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Thinking about Thoracic Surgery

AnonymousUserAAnonymousUser Posts: 49,322
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:28 AM in Upper Back Pain, Thoracic
Guys I need some advice and sorry if this is long. I got hurt in a car accident on 4-1-08. I was rear ended while going around 50 mph. As a result I have bulging disks in my neck and lumbar and 2 small herniations in t1-t3 and 1 moderate herniation in t7-t8. I also tore a ligament in my right shoulder and had surgery, which seems to have made the pain worse. Last summer and fall the pain was all over my back, down my legs and arms and I had terrible headaches. I had epidural injections in my neck, thoracic and lumbar. The ones in the neck and lumbar did not help. The ones in the thoracic helped calm down the muscle spasms although the pain was still bad. I went to pt and to accupuncture which did not help. In December I went to a chiropractor and actually started to feel somewhat better. After being out of work for 8 1/2 months I felt good enough to try going back. I computer I had to go back on disability. I couldn't sit because the burning in the center of my back got too intense.

Since going back on disability both of my legs are in pain and my feet are tingling and feel numb. Both of my forearms and hands ache and my fingers go numb if my arms are bent. The pain in my lower back is bad again and goes into my rearend. I have pain at the base of my neck which spreads across into my shoulders. After resting for two weeks my thoracic pain is a little better. But as soon as I do too much it comes back. My days are bad but my nights are worse. I toss and turn all night. Everything seems to get worse.

Last week my pm doctor said he is referring me back to my orthopedic surgeon to discuss thoracic decompression surgery. My wife and I are scared by just the thought of thoracic surgery. I am lucky that she has been so wonderful and supportive during the last year. I could not ask for more from her. And the trajic irony is that she grew up with a father who is disabled with MS and now has to live with me. However, as great as she has been, it is hard for her to really understand what I am going through, and I pray she can never understand it. The way I feel is that I just want my life back and will try almost anything to fix my problems. With that said, from what I read thoracic surgery is a big undertaking with no guarantees. I am looking for any input and advice that you can give. What else can I try before opting for surgery? Hopefully I gave you enough info to help. by the way, just reading what everyone has gone through has already helped my state of mind. Thanks in advance, Ken.


  • dilaurodilauro ConnecticutPosts: 13,433
    It was only a number of years ago that there was more information about thoracic problems. Before that, it was felt that the thoracic discs were so strong nothing could happen to them and if it did, there would be no pain.

    Well, just ask one of the many folks here who are dealing with Thoracic pain. I've been doing it for almost 10 years and had very little relief from pain. All the physical therapy, acupuncture, traction, ultrasound, etc helped but never really gave me extended pain relief.
    Thoracic surgery has also been something from the dinosaur era. It was a scary procedure. Crack open your breastplate,
    move aside a lung to get to the discs. And even with
    successful surgery, there was never any guarantee it would help the pain.
    I have 5 total herniated Thoracic discs spread up and down.
    The only treatment that has allowed me to do so much more is
    deep tissue massage. Not just any kind, the original and powerful style from Thailand. It is an extremely and I will say that again extremely painful treatment! I went for 6months every week for my torture sessions... But it was only this treatment that gave me some results. Part of the problem in the upper back is the rhomboid muscle. There is a minor and major, but the one that causes so many problems is the deeper one (major). There wasnt' the conventional treatments that could go that deep to provide relief. Deep Tissue Massage goes that deep and beyond. In the beginning, my rhomboid muscle was like a piece of wood, not giving, not moving, which created additional stress on my thoracic discs. After months of treatments, the rhomboid muscle started to become more pliable, which reduce the stress. It allows me to get by week by week without having to remain on Extended Relief pain medications
    But it does not cure it! I am a computer programmer, so spending 8-10 hours a day by a computer just played total havoc with my thoracic area. Just recently I am starting on my next big journey, retirement, and I have already noticed that when the hours using the computer and work decreased, so did my pain decrease.

    Thoracic pain is a bear, it is so difficult to control.
    I still have not read enough about newer Thoracic surgeries and their outcome. For me, thoracic surgery is out of the question, but thats because I've already had multiple cervical and lumbar surgeries, so my spine is a bit unstable to start on the Thoracic area.

    Poke around here, there are a few members who have had Thoracic surgery.

    Take care and Good Luck

    Ron DiLauro Veritas-Health Forums Manager
    I am not a medical professional. I comment on personal experiences 
  • Ron, I have read your story and I can not imagine how you still have such a good attitude. I also don't know how you can work at a computer for so long. As I said it only took 8 days and then I could not take the pain anymore.

