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Introduction and question

Hi everyone,

I'm new here and I've read through the site and forum but can't seem to find an answer to my question. A brief history:

Two years ago, I woke up unable to turn my neck. Muscle relaxers, anti inflammatories, massage, and steroids (oral and one hip injection) did nothing. 6 weeks of PT gave me back most mobility in my neck, but I still have to do the exercises every day. At that time, my primary doctor did xrays of the neck and the radiology report said there was mild arthritis in the neck typical of my age (41 then).

One year ago, I had pain in my left torso - shoulder blade and chest area. After a couple of days, the area under my armpit went numb. A week or so later, I began to get tingling on the left side of my scalp and part of my jawline went numb on the left side. After a course of oral steroids (which did nothing) they referred me to a neurologist. He did an MRI w/o contrast on the brain and c-spine, an EMG, a VEP, and nerve conduction tests. The doctor who did the nerve conduction said I had "neck pain." After all of that the neurologist said my neck was "a mess" and I needed to see a surgeon. I went to a neurosurgeon who said there was nothing on the MRI except for mild arthritis typical for someone my age. He thought it was viral, but since my symptoms had stabilized (the scalp symptom had gone away), he suggested just watching and waiting. He also felt if it was viral, there was no way they could treat it. When I asked about a t-spine MRI, he said my symptoms were more typical of the c-spine. At that point, I quit going to doctors. The numbness on the left side has stayed and I was getting sudden, stabbing pains a couple of times a week in my left shoulder blade, but the dull pain was tolerable.

About a month ago, that all changed. I decided to do a Zumba class and was fine until about 40 minutes in when we had to touch the floor 5 times in quick succession. After the third time, the left side of my torso, from my armpit to my kidney, seized up and I could tell if I took a breath, it was going to start cramping. I assumed it was a dehydration issue and left the class. The pain and muscle spasms have stayed. I went to the doctor, who sent me to a new neurologist. He did a t-spine MRI and a nerve conduction test on my neck. He said the nerves in the neck are fine. I was supposed to see him in three weeks, but they called and canceled because he was going on vacation. They said to call and reschedule but the next day they called again and said the MRI shows a "large disc herniation in T6-7" and he wants me to see a neurosurgeon.When I asked when I should reschedule for, the scheduler said "after your surgery." Since then, the right side of my torso has gone numb and I have started getting the same shooting pains through my rib cage and chest that I had on my left side. My neck has also started getting worse, including waking up at night from pain. The best I can describe it is it feels like it's about to start cramping,a nd if I move it the wrong way, it's going to be agony. I don't see the neurosurgeon for another two weeks (he's also on vacation). Here's my question:

Does a referral to a neurosurgeon mean I need surgery necessarily? Or could the NS also be the one that would order PT, etc.? Do I go back to the neurologist? That's more than one question, but I'm mostly trying to understand the role of the neurologist versus the neurosurgeon. I also have questions about whether the disc herniation is the cause of the neck and other pains, given what the first NS said, but I'll save those for another post :)

Thanks for any help understanding the process (which I understand may be different for each person)!


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