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Anyone with C5C6 Disc Bulge - Please Read & Help

patrick212ppatrick212 Posts: 36
edited 06/11/2012 - 7:31 AM in Neck Pain: Cervical
What's going on with me?

I know it might be long, but please read and help me figure out whats going on with me.

Both my General Practioner and Chiropractor do not think that my problems are disc related. GP thinks it was a bad muscle spasm. Chiro isnt sure but thinks it could be mostly stress. I went to a Neurosurgeon just in case and he said I had a bulge but it wasnt impinging, if anything I should just do physical therapy for a few weeks and Ill be ok. I did 3 weeks of physcial therapy at the hospital outpatient center and they discharged me. We only did retraction exercises and I was fine.

My goal in posting this is to find out if anyone else has had the same symptoms to me and if its disc related or just muscle problems caused by stress or something else. My symptoms arent as bad as they could be, I am just worried that I am so young it could get worse. I have not had any "traditional" disc signs yet, no burning, numbing, or tingling down my arm. I almost wish I didnt get the MRI so i wouldnt just blame the disc, because I hear there are a lot of people with disc bulges that dont cause any problems.

General Factors:
I am a 24 year old male. I am in Law School (stress). I am generally pretty active and try to do cardio 5 times a week. I used to be overweight but lost about 150 pounds 5 years ago and have kept it off since then. I have bad posture and am working on it. My shoulders always seem to roll forward. ALSO, i have heard digestive problems could be a cause and I want to note that I talked with my doctor about 6 months before all this happened about how I literally burp within 10 seconds of putting anything in my mouth and I only have bowel movements about 1 time every 2-3 days.

About 2 months ago I noticed a knot in my neck right where my neck meets my back
The next day, I woke up with a EXTREMELY stiff neck, it hurt and my range of motion was cut by 60%.
I went to ER at one point and they did x-ray, they thought it was just a muscle spasm. Prescribed Flexeril.
I tired it for 2 weeks and it really did nothing for me. In the meantime, I had a cervical MRI done just to see if it found anything. Finally, two weeks after it started the stiff neck went away.

MRI Results:
4mm C5C6 disc protrusion which is mildly compressing the spinal cord but no neural encroachment is noted.

For the past month and a half I have had the following symptoms:

1. A sort of pressure feeling in the back of my head that is only relieved when I have a chiropractor stretch adjust me and he says it frees up the pressure that was on my brain stem.

2. My upper back gets extremely tired, mostly my left shoulder blade. Unless I get massaged every 3rd or 4th day it feels like I just did the work out of my life. Could this be related to the fact that I am trying to stand up straight now, as I am trying to improve my posture.

3. Burning sensation on my upper left shoulder where it connects to my neck. Found out that was due to REALLY TIGHT scalians. So if i have my scallians massaged it got rid of the burning. So that burning sensation was really caused by the muscle tightness.


Advanced Biostructural Correction (Chiropractic Adjustment) - 1 time per week just started last week
- Relief: Usually last a day or two, or sometimes good one day and bad the next throughout the whole week. Then again, I just started this.

Massage (Scallians, Upper back, and Cranial muscles) - 3 times per week
- Relief: good for a few days

Vax-D Treatment (Flexian / Distraction)- 5 times per week for 2 weeks (DONE)
Relief: none noted

Physical Therapy ( 3 times per week for 3 weeks):
Relief: discharged, and no noticeable improvement

Accupuncture - 2 times per week
Relief: none noted yet

Flexeril - 1 at night for 2 weeks (discontinued use)
Relief: none but helped sleep

Nortiptyline - 1 at night for 1 month
Relief: none just helps sleep

At-Home Traction - 1 a day as needed - just tried it a few times
Relief: none noted

What do you think? Disc? Stress? How can I fix this?


  • There are a lot of things that in combination could be causing your pain. The disc bulge of course is first. The stress is a major factor also, as it can cause your neck, shoulders, and back to really spasm. As can your posture, especially working on a computer. Reading a lot can also impact your neck, shoulders and arms a lot. Have you tried ice or heat? Some people like one, some the other. Stretching exercises can help a lot too if it is a muscle problem. A whirlpool tub or jacuzzie help relax your muscles, or even just a hot shower. Congratulations on your weight loss. That will help your spine, knees, etc., as I'm sure you already know. If this continues, I would recommend a second opinion from a good neuro-surgeon. Something may have progressed further since your MRI. Good luck.

  • Thanks so much for your response.

    I really am hoping its not disc related.

    Hot tub usually helps, but Ice works too. Hot shower really doesnt do much for me.

    Anyone else ever have any symptoms like this?
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  • Spinal cord compression is something not to take lightly, no matter how badly it is being compressed. My C5-C6 was pressing against the spinal cord a bit more then what the MRI had shown. Even though I had the fusion two months ago, I'm still in severe pain and have all the same symptoms as pre surgery. I think now is a good time to start looking for either a neuro or ortho surgeon and getting thier opinions. I'm at a spine clinic with ortho doctors and they provide everything from physical therapy, pain management, to surgeons.
  • Nicole,

    Thank you for your response.

