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Doctor says surgery even though my symptoms are minimal - I need help making up my mind!!

beeveesbbeevees Posts: 13
edited 11/01/2015 - 9:02 PM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
Hi all,

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!! :)
B


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.



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1

Comments

  • When I was trying to decide what to do about a Pars fracture in my low back, I ended up getting 5 different neurosurgery consultations. I realize that was on the extreme end of things. I think a second opinion might help you to make a decision. The best question I ever asked my Surgeon was "What will happen if I do nothing"... I found when I had several different people all agreeing that the treatment would be the best way to help...that I felt more confident. I'd ask around to your friends/neighbors and find a second MD that can review things with you! Good Luck.
  • I also was just told I need surgery for a very large herniated disc touching the spinal cord at C6-C7. If I don't I will be looking at wheelchair. I am going ahead with it as I don't like the other option. Touching a nerve is one thing but squishing are spinal cord to me was another. My surgeon doesn't need the business I'm told. I am so scared . I wish I could
    Juat relax and just accept it. I knower spangly 4 people that had it and are doing fine. I seem to be focusing on the bad cases and not the successes.
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  • I agree that a second (or third!) opinion is always a good idea. I would not have known about my degeneration had I not thought I had a rotator cuff tear andy primary doc sent me for x-rays and then to a spine surgeon. My surgeon, his PA, and my PT look at my MRI and could not believe my symptoms were not much worse and that I was functioning almost normally. Had I been in a car accident or taken a fall I could have been paralyzed or worse the compression was that bad. I feel lucky I found out when I did!! I had a 3 level acdf on Sept. 28 and have now begun PT.
  • SavageSavage United StatesPosts: 7,385
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  • beeveesbbeevees Posts: 13
    edited 11/02/2015 - 4:02 PM
    Lvn86 said:
    I also was just told I need surgery for a very large herniated disc touching the spinal cord at C6-C7. If I don't I will be looking at wheelchair. I am going ahead with it as I don't like the other option. Touching a nerve is one thing but squishing are spinal cord to me was another. My surgeon doesn't need the business I'm told. I am so scared . I wish I could
    Juat relax and just accept it. I knower spangly 4 people that had it and are doing fine. I seem to be focusing on the bad cases and not the successes.
    Did you have any symptoms related to the herniated disc like radiating pain or numbness? How did they find out about the herniated disc? Stay strong. From what I've been reading, so many people seem to be getting the surgery done, so I'm sure you will be fine. I also found a bunch of post-surgery recovery videos of people who have gone through with the surgery and they all seem positive.
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  • lorijo3 said:
    I agree that a second (or third!) opinion is always a good idea. I would not have known about my degeneration had I not thought I had a rotator cuff tear andy primary doc sent me for x-rays and then to a spine surgeon. My surgeon, his PA, and my PT look at my MRI and could not believe my symptoms were not much worse and that I was functioning almost normally. Had I been in a car accident or taken a fall I could have been paralyzed or worse the compression was that bad. I feel lucky I found out when I did!! I had a 3 level acdf on Sept. 28 and have now begun PT.
    Thanks for the reply! Good to hear you are doing well post surgery. Do you notice any changes in your voice? Have your symptoms improved after surgery?

    I've shown my mri to 4 surgeons so far. Two of them said I had to get surgery asap. 1 said it's a tough call and the 3rd one said he wouldn't recommend surgery unless I was beginning to show symptoms of paralysis, and that he had several patients with similar herniation who live a full life with no issues....
  • RunnerHKT said:
    When I was trying to decide what to do about a Pars fracture in my low back, I ended up getting 5 different neurosurgery consultations. I realize that was on the extreme end of things. I think a second opinion might help you to make a decision. The best question I ever asked my Surgeon was "What will happen if I do nothing"... I found when I had several different people all agreeing that the treatment would be the best way to help...that I felt more confident. I'd ask around to your friends/neighbors and find a second MD that can review things with you! Good Luck.
    Thanks for the reply! Yes, I'll be sure to take my time in deciding :)
  • I had a laminectomy/disectomy last fall 9/15 and things went well with recovery but my legs never felt right. This past summer I started getting random pins/needles all over my body. I would get a patch in my groin then on my butt. Then my upper back would go numb. I was trying to workout and it got worse. Also it's like a veil is on my calves. This does come and go. Not in much pain just some shoulder aches. My arms get pins and needles and hands don't feel right. The MRI showed a severe disc herniation. I must say I didn't get another surgeons opinion but a couple friends are doctors and they looked at it and agreed. My surgeon said I could end up in wheelchair without it . I don't want to risk it. He said this will stop the progression but maybe I'll still have the numbness and pins and needles. He also is surprised my meloypthy isn't farther along. Things can change to the worse very quickly. I pray I'm doing the right thing. Lauren
  • So sorry you're going through this. This is kind of the dilemma I was in 9 years ago when surgery was mentioned the first time. 3 bulging discs back then pushing on cord. I tried epidurals, which you stated is not an option, and I THOUGHT they worked because the pain directly in my neck went away. I'm currently recovering from a 3 level fusion C4-7 with a vert removed at 5 with a cage (?), with the plate and hardware. I have been a long term "firbromyalgia" patient and every ache, pain, strain, spasm, limp, fatigue, twitch, tingle, shock, irritable bowel, migraines and possible weird sensation has been blamed on my fibromyalgia for all these years. I had this surgery because I lost function in my arm overnight which is NOT a fibromyalgia symptom. It was 3 herniated discs and several bone spurs pushing the cord and pretty good stenosis. What we didn't realize was I was already losing function in my legs and it was showing in my gait, which we interpreted as fatigue due to the fibromyalgia. And my leaking bladder was down to my age. Now I feel like dancing. Since my surgery not only do I have my arm completely back but many of my other symptoms are GONE. Gone gone gone. Do I wish I could go back in time and have that surgery 9 years ago to avoid all this suffering and deterioration? Yes, if I knew. I don't know. I didn't trust that surgeon like the amazing one I have now. But I also didn't seek any additional opinions and I didn't understand the interconnectedness of my body and what it was trying to tell me. LISTEN to your body, do you notice ANYTHING else out of whack. Things you might not think are related to you neck might be. And in my opinion they don't ask enough about what's going on with our other parts so tell them, because we don't have medical degrees. Get other opinions and a fantastic surgeon. I was terrified before the surgery. Now I'm absolutely thrilled and believe I'm being given a second chance at life. I wish you all the best and will keep you in my prayers.

  • Lvn86 said:

    I had a laminectomy/disectomy last fall 9/15 and things went well with recovery but my legs never felt right. This past summer I started getting random pins/needles all over my body. I would get a patch in my groin then on my butt. Then my upper back would go numb. I was trying to workout and it got worse. Also it's like a veil is on my calves. This does come and go. Not in much pain just some shoulder aches. My arms get pins and needles and hands don't feel right. The MRI showed a severe disc herniation. I must say I didn't get another surgeons opinion but a couple friends are doctors and they looked at it and agreed. My surgeon said I could end up in wheelchair without it . I don't want to risk it. He said this will stop the progression but maybe I'll still have the numbness and pins and needles. He also is surprised my meloypthy isn't farther along. Things can change to the worse very quickly. I pray I'm doing the right thing. Lauren

    Hi Lauren, hope you are doing well. I'm curious whether you ended up getting the surgery and if so how did it go? 
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