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Dr. Says "Severe Arthritis C6-C7" - Confused & in Pain

WildewomanWWildewoman Posts: 30
edited 06/11/2012 - 7:56 AM in Neck Pain: Cervical
A week ago I had pain in my right neck & shoulder. Like a really bad stressful day. A couple days later my arm was painful & my fingers numb.

Nothing helped the pain. Went in and saw my doctor. She ordered x-rays & today she told me the results.

I am only 52 & work full time. We are very active!! I can't believe this diagnosis!!

The x-ray reads:

Degenerative disk disease fairly severe at
C5-C6 with narrowing, marginal spurring, and equivocal
retrolisthesis. There is also some narrowing and anterior
spurring at C6-C7. There is some lateral spurring bilaterally at
these levels.

I feel like this is a death sentence!! I am in pain & now I feel like an old person.

We leave for Kona in 14 days. I am an advanced SCUBA diver & have a few trips planned. We also are an doing ATV tour. Should I cancel these?

My doctor has recommended that I see a physical medicine doctor.

Please give me some hope.




  • :SS I used to teach golf and last September 2011 had an ACDF C4/5/6 to get rid of similar pain to yours but unfortunately pain returned a few months ago so now my Spinal Surgeon is going to fuse facet joints at C5/6 and C6/7. Xray does not show the problems and you will need a MRI scan to ascertain just what is causing the pain. I have also had a PLIF + rebuild operation in December 2008. I live in the UK and attend a wonderful NHS hospital where the best Spinal experts practise. You certainly need to ask your Doctor for pain relief. Please send private message if you wish more information from me. Regards from across the pond in UK!!
  • Thanks. I have asked my doctor for more pain meds. But I work full time & need to be alert.

    I see the specialist next week.
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  • Welcome to Spine-Health. If you look around the site, you will find a lot of medical information as well as information and support from many going through something similar. I have found the site very helpful.

    I'm 52 as well,and have had "degenerative disc disease" which is not really a disease but some call it arthritis of the spine. Arthritis can affect people of any age. You can look up the definition of the terms you were given. I have had progressive narrowing of many discs for over 10 years. It wasn't until this year that things had progressed far enough that surgery was recommended - because of impingement of the spinal chord. I don't see that mentioned in your description. I am not a doctor, but maybe there was inflammation that caused irritation to a nerve that resulted in the pain and numbness.

    There are lots of ways to treat neck pain, including but not limited to nothing, pain medication or muscle relaxants, physical therapy, acupuncture, massage, cervical injections, and finally surgery. I wouldn't go to a chiropractor until a doctor says it's ok.

    It's up to your doctor, but I say go to Kona and relax and enjoy yourself. Relaxation can be great for the body. I would recommend asking your doctors about what could make the flights more comfortable. They sell little bean bag pillows that you can put behind your neck to support it. You can try to do gentle exercises.

    Kona is so unique, with the fields of old lava rock. The state park is fascinating. I do remember there were some really good snorkeling areas. Enjoy yourself!

    PM me if you wish.
    4 level ACDF C4-C7 5-2-11, laminectomy & discectomy L4-L5 1/26/12, ALIF L4-5, L5-S1 12/10/12.
  • Thanks!! I have calmed down since my doctors e-mailed me. It seemed I went from a fit 52 year old who runs daily, SCUBA dives (yes we are diving on Kona - a night dive with Manta Rays)

    and a week later I have arthritis of the neck.

    I will see the specialist next week & I have a PT appointment the following week.

    Thanks for all the info. I will go look around this forum.
  • I'm a soon to be 50 YO woman who dives and has continued to dive despite DDD, multiple surgeries, muscle atrophy, nerve damage yada yada yada ... Oh of course don't forget my spiffy Spinal Cord Stimulator that buzzes away underwater just as well as it does above the water.

    Diving makes me feel so much better physically, mentally and emotionally. There are things that one can do to minimize discomfort from our spine issues as well as concerns with medications we generally take. In Kona you will most likely be boat diving, so instead of doing a seated back roll entry, do a giant stride off the back of the boat. Be cautious of dives deeper than 60 feet if you are taking any medications that cause sedation or possibility of impaired judgement. Another way to add safety into your diving, is to use Nitrox.

    Talk to your doc and see what he/she says.

    Another thing I do for added comfort when traveling by air, is to get something from the doc to help relax me on the flight as well as a day or two after returning home. I would generally get some pain meds and a good muscle relaxer from the doc specifically for the trip.

    Now here's the one kicker to all of this. This would be the line you would get from the Divers Alert Network hotline ... if you have pain and numbness in a limb before you dive or get it periodically, then you put yourself at risk of not recognizing or acknowledging the signs and symptoms of DCS. So if after a few dives your shoulder, neck and arm start to hurt and fingers tingle ... how do you know if it is from your neck or from a case of DCS.

