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C4, C5 and C6 disc herniation. Does anyone have a surgery success story?

Started by bluemoon64 on 04/08/2015 11:14am

I've had neck pain for probably 20 years but about 5 years ago I began to have pain in my left arm and tingling in my left hand. Neurologist did nerve studies and thought it to be cubital tunnel syndrome. Told me to manage it with Ibuprofen. It flared up over the last 5 years but in the last 6 months it began to become more chronic and now it is all the time. I have pain from my left shoulder to the tips of my fingers. MRI showed disc herniations at c4, c5 and c6. I was sent to a Neurosurgeon who wants to do surgery with fusion. Before we can consider that I have been sent for physical therapy. I'm on my 4th session and there really hasn't been much change until today. I was given traction yesterday for the first time. My arm and hand (which was unable to pick up a cup each morning) feels a little better today but now I have a migraine. I will continue with PT but my next appt with the neurosurgeon is on 4/21 and I'm trying to decide what to do. I'm 50 years old (female) and in otherwise great health. I don't want things to get worse just in time for retirement. Does anyone have a success story after surgery? I've been reading through the discussions and have not found any.

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First of all, let me say that I am very sorry you are going through this pain. I, too, had years of progressively painful issues with my neck. Last August, it flared up and was extremely painful no matter what I did. I had gone through chiropractic, ice, heat, traction, physical therapy, facet joint injections, pain meds, muscle relaxants, trigger point injections, etc. Finally my chiropractor sent me to a pain management specialist for evaluation. We did an MRI and found herniations, degenerative disc disease, bone spurs. One final try was to be a cervical epidural. But before that could be done, I found myself in the hospital for intractable pain. My pain specialist requested a consult from the head of neurosurgery, who took one look at my MRI films and said "Of course you are in pain!! You've got bone-on-bone!! The only thing left to do is cervical diskectomy with fusion." Let me tell you, that was the best decision of my life!! The surgeon removed 2 discs and fused c5-c7. I have a 1 1/2 in. scar on my neck that barely shows. While in the recovery room, I realized that my neck, shoulder, arm and hand pain were completely gone! No more tingling or numbness! The worst parts of recovery were the terrible sore throat and discomfort swallowing for a while (ice water helped me); muscle spasms in the back of my neck (ask for muscle relaxants!!); not being able to drive for 6 weeks; and the exhaustion that lasts for weeks!! It is major surgery and your body takes a long time to heal from it. But, like I said, it was the best decision I ever made. I am 7 months out and have no neck, shoulder, arm or hand symptoms. Do your research, but remember that you REALLY have to follow your doctor's advice and give your neck lots of time and rest to fuse properly. Take your medication and walk as much as you can! I wish you the best and hope that you will have a great success story, too!! (ps, I'm 62 years old)

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Thank you so much for your reply, BonnieRae! I've just called another neurosurgeon for a 2nd opinion so I'll be interested to hear if he recommends the surgery as well. I'm so relieved to hear that someone has had success post-surgery. My 4th grandchild is due next month so I worry about not being able to hold her but I also worry that if I wait it'll be worse when she's a toddler. I'm an active person but I have no problem slowing down and healing to improve my quality of life for the future. Thanks again!

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Speaking of grandchildren, I was also worried about being able to manage after surgery with my 2 year old grand-daughter around. But her parents taught her from the beginning that Nana had a "boo boo" and couldn't pick her up. She learned at first how to step up onto my chair and sit on my lap (without any lifting by me). And I was able to sit on the floor with her. With each follow-up visit, the doctor gave me limits to what I could pick up. Right after surgery, it was no more than 5 lbs., a few weeks later it was 10 lbs., then 20 lbs. At 12 weeks, he said I could pick up anything up to 80 lbs (if I wanted to)! Oh, my, my grand-daughter really giggled the first time I was able to pick her up again. It was worth the wait to be able to do it safely and without pain!

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My story is just about identical to yours...I'm now 50 but had the surgery - 3 level fusion - 16 months ago after about 20 years of pain. I tried everything, chiro, PT, steroids, neurotin but what helped the most was yoga.

Then It got worse, like yours, about 8 months before the surgery with tingling etc. I consulted with an orthopedic surgeon and a neurosurgeon who both said surgery was necessary, not just for my pain management but to reduce the risk of further nerve damage or risk of paralyzation if I were rear-ended in my car. That sealed the deal for me.

I had about the same recovery as the last commentor, mostly troubled by muscle spasms, but that eventually released after PT and massage. I got back to gentle yoga after about a month and progressed so well my husband and I rode bikes down a mountain in Colorado! The last visit to the neurosurgeon was almost a year ago and he said the fusion looked great.

However, I started having pain again and am seeing the neurosurgeon for a consultation again next week. I'm back on neurotin to ease the nerve pain but it's working only so-so. I know spondolosis is arthritis so I may have more bone spurs growing into the spinal cord (I had both disc herniation and bone spurs). I'm writing not to scare you away from surgery...I'd do it again in a minute. But you should know sometimes the discs above or below the fusion can get weak. My boss had to have two cervical fusions because of that but she has been doing fine now for a few years and she is 63.Good luck in whatever decision you make. :)

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Thank you, Michelle50! The first neurosurgeon did tell me that that the middle disc (c5 I think) was the worst but if he was doing that one he'd like to do the top and bottom as well. I wonder if that's why. They also are herniated but not as severe yet. That's very scary about the possibility of being paralyzed if rear-ended. I do a lot of driving for my job (minimum of 150 minutes in the car daily). I've also heard that there is the possibility of losing bowel control from these particular herniations. I am anxious for my 2nd opinion. BonnieRae, your story about your granddaughter made me smile. :) I have 3 grandchildren now, ages 4, 6 and 9 and they're wonderful! Best of luck to both of you. Michelle50, I'd be interested to hear what your doctor says about your pain now. I hope it can be easily resolved.

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The comments about driving reminded me ... I have a commute of 1 1/2 - 2 hrs each day. What I didn't realize before surgery was that the starts/stops, bumps and turns of the drive were really affecting my pain level. After I recovered and went back to work and the daily commute, I was startled at how much more comfortable it is to drive!! Another sigh of relief! And about your 3 level fusion, my surgeon told me that if I were younger (20-40 or so), he would have only done 1 level. But rather than waiting for the additional level (which wasn't as bad) to get worse and require another surgery, he did the second level at the same time. By the way, I worried about reduced movement of my neck with the fusions. But my surgeon said my movement would be better after the surgery because I had so much bone spurring! And he was right. It now feels like my head turns on Teflon (which it kind of does!).

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My bone spurs were the culprit of so much pain too. I'm worried I have grown some more. You are right about driving, it can be very uncomfortable. Too bad it is illegal to drive with a cervical collar in Michigan. I find relief with ice on my trapazoid muscles or doing a forward fold from a slightly bent knee standing position. And I have to be honest and say 2 glasses of wine usually takes care of the nerve pain. Alchol affects the central nervous system so I've found no better relief than sitting in my lazy boy with 400 ibuprophen and 2 -3 glasses of wine at night. I'm not doing my digestive system or liver any favors though. I've managed to stay off narcotics though. My doctor just prescribed gabeprentin (neurotin for is an anti-convulsent) and I was on it before and it does help some, no side effects except grogginess in the morning. Flexeril (muscle relaxer) helps some too when the muscles spasm. OY! Gotta go, feeling old!

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