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Old 03-09-2012, 06:14 PM   #1
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Reptured disc in Neck

Hi, I'm new here. This past week, starting roughly 4 days ago I started to get a weird pain in my back that radiated up my left arm and into my hand. I had also been having tingling in my fingers and a bit of numbness, but that seems to have subsided since I started to just take it a bit easier on my body. My neck had been really tight and sore for a long time so I had recently started to try and stretch it out. About 4 days ago, while I was stretching my neck after waking up, I felt a pop. I didn't really think much of it at the time because it didn't really hurt, but I think that's where my problem really started.

Yesterday I went to SCOI, southern california orthopedic institute. And a doctor there told me shes was relatively sure I had a ruptured disc in my neck. She said the pain might get bad, but in about 95% of cases, the ruptured disc heals by itself without surgery. I have an MRI on wednesday next week to see what is really going on in my neck. But right now I have just tons of questions. I'm a little worried too because I'm only 26 years old and right now this injury is interfering with my life quite a bit.

I'm wondering if anyone here has had a similar experience or advice they can lend? I'll keep you guys updated with my progress. Thanks!

 
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Old 03-09-2012, 08:36 PM   #2
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Re: Reptured disc in Neck

Your doc is correct, nearly all the patients who present like you get better, My only worry is that there will be some normal abnormality on the MRI some surgeon with time on his hands will want to do something heroic. I had similar at your age and beyond, very painfull at times but always settled. Remember you can't equate the the severity of the pain with the seriouness of the condition. The pop you heard was most likely one of the small joints, a normal noise. If it does not settle see a PT.
James

 
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Old 03-09-2012, 11:09 PM   #3
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Re: Reptured disc in Neck

Of course, follow through with the MRI, but I would not worry not too much, unless your symptoms escalate. I started having neck issues at age 15 (woke up one morning and my head fell back, had to hold my head up with my hands while my mom drove me to the ER). Since that time, I have had recurring issues and was diagnosed with a herniated disc.

My last episode was in May 2011. I was in such bad pain and I started dropping things in the affected hand. I had one epidural steroid injection and my symptoms have abated. Hopefully, you won't need any significant medical intervention, but I recommend physical therapy once you get your results. They can teach you exercises to avoid injuring yourself. When you get your MRI, it will give you an idea of what is going on.

In the meantime, I would also avoid stretching, because you could execerbate your injury. If your pillow doesn't support your neck properly, take a hand towel (small) and roll it up and place it under your neck. Also, try to keep your head positioned above your shoulders, not craned toward a screen, with your shoulders back. And, since you are still in the acute phase of your injury, try icing your neck. (No heat until at least week 2.)

 
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Old 03-10-2012, 01:48 AM   #4
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Re: Reptured disc in Neck

Thanks for the replies, james and sweetpea. That's good advice. I've actually just been trying to move my neck as little as possible. So I'm not stretching my neck at all. Until I have the MRI i'm just trying to be as safe as possible. I'm also trying to sit straight more often. I work on the computer about 10 hours a day, so it's hard sometimes. At work I started sitting on an exercise ball, and I try to get up and walk around every 10 to 15 minutes or so.

I'd never had upper back problems before this, so it just seems so crazy that all of sudden I could rupture a disc in my neck. Didn't have any crazy injury, just lightly stretched it one morning, and boom. I would have thought our bodies weren't supposed to be that fragile... Oh well.

 
Old 03-10-2012, 08:16 PM   #5
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Re: Reptured disc in Neck

I've been learning that many of my joints are hypermobile, and the disc issues that I have are likely due to micro-trauma over the years. The disc has probably been stressed in the past, and this stretch just happened to be the last straw.

Were you heavily involved in any sports at a young age? If so, you may have over-used some areas, which will need strengthening and activity modifications.

Good luck and let us know how the MRI results come back.

 
Old 03-11-2012, 01:31 PM   #6
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Re: Reptured disc in Neck

Ya, I've actually thought a bit about it this weekend. I was having sort of inexplicable pain in both elbows for about a month before the real back pain started. But my neck was also very tight and sore at the time. Now I've sort of put 2 and 2 together and realized my back probably already had a bulging disc in it or something, and now it's ruptured and I'm feeling more pain. Of course that's just speculation, but it would make sense.

