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I am a 46-year old female, high school teacher. My neck problems are not from any sort of accident but probably genetics and a lifetime of bad posture. 

1) I have straightening of the normal cervical lordosis with degenerative change of cervical spine (degenerative disc disease). 2) C3-4 mild left neural foraminal narrowing. 3) C4-5 intervertebral disc bulge - 2 mm posterior - with mild bilateral neural foraminal narrowing. 4) C5-6 intervertebral disc bulge - 2 mm posterior - with moderate bilateral neural foraminal narrowing. 5) C6-7 intervertebral disc bulge - narrowing of the spinal canal due to the anterior posterior dimension of 9 mm without evidence of spinal cord compression - approx 2 mm posterior disc bulge - with moderate bilateral neural foraminal narrowing. Throw in a few bone spurs here and that's my neck.

I do have neck pain but most of my issues have been with my shoulders, arms, wrists, hands and fingers. Aching, burning, stabbing, cramping. I am not in excruciating pain but I am always conscious of the aches and pains and it just is exhausting. I don't sleep well. Driving and working on the computer are the 2 activities that really make things bad - and as a mom and teacher, I spend a lot of time doing both. Housework and things like that can also flair the pains in my arms/hands and then I can't really do anything for awhile. I'm probably around the 6-8 pain level most of the time with periods of no real noticeable pain and shorter periods of higher pain levels. The pain mgmt Dr. prescribed Meloxicam (anti-inflammatory) and Neurontin (supposed to help with nerve pain) when I saw him last week. Last night could hardly sleep without taking some oxycodone and that honestly didn't even help that much. So there hasn't been a lot of time for those meds to kick in and I know that sometimes there is some playing around with dosage levels until they get it right. 

I saw an orthopedic surgeon in February and he said I needed to see a neurosurgeon and was probably looking at surgery. I have been doing PT for about 3 months. Neck traction does help but temporarily. I saw a neurosurgeon in March. He referred me to a pain mgmt Dr. but said that if he does surgery I'm looking at a 3-level fusion (C4-7). He said that 3-level fusions have an 80-85% success rate (kind of low in the whole scheme of things) and are less likely than 1-2 level fusions to have the ones above or below to go bad. I had foraminal injections on both sides of my neck about 2 weeks ago at the C6-7 level. It really didn't do much and in fact for the first 3 days I was in far worse pain than I've been in since before seeking medical help. I had a lessening of my symptoms for 24 hours at best and then back to about the same level I've been. 

So now the pain mgmt Dr. now wants me to have a cervical spinal epidural scheduled for 5/8/12 and I'm just so conflicted as to what to do. I have read many negative posts about the cervical epidurals but at the same time I know that people are much more likely to post online if they have complaints than if everything went great. My PT thinks that I should postpone the cervical epidural and see the neurosurgeon who I have an appt with on 5/15/12 first (2nd opinion - his 1st choice). If I postpone, I'm looking at postponing until after school gets out in June as it gets too close to the end of the school year to miss days. But this would also give the meds more time to kick in. That said, the last thing I really need is to add 2 more pills to my daily regimen.

Does anyone have any thoughts from experience on what course of treatment I should pursue? I realize that everyone is different - 2 people can have the exact same problem and one be in excruciating pain and another not even know that they have a problem. In the end I know it is my decision to make. Just hoping for some who have been there done that who might be able to add some things for me to consider in making my decision. Sorry - didn't mean to write a book! And sorry if you see a similar post somewhere else - I think I put it in the wrong category!

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Well I never got any feedback and had the cervical spinal epidural this morning. It hardly hurt at all - even joked with the Dr. that I wasn't even positive he had done anything! So far, so good but probably still have som anesthetic help. I guess only time will tell if it worked or not.
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Sorry just read your post today......I've had the shots in c4-7 a total of six....didnt help much....lost days at work for nothing...then the dr. wanted to laser the nerves...i had the same dx as you....i said ok thinking if the nerves were dead it would be numb and that would mean no pain..i was wrong....now pain in other areas below instead...had front and back surgery......1st to put plate and fuse..back of neck surg. was to get bone spurs pressing on spinal cord..wish i had never done that one.......never recovered.....plate is now 10 yrs old....2 more spurs and narrowing as well as you.....iam tired of the shots and the lasering didnt help sooooo.......i dont want another surg. iam 61....trying to work...the pain dr. wont give me anything but vicadon period.......and some soma.......heat helps alot.....resting it helps.....but no lifting...carrying......life is getting rather borning.......and iam feeling alot older than my age.....iam afraid to go around asking for another type of surgery given how the last one went...iam afraid i will lose more function or not recover..so iam just living with it and hoping for the plastic discs for the neck that they use in back now....but fda wont approve for the neck yet.....plastic sounds much better than metal!!! esp in the winter!!!!! this probably doesnt help you much but thought i would atleast answer you..........i felt great the day i had it done...he must have numbed the whole thing i felt free to have a neck...then it wore off............sigh....................................keep posting and let us know how it worked in the long term please......
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Don't have any advice. Wondering if you could tell me what kind of pain you have. Has it affected your arm and range of motion. I have had severe pain in arm shoulder and arm for five years and now have frozen shoulder. It is looking like a compression c4-5 and maybe c5-6.
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Elaine - ugh I am so sorry about all that you've been through. I haven't been dealing with it for that long and I know that it's definitely not enjoyable! I find that I just can hardly do anything anymore and I'm just tired of being tired and in pain.