    What seems odd to me and those treating me (General practitioner, chiropractor, and neurosurgeon) is that my symptoms arent like most people with a disc problem. Can I ask, was your disc midline (straight back) or to the right or left? Was it encroaching the nerves at all? I think mine is just "mildly compressing" the spinal cord, so I want to know what that feels like. I guess my question is if my symptoms (the pressure on the neck) are what spinal cord compression feels like?

    The only relief I have from this symptoms is after a stretch adjustment and the chiro said it freed up the brainstem and I literally felt like I never had anything wrong with me for a whole day, and then the next it was back.

    The best way to describe the "pressure" i feel is just a sore/pressure feeling over my spinal cord but it feels better after a cranial massage or after that stretch adjustment. What are your thoughts?
  • My disc was right on the midline and just to the right of the midline. I can feel exactly where it was herniated. Before the surgery, my neck would often get stuck. It took me a few minutes before I could move it. My symptoms are severe pain in the neck, right arm and hand pain all the way to my first two fingers, pain in my shoulders(mostly right shoulder), pain in between my shoulder blades. I also have the burning feeling on the back of my neck. I also have involuntary neck jerking due to this injury. I have all the same symptoms even though I've had the surgery. I'm hoping it's due to inflammtion and not permanent nerve damage. The pain doc is not sure if I have permanent nerve damage.

    The only noticable relief I've felt was when I was on the pain pump at the hospital. I take pain medication and muscle relaxers and they are not helping enough with the pain. I personally would never see a chiro. I think they can do more damage then good.
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  • Wow... I have a good mix of sympathy & fear. I cannot imagine if my symptoms were that bad, and I truly commend you for coming on here to discuss your healing process with others, especially, knowing what you are going through.

    I truly hope that my symptoms never reach that point, however, what scares me is this seemingly came out of nowhere.

    I also want to mention that I have had NO numbing, tingling, or burning. The only thing close to burning I had was on my upper left shoulder but it was cause my scallians were extremely inflamed and after massage it went away.

    The only thing I have now is a weird pressure/soreness straight on the back of my neck, and I'm really hoping this isnt related to the disc. Im just looking for any possible solution, or to see if anyone has any symptoms as mild as mine.
  • I have problems at C4/C5/C6 levels. I just had an anterior foraminotomy done, it is less invasive than ACDF, no bone grafts, fusion or extra hardware added!! I had bone spurs, and spinal stenosis, and a bulging disc at C5/C6, which actually may have herniated before the surgery. I had seen the neurosurgeon after having an MRI, which showed protrusion, but thanks to bronchitis at the end of January, and a bad coughing fit, sent me in a downward spiral. I had extreme pain in my neck, shoulder blade, shoulder and arm (right side mostly) pain, tingling, numbness al the way down to my right hand. Some days my left arm bothered me, too, and a few days, I couldn't move either arm or hand, they were so cramped up. I would get terrible knots in my neck, and near my shoulder blades. I went to physio on and off for 1 year and a half. Traction really helped, and gave some relief, but it wouldn't last long. I also tried accupuncture when I was at my worse, which didn't help me, but has with others.

    I would get a second opinion, my GP wasn't much help at all, except to finally give me a referral once I demanded it. And then, she found out I was right all along in saying that my disc was bulging, if not herniated, as the surgeon told me. Remember, GPs are not experts in any field, so go straight to the experts when you can, and don't let the GP snow you because they can't get over their own ego or can't admit that they don't know everything.

    Heat has always helped me, my electric heating pad is my best friend!!! lol... Also, if you`re at your computer a lot (which I imagine you are) make sure your desk is ergonomically correct. I work at a computer all day (well, I`ve been off work for 3 months now, but before, once I rearranged my desk, it really did help!!) Make sure your chair is at the right height for you - your legs should be at a 90 degree angle with your feet flat on the ground, your arms should be level with your keyboard, which should be at the height where you can rest your arms on the chair arms, and still be able to type. Your monitor should be an arm`s length away. You should also get the wrist guard for your mouse pad and keyboard. The back of your chair should be at an angle that keeps your back straight, and your head from not being pushed forward (same goes for your car seat). The seat of your chair should also just touch the back of your knees. Bad posture is defintely going to make any situation worse, whether it is a muscular or disc problem.

    I also suffer from anxiety disorder and PTSD, so I can tell you that stress certainly doesn`t help either. Maybe you can get a referral to see a psychologist, it does help to talk!!! Other than that, other ways of de-stressing - exericse (even if just going for a walk), reading (something other than your law texts!!! LOL) soft music, aromatherapy, taking 20 - 30 minutes to do something that you really enjoy - time for yourself!

