "nor is it something to consider going under without having exhausted every other option, before considering it, unless there is severe problems or nerve damage is possible."

    You also implied my DISABLING issues are not worthy of an MRI.

    - "insurance companies have standards that must be met before doctors can order tests that cost a thousand or more dollars."

    Reread what you are writing, Sandi.
  • willowswindwillowswind Posts: 6
    edited 06/12/2014 - 4:07 AM
    Also, Sandi, I absolutely did NOT ask you for any advice about whether I should keep seeing my doctor. What I asked for was for surgery experiences.

    Instead of offering a surgery experience, you began to try to discourage me from even expecting an MRI that I was told I was going to have, because in your opinion those are expensive.

    That's a completely argumentative and unhelpful response.

    Likewise, following up with, "if you're unhappy ... see a new doctor" is completely ridiculous and non-responsive "advice".

    What I'm looking for are surgery experiences. You didn't have one. That's fine. You don't have anything to offer me and should remain silent instead of sitting there arguing with me about whether I need any tests or interventions.
  • I never said or implied in ANY WAY SHAPE OR FORM that you don't have a serious problem. You don't know WHAT problem you have because you don't have the imaging to reach a diagnosis, so I would have no idea if you have a serious problem or not because I am not a physician.
    I said and I quote "Spine surgery is not an easy fix, nor is it something to consider going under without having exhausted every other option, before considering it, unless there is severe problems or nerve damage is possible."
    I also NEVER said or IMPLIED that your physical condition is not worthy of an MRI. I ATTTEMPTED to explain to you that the doctors can't just order an MRI without having some reason for doing so. Failed physical therapy, after one visit is not enough. Your symptoms, his exam, and other tests need to show a suspected diagnosis/reason BEFORE the MRI will be paid for by the insurance company. The rules aren't mine. If your insurance won't pay for one, then you do have the option of paying out of pocket for it.
    All of your complaints have been about what your doctor won't do for you, so if you are unhappy with his treatment, then it would be smart to change and find another who will do what you want him to do.
    As far as my surgical history goes, you have no idea what I have gone through or will go through.......
    I am locking this thread, because you seem to want to hear what you want to hear. That's fine but verbal abuse is never okay on our forums and my job as a moderator does not mean that I have to put up with it.
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