And yes, I was very active growing up. I was a cross country and track runner in high school and college. I have a lot of old lingering running injuries in my legs to prove it.

Right now it just hurts between my shoulder blades when I'm sitting for long periods of time. I also have sort of a weird pain on the inside of my arms up near my armpits. The tingling in my fingers has become somewhat seldom, but i still get little pin pricks here and there. I think until my MRI I'm just going to take it easy and try lay down as much as I can.

 
Old 03-11-2012, 02:02 PM   #7
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Re: Reptured disc in Neck

Hi Griff...we actually have an entire board here just for people with neck problems...called the Spinal Cord Disorders board. why don't you come on down and say hello and meet others with similar problems. If after you get your MRI and want to know what it says in plain English, we can do that too for you.

Does sound like you did something to your neck!

Jenny(fused C3 to T1)

 
Old 03-11-2012, 11:51 PM   #8
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Re: Reptured disc in Neck

[QUOTE=griff82;4942738]Ya, I've actually thought a bit about it this weekend. I was having sort of inexplicable pain in both elbows for about a month before the real back pain started. But my neck was also very tight and sore at the time. Now I've sort of put 2 and 2 together and realized my back probably already had a bulging disc in it or something, and now it's ruptured and I'm feeling more pain. Of course that's just speculation, but it would make sense.

And yes, I was very active growing up. I was a cross country and track runner in high school and college. I have a lot of old lingering running injuries in my legs to prove it.

Right now it just hurts between my shoulder blades when I'm sitting for long periods of time. I also have sort of a weird pain on the inside of my arms up near my armpits. The tingling in my fingers has become somewhat seldom, but i still get little pin pricks here and there. I think until my MRI I'm just going to take it easy and try lay down as much as I can.[/QUOTE]

At your age a disc should be rare and the doc you saw obviously saw little or at least did not mention neurological signs. Search out adult torticollis, this I am sure what I had at your age probably from having my neck wenched from playing rugby. Also I would keep as active as possible in the least painfull ranges.
James

Last edited by james079; 03-11-2012 at 11:53 PM. Reason: Missed a "i"

 
Old 03-13-2012, 04:56 PM   #9
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Re: Reptured disc in Neck

I think that the MRIs will be the best source of information. I started having disc problems at 15, so while rare, they can strike even youngsters. The spinal cord disorders area board is good, and has information about neck-specific issues, including cervical disc herniations. (By the way, "slipped", herniated, etc., are variations of the same problem. Most doctors use bulging, protruding, and extruded to indicate the degree of the disc damage, and that info will come from your MRI.)

Hope your MRI helps you figure out what's going on!

 
Old 03-13-2012, 09:11 PM   #10
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Re: Reptured disc in Neck

I think the MRI will be the worst source of information. The best source is from testing muscles for weakness, testing reflexes and testing skin sensation. In addition, ranges of movement in order to tell if it is a joint restrictive pattern or not. Unlucky is the patient who has a bit of a normal bulge in a disk which is not giving pain as someone will want to operate instead of letting nature take it's course. Did you seek out torticollis?
James

 
Old 03-13-2012, 11:10 PM   #11
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Re: Reptured disc in Neck

[QUOTE=james079;4944181]I think the MRI will be the worst source of information. The best source is from testing muscles for weakness, testing reflexes and testing skin sensation. In addition, ranges of movement in order to tell if it is a joint restrictive pattern or not. Unlucky is the patient who has a bit of a normal bulge in a disk which is not giving pain as someone will want to operate instead of letting nature take it's course. Did you seek out torticollis?
James[/QUOTE]

Hey James, ya I did look at torticollis, but I really doubt that's whats going on. My symptoms just don't feel anything like what I've read about torticollis. My pain just radiates to too many places. In the past week I've had numbness and tingling in my left hand, shooting pain in my left arm. Pain under both armpits, on the top of my left shoulder. I've had pain between my shoulder blades, in my upper chest, in my neck, and in my midback. At this point, I really have no idea what it is. I just know I've never felt like this in my entire life and I'm a bit worried. I'm hoping the MRI sheds some light on the problem, because my faith in the medical system is not very good.

