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Answer: Yes. (was: Is the problem even in my spine?)

eq_nerreneeq_nerren Posts: 3
edited 09/18/2014 - 4:03 PM in Neck Pain: Cervical
Hi. Last year I had numbness and weakness in my right arm and it was found that my c3-c4 disc
was pressing against my cord. I had a 1-level ACDF which resolved the problem almost

At the time, the MRI showed two other degenerated disks (5-6 and 6-7) but the doc did not
recommend doing anything to those because they didn't seem to be causing problems.
Turned out to be the right call. I mention all of this only for background.

Now, two months ago, I started having severe pain in my left shoulder -- so the opposite
side from everything last year. Over time, the pain has spread to my rotator cuff muscle
(under the arm), tricep, and down to my fingers sometimes. There is now also weakness
the upper arm (tricep).

I saw my GP, then an orthopedist who specialized in shoulders. He said he did not
think the problem was really in my shoulder, but probably a nerve in the neck.
So I went back to my neurosurgeon who did the ACDF and he ordered an MRI.

While waiting to see my specialist for the follow-up (which was delayed for a bit due
to scheduling), I saw neck/spine Orthopedic surgeon whom I could get into see quickly. He
looked at the MRI and immediately said he recommended ACDF for those 2 levels.

When I went back to the neurosurgeon who did my first ACDF, he not only disagreed,
but also said he wasn't sure exactly what was causing my pain. He is sending
me for a consult with a Neurologist.

Finally, to the subject of this post: How can I even be sure that this problem is
in my spine or related to nerve roots? Or is that what the Neurologist can hopefully
tell me?

I ask because there is a Spine Center right in my area that is fairly well rated,
and I could go see what they think, but don't want to waste everyone's time and
money if it might not even be my spine that is the problem.

At the same time, every day of delay in figuring this out is a day where work gets
harder to do (I am less productive, can't concentrate as well due to pain, etc).
Should I be seeking a third opinion even while waiting to get in to see the
neurologist, or try to tough it out and go in absolute sequence?

I feel like if the cause can be identified, SOME solution will be able
to be reached.

Thanks for any thoughts or advice.


  • When you consulted with the second surgeon, did he give a reason why he felt that you needed further surgery? Did he tell you that there is impingement of the nerve or canal at either level? When a surgeon recommends surgery, there is a reason, an anatomical problem or a compressed nerve/cord problem. It is important that you ask why they are recommending surgery, for what condition.



    The first link is a dermatome map. If you look at the levels of the cervical spine where you have problems, and follow the lines out, you can see what areas of the cervical spine provide nerve function to what areas of your body. This may help you in determing where the pain is coming from.
    It sounds like your first surgeon is more conservative and wants to be sure that there is a problem before jumping into another surgery.
    A third consult is not a bad idea, however, it is important that you ask the questions, what is wrong, what can be done to fix it, if surgery is recommended, what is the likely outcome.......
  • Sandi, thanks for the information. When I saw the neurosurgeon who was recommending surgery, I admit I was not at the top of my game as far as being a smart patient. Mind was too distracted by the pain, I think.

    I had a consultation with a neurologist, per the wishes of my neurosurgeon who was not convinced re: surgery. That neurologist agreed surgery would help. He showed me on the MRI where the nerve was not visible due to the disc. We compared to an MRI from four months ago and we could clearly see nerve root on that one, so the change was real, visible, and obvious.

    Anyway, I thought I should button this topic up with an answer rather than leaving it as a question forever. :)

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