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Yet another victim of cervical disk issues that has many questions

badranobbadrano Posts: 6
edited 12/14/2015 - 1:24 PM in Neck Pain: Cervical
Hi All,

To give a quick background, back in the beginning of October I had a fairly bad stiff neck/upper back and I ended up going to an urgent care center. They prescribed some muscle relaxants and a couple of days later I was better but had this localized pain around my tricep/biceps on the left arm.
A week went by dealing with pain and self medicating with ibuprofen. I just thought this was a muscle issue and figured it would go away. On the second week, the pain continued and I was starting to wonder if this was something else going on. A couple of weeks went by and no relief of the pain. It was only when I started to get tingling in my thumb and index finger that I went to my doctor who ordered an MRI.

The results of the MRI showed a mild central herniated disk on C4/5 that is just touching the sac around the spinal cord, a moderate bilateral herniated disk C5/6 and a mild bulging disk on C6/7. Also, on the C5/6, I have severe narrowing of the left foramen and moderate narrowing of the right foramen due to bone spurs. Given my symptoms and MRI results, I do have a pinched nerve at C5/6 on the left side. These are just the main highlights of what is going on in my neck.

I went to an ortho doctor who recommended PT for now. I'm now heading into my 5th week of PT with what feels like no real relief. The pain is mostly under control with Neurotin 300mg, but after this weekend and the fact that the 300mg dose wasn't lasting the 8hrs, the dr advised me to start do 600mg at bedtime and eventually work up to 600mg 3x day. I saw a different doctor (actual spine surgeon) at the practice the other week (ironically the first dr left the practice) to discuss how my symptoms are different than what i felt at the original visit and that they were more pronounced and more frequent. Unlike the first dr, this dr started explaining what surgery would be and then discussed the less invasive options.
Maybe I'm overthinking this, but is there a reason why he started to discuss the surgery first? Is there a guideline on the severity of herniation where one would just skip PT and go right to surgery other than an obvious leaking disk or the disk is pinching the spinal cord?

Even though the pain is mostly under control, I still get the tingling in my thumb/index finger as well as other not so comfortable sensations in my arm, mostly the tricep/bicep area. These symptoms don't seem to directly coincide with neck movement as I can move my head around in any direction with no pain/tingling sensations. Only when I look up, I get the pain/tingling sensation. Lately just moving around in general I get on and off pain/tingling sensations and it is frequent through out the day.
Talking with the PT gal, there's a thinking that my pain is a mix of the pinched nerve at the spine and maybe a pinched/compressed nerve due to muscles in my shoulder. I know this thinking makes sense, but does it make sense if you know what I mean?



  • SavageSavage United StatesPosts: 5,476
    edited 12/14/2015 - 2:01 PM
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  • Hello!
    I also experienced cervical herniated discs at C4-5 and C5-6 with symptoms that began October 2014. I had the same issues with shoulder pain that would radiate down my hands. My hands became very weak over time and I constantly was dropping things. My herniated discs were pushing against the nerve root on both sides and I had a narrowing of my spinal canal. I recently underwent 2-level cervical artificial disc replacement surgery 5 weeks ago after suffering in pain for 13 months.
    You had your MRI done much sooner than I was able to get mine done so you have a head start at figuring out the best course of treatment. Typically, you would become a surgical candidate after failing 6 weeks of conservative treatment (i.e.: PT, acupuncturist, chiro - which I highly DO NOT recommend). Also, some people have symptom improvement after receiving epidural or nerve root blocks. I can say these did not work for me, they were painful and expensive.
    Every day is not the same when dealing with herniated discs. For me, most days were miserable and driving severely exacerbated my symptoms. I withdrew from social events and over time became isolated & depressed. My meds were ibuprofen & Tramadol.
    Explore your options and get several opinions if surgery is recommended. Feel free to private message me if you have further questions. This has been a great forum to learn from other experiences and to know you're not alone.
    Good luck!
  • Thanks Beachgirll for you feedback.

    I'm seeing another Dr in the practice next week for a consult on the injections. I don't care for needles, but the idea of sticking a needle into my neck and into/near the nerve roots scares the crap out of me. All the injection does is to relieve the pain and not fix the underlying cause. I guess by relieving the pain, you can get through PT better, but how long do you put up with PT before giving up and doing the surgery?

    There are few things I forgot in my orig post.

    I've been reading a lot of these posts where most have had ACDF. When my dr talked about the surgery, he talked about replacing the disk with an artificial disk. I don't know if he pushing that technology or that's a better solution to my particular issue rather than doing an ACDF. He did note that doing an ACDF does reduce flexibility and puts more pressure on the neighboring disks. I've also read that artificial disks are relatively new compared to the ACDF and other procedures out there.

    When I compare my symptoms today to when I got the MRI, they are different/more pronounced....not sure how else to put it. I originally started with the localized pain in my upper arm and on and off tingling in my thumb. In the beginning, the mornings would be fine, but by afternoon the pain would kick in. As the weeks would go on, the pain/discomfort would start earlier in the day. Now I start feeling it when I get out of bed in the morning. The medications are helping with the pain so I only feel the other sensations in the my arm, shoulder....not sure how to describe these other sensations. As always, things get more pronounced as the day goes on.

    When I get home from work (I sit at a desk all day), I mostly head right up to bed and lay down and get into my comfy position and have no desire to leave that position. I have my good days and bad days...either way I crawl into bed at the end of the day, but I get more stuff done on the good days.

    When I look back over that last 2+ months, I can't believe how this pinched nerve has affected my life.
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