    Hope this helps and let us know what your doc says.

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  • Thanks "C".

    I never thought of that for diving. I am only doing a set of 2 tank dives. DH doesn't dive so I like to do things that we both can do - but I like to get a good dive in wherever we go.

    Last October I was diagnosed with DDD & a herniated disc in my lumbar spine. I went form Tylenol to Morphin in less than 2 weeks. Finally has a shot of anti-inflammatory in the spine & the pain got better.

    I have been living with chronic pain in my lower back since - nothing like the severe pain I had.

    I had to stop running for awhile & gained a few pounds - all that led to a little depression. Started running again & felt much better.

    Now my neck!! Do you think they are all related?

    I will look into some muscle relaxers for the plane ride - 5 hours in coach!!
  • I think there are as many theories and opinions on whether a person with lumbar issues will eventually have cervical issues, as there are people to read them. Kind of like which came first, the chicken or the egg. Our lives are so full of activities and events that take a toll on the spine, who can really say with any amount of certainty.

    Ugh, 5 hours in coach should be illegal!

    I too have found that being active is so good for me mentally and emotionally, that I am willing to give a little when it comes to physical comfort or discomfort. I have found that I actually hurt more when my level of activity drops.

    Nice that your hubby is understanding enough that you can get in a few dives when you go places.

  • Hi Linda -

    I'm 47 woman. In my case I had neck issues from a car accident in 1990. Except for a stiff neck, did pretty good all these years after it. But then 4 months ago out of a sound sleep woke feeling like I had a knife in my back and completely numb left arm. Very scary. Did all the meds, steroids. Went to PT which helped just a little. Went to a pain doc and did 3 epidurals. Each helped, and I could use left arm again and knife in back feeling gone. But my neck pain was horrible, putting muscle rubs on it easily 15 times a day. Unfortunately for me the epidurals started to wear off after just one month. I had many bone spurs which had grown into my nerve root, and 3 herniated disks, C6-7 almost bone to bone. I was scared to death of the surgery. But I'm so glad I did. I had 3 level fusion on 8-29-11. I'm almost 3 week post op. Doc said my MRI looked like one of a woman so much older than I am!

    Now we did go on vacation in the middle of all this - in between 2 epidurals actually. And worse, it was a long road trip, driving from Orlando to Austin TX. Best for me was to lay on ice packs for some of the long stretches. But I was determined to make the best of it. Does ice help you? Find gel ice packs at your pharmacy. Keep several on ice and handy. Ice has been my very best friend before surgery and for the first few weeks afterward. I also work full time (on disability now) and the Rx meds for pain/muscle relax made me so sleepy and dizzy I couldn't take them and drive. That is why I relied heavily on the muscle rubs out there. I would definitely go on your trip, but bring along items that help reduce pain.

    One other note, during my PT I learned about a TENS unit - it somehow block some of the pain. You use it for about 15 minutes and it continued to block pain for me for quite a while afterward. I ended up buying a home unit. For me it was AMAZING how good I owuld feel afterward. Ask your doctor about it. Let us know how you are doing!

  • I am not a Dr. but I have had this condition for over 10 years and I am only 47. You can make it go away if the damage is not too severe. But it will take time to heal. For now, Ice it for 30 minutes, then no ice for 30 then 30 minutes again. Do this at least 3x a day. Don't take steroids epidurals, etc. It only masks the pain. Motrin is okay. Do Physical Therapy, get a good pillow, sleep on your back. Get a really good message with heat done prior.
    I had the same pain flare up 10 years ago, I did PT, acupuncture, then yoga and it completely went away for 10 years. Of course I was on the computer 14 hours a day which is why I had it in the first place. I do a lot less hours on the computer. I stopped doing yoga and it came back after a ski trip.

    Cancel that ATV to avoid bouncing up and down, compressing the spine. It will only aggravate it. Do as much muscle strengthening around the spine with PT before your trip. Stay less stressed, if possible, it only aggravates the nerves. Find a physical therapy that specializes in spine therapy if you can because they will have the right equipment to give you the proper treatment. Good Luck! We go to Kona every year. What a great place!
  • Matt46052MMatt46052 Posts: 1
    edited 10/20/2015 - 3:26 PM
    I'm so happy to have found this blog! I'm in facilities management by trade so I do a lot of strenuous work. I just turned 37 and 2yrs ago a [edit]said I have arthritis in my upper spine?! I was shoveling snow and for a week my neck hurt and my fingers were going numb. At the time I was lifting weights regularly and thought I just pulled a muscle. I've had an mri and x-rays. All she does is prescribe steroids and I haven't lifted weights in 2 years. It's depressing. She said that all the sports and work (bailing hay) when I was younger probably caused it. I've dealt with the pain I can't take pain relievers. Just today I've had a "flare up". I also have sciatica. Anybody have advice to get me better that doesn't involve cortisone?
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