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Constant Neck/Back Pain - What should I consider? - Long Read

patrick212ppatrick212 Posts: 36
edited 06/11/2012 - 7:39 AM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
No one can seem to tell me whats going on with me. So I will lay out my symptoms and what I’ve tried and see if anyone can relate. I don’t feel my pain is typical and not one specialist has been able to get a bearing on it. Most say it’s the disc or its not the disc, but that’s it. What else can I try? What does this sound like? Is it the discs? Is it just muscles? something else? what treatment should I consider at this point?

Symptoms started with a stiff neck on 03/05/09
I immediately went a chiropractor, and within 2 weeks of manipulation and massage the stiff neck went away and I was left with the symptoms I have today.
(I really have the feeling that a bad chiropractor made this worse, and it probably would have went away in a week or two as just a stiff neck).

Symptoms / Pain:
1. Constant upper back pain 8 out of 10 days (T3ish – T5ish) feels extremely sore, like I just got done doing the most intense workout. Its usually worse in the morning.
2. Constant neck pain 2 out of 10 days (basically when I don’t feel the upper back pain). The neck pain is more of a nag then a pain and its across the back of the neck. Just a deep annoying nagging feeling.


MRI 1:
1. mild C5/C6 disc herniation causing mild spinal stenosis with NO narrowing of the neural foraminal.

MRI 2:
1. mild C5/C6 disc herniation causing mild spinal stenosis with NO narrowing of the neural foraminal.
2. minimal C4/C5 disc herniation mildly compressing the thecal sac
3. minimal C6/C6 disc herniation.

1. Bilateral C5/C6 radiculopathy

Discography C3-C7:
1. C4/C5 very reactive to pain - Cracked disc
2. C5/C6 reactive to pain - Grade 4 + complete disc herniation
3. C6/C7 Nonreactive to pain - Bulging disc, normal disc

1. Chiropractic manipulation, massage, and acupuncture – tried pretty constant for 3 months
i. 1 out of 10 manipulations would help
ii. 1 out of 10 acupuncture sessions would help

2. 2 bouts of physical therapy
- First time – 6 weeks of cervical retractions
No benefit
- Second time – 6 weeks of upper back & shoulder strength
Little to no benefit

3. Cervical Epidural
- Result:
No benefit

4. Cervical bilateral facet injection
- Result:
No benefit

5. Cervical nucleoplasty (needle inserted in disc using radio waves to reduce disc herniation)
i. C4/C5 disc herniation gone
ii. C5/C6 disc hernation still present
iii. No benefit

6. Lexapro ( incase anxiety played a role) – 8 weeks
i. No benefit
ii. I weened off

7. Naproxen & Mobic – 6 weeks (at separate times)
- No benefit


  • When I look through your information, it would seem to my non-medically trained eyes that your major problem is coming from the C5-6 segment, with some nerve compression that may be caused by the disc herniation or the stenosis. It seems to be a bilateral problems, so you would not have symptoms that are specifically left-sided or right-sided.

    Are you seeing an experienced fellowship-trained spinal specialist? I don't see why you do not have an accurate diagnosis. It would appear that all your testing points in one direction.

    What have your doctors told you about the issues with C5-6? Has anyone suggested surgery to you? Do you have any pain in your arms?
  • Thanks Gwennie,

    at this time the neuros I have seen said surgery really isnt an option for me. I'm only 24 years old and though I think my pain is severe, its not as bad as others and I truly feel bad for people that have it worse than me. Either way, neuros all recommend conservative. The nucleoplasty was the most aggressive thing I did.

    My biggest fear would be to agree to a surgery and then find out that my pain is not actually coming from the disc, etc....
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  • If your discogram was positive 'reactive to pain' then I would think the docs have located the disc causing your pain.

    But - that does not mean that surgery will cure pain. Most of the time it doesn't. They usually do surgery to prevent permanent nerve damage and such.

    I also like the conservative approach. Do everything else. Then when it gets beyond bearing, then consider surgery. It sucks. But what do you do? Once you've been opened up there's no going back.

    My DH had some neck problems at one point. After a year of stretching and taking it super easy he no longer has problems - the disks don't even show the earlier bulging. It is possible to recover - but in my experience it takes a long while and it takes some dedication to doing what's right. It meant no more football throws with the kids in the backyard for my DH.
  • that a chiropractor would agree to manipulate your spine if you can disc issues. It has been my experience to have them refuse to work on me when they knew I had bad discs. I think it's just bad form for them to do that. Has this been anyone else's experience? I would think the chance of causing you further damage through manipulation would out-weigh any benefit you would get.


    3 level spinal fusion, L3/4, L4/5, L5/S1, November 2008. Stiff, but I can walk.
  • SpineAZSpineAZ WiscPosts: 1,084
    Consider a consultation with an Orthopedic Spine Surgeon (one that only does spine work). While you are young.....I was too with my first spinal surgery. It was worth pursuing back then as it got me back to an active lifestyle. (I have a history of lax ligaments and tendons so don't let my multiple surgeries scare you. It's a wacky condition in which joints move so I often have to have joints stabilized).
    2 ACDFs, 2 PCDF, 3 LIFs; Rt TKR; Rt thumb fusion ; Lt thumb arthroplasty; Ehlers Danlos 
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  • Thanks everyone.

    At the time the chiro didnt know about the discs, and neither did I :(

    I'll try and find a good ortho surgon as well as a neuro and see my options. I'm consdiering PLDD, I just dont know if the nucleoplasty didnt work, if it might mean the PLDD wont work on C5/C6 level.
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