I am a 36 year old relatively healthy female, I'll be 37 on 3/8/17. I do smoke but do not drink or do drugs. In December, 2016 I began having left should stiffness and pain. I initially thought I had overdone it at the Gym but the pain seemed worse then I woke up out of a dead sleep at 2AM on 01/02/17 with a pretty intense stabbing pain in my left shoulder, my shoulder pain had intensified and I could not lay down in any position with out intense radiating pain down my left arm. I went to the Urgent Care at 8 AM and after no tests I was diagnosed with stiff muscles, offered a muscle relaxer which I refused and was sent on my way. I had another sleepless night that night and the pain in my left arm, hand, shoulder was brain numbing. I had to return to work that morning after a week off and ended up leaving at 11AM to go back to a different urgent care. I did not have a primary care physician as I only go to an OBGYN once a year. Long story short, I was diagnosed with a pinched nerve on 01/03/17 based solely on my description and offered steroid pills, muscle relaxer, pain pill, and motrin 600 which I agreed to take because the doctor insisted that I would not get better without sleep and she referred to a Primary Care Physician. Normally I'm totally against pills. They allowed me to sleep 3-4 consecutive hours at a time. I visited a PCP I picked out of some book the next day and she informed me I actually had a bruised shoulder, not a pinched nerve. On 01/11/17, a week later with little improvement, I returned to the PCP office and was given a 4th diagnosis of tendinitis of the shoulder. I requested an MRI to identify the actual issue. I was informed that my BlueCross BlueShield PPO insurance wouldn't cover that test unless I had been in pain for 6 weeks and I was only able to get the referral by agreeing to pay cash- which I did. I had a cervical MRI and of my shoulder. That Friday, ironically on Friday the 13th (01/13/17), I received a call from the PCP confirming the following:
- C4-5: 3 mm broad based disc bulge endplate osteophyte complex. Resultant mild central spinal canal stenosis. No spinal cord compression. Moderate right, mild to moderate left foraminal stenosis.
- C5-6: 3mm broad-based disc osteophyte complex mildly exccentric to the right. Mild effacement of the right ventral cord surface. Mild to moderate central spinal canal stenosis. No cord compression. Mild to moderate bilateral foraminal stenosis.
- C6-7: 4mm broad-based left uncovertebral dis protrusion ostephyte complex. Resultant marked left foraminal stenosis. Mild to moderate central spinal canal stenosis. No cord compression. Patent right foramen.
The MRI of my shoulder was completely normal. It took everything I had to not say, what so what you're saying is I do not have tendinitis? I was refereed to a neurosurgeon and physical therapy. I made an appointment with a Neurosurgeon but his first available was 02/20/17. I felt SO hopeless. I didn't followup with Physical therapy because I just felt too overwhelmed. I tried a Chiropractor, 3 sessions, and it seemed to make my pain worse. The Chiropractor had me take x-rays as I also have scoliosis too and was sure the pain/cervical herniation was a result of an alignment problem. He wanted me to come in 2-3 times per week at $100 per visit. The pain I have now fluctuates in degree or I'm becoming used to it. I decided that Chiropractic care wasn't the right choice for me. On 01/30/17 I saw an Orthopedic surgeon a co-worker recommended and he referred me to Physical Therapy, a Nerve Study, and prescribed 300 MG of Gabapentin at night so I can sleep. The Gabapentin helped me sleep better, even though I would still wake up if I moved for a few weeks then lost it's effect. I had the nerve study done, dude that test is horrible! I'm not going to tell you what it is in case you have to have it done. I am so glad I had not idea what it was before I went. Here are those results:
- Needle evaluation of the Left triceps muscle showed moderately increased polyphasic potentials, increased insertional activity, moderately increased spontaneous activity, and diminished recruitment.
- The Left anconeus muscle showed slightly increased polyphasic potentials, increased insertional activity, slight increased spontaneous activity, and diminished recruitment.
- The Left pronator teres muscle showed increased insertional activity, moderately increasted spontaneous activity, and diminished recruitment.
- The Left extensor digitorum communis muscle showed increased insertional activity, slight increased spontaneous activity, and diminished recruitment.
I was also experiencing weakness in my left arm, like if I tried to lean on my left arm while reaching into my car to get something it wouldn't hold me, pumping shampoo in the morning with my left hand wasn't working, but I can still use my left hand/arm it's just noticeably not right. I made an appointment with a Physical Therapist close to my house and also went to 3 sessions there. The first 2 sessions seemed fine, it felt kind of good to have a massage and those electro pad thingys although it didn't improve pain or mobility. On my 3rd appointment I was asked to do stretches and exercises which seemed fine at the time but the next week was really painful. I felt a few clicks away from the pain level I initially had. In fact, I was now waking up every few hours again. I cancelled the PT appointments I had for the next week. If it's causing that much pain it can't be right for me. I understand muscles soreness but that's not what I had. I decided to give acupuncture a try instead of PT and went for 2 treatments, on 02/21 and 02/22. That not only increased the pain but added radiating numbness in my left arm. If I bend over to clip my dogs' leash, my left arm immediately goes numb. Also, sleeping, my arm goes numb. Oh and sleeping is now as bad as ever. I called the Ortho who was able to get in me that day. He explained that he could give me an epidural but that would be temporary and could also not work. I was initially super opposed to surgery but after living with pain and
basically unable to sleep the whole night and missing work and having to take stupid pills for the last couple months now
I just want this fixed. The Ortho said that he could fuse C5-7 and replace the discs with cadaver bone, which I believe is a ACDF based on my research, and that really is the only solution that won't be temporary. I felt relief, hope. I want to have the surgery and get back to my life. He prescribed tramadol and Meloxicam (instead of Motrin 600) which have provided some relief. I've just been resting and the pain seems to be at least backing down a little. The intermittent radiating numbness in my left arm rcontinues, squatting, bending, or laying down guarantees it but readjusting relieves it most of the time. I would like to note that my left arm strength, although still not right, seems less weak since this numbness thing began.
Finally, here's my questions to the knowledgeable personally experienced people of this forum.
Did anyone else experience increased pains with the conservative treatments, like chiropractor, physical therapy, acupuncture? I was expecting muscle pain but that's not what I felt after, I felt the nerve pain increasing/returning as adjustments, stretches, acupuncture seemed to aggravate the issue.
Has anyone experienced pain relief simply by resting and not stretching, pulling, cracking, stabbing (acupuncture) their neck and back?
Did you skip injections and jump to surgery? If so, why or why not.
I understand there maybe some pain after surgery, for life, but that it will reduce my symptoms by 90-95%. Is that wrong?
Does anyone regret having C5-7 fusion? If so, why or why not?
Does anyone have the actual success rate of C5-7 fusion, all the data I've found seems to be pretty biased based on the source?
Do I have completely unreasonable expectations that if I have the surgery I will be able to resume my life, stop missing work, sleep through the night, etc.?
Your opinions and experience is sincerely appreciated!!!