I just found this board this past weekend after I was told I needed surgery.
I have had back/neck pain and spasms for 20+ years. Every time I saw a doctor they treated the symptoms and told me "that's where you carry your stress", or "drink more water", or "you aren't lifting properly". I went through "back school", PT, muscle relaxants, pain killers, and TENS units. About three years ago I seemed to find the key to managing the spasms and did very well.
Last summer (2013) I slipped on our patio and jammed the middle finger on my right hand. It was at that point that I started noticing tremors, weakness, and locking in my right hand, but chalked it all up to my jammed finger and figured it would go away in time. At three months I saw a hand specialist that said these things take time, give it six months. At six months I was still having problems, but was too busy with an upcoming move to follow up.
About four weeks ago (3 months post-move) I noticed some numbness in the pinky and ring fingers of my right hand so I made an appointment with my physician. I related this whole story feeling vaguely embarrassed at my litany of symptoms, like I was being a hypochondriac. She put my mind to rest when she said that she thought they were all related and that it was a good thing I had come in. She ordered x-rays and MRIs. When the results came back she went through them with me saying that I has severe herniations in two disks (C5-6, C6-7) and spinal stenosis and she would put in a referral to a specialist.
I started doing my research and was prepared when I saw the doctor. I knew that in most cases there would be PT, steroids, medications, shots, a whole gamut of options. When I met with the doctor he performed his exam and was very frank, but calm. He told me that he was recommending surgery as soon as possible because both my herniations were pressing into my spinal cord. They couldn't tell from the MRIs if the numbness and weakness was do to (reversible) nerve damage or (irreversible) spinal cord damage. Since the numbness was spreading rapidly (it had by then moved to all four fingers of my right hand) they didn't want to wait.
I was flummoxed. Surgery wasn't even on my list of treatments that I had planned for! Had I come across some cut-happy surgeon? I expanded my research and made an appointment with my primary physician. She was reassuring, but grave. She said that she would put in for an emergency second opinion (coming up in 8 days), but she recommended scheduling the surgery because she felt it was necessary as well.
So now I'm 5 days past hearing about surgery for the first time and 14 days until my surgery (September 24th) and I'm trying to get all the information I can as quickly as possible. The numbness has now spread to my left hand and both forearms.
I should also mention that my husband is in the Air Force and we have moved 11 times in the 15 years we have been married. This means that I've had very little continuity of care and a lot of physical and emotional stressors despite "just" being a stay at home mom. I only have one child, a daughter who is 12, but we homeschool so she will be around during the day. My husband will take 1-2 weeks off of work to be my primary assistance, but I have her around for light assistance after that.
Thanks if you've gotten this far!
ACDF C5-6 and C6-7, scheduled September 24th, 2014