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Old 01-19-2010, 05:53 AM   #1
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Advice for a new member c6/7 disc problem with spinal compression

Hi
I posted some of my worries on someone else's thread but I am told I really need to post my question as a separate thread so here I am. Thanks to everyone who responded to the other posts.

I suppose I really just want some reassurance as I feel so alone with this - I don't know anyone in the UK with this problem and my doctor has never had anyone with this type of problem. She has had lots of back problems but not neck. She talks about neurosurgery being much improved these days but I don't know what she means by that. I worry that things are not quite so advanced here in the UK?

My problem started in July last year. Burning pains in both of my arms. Did not do much about it until September as I thought it was repetitive strain injury and as I was having quite a bit of time off in August I thought I would see if things changed. In September I went to an osteopath. After 4 sessions she suggested I see the doctor as no change had taken place. Between September and December I saw 4 different doctors at my surgery and had 5 visits. I never really managed to get far. They first put me on Diclofenac and co-codamol, then suggested an X ray which showed degeneration in my c4- c7 vertebrae. They then sent me for Physio but he was wary when I explained my pains (none in the neck, no loss of sensation or use but lots of neurologival pain in my arms , pins and needles and numbness at night). He referred me to a neuro physio who was also nervous about any physio treatment.

I then took myself off for acupuncture which did not work but I found the patches the chinese doc provided gave some relief - I think there is swelling at c6/7. By this time I felt the National Health service had let me down and I went private and asked to be referred to a neurosurgeon who sent me for an MRI scan.

My MRI scan shows a large disc/osteophyte bar narrowing the spinal canal to just under 6 mm. At this level (I think C6/7) the spinal cord shows a focal abnomality indicating the effects of compression. The neurologist says this is what is causing my neurological symphoms (pain in both arms). He says surgery is the only option and has referred me to a neuro-surgeon.

I now have an appointment with a neurosurgeon and I am terrified of the prospects of surgery which the Neurologist seems to be saying is th eonly option. I am really frightened about surgery. I have only ever had surgery once and that was not for anything so serious and certainly did not have the same risks as this. I am managing the pain through using Gabapentin but the Neurologist has siad my spinal compression is the main issue - whiplash any serious fall resulting in my head pushed forward or backwards could result in paralysis so he seems to be saying managing the pain is not an option.

It is not usual to seek second opinions in the Uk. You tend to get referred to specialist and that is who you have. I have yet to hear what the neurosurgeon has to say as that appointment is two weeks away.

How routine is the op and how often does it go wrong. I am quite fit - 59 years old - don't have any other problems except for low blood pressure and an under active thyrod gland which is treated. Any advice from all you out there who know a lot about all this.

Thanks

Carol

 
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Old 01-19-2010, 07:24 AM   #2
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Re: Advice for a new member c6/7 disc problem with spinal compression

HI Carol! I can't off any advice other than to browse through this forum. Chock full of good information! I too am like you with compression on the spine and am awaiting surgery on the 5th of Feb. Also, the threat of paralysis hanging over my head! My surgery will be a 2 level ACDF with corpectomy. I understand how you feel, the fear, and the uncertainty can be overwhelming. I've done research to the point of scaring myself even more. But I've also read about some really good results. You're not alone anymore, this forum is great. In the grand scheme of life, its good to know others are out there going through much the same thing. I'll keep you in my thoughts, and hope you keep me updated.

 
Old 01-19-2010, 10:16 AM   #3
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Re: Advice for a new member c6/7 disc problem with spinal compression

Hi

I am 45 and also from the UK (Belfast) and had a C6/C7 fusion last February due to cord compression and severe pain.

I must say the operation itself, in my case, was the easiest I have ever had. I did have nausea and vomiting on the night after the operation. I was up and walking about the wards the next day and was sent home on day 2. After day 1 I only needed very minimal pain relief by way of occasional paracetemol. I had hoarseness and a mild sore throat (like a lump in my throat) for about a week. I was back to work after 6 weeks but keen to get back sooner than that.

I did have a period of fatigue and depression after a couple of weeks of recovery but I understand that this can be quite common.

