Thanks for any help in advance. I'd like to hear some opinions from other people if possible.
I injured myself in a fall when I was 25. My doctor at the time called it whiplash. I'm 35 now and since then, I've been mostly pain free, except for a month or so every year when I would have acute neck pain from sleeping wrong that would last for a few weeks and then get better on it's own. It's gradually gotten worse and the episodes have lasted longer. I've seen doctors, but they only did x-rays and nobody really found anything. 2 years ago, my right arm went number and it lasted for about a month. The doc, did an x-ray, said I looked fine, and it got better a month or two later. About 6 months ago, I came back from a long period traveling in planes, cars, etc. and woke up in agony. My of the pain has been in my upper back and my neck is constantly stiff. It seems to radiate out into my shoulders and everything around it. I started going to a physical therapist that is a little more osteopathic and my pain has been up and down since then. They do dry needling, MAT, etc. and I'd say they manage to help for a day or so at a time, but I've seen no real long-term improvement.
I finally went to a spinal surgeon because of a pain spike. He called for an MRI and told me that I have a badly herniated C5-C6 disc. He also pointed out that my C6-C7 is degenerating, though not in need of surgery yet.
Given that PT hasn't helped, he suggested a C5-C6 discectomy and fusion and was very patient answering my questions. he said it'd be a 1.5 hour surgery with 2-3 weeks of recovery. He was very confident and said he's done 1500+ of these surgeries, with an 85% chance of it getting better and a 15% chance of it staying the same. He did go over the 1% chance of really bad stuff happening. He said that if I do nothing, I'll "continue being miserable" and that "it's not going to get better on its own". He also said I could get the cervical epidural, but that it'd most likely be a temporary help at best. He also said that the stories of back surgery gone bad were "overblown" and that most people just needed surgery due to degeneration and age.
Random Googling seems to agree with the surgeon that it's a 95% success rate with this surgery, but those opinions are often from doctors that probably get paid from doing the surgery. My PT on the other hand seems to think that the statistics are much worse. He told me that "Over 35 years old, 25% get better and 50% get worse". Any anecdotes, statistics, or links about this particular surgery would be greatly appreciated.
I'm going to do the epidural and get a second opinion before I decide anything, but I'd appreciate any incite into your experiences with making this decision. I'm 35 and don't want to set myself up for months of recovery and 10 years of repeat surgeries and chronic pain, but my neck/upper back is tight and uncomfortable at best, spiking and painful at worst. I'm having trouble reconciling myself to constant pain and worried about what will happen if I don't get it fixed and end up getting in a sports or car accident. On the other hand, I'm worried about making it worse and trying to figure out how much I should just get over it and deal with the constant PT and discomfort/pain. I'm also little frightened of being in the 1% and ending up paralyzed. How did you decide that the chance for improvement was worth the risk?
Thanks for any opinions you might be able to offer.