    I hope that you do find out what is wrong, and that you find the solution and some relief!!! All the best!!!
    APROUD CANADIANveteranButNOTa doctor, my thoughts are my own
  • The first episode was waking up with a stiff neck and after several chiropractor visits, with tens and heat treatments on my shoulder, I got better. Never had an MRI, only Xrays at the chiro...he noted at that time that my cervical spine was already losing it's correct bend and was more straight that having the natural curve. This was my 20's

    Ten years after that in my 30's, I had another episode. I was working a lot with a lot of stress, staying tightened up, at the computer, pounding away at code. Went to a new chiro, had more xrays. The curve was going the opposite way now and this chiro mentioned that it looked like I'd broken my neck somewhere down the line around C5/6. After massage, tens, heat, ultrasound, and adjustments, I was okay. I could really tell I was stressed, due to how I felt as I left the chiro visits....I couldn't believe the difference.

    Now, I'm 44, and having more extreme symptoms...started with neck pain and arm muscles sore. After visiting a new chiropractor who used a thumper type device to pop the sore spots, my symptoms got worse. I started having zaps in my fingers and hands. I have had an MRI now and am getting opinions on what all is going on. My Neurosurgeon that did my lumbar fusion and revision says I have a large bone spur at C5 that's compressing my spinal cord and I need surgery to remove it. I'm wondering will it come back?

    For your story that you've related....if the adjustments and therapy work, but the pressure feeling comes right back, then I think you should get another neurologist or neuro-surgeon's opinion. You are correct that your stress of law school, reading, typing, and all could be causing more spasms that are not helping the neck issues. But the mild bulge into the spinal cord, can cause a pressure/headache feeling. Spinal stenosis is not just nothing. You may start to have zaps and buzzing in your arms and fingers, or more of a soreness in your upper body. I didn't know I had so many sore spots until the last chiro start feeling my back and shoulders and was thumping on me!
    You should also ask your GP to try a different muscle relaxer. Flexeril is an older one and only makes me sleepy, doesn't really relax my muscles. I've found that Soma, Robaxin, and Parafon worked well for me. They each seemed to lose their effect though after taking for several months though, so that's why I've taken these one after the other.

    Good luck and I hope you find someway to get through school! Hope that your neck feels better soon. It's definitely no fun to have that nagging pain or weird feeling and go on with life.
  • Thanks so much for your message. Just so I understand better did your symptoms start out as mostly muscle problems or did you have some traditional disc signs such as "burning, tingling, or numbing"

    I have another neuro-surgeon visit scheduled for this week and we'll see what he says. My guess is he is just going to brush me off again since "i'm not that bad."

    I guess what I am still trying to figure out are my symptoms related to the disc? Can a cervical disc bulge at C5C6 cause only muscle tightness in the neck that is relieved by a massage and no other symptoms? I am pretty sure that my upper back pain is due to my rolling of the shoulders and how tight my pecs are. I have never really worked out my back, and only did pec exercises when at the gym (big no no).

    But what I am asking can the disc cause only these symptoms but nothing else? Does this sound like a disc issue? The only thing that tells me it is the disc is fact that I had an MRI done and saw a disc problem. Otherwise, it doesnt seem like much of a disc issue to me or anyone treating me. But then again I go back to the disc cause its right there and my neck soreness is in the back of my neck as well. What are your thoughts?

    I know i need to change several things in my life.

    I need to :

    1. work out my back to build better posture (my shoulders are ALWAYS forward)
    2. RELAX and work on relaxation techniques

    However, I do not feel like I can do either of those until my symptoms subside a bit, so I am on a quest to see if it is disc related or stress related so I can work on that problem now to at least allievate the symptoms and then work on the rest of my life.

    Have you any thoughts on how to do that? or what this sounds like to you?
  • Hi, I'm glad to be here as finally finding people in similar situations as mine. I first went to see a new internal medicine doctor on April 17, 2009 for a nagging burning sensation in my left neck/shoulder area. He felt like it was carpal tunnels since I had been diagnosed in my right hand years ago with moderate carpals tunnels. He ordered a nerve conduction study done on both hands. My left hand showed up as severe whereas my right hand is still only moderate carpal tunnels. I was sent for a MRI on April 27 and have been diagnosed with a bulging disc in C6, C7. The good news, according to my doctor, is that it's not pressing on my spine, but into my shoulder. Ok, so what? It still hurts I told him. I felt like my new doctor was brushing me off and treating me like it wasn't a big deal, but for someone who works all day on a computer, and takes on-line classes to finish her bachelor's degree after working full time, I need some type of relief for this pain and I let him have it! He did give me samples of Lyrica atmy first visit which I didn't feel was working at all so I asked for pain medication and although he was apprehensive to this idea at first, he did give me Vicodin on 3 spearate occasion, but only 20 pills each script. Some days I have to take 4 pills and other days I can get by on 2 pills. My own sister, who works for this doctor, treated me like a freaking drug addict when I asked her if he would prescibe more pain medication when I ran out because the doctor he referred me to wasn't able to get me in until July 27, 2009 (thanks to Katrina). That's when I found my own dang neurosurgeon who I see today at 1:30. Wish me luck!!!
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