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Bruce - My Story

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.


Bruce

Read my story at Bruce - My Story
ACDF C4-C5-C6-C7, and getting better every day
It has been a process of healing, learning, exercising, and resting - and figuring out when to do which.

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Comments

  • Bruce EitmanBruce Eitman Akron, OH, USAPosts: 1,510
    And the rest of the story:

    I begin to notice pain at my left collar bone and right pelvis.  I don't think much about them because my shoulder blade hurts much more.

    In June of 2015, a year and a half after surgery, I finally talk to my doctor one more time.  This time I was very frank, I said that nobody was listening to me, he seems to think that the problem is the surgeons and the surgeon, well he just doesn't seem to care - but the surgery is over so I should expect that.  I am referred to a sports medicine doctor.

    The sports medicine doctor starts trying to figure out why my shoulder blade hurts.  He starts with a trigger point injection, which doesn't help.  He does an X-Ray.  He has me start PT again, argh.  My pinky finger starts to go numb and tingle and I get new muscle spasms in my right arm.  It didn't take much to learn that these symptoms can be caused by a pinched nerve at C4-C5 the disc that I expected would be fused but wasn't.

    I call my surgeon.  I haven't seen the surgeon for almost 7 months so they treat me like a new patient and can't set up an appointment for 2 months, but if I can get an MRI prescribed by another doctor, then I can get in sooner.  I call the sports medicine doctor, didn't hear back for a couple of days so I call my PCP.  Both get back to me on the same day and set up appointments for the MRI.

    The MRI is my golden ticket to get into the surgeon.  This time I see the surgeon.  Still not so good at going over the MRI, but he sees two things; disk bulge causing stenosis at C4-C5 and the fusion at C6-C7 is fused, but not quite right.  He requests a CT Scan to see the fusion better. 

    A few weeks later on September 14, I have a physical with my PCP.  He hears a heart murmur  and wants met to get an Echocardiogram.  The next day I have the next
    surgeon appointment.  He says that we should redo C6-C7 - whoa, what about C4-C5?  He looks and oh yes we should do that also.  We set the surgery for October 23.

    A week later, I have the Echo.  Long story short, I have a couple of bad heart valves.  We now must race to do some more tests to be approved for surgery!  My cardiologist was awesome and did everything necessary to help me get the surgery and feel good about it.

    On the surgery day, I start by leaving my collar on the kitchen table - luckily it is only a few miles away for my wife to go back and get it, and she didn't kill me right then and
    there.  But I told the anesthesiologist about my trouble waking up on the last surgery, so they did something different.  I was up and feeling great shortly after surgery - I even remember going into surgery and starting to get things set up right to the point where they put the mask on.

    Pelvis and collar bone pain are immediately gone.  Shoulder blade continues to hurt.

    This time, we used bone from my pelvis.  So that hurt more, and lasts awhile because it is on my belt line and I am too dumb to were more comfortable pants.  I take two weeks off this time, then start back to work half days.

    In January, my should blade hurts so much that I contact my PCP and surgeon.  They prescribe different muscle relaxers, but I only pick up one from the pharmacy.  The day I started to take it, the pain became so bad that I went to an urgent care.  They gave me enough Valium to get through the weekend until I could see my PCP.  I learn that the pain is muscle spasms and more important finally find Spine-Heath.com!

    At my three month follow-up, the NP asks if the surgeon talked to me about a bone growth stimulator (BGS) .  I start to wear a BGS 4 hours a day for 3 months - although it took a month to get the BGS.  At my 7 month follow-up, I have fused and stop wearing the BGS.

    While my shoulder blade pain is not completely gone, it is much better and continues to get better.  No PT this time, but I have done stretching which helped with neck muscle pain and range of motion.

    Bruce

    Read my story at Bruce - My Story
    ACDF C4-C5-C6-C7, and getting better every day
    It has been a process of healing, learning, exercising, and resting - and figuring out when to do which.

  • Ellen625EEllen625 New Jersey, USPosts: 757
    Yikes! Glad you are feeling better this time around. 
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  • Bruce EitmanBruce Eitman Akron, OH, USAPosts: 1,510
    Thanks Ellen.  I don't think that I expected a yikes from you!

