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Severe disc degeneration as result of old accident - help.

kathyykkathyy Posts: 580
edited 05/06/2015 - 11:02 AM in Neck Pain: Cervical
45 years ago I was in a horrible car accident and tore all the tissue in my neck. Hit at a stop light from behind by a drunk driver. Sitting shotgun in old Ford falcon with no seat belt and no head support then the car was thrown crossways into oncoming traffic. Hit head on. Broke both my hands on metal dash but at least I didn't go through the glass.

Fast forward to now. I recently stop taking all my pain medication for a failed L4-5 fusion because my cardiologist suggested that I try to stop meds, especially methadone. I realized with some shock that my symptoms that I thought were heart related felt neck related. Numbness in arms, shoulders, face, throat etc. I asked pain mgmt docs to order a cervical ct (I have a spinal cord implant and can't have a MRI.)

Results - severe degenerative discs c3-c7 with complete collapse of disc space at all levels. No arthritis. Clearly an end result of my neck injury. Multiple bone spurs at every level. Some foraminal stenosis.

So what can I do short of a neck amputation (lol.) Has anyone else faced anything like this. What a time to quit pain meds. My timing is impeccable.


  • I think that the neck amputation is not such a bad idea. :D I have a fusion c6/c7 and when I had severe neurological symptoms I described it like I was decapitated, but all of that ceased after proper physical therapy.

    You mention that an accident was 45 years ago; while for sure it has the consequences on your current conditions, its not only cause of degenerative disease because degeneration is natural with aging. Usually stopping medications shall not be immediate. If you just stop, especially with methadone, you can get withdrawal symptoms that may be more dangerous for your heart than condition + taking medications itself are.

    Since my whole spine is affected with some strange and different (interesting) stuff I also felt symptoms related to other organs, including heart, that were actually reflected pain from neck or thoracic region. I thought once I had a heart attack, went to the ER and at fortune there was one young doctor who recognized that this was caused by the spine; instead I would be examined by a psychiatrist as a hypochondriac. The neck caused me to feel pain in my throat and arm, which can also be described as a heart problem. So I was also shocked, but relieved that I had no heart failure. lol

    I am using pain medications for 8 months now so I can't provide much of advice. I still feel pain, but its 2/3 reduced under the tramadol+paracetamol. I tried without it, but then ability to get out of the bed, breathe and will to live was reduced to 0 due to severe pain so for now I don't think about not taking them even if I get an addict. Its easier to be an addict that to suffer with that pain, but after 20 years perhaps I change my mind.
    Scoliosis vertebrae THL
    Sy CC et CB
    Sy THS
    Sy LS chr
  • especially regarding the heart. Yep, they pretty much thought I was crazy when I went to the er with chest, jaw and arm pain and numbness!!! Yes, degenerated discs are normal with aging but generally not so extensive and generally not with a result of collapsed discs at all levels. I couldn't move my neck for months after my accident at 15. Every bit of tissue was shredded, essentially. And OH YEAH! The withdrawal situation these last 2 months has been horrendous. But I needed to find out what I was really "feeling." After so many years on pain meds, my body wasn't interpreting pain signals properly.

    Anyway, I do have a brilliant surgeon at the finest University/spine center in Atlanta so if it comes to the epidurals failing, he will be able to advise me about next steps. I don't think he performs neck amputations, thought. Too bad.......Although I would look pretty funny with my chin resting on my collarbone. Bad visual.....very bad. ;) Kathy
  • ...I think it was common during the French Revolution. :D Our spines are like PCs and let's say that the brain is the processor, while nerves that go through the spine are connectors with different parts of the PC. Chronic pain, however, is a result of a faulty communication between connectors and processors and then we may feel the pain with even no reason. It's just how its used to be, the pain is there, doctors think you are a lunatic while you try everything you can to resolve the problem and in fact, just seeking doctors to assist. Now, I was at the beginning of the treatment so reluctant to take these medications because I thought, what if that's just a broken PC and its not in fact real? But it was real, very obvious and devastating. So I said to myself - what the hell, I am going to take that and see what happens. If I try not to take these narcotics I do not feel withdrawal symptoms (perhaps its too early and I am still not addicted), but if I was addicted I would not know the difference because the pain would come back and that's only I can feel. Only if there would be no pain then I would perhaps be more focused on something else and report withdrawal symptoms. But, as we are not a standard drug addicts who take that meds to get high and happy, perhaps we do not have to stop taking them?
    Scoliosis vertebrae THL
    Sy CC et CB
    Sy THS
    Sy LS chr
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