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Cervical C5-C6 Disc Bulge and Lower Back Pain - Help!

ChicagoKid28CChicagoKid28 Posts: 1
edited 06/11/2012 - 7:52 AM in Neck Pain: Cervical
Hello Everyone,

I'm reaching to everyone trying to understand what is going on with my neck and lower back to find direction for help. On December 23rd, 2010 I suddenly woke up with sore throbbing neck pain and 2 days later with sore throbbing lower back pain. No trauma received to either side. I am a 28 yrs old male, 6’2, slim 160 lbs, and in good shape. I went to an Orthopedic doctor on Dec, 28 2010 and prescribed the below Anti-Inflammatory and Steroid Medicines. None have helped. I finally had my brothers College professor recommend a MRI and did just that. Below are the report results for both my Cervical and Lumbar MRI's. As noted I have a mild broad-based bulge asymmetric toward the right causing mild ventral flattening of the thecal sac with significant central stenosis. Not too sure what that means in terms of affects but need help understanding. The only symptoms I have is chornic (every single day) throbbing neck pain where my shoulders meet my neck and lower back pain. Its preventing me from enjoying life and participating in things that I would normally do.

More importantly I am engaged to an amazing girl and am afraid that if find don’t get this fixed before marriage that it may carry into my marriage. If it is truly a long term debilitating and degenerative condition I don’t want to burden her like this. I’ve posted the significant MRI pics below.

Please help! Exercise and PT are not helping. Your responses will be MUCH appreciated.

- Constant throbbing sore pain in lower neck where shoulders meet neck.
- Constant throbbing sore pain in lower back above tail bone where waist line is.
- Sometimes tingling in right arm (rare)
- Soreness when I look to the left
- Soreness when I bend waist backwards
- Soreness in neck and back while sitting
- Is it possible my neck and lower back pain is not related to the disc bulge?
- Is this a permanent condition or will it heal?
- Is it degenerative and will it get worse over time? And how rapid is the progression?
- If it is related to the disc bulge how long will it take to heal (3 ½ months into it with no progress)?
- I used to do a lot of crunches (800) every three days, could it be the cause of the bulge?
- How severe is my bulge?
- Can my lower back pain be related to the cervical C5-C6 disc bulge?
- Is a normal marriage with future kids possible?
- Are cortisone shots a permanent remedy or just masking the pain?
- Will a Chiropractor have the ability to help me out?

MRI Pics: https://picasaweb.google.com/mbasith/Apr22011?authkey=Gv1sRgCIrEqa_MqKai5wE&feat=directlink

Findings: Sagittal images demonstrate no malalignment or marrow signal abnormality or marrow edema in the visualized osseous structures. There is relative preservation of disc height through. Mild desiccation at C5-6 is noted. The cervicomedullary junction has a normal appearance. The cervical spinal cord maintains normal signal intensity through.

At C5-6 there is a minor broad-based bulge asymmetric toward the right causing mild ventral flattening of the thecal sac with significant central stenosis. Minimal right neural foraminal narrowing is noted due to a broad-based bulge. No definite neural foraminal narrowing is seen.

Impression: C5-6 mild degenerative disc disease with desiccation and right posterolateral broad-based bulge causing mil ventral flattening of the thecal sac without significant central stenosis. Mild right neural foraminal narrowing is also noted.

Findings: Sagittal images demonstrate no malalignment, mass, or abnormality of the visualized osseous structures. The disk heighs are maintained and well hydrated. No marrow edema is seen. The conus medullaris terminates at L1 with normal thickness and signal intensity.

At T11-T12 there is no significant central canal or neural foraminal narrowing.
At T12-L1, L1-L2, L2-L3, L3-L4, L4-L5, L5-S there is no significant central canal or neural foraminal narrowing.

Impression: No significant disk bulge, central canal narrowing, or neural foraminal narrowing. No marrow edema is seen in the visualized Osseous structures.


Neck Pain: Soreness in the middle of neck
Started: December 23rd, 2010
Current Status: Still persistent

Lower Back Pain: Pain in lower back, increases when sitting down for more than 15 minutes
Started: December 25th, 2010
Current Status: Still persistent

Went to Orthopedic Dr. for Neck Lower Back Pain on 12/28/2010 and prescribed the below.
Went to Primary Care Dr. for Blood Tests (All Negative) February 23rd 2011
Follow Up with Orthopedic Dr. March 24th 2011 – Prescribed Mobic and Physical Therapy
Follow UP with Primary Care Physician March 28th 2011 – Prescribed Physical Therapy
Went to Rheumotoligist March 29th 2011 – Said is normal to have this and prescribed Physical Therapy
Went to Chiropractor – Said neck had no curve and prescribed physical Therapy (didn’t seem accurate)
Completed 1 Session of Physical Therapy March 30th & April 1st

Orthopedic DR. Medicine Prescribed:

Meloxicam 15MG - Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug used to relieve the symptoms of osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.
Methylpred 4MG – Corticosteroid used to treat severe allergies, arthritis, asthma, and skin conditions:
Omeprazole 20MG – Proton pump inhibitor used to treat ulcers, heartburn, and gastroesophageal reflux
Methocarbam750MG – Muscle relaxant used to treat pain by muscle spasms.
Mobic 15MG - Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug used to relieve the symptoms of osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.


