I've read a lot of posts on here from people who have or are going to get ACDF surgery and I love the support system on here, so I thought I'd post here because I'm a bit indecisive at this point.
I'm a 28 year old active female. About a year ago I woke up with a stiff neck. My shoulders were also incredibly tight. When I bend my head down, sometimes it would pull from the middle of my right upper arm. I can't look too far to the right or left. If I turn my head suddenly in either direction it would hurt (which is extremely limiting and makes driving difficult). I can also not lift heavy items as this would also cause pain in my neck/shoulders. I tried ice and heat initially and seeing that nothing was working, I went to my primary care who prescribed me muscle relaxants and anti inflammatory, none of which worked. He then suggested physical therapy, which I tried about 6 months after it first got stiff, but that didn't help either (tried it for 6 weeks). Throughout the whole period, I continued working out, only giving it a break for a couple of weeks whenever I felt my neck was getting too bad.
At around the 7th month mark, I went to a specialist who asked me to get an MRI. From the MRI he said that I had a fairly bad herniated disc at C5-C6 and a smaller one at C6-C7 and that it was pressing against my spinal cord mainly on the right side, and that I need the ACDF surgery. He said he wasn't even going to suggest injections in my case and wanted me to come see him in 2 weeks to further discuss surgery.
I asked him if it would fix my stiff neck and he said he wasn't sure. He said a stiff neck wasn't a symptom of the type of herniated disc that I had and that he wasn't sure why my neck was stiff. At this point I didn't have any radiating pain or numbness in the arm. So I held off from thinking too much about surgery because I felt like he wasn't interested in treating what I went there for, but found a new condition that I had that I didn't have any symptoms for.
About a month after that, I was walking across the room one morning, and all of a sudden my neck cramped up really bad and as the day progressed, the stiffness became too much (it was cold that day). This was on a Saturday. On Sunday I decided to go to the walk-in clinic and they prescribed me pain pills. The stiffness went back to my normal level of stiffness over the next few days. Next I went to an Ortho doctor who said I probably just had muscle stiffness and he prescribed me physical therapy (he saw my MRI as well). I went to physical therapy again, and on day 2, my hand started feeling numb when they had me do certain exercises (chin tucks). Seeing this they said that I should go see a specialist and cancel all my PT sessions. So I saw another spine specialist and once again he said I should get surgery asap, even though he doesn't think it would fix my stiff neck.
So my dilemma now is, if I didn't have a stiff neck, they would have never got this MRI done and seen my herniated disc. I wonder how many of us are walking around with herniated discs which only occasionally cause them minor inconvenience? Is it really important to get surgery asap? I do realize a herniated disc can pinch and cause nerve inflammation which can cause the symptoms that I'm experiencing - so if I just get a cortisone injection and my stiff neck is fixed, can I go my whole life with the disc pressing against my spine as long as I monitor it and make sure the numbness in the arm and symptoms related to spinal compression are not getting worse?
Over the past few days, I have noticed that my right arm does have a verrry slight tingling feeling to it and it does feel heavy sometimes. But I'm not 100% certain if it's not all in my head especially since I've been reading so much about the symptoms of cervical stenosis and myelopathy.
I really do want to fix my stiff neck because it is preventing me from doing everything I love like running, working out and lifting weights (I only lift 15lbs to 30lbs max - just a regular person who works out to stay active). So if surgery is not going to fix my stiff neck, should I even put myself through this surgery? Of course I don't want to wake up paralyzed one day because I didn't do this surgery either. I guess the main question is, should I jump and get surgery done when I don't even necessarily have the symptoms, and instead just make do with some cortisone injection for my stiffness??
Another main concern for not getting surgery is, I've been a singer all my life.... so the idea of someone messing with my vocal chords is scary (vain, but still scary) - but of course if I had to choose between avoiding paralysis and not being able to sing, I would pick avoiding paralysis without a second thought. But is it really that drastic?? Somehow my condition just doesn't feel that drastic.
I realize it's just people like me on this forum, but it's been difficult trying to make a decision. So I wanted to get some general thoughts from people who have also probably done a tonne of research on this topic using Dr. Google.
Thanks a lot everyone!!
There are no medical professionals on the forum side of this site. Therefore everything you read is based on the personal experiences and/or research done by the individual member. Comments should never be taken as pure medical facts. You need to discuss this with your doctor. They are the only ones that can provide you with detailed information about you, the patient.