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Herniated cervical discs improvement and relapse?

Do you those of you experience a calming down of muscle spasms and pain for a day or two and then it all flares up again?
I have c5-6-7 herniations and its been 5 months. Everytime I think its getting better I start having nasty muscle spasms and twitches that feed off of each other and screw up my whole body.
What are your experiences with herniations for c5-6-7? My shoulders and arms are weak and not good for much. I can't do anything overhead. Vibrating/ buzzing down left arm a lot.


  • Hey Healthgirl,

    As to whether the herniation will get better or not it all depends on your definition of healing.

    When you truly herniate a cervical disk, as opposed to simple bulging, fluid will leak out and if it is a bad enough then pieces of the disk will break off also. If either the fluid or broken disc material touches a nerve then you will experience some combination of pain, numbness, sensory loss, strength loss, or motor control loss. Remember, nerves carry both sensory and motor control signals.

    If you get lucky and the material doesn’t hit a nerve but instead escapes in a different direction then you won’t experience too many symptoms. That is why you read about people with disc herniation’s that don’t have pain or numbness.

    The level that your disc herniates can sometimes allow you to pinpoint where your problems will be but not always. For example, a disc herniation at c5/c6 will travel down your shoulder, then through the bicep, then hit the wrist and finally the thumb. Whereas a disc herniation at c6/c7 will hit the shoulder, the triceps, the wrist and then the fourth and fifth fingers. Keep in mind that the pain level can sometimes be so great that you can’t actually tell where in the shoulder or arm it hurts.

    Notice that I used the wording “sometimes allow you to pinpoint”. This is because you could be one the unlucky ones like me in which the material goes to the spinal root. That really sucks because you are at the epicenter, the nerve bundle that carries all of the traffic and reports to one boss only, the brain. Hitting the nerve root causes extreme agony and can also make for odd results that confuse the doctors.

    On the good side your body will eventually remove the escaped material. Six months is a good rule of thumb as to how long it will take. But here is the catch, your disc, the thing that ruptured, will never heal. The hole in the disc will never close. If you are a nun in your eighties and lead a sedentary life then this may not be a problem. Other than that it is apt to happen again.

    In my case I went through three distinct periods of hell followed by healing, with each lasting about 6 months apiece. During the periods of hell nothing would help except for large doses of narcotics and during the periods of healing all symptoms vanished. Let me refine my statement slightly. Physical therapy flat out made things worse. Steroid injections would give me 3 days of relief and then the pain would come back like I was on fire. And the tens units, they helped but you tired of shocking yourself all day long. I used to go to work with wires all over my body.

    Why didn’t I have surgery at that time? Because when the material is on the nerve root they can’t always see it even with the fancy dye based MRIs. It can clump and still allow all electrical signals to pass. I actually came very close to having shoulder surgery at one point.

    Finally I had one last situation of pure hell, pain from the moment I awoke until I went to bed every single day. But this time it had shifted to the other side of my body so we knew it was the neck as opposed to the shoulder, arm, or something else. My hand also starting curving kind of like a claw. But guess what, my primary doctor still had the gall to suggest more physical therapy and not do surgery as did my neurologist. I of course sided with my neurosurgeon but that is not an easy thing to do you are essentially making the decision yourself.

    To make matters worse during all of this I have my own business and am not allowed to make use of workers comp and stuff like that. I get paid by the hour and my wife is a stay at home mom.

    This meant trying to figure out a way to work while on heavy doses of narcotics. I had to schedule them around important meetings, and sometimes just disappear for an hour or two until the more intense times of euphoria had passed. Eventually I was turned on to ZoHydro and that was a god send because it allowed me to work without having to take the short acting Norco at least until the evening.

    If I can pass along some final words of advice I was say the following: get a good neurosurgeon and fix what you have sooner rather than later. It makes the healing go faster and the risk of permanent nerve damage is diminished.

    Good luck.

  • HealthgirlHHealthgirl Posts: 13
    edited 01/31/2015 - 7:54 AM
    Thanks for all the info. Yes the pain can get so bad that I can't figure out where it comes from sometimes. It can be throbbing in shoulder/s or elbow/s It can shoot into my hands. It is all random. Orthopedist said he can see why this is happening because one of the disks is centrally flattened, so he thinks that is why it is bilateral and my shoulders and arms cause so much pain when I try to use them. I could swear I have a shoulder injury or thoracic outlet syndrome because of the shoulder and arm pain.
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