The cervical epidural did NOT work for me at all. :( I am having a nerve test tomorrow and then on Wed I see my neurosurgeon and will probably discuss the surgery option if the nerve test is negative for carpal tunnel (which he expects it to be since it's in both arms and well he's seen my MRI but have to rule it out).

Zapmom - I have a friend who has just had surgery finally after debilitating pain for frozen shoulder - that is the pits! About 5 years ago I had severe pain in my right shoulder and limited range of motion. That turned out to be impingement syndrome - so the tendons kept catching on the edge of my shoulder bone and getting inflamed, which made them swell, get caught, never ending cycle. I had surgery for that done and have never had a problem with that in my right shoulder again. Fast forward and that's what I thought I had going on in my left shoulder, turns out it was coming from my neck.

In my shoulder/between shoulder blades/arms/wrists/hands/fingers - I get all kinds of sensations from searing pain, to electric like shocks, to aches that ache so badly I almost want to cry, to cramping, to tingling (the numbness was bad but much better after doing physical therapy and neck traction), to feeling like I'm getting stabbed with needles. I'm now having similar sensations in my legs/feet too so chances are given I have lower back pain too that I'm going to be dealing with lumbar issues as soon as we deal with my neck first.

I hope that description helps somewhat. Some of the "pain" sometimes is more annoying than painful and sometimes hard to describe.
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Elaine - my nerve test was negative for carpal tunnel. I saw the neurosurgeon on Wed and have decided to have the posterior laminectomy and foraminotomy surgery, with no fusion. Once it's approved by my insurance then it will get scheduled I will let you know how it all goes.
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I'm new to this forum but was searching for info an experiences related to my condition, which is quite similar to yours. I have 2 mm bone spurs in my C5-6 vertebrae causing severe arm pain, now radiating all the way to my fingertips. I saw a pain management doc today who is advocating for epidural treatment. Friends are advising me to get a surgical consult to look at having the spurs removed. I am a pianist, and the pain is now affecting my ability to perform, so I have to do something soon. Any advice re going the epidural route vs. surgery?
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I wonder if by now you've made your decision, however, I thought I'd still answer. I had the cervical epideural and it was horrible. It took all of the nurses and anesthesiologist to hold me down for the procedure. It was unreasonably painful and the numbness came after the shot. I would never do it again. By the way, it never helped. I would up having a spinal fusion of 3-6. It's been almost two years and the pain is nothing like it was.
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I am new to this board and have over 16 years dealing with back problems (I am now 36) after I fell from a helicopter serving in the U.S. Army. I have protruding discs at multiple levels of my lumbar spine, with an extruded (where the inner disc has leaked out) disc at the L5-S1; as well as, 2 protruding discs in my cervical spine and 1 extruded disc at my C3-C4. The key word here is "extruded", because when the nucleus disc leaks out onto the nerve root it not only presses on the nerve, but has inflammatory chemicals that keep agitating the nerve root. This causes the constant pain, regardless of medicine and Epidural Steroid Injections ( ESI).

Last year October 2011, I had a percutaneous laser disk decompression (PLDD) done. It is done through a needle, where a laser evaporates the inside of your disk and causes a vacuum effect. The extruded disk sucks itself back in and then the doctor uses that same laser to heat the annular layer (exterior part of the disk) to seal it. Total procedure took about 4 hours and I left the same day. Some people are back to work in a matter of days, but I needed an extra week. All in all, the recovery was fast, but it took a few months for the full effect of the surgery to kick in. I no longer have hot/cold sensations in my legs and toes. I do have numbness, which I believe is from other disks, but my lower back pain has subsided greatly. They are doing ESI's on my other disks to help my remnant pain, but that is the cycle of degenerative disk disease. Now I just need to have my neck done, and maybe life will be slightly better.

