Surgery vs. Watchful Waiting.
I'm trying to decide whether to have surgery or just to wait and hope things get better (or I just get used to the pain). Here is the excerpt from my most recent MRI (in Nov. 06):
Large disk-osteophyte complex at C4-5, slightly enlarged since 4/17/06, resulting in increased moderate left-sided central stenosis and cord deformity without definite edema or myelomalacia. Moderate to severe left and moderate right C5 foraminal stenosis, stable since the prior study.
(Paraphrased: mild to severe foraminal stenosis C4-C8...)
No evidence of intrinsic signal abnormality of the cervical cord.
This has been going on for a little over a year. I'm seeing a Neurologist every few months and I've had a consult with a NS (before my most recent MRI). Neither of them is pushing surgery, but they said they wouldn't rule it out or fight me if I asked for it. The NS does ACDF and hinted that I may be a candidate for the CerviCore artificial disk.
My symptoms are constant mild and occasionally moderate neck pain and associated headache and pain around my eyes, mild pain in my shoulder/chest and vague weakness in my arm and leg. I spent a weekend in the hospital before I had this diagnosed because they thought I was having a heart attack. Usually this is left sided, but occasionally I'll get a neck spasm on the right and then I'll feel it in my right arm/leg (this has only been happening since October or so). I don't take any drugs too regularly (other than a few glasses of wine or a G&T at night ☺). If things flare up I'll take Aleve and Valium. I'm still working full time (sedentary job). I've stopped fitness running and I really notice it if I do hard physical labor so I avoid that. I was a little scared when I rode a pretty mild ride at Disneyworld and started getting symptoms afterward.
My neurologists mentions about a 1/10000 chance of bad things happening if I have surgery and about the same odd if I don't have surgery (auto accident, etc. causing cord problems).
I guess my question is what to expect in both cases, quality of life wise. If I don't have surgery are things going to get better or will I get used to the pain? Is it better to have surgery now when I'm relatively young (I'm 48)? If I get ACDF or an artificial disk will I be able to run and do physical labor (and ride amusement park rides ☺)
Any advice would be appreciated.