  • First let me say welcome to spine-health. Have a look around and you will find many members dealing with both cervical and lumber issues.

    As far as your MRI goes we really refrain from making comments as we are not doctors. What I think you need to do is go see a fellowship trained surgeon be it neuro or ortho. Just because your seeing a surgeon doesn't mean they will do surgery. A good surgeon will try all conservative type treatments first. I have seen many members come here and use the injections and they returned to normal busy lives and no longer post. They typically will also put you in pt for some massage therapy to loosen the muscles up and some strengthening exercise.

    Just thought I would stop by and welcome you to spine-health. Keep us posted on what you decide to do.
  • Hey, don't know if you're still here, but I thought I would answer a few questions for you. I am young like you. I am a 26 year old female that is married to an amazing man. Just got diagnosed with DDD (aka Degenerative Disc Disease) last week. I got married when I was 22 and healthy, which was about 4 years ago. I'm tall and thin, so my DDD has nothing to do with obesity. A bit about me. . .

    About two years ago I gave myself a bad hip injury with ballet. A year later I had surgery. I thought that would be the end of chronic pain and the beginning of a new life. About a month later I started getting severe neck pain. This came out of left field because I've never hurt my neck or back and never had pain there. I had a hard time swallowing and severe headaches that started at the base of my neck. At first I thought it was a cold or something. Then several agonizing months later, the pain spread into my right arm. It felt like electricity. It was painful and extremely uncomfortable. Like someone hitting your funny bone D: Keep in mind, at this point I'm still working 60-80 hour weeks as a pharmacy student and part time ballet teacher. Oh yeah, and part-time wife XD I just graduated from school so I am taking a break :)

    A bit about my family history. My poor mother has degenerative disc disease. She's had multiple surgeries on her back and neck. Her mother, my grandma, also had degenerative disc disease. The severity of my mother's DDD is less than her mother's.

    I talked to my primary care doctor about this every few months and we both agreed that with acupuncture and chiropractor it would get better. I had faith in them. Everyone told me NOTHING was wrong with me, so I lived with the pain thinking it would get better. Perhaps I was lucky that I had even gotten my hip injury first because at this point I was familiar with chronic pain. I was on Cymbalta, Gabapentin, Lidocaine patches, max dose Tylenol (4g/daily), max dose Naproxen (1.2 g/daily), Tramadol. FYI, Gabapentin and Lidocaine patches work really well for MY neuropathic pain :)

    After a year of this severe neck pain, I convinced my primary care doctor, with tears mind you, to give me a referral to my mom's spinal surgeon. My mom's spinal surgeon orders an MRI of my neck and lower back. The way my insurance works everything has to be approved by my primary care doctor. So my primary care doctor only approves the neck MRI. I met with my spinal surgeon to discuss the results. I have bulging discs at C5, C6, and C7 with many osteophytes. He said that given my family history I likely have Degenerative Disk Disease.

    After I got out of his office, I called up my husband at work and cried. Then I called up a few of my friends and cried. I cried for a few days. The diagnosis was devastating! I'm a young 26 year old, married, just finished pharmacy school and about to get my license, and ready to have kids. I have my whole life in front of me and now THIS!!!

    My husband has been really great about all of my health problems by the way. Through all the pain we've still managed to spend time together, and have sex as normal couples do. To be honest, being in severe pain doesn't put me in the mood XD However, I dealt with it, and when I was having a relatively GOOD day, we would get intimate.

    Now to answer some of your questions. Supposedly degenerative disk disease doesn't necessarily mean that all of your discs are going to degenerate. However, from my understanding, the discs that are degenerating tend to get worse. From the natural progression of things it sounds like discs go from bulging to herniation over time. It was my understanding that in DDD, the Nucleus Pulposus dehydrates over time, which leads to the bulging of the outer annular ligaments of the Annulus Fibrosus. With progressive nuclear dehydration, the annular fibers can crack and tear. This leads to herniation, which I assume is more painful than bulging. You can also get prolapse of the disc, which is also more painful.