    I have read a lot of the postings and already found some very useful information. When I first got hurt the center of my back hurt so much all the time that I just lied in bed in pain. The pain is not as bad now, but all I is stay at home and don't do anything. I have two kids that are 5 & 2 and I want to be able to lift them and play with them. My poor wife has been like a single mom for the past year. From what I have read on this site I know how hard thoracic surgery is. But at 40 years old I am not ready to just sit around. And although the pain is not as bad it is still too much to live with. Before I decide on what to do I will think long and hard about it.

    Thanks again.

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  • dilaurodilauro ConnecticutPosts: 13,433
    on Thoracic problems, treatments and surgeries. The more information you have available to you, the better decisions that you can make.
    Some doctors do not even perform Thoracic surgery. So, besides knowing as much as you can about the subject, make sure that you look for a surgeon who has done Thoracic surgeries.

    Its not easy, but I think you summed it all up, you want to be able to play with your kids again! That alone, should provide all the driving force that you need to figure out what is best for you and how you can regain the time you lost.

    Never, never give up!
    Ron DiLauro Veritas-Health Forums Manager
    I am not a medical professional. I comment on personal experiences 
  • Sometimes I get down and sometimes I get angry but I won't give up! I just want the pain to go away.
  • hi,

    i have re3cenly had thorasic surgery on my T9/10 for disc herniation, it is a big op, and not to be taken lightly. see my t10 op story post.

    I am now just under 6 weeks post op, i am in a corset that i have to wear long term to support my spine, it is uncomfy, and recovery is slow and frustrating. BUT I am getting better. i do have less pain (aside from the op wound site and surrounding soft tissue) less numbness and so far, no incontinence (I was intermitently incontinent before).

    if you are really suffering, i would recommend speaking to a neurosurgeon about a decompression op. you will need ct scans, total spine xrays (i.e. all on on film) and MRI of your whole spine. i say neuro surgeon as they are used to handling the delicate spinal cord.

    I was operated through my left side rather than front chest due to where the disc was herniated. this is preferable than going through your back, as rear access increases the risk of paralysis, with front and side access its reduced to less than 1%

    I was getting progressivly worse, deterioration is the buz word for the surgeons to take action.

    you will need 3-6months to recover, will likey be on flat bed rest like i was for about 3 weeks, it is a very frustrating recovery process.

    but if you are struggling as it is anyway, it is worth discussing with a your dr and a neurosurgeon.

    good luck

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  • H

    Thanks for the information. Although it is comforting to correspond with people in similar situations it really gets to me to read about everyone's suffering. I hope your recovery goes well. I did not read your story yet but I am going to. Hopefully you have a strong supportive family like I do. That is the only thing that seems to help.

    From what you wrote I can see that throacic surgery is as hard as they say. My pain management doctor is the one that recommended the surgery last week, but my orthopedic doctor quickly shot down the idea today. He will only operate on the thoracic area if I am having paralysis. My problem is pain and he said that thoracic surgery won't help the pain. Since we have tried injections, pt, accupuncture and the chiropractor already, his next step is a neurostimulator. I thought that it sounded good, especially since it is first set up as a test. If it helps then they implant it. Does anybody know anything about these? Right now I am so tired of being in pain that I am willing to try anything.

  • dilaurodilauro ConnecticutPosts: 13,433
    about Thoracic problems is that there are not many thing that can bring you relief. Pain medications will take the edge of the pain, but it comes back so quickly.
    I wish there was one treatment that would work for all thoracic pain sufferers, but you will find in time that each of us have a different way in dealing with the problem.
    Some find relief in one manner, where another person will get no relief trying the same.
    Its not easy, but as you have just read the post from msblonde, the thoracic surgery is a very difficult and nasty surgery
    Ron DiLauro Veritas-Health Forums Manager
    I am not a medical professional. I comment on personal experiences 
  • Hi Ken,

    sorry to hear you are in so much pain, I was 'lucky' that i had very little in the way of pain, i think it was the worsening incontinence that triggered my op as it indicated that the disc was still moving and paralysis was almost a given thing if it kept moving, i was only 2mm away from that according to the MRI. Have you had an MRI?

    I have to say - I have heard that thorassic ops do not releive pain in most cases, they are a last resort due to the complications, risk, long recovery time etc. if you had the op and it did not releive the pain, you would have 3-6 months of post op recovery on top of what you have now.

    can you get refferred to a neurosurgeon to discuss options with him? the neurotransmitter sounds interesting but i have no info on that i am afraid.

    good luck and i hope you find a solution soon.

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