Hi there, (long reply
I am sorry to hear about your health issues (also to those who responded as well).
I too had ruptured discs at those same levels. I also had numbness in my hands and kept dropping things...
My first surgery was in 2001. They went in throught the front, used MY own hip bone, but NO metal plates or screws....I was in a hard collar for 3 months, PT for 2 months, and the recover was a loooonnnnggg one Couldnt' drive, go out much, didn't sleep much........
That being said, this was the head of Orthopaedic surgery at Georgetown Hospital in DC and the head Neurosurgoens were the one's who performed the surgery and I didn't think to get lots of other opinions.....
I was pain "less than before" for about 2 years then symptoms started. Mostly pain and lots of it...In my neck and right shoulder. It was awful and kept me from sleeping and doing daily activities....I didn't, however, have the numbness. So, by this time I had a different insurance company with different Dr.s and they just sent me to a Pain Mgmt. specialist who kept "dismissing" it as just a muscle spasm and only would give Percocet 5mg. No PT....No offer of epidurals....Nothing.....
I felt like I was going crazy and they kept saying....you had the surgery....you should be better!!! Well....We all know our bodies and our own pain!
Finally, after almost a year and a half!!! They ordered an MRI and saw that the fusion NEVER held and the bone just disappeared....It's called being "resorbed" back into your own bone...So, my vertebrae was collapsed and pinching nerves...Plus, from wearing the hard collar for so long before, I could not lessen my right shoulder pain for anything...It actually is "out of place" in a way and you can see that it moves totally different from the left. Almost pops out of place all the time.....I just wanted anyone to help with the pain....as you know...it's exhausting!!!
Well, the "friend" of my pain mgmt. Dr. recommened this particular Neurosurgeon to do another surgery. That was my "big" mistake as they were both awful...they treated me so badly and I was stuck.....
I don't know about you all, but I am a 38 year old woman who has strong opinions, can talk to anyone, always holds my ground....but when I get in front of a male "dr." sometimes...and when I am hurting SO badly....I somehow feel inferior.....like I have trouble speaking up.....like I feel at their mercy.....like I am some person begging for medicine....instead of begging to be in less pain (that's the way THEY see it).....
Anyway, this Dr. did the surgery in Dec. 2005. Went in from the front, used DONOR bone, and metal plates and screws. I had a hard collar for a week than soft for 2 weeks. He wouldn't even give me anything for pain the day I left the hospital...He says, "even I don't take a tylenol for a headache"..AHHHH...so. That was one of the worst Christmas' ever since I was in agony and even worse than before the surgery. I just knew that it didn't go right since I was in so much pain. It turns out the plates and screws were moving with every movement of my neck.
The first of the year (2006) I found my now, greatest Dr.s in the world
They are at the VA. Spine Institute in Reston, Va. They are the most caring, understading, and professional Dr.s I have ever met. They have some of the newest techniques which are amazing.
They immediately did X-rays, an MRI, and other tests and found that the surgery failed and that the bone did not fuse again. Now, normally the only reason this would happen is because of smoking. This causes most non-fusions...But, I don't and have never smoked so they were perplexed. My new Dr. was very upset at my previous treatment and said that the surgeon made a lot of mistakes.
Since my new Dr. did not want to rush right into another surgery. I went to their Pain Mgmt. Dr. as part of their practice. He is a God send as well. Treats me so nicely and listens as well as helps me devise a "plan" that is just for me. What I want to accomplish in my every day. This includes not only pain medicine, but PT, and other modalities. That's what I love about them. Not just medicine, but they aren't afraid of it either.
Well, fast forward to November after trying everything they could to help without doing surgery. All the time giving me medicine to make me be as comfortable as possible. They finally said that another surgery would be my only choice at trying to repair all the damage.
This time, my Dr. went in from the FRONT and the BACK. No collar at all
PT for 2 months to help with muscle strength. Normally, like everyone has said, they will only go in from the front. Easier and less painful. They went in and took out the bad metal and screws, took out what was less of the donor bone, shaved my own bone and then put in a cage filled with a sponge with BMP (Bone Morphogenetic Protien). This is new since 2002. It mimics your own protien that grows bone. Then he put plates and screws on 3 levels to help support my neck. Then turned me over, cut through the back of my neck (3 inches long vertically) and put metal rods and screws on 2 levels for support as well.
He told me that the back one would "kick my butt" which it did. There was A LOT of pain involved in that incision site and it's going to take time for that to heal and get back to normal.
I feel very blessed because it is now Jan. 2nd and I have less pain than in the last 3 years!!!! It's amazing. My scars are healing quickly and the best part is the horrible shoulder pain is gone. The Dr. said that he actually made me a few cm. taller
That has seemed to help get my muscles to where they were originally.
Sorry for such a long message but wanted to share my experience and would be glad to answer and questions the "newbies" to surgery have.
Please keep in mind that every "body" is different but a positive (or God filled) attitude goes a LONG way to a recovery.
Planning for your surgery and recovery at home is crucial. Getting friends and/or family to help out is a MUST. Lots of good movies to watch, books to read, IPOD to listen to. People to help out with meals for you (soups at first with a sore throat usually) but maybe food for your family since it helps YOU feel better knowing they are fed. I have a wonderful church family that is a blessing and always there to help so use that if you can.
Making your "healing place" in your home a sanctuary is so helpful.
I also asked for Ambien to help with my sleep and this made a WORLD of difference. I didn't do this my other surgeries and this time, getting good, solid sleep was AMAZING!!!!It not only helps your mood but body.
I also have been on Cymbalta for 2 years and even though I've never been diagnosed with depression and they gave it to me for the nerve pain. I am staying on it since living with chronic pain can definitely affect your mood and this helps me stay happy and positive. I find this medicine to not make you too sleepy, hungry, or have many negative side effects. But you need to find what works for you but I believe that an antideppresant is good for all CPers to help us stay "mentally healthy" as well.
I also recommend getting up and walking, even for a few minutes as soon as you can each day after your surgery. This helps you not have sore muscles elsewhere.
Ok, I've gone on enough. Please
make sure that they have done EVERYTHING they can do before they go to surgery. There are lots of cases where it just takes time to heal and can get much better with other treatments...epidural shots, or other methods. You never want to be with a Dr. who is afraid of medicine or that it's all they want to do. Find someone who cares about YOU and what you want for your life and level of activity. Don't ever be rushed into surgery.\!
We all have to be realistic about the level of pain and what we can "deal" with. Like Shoreline says, 50% reduction is AMAZING when it comes to chronic pain and problems with our spines.....
I will pray for everyone's upcoming surgeries and those that are living with pain.