I also had muscle spasms on and off for a good few weeks post op but nothing that I couldn't deal with. My scar is hardly visible and gave me no bother healing.

I must say though when I woke up from the anaesthetic I was glad to feel my toes wiggling. I think the surgeons do this kind of operation lots of times with no problems but they do have to make you aware of the potential risks. My consultant told me that he had never had anyone with paralysis from this op and that put my mind at rest somewhat.

I was certainly very very nervous before going in for the operation.

However everyone's experience is different and you should read some of the earlier posts. You could perhaps search under 'post op' as members often log in when they get home (and some from their laptops in hospital!!!!) to give their immediate post op experiences.

I am now having further problems from the 9 month mark but that is another story.

I would suggest you make a list of all the questions you want to ask the neurosurgeon. I think there was a thread somewhere about this if you search.

Do feel free to PM me if you have any other queries.

Bobbyboo x
__________________
Surgery: ACDF C6/7 5th February 2009 with plastic cage & BMP (No collar)

 
Old 01-19-2010, 04:15 PM   #4
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Re: Advice for a new member c6/7 disc problem with spinal compression

Thank you CharlieBlitz and BobbyBoo and good luck Charlie with the op - let us know about it when it is over. Good to hear that paralysis is rare - I need some luck - the last few years have been ****. I had thought I must make a list of all the questions to ask the neurosurgeon - good to know they are on here somewhere. I have a week's holiday planned in mid Feb - flying to Portugal - do you think there is any problem flying with this condition?

Sorry to hear you have another problem Bobbyboo - hope it sorts out and you can avoid more surgery. When I know more about what is being suggested by the NS I will definitely need more help and advice but at the end of th day I just think I am in their hands!!

 
Old 01-19-2010, 10:46 PM   #5
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Re: Advice for a new member c6/7 disc problem with spinal compression

Hi again and thank you for all the extra detail it really helps. I am not at all familiar with healthcare in your country but I am very familiar with your condition. I am glad Bobbyboo spoke up! Good information is here for you. I am sorry you are faced wth this problem, everything you have gone through up to this point sounds very on track to what happens to patients in the U.S..

The most important thing is the inside diameter of the spinal canal is supposed to be around 9mm and yours is 6mm. That is where is starts to become dangerous for you to stay that way long term. Especially your cord is showing focal abnormality (focal means like an area and the abnormality is from being compressed.) People can live with pain, and osteophyte (bone spurs) or material rubbing but when there is damage it is time to take action. From my own experience this is something you need to follow the surgeons advice on.

No one of wants to do the surgery, but your specialist is telling you based on the clinical findings he is recommending surgery for you and I think it is time for you to just learn everything you can about the surgery, what to expect and what you need to do for a good outcome. Making sure to ask about the specific procedure so you understand. Have a good discussion about these things with your doctor.

The type surgery I am guessing you will have is a common surgery, and there are people who have problems but for the most part a very high success rate. If it is possible if you cannot get a second opinion, can you at least make sure your specialist has done the specific surgery they are recommending for you many times!?

I have made many friends on this board, and many come back and tell me they built this up so big in their mind and that they actually found the experience to be better than they originally thought. Just like Bobbyboo said everyone has a different experience so do your homework. I find the people who do the best are the ones that take the time to become well informed by their doctor and have good expectations set.

I wish you the best luck and if you need any help I will be happy to point your towards resources.

NP

 
Old 01-20-2010, 12:30 PM   #6
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Re: Advice for a new member c6/7 disc problem with spinal compression

Great information from the board members. I have had neck surgeries 3 times but I do have severe degeneration, osteoporosis and rheumatoid arthritis. I just had my last surgery on 1/4/10 and although I am having a fever problem right now the actual neck surgery went well. I am already seeing improvement on my nerve pain, tingling and burning in my fingers and hands. Even after having neck surgery twice before I was still nervous about this surgery but that is common for everyone having any type of surgery. Talk to your doctor and make sure you understand everything but I just wanted you to know that I will say I am glad I have had all my surgeries because just easing some of the pain is good for me because I waited too long on my first surgery and I have permanent nerve damage now and I don't want to every do that again.

