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Trying to decide surgery or alternative treatment?

AnonymousUserAAnonymousUser Posts: 49,578
edited 06/11/2012 - 7:23 AM in Neck Pain: Cervical
In June of 2008 I turned and reached too far felt a pop and two days later my adventure began. I saw a chiropractor for 2 months, that really helped with my range of motion, but not so much with the pain in my shoulder and the ridiculous tingling in my left arm. Its now September for the most part my arm only gets very tingly when my head is in certain positions like changing a light bulb, messing with the house plants, holding something up to inspect it, like a shirt to see if the washer took the stain out. As soon as I get out of that position the tingling stops except for the tip of my index finger (that stays numb always) but is far better than it was in July when the pain was excrutiating, and my thumb, index finger, and middle finger were always numb. I saw a neurosurgeon last Thursday he showed me that the disk between C-5 and C-6 is herniated as is the disk between C-6 and C-7. At this time he has ordered xrays with flexation, and said I could have surgery (ACDF), or try chiropractor, Phys Therapy, accupuncture etc.... The pain for the most part is gone, I have my days where it gets very achey and the sharpness comes back a little, and that is while taking an NSAID (Arthrotec). So anyway I have no idea what I should do, if I stop the medication the pain could come back, however I have not tried it yet, maybe it wont. I just cannot figure out if surgery is really what I should do, or try other approaches first, if they dont work and I have to have the operation anyway I would rather just get it over with. I think I will go talk to my chiropractor about this as well, I just dont want to have surgery if I really do not have to. Anyone have any suggestions or words of wisdom? Ive been reading all I can find, it just makes me wonder even more! Thanks to all!


  • Keep in mind that you can't undo surgery, and you have the risk of complications, infection, etc. While there are a lot of surgery success stories, it should be a last resort. Your doc recommended you try a chiro? Good luck, and keep us posted.--Mazy
  • Thanks for the reply, and yes your 100% right that is why Im so confused about this. After looking at my MRI the doctor said my options were: do nothing some people get better in 1 or 2 years (not my idea of a good time) go to a chiropractor, a physical therapist, try accupuncture, or do the surgery. SO.. thats where I am right now. I see my surgeon again on Thursday for the xray that is supposed to show if I have any instability in my spine due to this, if so it could change my options. For now I think I will avoid the surgery but that may change depending on the xray with flexation on Thursday. Ugh.. decisions, decisions! I appreciate any and all thoughts/suggestions!
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  • I would always try conservative treatment first. As Mazy pointed out surgery is permanent and can't be undone. I would also seek a second opinion. As far as seeing your chiro that maybe a option what i would suggest is that you take your results of the MRI with you so they know what they are dealing with. There are also injections that may help. When you return to the surgeon I would take a list of questions with you so your prepared pending the results of the x-rays. There have been many here who have used conservative treatments and have returned to normal lives thus avoiding the surgery. If you need a list of questions to ask click on the FAQ and you will find them there. Good luck and keep us updated as to what happens with the appointment on thursday.
  • aetown said:
    ...... MRI the doctor said my options were: do nothing some people get better in 1 or 2 years (not my idea of a good time) ......
    Well here's the kicker. When you go through surgery, for a lot of people it takes that long before it really stop hurting so bad. So if you are afraid of hurting for a year or two, then hold off on surgery as long as you can!

  • Well I went in yesterday to see the Chiropractor. He sat right down and had a wonderful conversation with me, and helped me understand whats going on. He pointed out that since June/July when my pain level was definatley a 10 that currently I bounce from a 0-4 depending on the day. He did some compression tests and they did not cause me any pain what-so-ever. He showed me that surgery probably isnt the thing to jump into at this point. He ordered my MRI report and I have to see him again this morning to see what he thinks as far as chiropractic treatment. He also has helped several people in his 25+ yrs of chiropracty with the same disk problems that I have. He agreed that somewhere down the road I may have no choice but to get the surgery, but advances in neck surgeries are happening all the time, and by then I may have a much better alternative. So as long as my xray with flex does not show any spinal instabilities I am going to postpone the surgery until I have no other options. That NSAID I take (has scary side effects that I dont currently experience) has really knocked the pain right out of my shoulder (for the most part). I appreciate all the advice I have gotten here, and will frequent this site. I wish you all well and fast fusions!!
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  • Wow where to start....CONSERVATIVE...I had the same decision and tried everything conservative for 3 years. At that point, the NS said surgery or paralyzation. I had the ACDF in May 2007. Got worse after that surgery. Cervical decompression in Dec 2007. Still worse....Got my CT results yesterday and my fusion didnt take. Now i have to wear a bone stimulator for 3 months, trigger point injections, and botox injections. Then i will be rescanned. If my bone is not fusing by then, i have to have a multilevel posterior fusion. I am in terrible pain every day. It wasnt this bad before surgery, but my discs just keep degenerating. Seems like every surgery makes me worse. My advice is to try conservative for as long as possible. Physical therapy and trigger points and epidurals worked for me for 3 years. i hope you can find a method that continues to help you. As i read in a previous post, you cant undo the surgery. Best of luck to you, and keep us posted.

  • Thanks for the advice Cindy, Im sorry to hear things are not working out very well for you, I hope they get better! I saw the Chiropractor again, he obtained my MRI report and I must have misunderstood the NS because I have only one herniation in c6. Its a rather large one but still under the size that requires immediate surgery. Of course the day will come where I will have to have surgery to fix it, but the Chiropractor told me that neck surgeries are where back surgeries were in the 1980's. Back surgeries have made impressive advances and we are hoping that conservative treatment will help long enough for new techniques to be developed and put in use. Although I had a horrific, painful summer things are settling down for the time being, and after reading some of the things others on this site have been through, I am feeling kind of lucky so far. We are moving on to some 5 pound weights that I have to hold and just rotate my shoulders. I thought this sounds like nothing, but once I did it I could feel it in my neck muscles, but it didnt seem to aggrivate the disk. (the whole point of doing it I guess lol). I see the NS tomorrow and as long as my final test comes back OK I will tell him I wont be back until its my last option. The Chiropractor did tell me I could not do better with the surgeon I have, he is one of the best in the area, and one day I will need his services but the further down the road that day is, the better! Im just hoping there is no spinal instabilities in the last test I get tomorrow, the chiro doesnt seem to think there will be. Best wishes to you all and to you Cindy, I hope somewhere somehow we all can be pain free and feel human again! God Bless.
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