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  • Catharsis - The Cervical Spine Whine

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    Old 11-13-2014, 06:51 AM   #1
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    Catharsis - The Cervical Spine Whine

    So as I've explained before I have cervical stenosis with compression like a lot of you. I know I'm very lucky as my myelopathy is mild. I also know I'm slowly worsening. It's been 7 years of a slow degeneration, like being in a room where the walls are imperceptibly moving in. Day in and day out you don't notice it, you get used to it - you look back and think it may be just my imagination but I'm sure things were so much better.

    I was a fit and energetic 27 year old who loved my volunteer firefighting role and felt I could do anything. Now I sit here a 33 year old, struggling to get out of bed - I need to exercise more than just walking, but I have no energy and when I do push it I regret it. Doctors say I have the spine of a 70 year old - I feel like one too. I know I'm lucky, there are so many people with worse symptoms than me and truly my heart goes out to you.

    I work a full time desk job and proudly support my family. Iím happy I can. Lucky I can. Been to countless surgeons, I'm progressing, I will need surgery soon but try and hold out, wait for my legs to give way or until I have trouble picking things up. I have multiple opinions on what multi-level surgery I need. I don't dread surgery anymore, I welcome for the possibility of relief.

    What I fear is I will have the surgery and wonít feel any different - worse still I will be worse- is this irrational? What if my symptoms are not from my spine?
    I've been put on Neurontin and decided to wean off my meds (Tramadol and Norco). I took the tramadol daily and the Norco as needed - which was more and more. Iím just taking Neurontin and Mobic now. The Neurontin seems to help a bit, but obviously I feel a lot more pain now, constantly.

    Aside from my neck and shoulder pain I have been noticing different pain. I feel pain down my arms that feels like it's in the bone. I have whole leg aches that seem worst in my calves, my headaches have increased. Does anyone else experience these types of pains with cervical stenosis? or is it just lack of exercise and age? My legs have been getting worse, waking up it's tough to walk and through the day they feel like achy and heavy.

    I was doing Physical therapy (for the 4th time) which offered some relief, but my insurance has put a halt to that. The doctors call it the grey area, not bad enough to say get surgery now, but not great.

    I don't really complain (contrary to the above) to my family and friends. When I do they donít know what to say and they can't really help and I end up just saying it will be fine or I'm doing ok. I feel bad to unload on them Ė so I unload on you! HA I know this has been a long whine, I'm sorry. I know I'm lucky - I thank you for listening. Feel free to share in the catharsis, and if you are able to answer my questions I would much appreciate it.

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    Old 11-13-2014, 07:47 AM   #2
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    Re: Catharsis - The Cervical Spine Whine

    You need to understand the workings of the central nervous system to realize that, most probably, those other issues are caused by your cervical spine issues.
    That is the danger of having nerve compression in the cervical spine, as opposed to the lumbar spine. Individual spinal nerves can be impacted, in which case a specific part of the body that is innervated by that nerve can be affected.

    For example if there is compression of the C6 nerve, a person may feel pain and numbness in the thumb. If the spinal cord is impacted at that same point, the person may feel the effects in the thumb or in any level located at or BELOW the level of impact or the person might feel pain in a lower limb as well. With myelopathy it is common for the legs to feel heavy. It affects the musculature and coordination so people develop trouble walking.

    In most cases, myelopathy continues to get worse as time goes by. Surgery will not necessarily make things better, but it will arrest the progressive nature of the condition and stabilize the person's neurological condition. I would think you would not want to wait to have surgery. You will only continue to get worse, and the damage done will not be reversible.

    Old 11-13-2014, 10:52 AM   #3
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    Re: Catharsis - The Cervical Spine Whine

    Thank you for your response. That's great information.

    For the last few years I've tried to learn my fair share of the central nervous system. I understand the difference between foraminal stenosis causing impingement and the actual compression to the spinal canal and how symptoms run along from the braches/cord below the compromised area.

    I guess my question was more about others who have similar sensations and if their sensations of nerve pain are similar to what I am describing.

    Thanks for your info - I agree with you and I am unsure as to what waiting will achieve. I hope I'm the exception to the rule and surgery both halts further degeneration and the decompression helps my current symptoms.

    Old 11-13-2014, 11:53 AM   #4
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    Re: Catharsis - The Cervical Spine Whine


    I had some similar symptoms as you described affecting my arms and legs. I am post op 9 weeks ACDF 5-6 6-7 . I noticed 1 wk. after surgery, my legs no longer ached as they did before and also my balance improved remarkably. The pain in my neck, arms hands is totally gone and I am getting back my bicep muscle which was compromised due to the nerve compression. I have a spinal mess, as this is my 6th surgery to fix spinal issues.
    I am not one to sit around and wait, I have a very good surgeon who tells me the situation without sugar coating it. If I wait and the damage gets worse and the nerves die there is nothing he can do to repair it, as he tells me. So far each surgery I have had has improved my quality of life. Can I do the the same things I use to? nope! I just have to do what I can and move on. Surgery is a 50/50 deal, no guarantees, but if you are in that much pain and misery, maybe you should have the surgery ASAP and see if you get any better. I am 59 yrs. old you are 33 if I can jump back at this age you have to be able to out do me 10x more easily. Good luck !

    PS I went back to work 7 wks. post ACDF

    Old 11-13-2014, 02:58 PM   #5
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    Re: Catharsis - The Cervical Spine Whine

    It is not irrational to fear that you might be worse after surgery. It can and does happen. It certainly sounds to me, though, like all the symptoms you mention are coming from your spine and you'd have a pretty decent chance of addressing them if you had surgery. Deep pain in the arms and the leg symptoms you describe are pretty common in myelopathy. In addition, if the compression is due to arthritic bone spurs, it is quite common to develop nerve root compression as well as the spinal compression which would definitively explain the deep arm pain.

    I have both myelopathy and radiculopathy, and at one point I had incredible, deep pain in my left arm untouched by any pain medicine. Luckily that only lasted a few weeks but I know there is stuff happening. I have nearly constant fasciculations in my legs, and a feeling that my legs are always tired and achy in addition to neck and shoulder tightness. I have slight residual weakness in that left arm. I'm being monitored by my surgeon for signs of progression of myelopathy and so far so good. The consensus of the surgeons I spoke to is if your symptoms are bad enough have the surgery, if not, don't because the surgery will change things and quite possibly lead to more and more surgery. Luckily, my insurance pays for essentially unlimited PT as long as there is a diagnosed condition and signs of improvement. Even if it didn't though, I'd pay for it out of pocket. PT has been extremely helpful in managing the symptoms and also getting the strength back in my left arm.

    Myelopathy may get better with conservative treatment through stabilizing and strengthening muscles that support the spine, addressing postural issues, and addressing underlying causes of arthritis if they can be found. I have a friend who addressed some various hormone and vitamin deficiencies and has stabilized his spinal arthritis for the past 7 years. However, unlike radiculopathy, myelopathy most often continues to progress and cause further symptoms. I guess my advice is if the symptoms are not improving and are significantly affecting your life (which it sounds like they may be) then I would think that would override the negatives associated with surgery. Waiting longer will only improve the chances of damage that may persist after the surgery. It's a tricky decision for sure with these "gray areas" as you say.

    Good luck and let us know how things go...

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