Linda

 
Old 01-20-2010, 03:33 PM   #7
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Re: Advice for a new member c6/7 disc problem with spinal compression

Is it likely that the pain that I have in my arms will stay with me -m could it be permanent damage or is it likely to go once I have the surgery?

 
Old 01-20-2010, 03:44 PM   #8
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Re: Advice for a new member c6/7 disc problem with spinal compression

I've been following this thread as it is so similar to my own situation. Could someone tell me the difference between focal abnomality of the spine and deformity of the ventral surface?? Guess I'm a little confused......thanks for any input....

 
Old 01-20-2010, 03:55 PM   #9
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Re: Advice for a new member c6/7 disc problem with spinal compression

Hi Tasha

Sorry I can't help you understand the wording but it seems in the end we possibly have a similar problem. Perhaps we can keep in touch and try and share experiences. My arms are the main source of pain and at night I end up with numb arms unless I work hard to try and sleep on my back. It is not just the pain - it is the spinal compression that I feel hangs over me - I am so cautious now about doing anything that might put me at risk.

Best luck

Carol

 
Old 01-20-2010, 04:24 PM   #10
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Re: Advice for a new member c6/7 disc problem with spinal compression

Oh my gosh!! Finally someone who knows what I am talking about!!
First the symptoms:
The pain in my arms is a constant. I can't sleep because whichever side I sleep on, I wake up in the middle of the night with numbess and tingling. Have to try to sleep on my back but that is sooo hard. Also, my pillow is never right. If I keep both pillows under my neck it causes my neck to be too elevated, thus causing lots of pain in my neck and shoulders. But if my pillow is too low, it offers no support and I'm in the same boat as before!! My pain is constant.....everyday! Seems like it hits me in the neck, shoulders, shoulder blades, arms, wrists, hands, and the burning is intolerable!! Also, (not to get too gross) my bowel movements are crazy! My stomach bloats and I end up looking like I'm 6 months pregnant because my bowels just shut down. I try, but nothing happens. This happens for about 3-4 days and then I will have diarrhea! Nuts!!!

MRI Results

Findings: Mild loss of the normal cervical lordosis. C5-6 disk space is mildly narrowed.

At C3-4 and C4-5 minimal annular bulging without canal or faminal stenosis.

At C5-6, small diffuse disk osteophyte complex 3mm in AP diameter indents the sac without canal stenosis. Sac AP diameter is 10mm. The ventral surface of the cord is slightly deformed adjacent to the disk, although there is CSF between the disk and cord. Mild bilateral foraminal narrowing.

Impression:
At C5-6 there is a small diffuse disk osteophyte complex indenting the sac and mildly narrowing the foramina, without central canal stenosis. The ventral surface of the cord is slightly deformed at this level, although CSF surrounds the cord. Elsewhere, there are more mild degenerative changes.

What are your thoughts? And if anyone else could contribute, I would greatly appreciate it. Is this in need of surgery?

 
Old 01-20-2010, 04:46 PM   #11
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Re: Advice for a new member c6/7 disc problem with spinal compression

Neck patient seems to be one of the experts on here - perhaps he/she will explain what your particular position is. However, the outcome seems quite similar to mine. Here in the uk you don't get given the same level of detail. I am not sure whether that is a blessing. I just know that my neurologist said ' if I was his wife he would want me to be seeing a neurosurgeon and really since then I have been pretty cautious.

Keep in touch - time to try and avoid ending up with numb arms - very late here in the UK

 
Old 01-20-2010, 05:00 PM   #12
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Re: Advice for a new member c6/7 disc problem with spinal compression

Thank you very much sweetie.....I really do appreciate your input. Please keep in contact with me!!~ I will be praying for good, long sleep for you tonight!!~~God Bless!!

 
Old 01-20-2010, 10:12 PM   #13
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Re: Advice for a new member c6/7 disc problem with spinal compression

focal abnomality of the spine and deformity of the ventral surface are very similar things. A focal abnormality just means it is in certain spot not widespread. A deformity of the ventral surface is most likely a compression of the cord too.

