When does surgery become necessary?

Hi. Thanks for letting me join. This is my first post.

I’ve had left sided shoulder and arm pain with altered sensation on and off for approximately 6 to 7 years. I had an MRI a couple of years ago and it showed a number of minor disc bulges, osteophytes etc at multiple levels. The worst being C6-7.  I’ve had two nerve blocks into the foraminal stenosis which was effective for about 3-4 months the first time and wasn’t as effective but did work a little for about 1-2 months the second time. 

Fast forward a year and I developed a continuous left sided headache behind my ear, over the top of my head and above my eye with a numb ear and a fluttering sensation in my ear drum. I consulted a neurologist who thought it could be from my neck and ordered another MRI. The MRI report states 

C3/4: There is a small focal central disc protrusion which is

C4/5: Minimal disc osteophyte complexes noted which is non-neurocompressive. 
There is mild bilateral facet joint degenerative change.

C5/6: A small diffuse disc osteophyte complex is noted. There is contact with
the right exiting C6 nerve roots without compression.

C6/7: Large diffuse disc osteophyte complex produces moderate left foraminal
narrowing. There is contact with the left exiting C7 nerve root.

I was wondering if the C6-7 issue, which is the cause of my problem, can be successfully treated conservatively? As the cause is both bone and disc, does this mean that surgery is a preferred option? 

I’m not due to see the neurologist again for quite some time but like to be pre armed with information.




  • LizLiz Posts: 2,075

    Welcome Cheric, we’re glad you’re here!

    Members are not permitted to advice on treatment options.

    While you’re waiting for a reply to your first post, please take a few moments to review the Code of Conduct and FAQ section, located under Forum Tools. There you will find important information about posting in the forum and helpful tips for new members.

    You can also find information about Neck Pain: Cervical on,  All articles are authored by expert health professionals and reviewed by our experienced editorial team. This rigorous editorial process is modeled after that of a medical journal and ensures all of the articles are accurate, comprehensive, and unbiased. I hope you find this information helpful.

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  • katsmeowwkkatsmeoww Posts: 5
    edited 10/31/2019 - 1:01 PM

    Hello there Cheric. I'm sorry to hear about your pain. As a member I cannot offer advice, but I can tell you about my own experiences which may be helpful? 

    I have had one acdf surgery (anterior cervical disc fusion) on c5/6 and am currently facing a second surgery on c6/7. The main reasons I chose to have surgery the first time was because conservative treatments were not relieving my symptoms enough for me to enjoy my life day to day. The disc was causing foraminal narrowing, which basically meant my spinal cord and the nerves around it had less room to move and my vertebrae were beginning to rub because the disc was so thin. My headaches and neck pain, along with pain and numbness in my right shoulder and arm were exhausting. 

    Unfortunately I am having similar problems again with c6/7 now and the headaches are far worse this time. I am going to have another surgery likely in January because the pain is giving me high blood pressure and is too much to sustain, even with conservative treatments. 

    So, considering the pain and what is included in the conservative treatments you are using currently, if those are helping then great! For me, I see myself going down the same road and I am ready to get back on track. Cervical degenerative disc disease is so painful and frustrating and I feel for you and all of those who have to suffer from it. 

    O, I also watched videos and testimonials.. they really helped me make decisions and gave me a good idea of what I was looking at with surgery or without. 

    Good luck! 

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  • Thanks for your answer. 

    I went back and saw the neurologist who told me, and I’ll quote, “your neck is stuffed and you need surgery”. However, after thinking about it, he realised that due to my medical problems..heart, bone marrow cancer and others...that I’m not a good surgical risk. So he has started me on Endep, starting on a low dose and titrating up until I’ll be on 50mgs a day. 

    I’ve just started so time will tell if it’s helpful. Anyone else gone down the medication route instead of surgery? 

  • look into ADR  Anterior disc replacement which allows for more mobility.

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