Neck surgery???

-- Last Updated: May-23-07 7:39 AM EST --

OK, I know that a good many folks on this site are getting, shall we say more "mature", as from the close to 200 replies on back trouble not long ago, and the age poll. A few months back, started experiencing numbness in the fingers of one hand, so trotted into the doc, who ordered up an MRI, second one in 4 years,(have lumbar issues, as well as what now turns out to be a pinched nerve involving C4-7, as I recall)Doc says surgery is the way to go, and that he will go in thru the back of the neck, and basically rout out the disc to give the nerve more wiggle room. WELL, this is not what I wanted to hear, and am putting it off as long as possible hoping there are other options, hopefully something a little less invasive, I mean this is my spine we're talking about!!!!! Anyone have similar malady??? I realize that I can't ignore it and hope it goes away, as I know I can suffer nerve damage in my hand/arm/neck. I am in my early 50's and not ready to give up my paddles yet. See clarification post farther down.

Oh Yeah!
On fathers day a yr ago, I became quite aware of a severe pain running down my arm and into my fingers. After numerous trips to the emergency room and several doctors, I walked into a physical theropists office and within minutes they found out that a)I had a spine issue. Turns out that there were bone spurs on my 5th and 6th vert. Several months later after being in constant pain and taking prescription meds daily, I had the spurs removed, the spinal cord bone of someone, well let’s just say they didn’t need it anymore, inserted and a metal plate installed. I’m sure what you want to hear is I’m all better, but I can’t say that. What I can say is that the pain I was in before has gone and I have slight pain now. Could I have done without the operation? No. Has it made a tremendous difference? Yes. Can I paddle? You bet!

I hope this helps! May God be with you!

Jim T.

never again
i got the same thing,although i had surgey on my shoulders for spurs and had the ulanary nerve in the elbows moved.i still have my hands go numb. went to doc and he told me that if i have my neck surgey 5,6and 7th, that i would never get back to what i was, it would hinder my life as i know it. being a carpenter for the last 35 years and never being able to retire i opted for living with the pain. good luck if you go for it. joe z

Have you gone mad?

I hope you dont buy a new car when someone says it wont start.

Go to a chiropractor and massage therapist first, not the man who makes his money off of perscriptions and surgurys.

Dont buy a new car either, check to see if there is gas first , then the sparkplug.

You dont need surgery…you didnt have surgery to get to the problem so why get it to resolve it.


Had it
Ive had the cervical disc fusion twice , They go through the front of the neck on all that I have ever <br /> seen. I tried everything but it was the way for me .<br /> I think they are working on replacement disc now so you dont have to have them fused.

I would google it and talk to other Dr, before you have it done.

I still over do it and it hurts but I can do most thinks and paddling is one of them , I just can`t see behind me to good . Stiff neck!!

I’m waiting
I’m 49 and have been experiencing numbness in my left arm this Spring when I paddle hard – but I’m not about to go trotting into a surgeon’s office to get my spine replaced.

neck surgery
i had neck surgery two and a half years ago. Anterior Cervical microforaminotomy. I would highly recommend lots of research before making your decision. There is traditional fusion, artificial discs and the kind of surgery I had pioneered by Dr. Jho in Pittsburgh. I considered travelling to Europe for an artificial disc before deciding for micro surgery. I did not like the long term outlook with a fusion.

I had a spinal cord compressed 50%. The surgery completely decompressed my cord. Had the surgery one morning, spent the night in the hospital, another night in a hotel in Pittsburgh, then flew home to Denver. No neck brace, no waiting for the bone graft to grow in. The Braintalk website, spinal disorders forum is a good source for information.

Also had neck surgery last year…
I also had cervical stenosis…doc said I was born with the problem, but it gets progressively worse as we “mature”. :>)

When I was operated on, they went thru the front of my neck to access the “front” of the spinal column…then they inserted metal screws and cadaver bone tissue. (I was hoping it was from an unfortunate supermodel and osmosis would work…but no such luck! :>) You are rather incapacitated for a couple of weeks, but it was worth it.

Like the previous post…I can paddle, but turning around is stiff.

spinal decompression
might be something to look into. There is a spinal decompression machine called DRX9000C. From what I under stand the decompression lowers the pressure inside the disk.The negative pressure then draws the displaced disk material more towards the center of the disk and away from nerves. The pressure on the nerve is released and it can begin to heal. This isn’t for everyone. They usually ask you to bring your MRI to your first appt. and can tell by that if you would be a good canidate for the DRX9000C. A friend of mine tried everything (chiopractor, therepy,nerve block) this was the only thing that gave her releif from the pain.