FYI almost everyone on here has approximately the same conditions. It varies as to the levels, or how bad the disk is damaged, or how narrow the canal is, and where the impingements are but generally we all have the same type situation. Except the stomach wouldn't be a common problem - that might be some other thing going on. Some people have no numbness some people have both pain and numbness - it just kind of varies. The key is to remember surgery may not take away all symptoms - but it can stop the immediate damage that is being done. These things tend to follow a pretty consistent pattern.

I had two different cervical surgeries one year apart.Fused from C4-7 and I really need 3-4 added but won't do it. I have severe arm pain and it still exists after the surgeries. I have perm nerve damage that they found via emg - that did not repair. Surgery knocked my pain levels down from my arms from a 10 (I am not joking they had to knock me out until they got the pain under control while I waited for surgery), to a more reasonable 5 on most days (with long term heavy medication still needed I am on the fentanyl patch). There are days where it can spike up even as high as an 8 but that is more rare now that I switched to the patch. Except now I also have thoracic and lumbar problems so I have high pain levels most days now. All this took career and activity modification. The numbness in my hands/fingers has gone away and finally have that hand function back. The arm pain can take 1-3 years to show you ultimate improvement.

If you haven't tried Neurontin or a medication like it - you might discuss this with your doctor - very good for the burning.

Here are some tricks I use(d) over time on my arms - maybe they can help you two. First I keep small travel pillows in my car and take them everywhere to support my arms, keep the outside radial nerve that runs along the elbow from touching hard surfaces, also keeps them from pulling down and irritating the nerve in the neck. I used a larger pillow to support my arms when riding in the vehicle or sitting up. I still ice my forearm and neck regularly and that helps alot. I never and I mean never sleep on my back that will irritate your neck and arms. I sleep many nights with a heating pad. Lighten your purse for sure - it pulls on those nerves more than you think. Sleep on your side, get proper pillows to support your neck, and also put one under the top arm to support it and one between the legs. You will need to play with the proper height to take the pressure off the shoulder that is down.

You will meet lots of other good folks on here - everyone comes and goes based on how they are feeling and how busy they are.

 
Old 01-21-2010, 02:54 AM   #14
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Re: Advice for a new member c6/7 disc problem with spinal compression

Hi NP - I am on Gabapentin which I think is the same as Neurontin - it has helped no doubt although I have not got the dose sorted yet. Mind I had to ask the doctor for it - took 7 months to get the diagnosis and I still feel I am having to tell them what needs doing.

Like you I have been using ice packs but had not really thought about the issue regarding keeping your arms off hard surfaces - that explains why work was so hard - using a computer for a lot of the time - by the end of the day I was in agony. So now I am off sick. A Chinese doctor recommended these heat patches which I have been putting on my neck and it seems to reduce the swelling - I am using them sparingly as the chinese doc is an acupuncturist but that did not work for me. I would need to find somewhere else to buy them.

The thing about sleep is that if I sleep any other way except on my back I end up with dead arms and it is unbearable. I have a memory foam pillow which is firm but moulds to my head and at least I have had some sleep that way. Pillows for the car are a great idea and I am also thinking of buying a specialist chair for the living room as none that we have have a high back to support my head and neck. Thanks for all the advice.

 
Old 01-22-2010, 06:08 PM   #15
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Lee Kaser HB User
Re: Advice for a new member c6/7 disc problem with spinal compression

I have the same symptoms, which have developed and worsened over several years, and have been evaluated by an orthopedic surgeon and an eminent neurosurgeon . They have agreed I need surgery, and the neurosurgeon has decided on a posterior cervical laminectomy of the C3-C6 area, which is scheduled in about three weeks at a University medical hospital. The operation is regarded as low risk (about 1% bad outcomes) and has a fairly short expected recovery time (2 weeks before I can drive, because of a soft collar and consequent restriction of movement.) I believe I am getting a very high quality of care, and am not very worried about it. Good luck with your treatment.

 
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