Moral of this post is to avoid major surgery and see about the PLDD to help with your pain and symptoms.
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Thank you for posting your experience. Very similar to what I am going through, especially how driving and computer work worsen your symptoms. I have 2 herniated disks in my cervical spine with nerve root compression, radiculopathy, numbness in hands, tendonitis in forearms, and the Coup de grace, torn tendons in my rotator cuff. The last was actually what brought the herniated disks to light.

I just had a cervical epidural done yesterday morning. When the Fentanyl wore off by evening I was in terrible pain, worse than the actual injury and any I have felt since then. Actually I've been up since 2 am with the pain shooting up the right side of my head as well. Hopefully, when the steroid starts doing its job, and reduces the inflammation around the nerve root, I will not have pain. I also have a lump on that side now and assume this is where the med is sitting. I will have to talk to my pain doc about that because he didn't mention a lump forming afterwards.

On a different note though, my injury happened on the job and the workman's comp carrier is trying to deny my claim. Meanwhile they are paying for all of my treatment. The lawyer I have doesn't understand why they are paying for treatment and yet denying any temporary disability pay. Their lawyers response when asked this during my deposition was "they want to be nice." I almost lunged at him from across the table. On May 1st I go before the workman's comp appeals board for the first phase of adjudication. It will have been almost 1 year to the day since my injury.

I hope since you posted in 2012 that you've gotten relief. I am new to this forum and tired of complaining to my loved ones and friends about my pain. Trying to stay positive with them and use this forum to complain instead :)

Steph

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I know I am way late, but I had problems with a narrow cord and a spinal stenosis in my cervical spine.

this was diagnosed 9/11/12. My surgery was delayed for 3 months because the surgeon I selected felt that the light spots on my spine might be MS. I was evaluated by two neurologists and two MS specialists, who had their suspicions of MS but could not conclusively prove it. Almost all tests were negative for MS. I had way too many signs of nerve damage...tingling, weakness, cold in hands and feet.

I stood up one afternoon, and my right foot felt as if it "melted" to the floor.

 

I was done. I told the surgeon to take a "leap of faith" with me and give me the anterior fusion surgery. I had the surgery on 1/18/13.

He found the problem at C4-6, so a couple of levels. He had to put a "plate" in to stabilize it.

 

My symptoms are slowly getting better, not gone because the signal changes made some weakness permanent, but much better and stronger 3 months post surgery.

 

If it had been MS, I was told that the surgery would have been for nothing.

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I had two disks removed and fused back in 1989.  C5-6 and C6-7.  The Dr. that did this said he would probably give me a 90% chance of fixing my problems.  I think he gave me 95%.  What a difference.  But I did everything they told me to do and did not take any chances, and to this day still carry a soft neck brace with me to use occassionally.  Fast forward to 2011.  I started having problems - felt like someone was following around behind me with a hot iron and putting it on my shoulder blades and shoulders.  After tests the Dr. determined that I had pinched nerves.  It took him quite a while to talk me into have injections in my neck.  I had 2 and then the 3rd I had a bad steroid flare.  So they said they would not use that particular kind on me again.  Had couple more and they always helped.  But last October I didn't come out so well.  The injection got into my blood stream and sent a message to my brain that I was nauseas.  Have been dealing with this for almost 10 months now.  Seeing a neurologist.  They are giving me depression pills, anti-nausea pills and patches.  Not getting much relief yet.  Any suggestions would sure be appreciated.  After 10 months of this it is really starting to get to me.  I never know how I'm going to feel when I get up - and even if I feel okay when I get up what will I feel like by end of day.  I cannot plan anything in advance because it just zaps me of all of my strength and leave light headed and not quite able to focus.

 

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Hi Joy, 

I hope that you improve and have feel better soon.

I am improving very slowly.

I had to have the spine surgery, as my stenosis was 95% or almost completely blocked in my c-spine.

I am glad that you and others have been able for find physicians that can do things to help you yet still avoid the surgery.

Best of luck to you.

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I have a C5/6 disc protrusion and I have been seeing a chirpractor twice a day, five days per week for the past five months and as long as I dont do anything silly I am going along well.  I would thoroughly encourage everyone to seek out a good chiropractor.

 

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55 Male. I have had this almost exact same problem for 2 yrs now. First MRI showed 1mm bulge on 3/4, 4/5, and 5/6. A round of steriod and 6 weeks of PT did the trick. Now 2 yrs later its back only this time it includes 6/7 and bulges are now all 2MM . Also have spurring on all 4 levels and disc dessication and narrowing. I have had the servere pains ranging to 9, prdom in left shoulder, which is contra indicated to MRI results which shows most damage right or bi lateral. This time 'roids and PT didnt help. I had injection but they put it in around the L2/3 area. I have gotten relief and have followup next Friday. I still have tingling down my arm to hand in certain cases. Full strength to LH side is near 100%. I think its only a matter of time before I have to deal with this again...

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