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  • herniated disc C5/C6 - please help

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    Old 07-21-2014, 10:39 AM   #1
    beancounter81's Avatar
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    herniated disc C5/C6 - please help

    Hi. 32 year old female here.

    About 13 weeks ago I was diagnosed with a herniated disc at C5C6. Borderline cord compression; no significant arm pain/numbness, but significant back pain around the shoulders, shoulder blades and mid-back region.

    PT has helped with range of motion and neck-strengthening, but here is the issue..

    6 weeks into my original diagnosis, I started feeling significantly better, then somehow re-aggravated it and was thrown back weeks in my recovery. 6 weeks after that, I was pulling on my shoe and the same thing happened. I don't know if I am just aggravating it, or if it is possible to herniate a disc more and more.

    I have been doing a lot of reading about ACDF (and similar procedures). It seems like people who have significant arm pain and weakness are candidates. I do not have those symptoms, but my quality of life has been pretty much miserable since this has occurred, since I am still experiencing a lot of upper and mid-back pain. I do NOT want to be living my life not knowing whether it will be a good day or a bad day; or a good week/bad week. I am too young for this and am a very active person.

    My question is --- is ACDF only for those with severe arm pain/numbness/functional issues? In my opinion, my quality of life has been limited enough to warrant looking into the procedure. I go back to my spinal doctor in a few weeks and plan on discussing with him, but figured I would reach out to the internet community as well.

    I know there is also an epidural steroid injection option --- I would appreciate any feedback on that as well.

    I feel like I would rather just fix the issue; I am not afraid of recovery as long as there is a 99% chance I can get my life back..

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    Old 07-21-2014, 05:31 PM   #2
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    Re: herniated disc C5/C6 - please help

    There is no way you could have surgery and be given 99% odds that it would take care of the problem.

    It is not the recovery that should be feared, but the chance that surgery will make your symptoms worse. This is one reason it is so important to carefully research and then select the surgeon. This is the single most important decision you will face.

    Unless there is cord compression, conservative treatments such as the ESI will be tried far as the insurance carriers are concerned anyway!

    Sometimes it is just enough to get the tissue to back off the nerve...and the disc can heal...and, yes, it is entirely possible that the disc is healing enough to move off the nerve, and then it reherniates.

    Old 07-22-2014, 01:50 PM   #3
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    Re: herniated disc C5/C6 - please help

    Teteri66 is right, there is nothing guaranteed in any surgery.
    I feel this way about it, I have had the spinal blocks, they don't work for me, so I don't fool around. I am not gonna wait for months to see if it gets better, in the mean time continue to do more damage and risk the chance to become paralyzed. I didn't have arm pain at first, but now I do and I have lost bicep muscle and can't eat right, button my collar and am losing grip strength. Operation is scheduled for Sept 15.

    Old 07-23-2014, 12:14 PM   #4
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    Re: herniated disc C5/C6 - please help

    I've had 5 different surgical opinions from spine surgeons (and a couple of neuros for good measure). Although they have quite varying opinions about the best course of treatment, none of them have suggested anything like a 99% guarantee that my issues would be fixed with surgery. This is especially true if you only have neck and upper back pain. As one of the surgeons put it "if you don't have severe radicular (arm, shoulder, etc) pain there may not be a lot surgery can do for you".

    One of the most pro-surgery guys was a neurosurgeon who talked about the surgery and then gave me a packet about all the stuff that can go wrong. There is a lot of scary (albeit unlikely) stuff as well as more mundane and likely things such as swallowing problems lasting from a few days to permanently. Also, there is no guarantee the fusion will actually fuse (although it is very likely in single level herniation repair ~95%), or that you won't get "adjacent segment disease" where the pressure of the fusion on the adjacent segments causes them to degenerate possibly requiring further surgery.

    I have disk degeneration and arthritis causing my problems along with an unknown inflammatory issue. This caused me to lose about 50% of my grip strength and have atrophy in my bicep and forearm muscles, as well as have the most pain I've ever felt in my shoulder and upper arm. With all that, for me, it would take more to allow anyone to get near my spine with a scalpel (or needle for that matter, I've declined steroid injections as well). Luckily, the pain is pretty much gone and the strength and muscle tone are returning with aggressive PT, traction, oral steroids etc.

    As Teteri66 mentioned herniations can repair themselves with conservative treatment. On the other hand, 13 weeks is a pretty long time. You might consider talking this out with a couple (or more) different spine experts. For one thing you are likely to get less invasive options (like disk replacement) than ACDF for surgery from those who do that sort of thing. For another you can get a consensus of what treatment may be best for your situation (given the degree of cord compression etc).

    Good Luck

    Old 07-23-2014, 02:21 PM   #5
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    Re: herniated disc C5/C6 - please help

    Thanks so much for your input. You definitely give me something to think about.

    For me, it's quality of life that's the issue here. I don't want someone cutting me open, and steroid injections seem somewhat scary... yet I refuse to live my life in chronic on/off pain. While I don't think the pain would be easy to accept at any age, it's certainly not acceptable to me at 32. I just can't live the rest of my life this way. Maybe I am jumping the gun saying this at 13 weeks in, but it just seems relentless.

    Old 03-05-2015, 07:34 AM   #6
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    Re: herniated disc C5/C6 - please help

    beancounter, I know this is an old post, but it struck home with me. I too have similar symptoms as you do (or did), and after 2.5 years of treatment (chiro, PT), I was approved for an artificial disc replacement. Two opinions, 4 MRI's and a lot of lost sleep and upperback/lower neck burning pain and aching. I am 33 years old and do not want my symptoms to get worse and start with numbness and loss of motor function in my hands or limbs when I could have nipped it in the bud with surgery.

    I hope all is well with you. Just thought I would share with you so that you did not feel like you were the only one experiencing those symptoms.

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