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Doctor refuses to believe my symptoms

Hi All,

I had a disappointing appointment with a Orthopedic surgeon, who specializes in cervical spine and is highly rated in this area. I have a c5-c6 herniation and bulging at the c3 c4 level. My pain levels have gradually increased over the last year to the point that I am close to going on disability at work. When he asked me about my symptoms, I mentioned that I have some of the common symptoms (pain shooting down arms, pain in the trap and shoulders etc) However one of my worst symptoms is pain that shoots down into my upper/mid chest and simultaneously down my upper back - this only happens when i bend my neck forward and look downwards. So doing a chin to chest is excruciatingly painful as the pain is like an electric shock that travels from the neck into the chest and mid back. As I was explaining my symptoms, the doc abruptly cut me off and said that these particular symptoms are literally impossible to have as none of the cervical nerve roots travel to the chest. He then went into a rant about pain management and physical therapy and swiftly kicked me out. I am extremely frustrated and disappointed. Only someone living with this horrible pain can truly relate to these symptoms. I know my body and despite what the doctor told me I know for fact that my symptoms are real and stem from my neck. Have any of you experienced the same type of symptoms as a result of a cervical herniation? If so has your doctor taken you seriously?


  • Hello Arsi

    Welcome to Spine-Health
    Please click the welcome message below for more information and the resources available here.

    That chin to chest movement is a painfull one!
    Hope that you find an answer soon!
    William Garza
    Spine-Health Mod

    Welcome to Spine-Health

  • Hey Arsi,
         i have been going through allot of the same pains you described here, except mine stays more in my trap to shoulder area. My herniation is in the C3-4 area and bulging in the 5-6 area, I too got the pass off from an Orthopedic surgeon, didn't really seem too concerned that I was having the tingling, shocking, and numbness in my arm and shoulder with my neck feeling like I have a constant Tens unit cranked up to high. Nor did the pain down my left shoulder and arm seem too concerning, or the lost of strength. Prescribed muscle relaxers and opoids, one steroid Injection, a trip to a rheumatologist, almost another year of PT and pain then finally a trip to a Neurosurgeon. I now have an acdf C3-C4 scheduled for 2 Nov. I understand your frustration, it wasn't until the Neurosurgeon looked at the MRI and called me in for a consultation that I finally believed that someone saw the problem and understood the pain I was in. Good Luck hope you get some relief..

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  • Thanks Bill, I think I just need to go to a neurosurgeon instead of an orthopedic surgeon. Good luck with your surgery.
  • VirginiaPlainVVirginiaPlain MichiganPosts: 187
    edited 09/14/2016 - 7:00 AM
    I have had the same problem with the chest pain only I didn't have to look down to get it to happen. It was/is the most distressing part of the whole thing for me. Only because I was also met with puzzlement from a couple of doctors. They didn't say it was absurd to suggest it came from the cervical impingement or anything, but they kinda acted like that was unusual. None thought it was anything serious although I got one to order a ct scan of my chest because I thought I had a tumor or something. The scan was clear. If I rub the chest area that hurts I can make it go away sometimes. If I were you I would go to a neurologist. I'm sorry he wasn't that smart
  • dilaurodilauro ConnecticutPosts: 13,434
    Personally, I dont know of a cervical disc that would cause some of the chest pain you described.   But I do also know that the chin to chest movement is hard for those with prior ACDF surgery.   If I do that too long , I will get a stabbing pain in between my shoulder blades/

    When the pain is around the chest, there are two potential explainations
    • Muscle pull, tear, etc.   Acute and can be very painful
    • Thoracic disc problems, especially T2-T4
    Ron DiLauro Veritas-Health Forums Manager
    I am not a medical professional. I comment on personal experiences 
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  • Bruce EitmanBruce Eitman Akron, OH, USAPosts: 1,510

    I get it and fully understand that others don't - even our doctors.  I also was working with an Orthopedic surgeon.  It wasn't until I asked what if there is pressure on my spinal cord?  Then he looked a little perplexed and said yes, that could do it.  I hadn't yet learned the word "stenosis".

    I didn't have chest pain, but I did have shooting pains in my legs and pain at my hip.  Both couldn't possibly be from the neck, so I was told.  Both were resolved with my ACDF surgery last year.

    Get a second opinion, either from your orthopedic surgeon or another doctor, maybe a neurosurgeon.


    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.

  • Thank you all for sharing your thoughts, I appreciate very much. I have booked an appointment with a neuro surgeon for next week and will be getting a second opinion from him. 
  • This doesn't surprise me at all. I have found similar dismissive attitudes from doctors I have seen, and from hanging out on forums like this and a few others I have found it seems to be a very common trend. The problem seems to be that neurological pain and conditions are still a fairly poorly understood field. Heck, I even had 2 neurologists arguing with each other about whether cervical angina (chest pain resulting from cervical problems) was real because I similarly get pain down my back and even chest at times. An important thing to remember is that there are chest muscles innervated by cervical nerves, like the pectorals, and as my neurologist said there is no magic that makes them immune to the effects of nerve impingements.
  • Chest pains can def be from the cervical spine. I had a pretty good herniation at C6-C7 and the first main symptoms I had was left arm numbness and chest pain, which brought me to the ER. They checked everything to do with my heart and everything was in perfect shape, but the pain and numbness continued. I was finally sent to get an MRI and then they found the herniation. I did have some spinal cord compression as well, which was probably causing the issue, I also had numbness in my left foot as well. I had an artificial disc replacement  which corrected all the symptoms I was having(however after a few months some of them started coming back, but that is for another topic), so def get a better doctor, you do not want a doctor like that. Have you had an MRI, do you have spinal cord compression?  if so your symptoms are most def possible.   Good luck and def find a new doctor. 
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