Need Some Advice
Sorry for the long message up front. Very glad I found this web site. Have been reading through the endless stories of people suffering through pain. As I sit on my recliner, ice pack in place, Scotch at hand, and pills at the ready, it's good to see I'm not alone. Would like to tell a little about my situation and ask for some advice from the group.
First a little history. I'm 50 years old. I retired from the Army in '04 where I worked in a job that was hard on my body. I've been having back issues since about '85. When I retired from the Army, the VA doctor (being nice here) noted that I had a decreased range of motion in my neck. Spent the last six years in the Army getting Toradol injections for lower back pain every other day for much of the year so I could do my job. Neck was not a real issue until '06 when I went two months with right arm numbness and as a 'last resort' went to see a Chiropractor. After about five years of seeing a Chiropractor for my neck and back, anti-inflammatory meds, PT, and the other normal stuff, I began a period this Feb with a neck issue that was a little out of the ordinary.
Beginning in Feb of this year, I started having pain and numbness going from my neck to right shoulder with occasional numbness to the right hand. After a few months of seeing my Chiropractor without results, I decided to see my pain management doc. He gave me an injection in my neck and prescribed PT. Went through the PT work and have been regular with the at home exercises. Forgot to mention I have traveled a lot over the years. Was in VA for a few months and went to see a Spinal Surgeon. He ordered a new MRI with the following results:
C3-C4 Tiny midline protrusion
C4-C5 Small right lateral protrusion and unconvertrebral spurs combine to produce moderate right neural foraminal narrowing. There is no canal stenosis.
C5-C6 Small midline protrusion without canal stenosis. Neural foramina are patent.
C6-C7 Small midline and right paracentral protrusions resulting in mild canal stenosis. Neural foramina are patent.
Impression: C3-C4 through C6-C7 protrusions as detailed above contributing to, in conjunction with uncovertebral hypertrophy, moderate right C4-C5 neural foraminal narrowing, as well as producing mild C6-C7 canal stenosis.
Findings: Alignment is normal. There is mild C4-C5 through C6-C7 disk degeneration. Cervical cord and cervicomendullary junction maintain normal signal and and morphology. The atlantoaxial and atlantooccipital articulations are intact. Bone Marrow signal is normal.
Surgeon recommended an additional steroid injection. If there was no relief, he recommended one level anterior cervical discectomy and fusion.
At this point, I have tolerated about all the pain I care to. The pain is located in the right side of my neck, goes into the scapula area pretty much all the time, and progresses to the posterior right shoulder with numbness. Today, I started loosing control of my right hand. It was spasming, numb, and I couldn't get it to do what I wanted. Almost every night I have to take muscle relaxers and Scotch to kill the pain enough to sleep. On bad nights, like last night, I also take some Oxecodone.
I've got a consult for a local surgeon that will be processed by Wed. Forgot to mention I'm in southern CA now.
No doubt in my mind that surgery is needed. I would like get an idea if fusion or disk replacement is the best way to go. I've talked to medical folks who have advised one way or the other. I trust people who have had to go through each for advice as much as docs.
I'd also like to mention that reading stories of people who are far worse off then I am has given me a little additional strength. Most people would say I'm pretty tough, but there's obviously many people that are harder then I am. Hang in there! Thanks in advance for the help.