    I read this somewhere. . . Supposedly as the discs bulge and herniate they release lots of inflammatory modulators. This causes much of the pain in DDD. As they keep dehydrating, they stop releasing inflammatory modulators. However, this process can take like 30 or so years :/

    It is not likely that your discs will heal, but I can not tell you this for sure. Talk to your doctor about that for more information. More than likely you will end up leading a life of chronic pain. . . However, the pain can be more effectively managed with better medications. There are neuropathic drugs, that in addition to anti-inflammatories, help better manage the pain. It takes a bit of playing around with, but eventually you'll find something that might make the pain more manageable. Most doctors are averse to prescribing opiates to young people with chronic pain because you can build up tolerance over time, which leads to whopping doses of opiates. Tramadol is an option, which is a partial opiate, but not as strong as Vicodin. It's like Vicodin's weak little sister :P Doctors are more willing to prescribe it because it's not controlled and has a low potential of addiction, unlike opiates.

    Cortisone shots are a very strong anti-inflammatory drug. They do not make the pain go away permanently, but if they work, they can make the pain go away for several months. Perhaps even a year or more ;) My mom just got one in her neck and it's doing miracles. However, you have to get it done by the right person or it might not work. She had two of them previously and they did nothing. . . Anyway, that's what my spinal surgeon is recommending, so I'm really excited! Just have to wait to get the insurance worked out for it :)

    About surgery. . . So my spinal surgeon told me that my discs weren't bulging bad enough for surgery yet, and I told him I agreed. The problem is that surgery has mixed results. My mom has had 4-5 back/neck operations, and they have made her life infinitely better. To me, when the pain gets so bad you can barely get out of bed, then it's time for surgery. When you DREAM of literally cutting yourself open and removing that disc, then it's time for surgery. Yes, the pain gets so bad you may have those desires. Prior to my mom's first surgery, she did. Until then it's best to exhaust all other options. Another issue is that disc removal and spinal fusion can put more pressure on the discs below and above the one(s) that were removed. This can lead to even MORE surgeries. This is the benefit of artificial disc implants, but those are very new at this point and few insurances cover the cost for them. I think because some of them aren't FDA approved? I'm not sure about that. Anyway, I'm hoping that I'm able to put off surgery for another 10-15 years. Perhaps by then they'll be able to perfect artificial disk implants. One can hope, right?

    Are your crunchies related to the bulge? That's possible, but more than likely you had some genetic predisposition to cause such a thing. Now that you've been diagnosed with DDD, I would not do any activity that harms your neck. Poor posture and other activities that cause tension on the neck/back can accelerate the process of DDD, but I'm sure there are lots of people out there doing hundreds of crunchies a day that are in their 20s and don't have DDD. I did nothing to cause mine. . .

    Can you have children and a normal married life? Yes, I don't think having DDD is a death sentence. Yes, your life will be more difficult. Yes, you will have hardships, but that's what life is. If your fiancee really loves you I think she'll be willing to accept this, but you have to explain things to her. My husband has accepted all of this over time. I'm not able to go out and do things like normal people. I spend most of my free time in bed curled up with a heating pad, as this makes me feel better. Some days are okay and I can do stuff, and some days it's all I can do to get out of bed. Of course, when I had work (I'm on break now as I just graduated) I got out of bed whether I felt like it or not. I told my mom, you can either be miserable at home, or miserable making money, why not make some money ;) My mom, with her multiple spinal fusions and chronic back pain, still teaches ballet 5 days a week! Of course, she doesn't do much of the actual dancing anymore, she has assistants for that, but I think that's pretty darn good! I'm proud of her and she's a role model for me. She told me she didn't want to let the disease become her life. Her own mother had many diseases and let them rule her life and that was something she never wanted to do.

    It will be easier for you and your fiancee to have children then it will be for me and my husband. I'm on several medications that are Category C and D, which can cause harm to the fetus. To get pregnant, I have to get off of all the medications but Tylenol and Lidocaine. I don't know if I can manage that so I'm going to see a high risk OB and talk to her about something stronger for the pain. I'm not sure Tramadol is the best option. Anyway, if I can do it, you can do it for sure :) My husband and I joke that it would be much easier for him to have the baby XD If only. . . He's healthy and on no medicines!

    Okay, that's not an answer to all of your questions, but I think this post is long enough :P You can PM me if you have an more questions. I'm a soon to be pharmacist so I know a lot about medications, but I know you're not supposed to give medical advice on this site :/
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  • Where you at in chicago kid? South burbs here". As tam tam said, Dont jump the gun. It may not be as bad as it sounds. You might have to make some life adjustments but hopefuly its not so serious. My back problems also started just before i got married at around 28 or 29 years of age. But being in construction work might not of helped my situation later in the years to come. Just consult with a good neuro or ortho dr and maybe with some pt and alternative treatment you can get by. Good luck
    Flexicore ADR 2004 resulting nerve damage l4l5 Fusion 2006 same level, 2009 hardware removal with lami !
    2012 scs implant ,
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