I may not be a new member, but I decided that it was time to tell my story.
In 2008, I was sitting at my desk when my thumb and pointer finger went numb and started tingling. I was concerned, but didn't act right away - it was a Thursday. By Monday, I was starting to get very concerned, so I made a doctor's appointment. My doctor ordered X-Rays and an EMG test. He said something about arthritis and prescribed Naproxen Sodium and Flexeril (and anti-inflammatory and muscle relaxer) and soon after the symptoms went away.
For the next four years, I didn't have any more problems with my hand. But when I went to the kids basketball games I was uncomfortable sitting on bleachers with body forward and head back - you know, how people sit on bleachers.
Again, I didn't do what I should have done which is visit my doctor. The pain persisted and over the next month I gained new pains in my right arm. I hid the pain from my co-workers, but even they began to ask questions because I guess that it was obvious that I was in pain. Then my thumb and pointer finger went numb and started to tingle - the aha moment.
End of April 2013 I finally called the doctor and the fun begins. I asked what I thought was an innocent question, "I assume that one day I will need neck surgery, would it be better to do that now while I am young rather than wait?" He quickly referred me to an Orthopedic Surgeon.
The doctor also gives me a prescription for Physical Therapy (PT). I start PT right away, difficult to get to because I travel a lot, but when in town it is just a block from my office. We start TENS, massage and strengthening. Really the only thing that it does for me is give me some relief from the pain but short lived - but I need it after travel.
On a follow up appointment with my doctor, I ask what I should expect from PT to which he tells me that probably the only thing will be some relief. In this same visit, he prescribes Lyrica. Lyrica negatively affected my mind, I start to worry that I will do something at work and get fired. The final straw was that I couldn't remember my office address when I was ordering office furniture - called the doctor and stopped taking Lyrica. I am thankful that I took it, it was the right thing for me at the time but I am even more thankful to have stopped taking it. It took me another year to get over taking Lyrica, which might just have been getting my mind to move on.
The earliest appointment that I could get with the surgeon was a month away - and the pain played on as I waited. The day finally came, and I was very excited because today I would be able to ask the surgeon my question and I was beginning to think that surgery was my only option. In walked a Nurse Practitioner (NP) something that I had never heard of before, so all I heard was nurse and not seeing the surgeon today - I was so angry… I didn't get to ask my question and didn't get to have a discussion with the surgeon, just a nurse. I did get a prescription for an MRI and another appointment with the surgeon.
I get the MRI and go to the surgeon a month and a half later. After waiting almost 4 hours in the waiting room, in walks the nurse again. This time, we talked more. She showed the MRI to me and knocked my socks off with how much detail she showed me and explained everything that was wrong with my neck. As I understood her, this awesome Nurse Practitioner who I now have complete respect for, I had three bulging discs; C4-C5, C5-C6 and C6-C7. She wants to schedule surgery, but I am a stubborn fool - I am very busy at work and December would be a better time for me, so let's try to avoid surgery. I ask if an inversion table would help. No, but traction would, so I receive a prescription for a traction device.
PT fills the prescription for the cervical traction device. I start to call it my new best friend because it goes everywhere with me - not something that my family understands or appreciates. Using it makes my life tolerable, it seems to help the discs and if they weren't as bad as they were could possibly allowed me to avoid surgery.
In September, I finally made an appointment to plan the surgery. I finally get to meet the surgeon. Not particularly friendly but does go over my MRI. He doesn't go anywhere into the detail that his NP did in July. We schedule surgery for Dec 2. The Monday after US thanksgiving and I make plans to take the month of December off from work. We didn't really discuss what his plan was, other than it would be ACDF using cadaver bone - but which disks? I assumed (never assume) that it would be C4-C7 - three levels.
December 2, while being prepared for surgery the surgeon stops by. He says that we will be doing 2 levels, I say "only 2 levels" and he says yes. I am a bit surprised by assume (never assume) that he knows best.
Surgery goes well, he does ACDF on C5-C7. I have a hard time waking up, in fact I don't remember anything from before going to the surgery room to going to my room upstairs - nothing from the recovery room. I finally am aware of being awake almost 12 hours after surgery. The pain and numbness are gone! I start walking that night - life is good. I stayed for two nights because I was still draining.
After a week, I feel great but am tired. A good friend who works at my sons school calls to ask if I want to stuff envelops for a fund raiser. She drives me to and from the school. This keeps my mind going and it is fun. I spend a few hours and then take a nap at home.
At my two week surgeon appointment, I meet with the NP who is just fantastic. She tells me that I can start driving and can stop wearing the soft collar. I start PT.
PT just was never right post surgery. I start to have a love/hate relationship with it. After travel it helps with the muscle spasms (which at the time I just knew as pain) but the strengthen training seems to keep causing a strange pain at the base of my neck. I start to have pains in my legs. I talked with the PT, the trainer, my doctor and my surgeon about this, but nobody had answers. I asked the surgeon if it could be swelling, he thought about it for a few seconds, and said maybe - but didn't do anything.
This keeps going for months. Finally in July, my PT finally said that maybe I should take some time off. Finally I start to get better but the shoulder blade pain hangs on.