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To have acdf surgery, or to hold off??

Scaredycat3SScaredycat3 Posts: 2
edited 01/09/2015 - 9:08 AM in Spinal Stenosis
Hello everyone! This is my first post, and I hope I'm posting in the correct place. I'm starting to psych myself out, and I've been pouring over your posts for days. I figure it's time to post my own.

So, my issue is: I'm young. I'm 30 years old. Small children, one of which being a toddler. I work in a fairly labor intensive job, where I am on my feet all day and constantly using my arms, wrists, and shoulders.
September of 2013, I start having numbness, extreme pain, inability to grasp things, neck pain, all on the left side. Eventually, we did an MRI, and I ended up having a herniated disc at C5 (or is it C5/C6? However that is phrased). At the time, I was a homemaker, and home with our 1 year old, and was told it was likely from carrying him around (he was a very very large baby). I was prescribed neurontin (which I can say, honestly helped, but I quit taking because it's addictive), I did physical therapy, steroid injections, an epidural injection, the whole nine yards. None of that gave me much relief, and it eventually went away on it's own. I was home for awhile after that, so there were no further symptoms, and I worried nothing about it.
Fast forward to a few months ago. I go back to work, and within weeks, my symptoms are back with a vengeance. In addition, I started dropping things at work, couldn't even turn on my blinker in the car, and eventually an EMG showed that although there was no damage yet, I was absolutely experiencing numbness. My doctor refers me to a neurosurgeon at this point. Because my MRI was just over a year old, they had me do another, as well as an Xray. This time, it shows the same herniated disc, and I end up diagnosed with spinal stenosis without myelopathy. He leaves the final decision up to me. Tells me that eventually, I will need this surgery anyway, and that because of my history (I've had issues with chronic back pain for years) I will likely need more that one throughout the years. He tells me that because other methods have not dealt with the issue long term, it's not likely to go away on it's own.

My dilema:
My pain, for the most part, is gone. Thanks to the neurontin again, I no longer have numbness. I also do not take it any longer. New issues: a lot of back pain. More than I've had in a long time. Also, I do still have weakness. I can do my day to day, and I still work and do the grocery shopping and carry my kids...the list goes on and on. But my arms and even my legs lately get so tired so quick. Just from holding up my phone. My neck is constantly achy, and i have dull pain between my shoulder blades most of the time. My fingers hurt at the tips if I push down, like the tips are broken (so hard to explain, and quite painful), and my right hip is out of socket at some point every day, which tells me my gait has changed. So yes, I can feel that the issue is still there, even if the pain is not at a level 9 anymore.
Do I do this? I'm terrified. Do I wait? As far as my job is concerned, it's all about demand, so now is a good time (work is slow right now). My husband is telling me to do it, but I feel like I'm guaranteeing myself another surgery 10 years from now. And if it makes it worse, was it worth it?? If I wait, what if the numbness and shooting pain come back, and I can't take time off of work.... the out of pocket cost is high....I'm just so confused. And my prayers for answers have gotten no response.
So now I ask you who have been through it and seem so knowledgeable. Would you do it??
Thanks in advance for your advice!


  • I'm not too experienced at all this, but I would definitely get a second and possibly third opinion.
    At the age of 43 I had waxing waning neck problems for 6 months, that did result in myelopathy. I had no idea I had stenosis, and once I was diagnosed, had surgery on an very urgent basis (5 days). So I know what this *could* turn in to. But from what I see with more normal cases, is they never do surgery unless you have myelopathy signs. Research "spinal stenosis" and "cervical myelopathy" and you'll see what I mean.
    At my age, and great health otherwise, to me this isn't *that* painful of a surgery. Saying that, I am almost 5 weeks out, and I still have moderate weakness. There is no way I can go back to work in a week. FWIW, I have a 10 and 11 year old, and they absolutely wear me out despite the fact they're at the self sufficient age.
    Really, from what it sounds like, I'm surprised he's recommending surgery. Do lots of research, get lots of opinions before making a decision!
    Oh - and I fully expect another surgery down the road, since it is known that the other joints try to compensate and wear down faster. Oh well, such is life!

    ACDF w/Corpectomy C3-6 12/8/14 ; Laminectomy C3-6  5/19/2016

  • I was so happy to see your response.
    Not that it matters, but it's the c6/c7. The reason he jumped to surgery is because I asked for a "permanent fix". He said this was the only "permanent" fix. My surgery is scheduled for the 28th of this month. I feel like I am stuck between a rock and a hard place regarding my decision to do this and the time in which I have to make the decision. It will mean pushing it off for at least a year if I decide not to do it now. But after reading through the spine and neck surgery forum last evening, I cried myself to sleep and woke up with a migraine this morning :-)
    I have a certificate for a Swedish massage.
    Maybe I should try that?

    How do I go about getting another opinion?
  • TWynnBTTWynnB Posts: 265
    edited 01/10/2015 - 3:11 AM
    Check who your insurance covers (if you care) and find a neurosurgeon or an orthopedic surgeon that specializes in spine. I had an orthopod, he was excellent (my first opinion was a neurosurgeon, he graduated in July...). The only problem is that you may not get a second opinion before the 28th. I wouldn't hesitate to postpone the surgery, this is a big, big deal.
    I understand being overwhelmed. I had my MRI Dec 2, my GP called me in a panic Dec 3, which is when I checked in thru the ER to see the neurosurgeon, with surgery scheduled on the 5th. My friend (a surgical nurse) encouraged me to check out of the hospital to get a second opinion, and I am so glad I did. My surgery, done by the second opinion, was on the 8th. It was very overwhelming, but I'm glad I got the second opinion.
    Good luck! You are welcome to PM me if you'd like.

    ACDF w/Corpectomy C3-6 12/8/14 ; Laminectomy C3-6  5/19/2016

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