 
Old 03-13-2012, 11:11 PM   #12
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Re: Reptured disc in Neck

Since the poster's MRI is tomorrow, it should be a good starting point as far as diagnostic testing. Perhaps it will explain all symptoms, perhaps not. I agree that any doctor who wanted to try surgery as a course of first resort, rather than a course of last resort, is clearly overly aggressive with a scalpel, particularly when the patient is already getting some pain resolution with no treatment. If the symptoms of torticollis coincide with your symptoms, then certainly ask your doctor about this condition.

Of course, don't under-estimate the power of ice to treat inflammation and pain.

 
Old 03-14-2012, 09:04 AM   #13
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Re: Reptured disc in Neck

Hey James.....being Canadian, a former PT and 78 years old, your current info on MRI's and such things may not be fully up to date. I know(since I lived there and still have family there) that they hate to order MRI's in Canada due to cost. But our insurance industry will insist on them when it's a potential spine problem....better to know for sure what is going on then don't do one and end up causing permanent injury to nerves or cord. Assuming torticollis and treating as such when it's actually a badly herniated disk can delay very much needed intervention to save a nerve. Rule out the nerve injury first, then look at torticollis. The last thing a doc or an insurance company needs is to be sued so they rule out everything else first. Not what they do in Canada...I know. But we have to live with the system we have here.

MRI's are becoming very sophisticated and can show much clearer than ever before. 3D MRI's are now coming out and will be even better. Every exam I had on my neck showed limited problems. I was seen by my primary, a rheumatologist and a neurologist and all of them were totally shocked to find out my spinal cord had been compressed to 5-6mms at 3 different levels of my neck...with very minor symptoms. I had severe compression of the spinal nerves bi-laterally from C4 to C7 with no pain and only minor changes in reflexes. For 2 years I kept asking why my neck got so sore when I went walking for a hour or so...even had rotator cuff surgery as it was torn and the doc said that might be it....but it wasn't. Then I finally had a cervical MRI and everyone gasped at how bad my neck was and I was in surgery 4 weeks later.

I was the one who didn't think I needed an MRI and I grew up in that Canadian system and I am also older(60) but I learned the hard way that you rule out the bad stuff first....then go on to the not so bad stuff. If it's muscles, it can wait but if it's the spinal nerves or cord, it can't.

Sorry to disagree but if I had gotten that advice from you 5 years ago, I'd be paralyzed from the neck down. Thank God for MRI's.

Jenny

 
Old 03-14-2012, 05:08 PM   #14
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Re: Reptured disc in Neck

Well I haven't gotten the official report yet, but I did have a look at the MRI. From what I can tell my MRI shows a bulging disc at c4/c5 which is pressing into my spinal cord. I think the term for that is cervical stenosis. So far what I'm reading about cervical stenosis doesn't sound very good.

 
Old 03-15-2012, 01:14 PM   #15
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Re: Reptured disc in Neck

Don't let the information from the internet and your own MRI analysis freak you out too much!

Stenosis is a narrowing, and can be either spinal canal stenosis or foraminal stenosis. In my case, my stenosis was foraminal in the cervical area and was resolved with one epidural injection and some physical therapy. (I still have some flares and use a home traction device periodically. My symptoms were to the point that I was losing hand coordination, dropping small light objects. So, even what seems like severe symptoms can be readily treated with an outpatient procedure. Jennybyc's case was a severe, rare case.) While awaiting your dr's appt, practice good posture, ice, and take anti-inflammatories. Don't go out and buy a neck brace or anything, but also don't actively stretch, as you could aggravate the disc injury.

The MRI report will give you a good idea of what type of disc damage you have, and if you do have stenosis, whether it is mild or not. It should also indicate whether you have any congenital narrowness. I should add that the cervical area has less room than the lumbar area, so if you have any herniation, even a bulge, it can cause stenosis. Your discs can and do heal themselves, and as long as your spine is not an abnormal circumference, you may be okay with very limited medical intervention.

You might consider calling your physician and asking him to start you on a course of steroids if your symptoms haven't abated at all. Oral steriods (anti-inflammatory, not the muscle-building type) are typically the first and least invasive course of action. He should be able to call in a prescription once he receives the MRI report and that way, you will know whether this gives you relief prior to your next appt. Should speed your treatment along.

 
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