    Bruce

    Read my story at Bruce - My Story
    ACDF C4-C5-C6-C7, and getting better every day
    It has been a process of healing, learning, exercising, and resting - and figuring out when to do which.

  • Ellen625EEllen625 New Jersey, USPosts: 757
    Haha, it's one of my favorite words!
  • Wow! You have been through the ringer! Makes my story pale in comparrison. I am glad that you are doing as well as can be now, how is the heart? You had some scary stuff take place. 

    I hope you find shoulder relief and all goes as smoothly as possible from hear on out. I am shocked that your surgeon dismissed you so quickly. I am nearly four months out from my acdf and my surgeon is still seeing me with each postop visit. I see the NP and him each time. He is very involved with the process. Maybe I got an oddball. 

    All in all I am glad to read the experiences of others, lets me know I am not alone. Best to you and hope you can find a way to feel as normal as possible. 
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  • Bruce EitmanBruce Eitman Akron, OH, USAPosts: 1,510

    See, I thought you story was worse...

    I am working on the heart thing. I see a new Cardiologist on Aug 12, to talk about surgery.  Only switching because we have a great hospital for heart surgery 30 minutes to the north, so I need to see doctors there.

    Don't get me wrong about my surgeon, I wouldn't see anybody else - but for office visits I would chose the NP.

    Bruce

    Read my story at Bruce - My Story
    ACDF C4-C5-C6-C7, and getting better every day
    It has been a process of healing, learning, exercising, and resting - and figuring out when to do which.

  • Keep us posted on the heart. I wish you all the best. Scary stuff, you are in my opinion very strong to be able to deal with all this and share your experiences. 

    Fingers crossed for your up coming cardio visit. 
  • Bruce EitmanBruce Eitman Akron, OH, USAPosts: 1,510
    Thanks Munkzilla.  I will be posting about my cardio visit(s), but a bit off topic...  I only hope that I can find a forum like this one to discuss my heart.

    Bruce

    Read my story at Bruce - My Story
    ACDF C4-C5-C6-C7, and getting better every day
    It has been a process of healing, learning, exercising, and resting - and figuring out when to do which.

  • Ohio1967Ohio1967 MichiganPosts: 19
    edited 07/26/2016 - 6:19 PM
    Wow Bruce, that sucks... my story is way to long, been living with herniated disk since 98,  tried to get help for many yrs, kinda got the feeling the doc thought I was trying to get out of work, even had 1tell  me, it was all in my head, lost my left kidney due to [Edit] doctors in 08...I also have cervical stenosis,  that was confirmed few yrs back...i avoided the surgeries because I didn't feel I was lucky enough to have it work for me and didn't want to lose anymore mobility then I'd already lost from the pain that my muscles have been absorbing all those yrs, went seen my reg doc yesterday...and was she ever [Edit] at the lack of concern about losing the use of my right arm, she did apologize for her language...I also have been getting alot of shoulder blade pain, feels like a painful knot...my upper arm hurts something horrible, from trying to use it...feels like constant arthritis pain...I see PT next wk for evaluation to begin therapy on my Rt arm, my doc says to let her know a wk into therapy, if no change, another MRI, she had never heard of a bruised c-5 nerve during surgery, she has heard of ripped rotor cuff during surgery...I'm finally able to eat and drink with out choking...that was a nitemare, I'd choke on water that I needed to take my pain meds with...I don't remember much about my recovery....i think I woke crying from pain, I remember hearing someone say, they had already given me 4 Valium and morphine, then pass out, wake up crying in pain...next thing I'm being wheeled to my room...I am nervous about the back surgery, the L4 is herniated, L5 is ruptured...the problem is the nerve is being pinched off, that controls my bladder...the nerve in my neck was also being pinched off, if it were not for the bladder problem, I wouldn't have gotten the surgery at all ...

  • Ohio1967Ohio1967 MichiganPosts: 19
    I can't sit on those damn bleachers either, I pay for it next day or 2 after,. Stiff neck and back....did the surgeries make sitting in the bleachers any better?
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