Good Luck to you.

Many other options first
I have had discs removed at l5-s1 and c6-c7 with fusion. If you really need the surgery, it can work very well. But there are many things you need to try first, and don’t have surgery unless you are sure you are a great candidate for a super result. It doesn’t sound like you are losing nerve or muscle function, which could be an indication for prompt surgery.

With what I know now, I might have avoided surgery. The things that are often tried - physical therapy, muscle relaxants, chiropractic - were of little benefit to me.

The things that have worked for me require more of your effort, but are well worth it.

Find somebody trained in myofascial release therapy. Also Yamuna Body Rolling therapy is cheap and extremely effective. Alexander Technique training is worthwhile, as is yoga. The Egoscue pain relief clinic may be what works for you. Yoga therapy works great, but if your muscles are too knotted, they need to first be freed up with something like myofascial relief or trigger point therapy before you can stretch them. The body rolling works because it uses pressure to release the trigger points and knots as it stretches. Try it all before you do surgery.

Without getting into a lot of technical details, some of what you are saying does not seem right to me. I don’t think you have a clear understanding of what you are being told.

For instance, “pinched nerve” is not a medical diagnosis. If you have a herniated disk, it is extremely unlikely that the problem is caused by three consecutive discs, and if they are discs, they can’t be reached from behind at that level. I am guessing that they want to fuse you, but it is just a guess.

BTW, paddling actually helps my spinal problems.

Good luck.

clarification on neck surgery
Didn’t have the paperwork in front of me when I originally wrote. Diagnosis, significant foraminal stenosis, especially C5-6 and C6-7.

Bulging disc at C4-5, worse on right side C5-6 and 6-7. Has lost loridosis and has kyphotic curve from 7-4. Consider cervical decompression, keyhole laminotomy on right side of 5-6,6-7.

I also have degenerative and mild bulging disk at L4-5, and L5-S1. Have tried pt, massage therapy, now yoga, as well as water bag traction. This surgery does not fuse, and does go thru the back of neck, recovery 4-6 weeks. Which I really don’t want to give up. Anyone had this?


– Last Updated: May-23-07 8:18 AM EST –

Physical Therapy with MACHINE TRACTiON (not a water bag) provided in the therapy department by the therapist, about 8 sessions.

Oral steroid, Prednisone, for a 2-3 week tapering dose (not a weaker Medrol Dosepak)

Cervical epidural steroid injection or two.

Ask a non-surgical pain specialist (sounds like you had advice from a GP and then a surgeon only so far-- old saw: "When all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.")

If you've tried the above, and given it at least six months to improve on it's own as time is a great healer in the majority of cases (unless you are having profound weakness, incontinence, etc.), and if you simply cannot live with the pain at that point, get second surgical opinion (two opinions simply to see that the method of surgery is the same between the two docs, if not, get a third "tie breaker" surgical opinion--hey, you only have one neck for life) and bite the bullet and know you've tried everything you could to avoid the surgery.

Good luck and Godspeed to you, lbaker.

I feel your pain

– Last Updated: May-23-07 10:24 AM EST –

I had a cervical diskectomy with fusion on C4-5 12 years ago ... after many months of chiropractic, physical therapy, etc. The pain in my right arm was so bad that if the doc had told me they had to amputate the arm I would have said, "Fine, cut the damn thing off ... just get me out of pain!" There ain't no pain like nerve pain!

That surgery was successful (cadavers-R-us) and I was pain free after about 6 months. HOWEVER ... after 10 years, C5-6 herniated bad and a new round of pain began. Another long round of chiro and PT did not help. Docs were recommending surgery again. They noted that having a fusion done increases the likelihood of other nearby disks going bad - losing one shock absorber puts more stress on the remaining ones.

So I wanted to go with an artificial disk to prevent that happening again and to keep some of my neck mobility. Problem - the FDA has not yet approved the artificial disks for the cervical area (lumbar yes - thoracic, I'm not sure). Prednisone was the only thing that kept my pain away enough to function/work. I found a sympathetic doc who agreed to let me take a daily, but low, dose of prednisone to keep me going until the artificial disks for the neck were approved. After about 12 months, I was relatively pain free and quit the prednisone ... I've been fine the past 6 months and no longer need surgery. As far as I know, the new disks for the neck are still not approved by the FDA (docs in Europe have been using them for almost 12 years with success).

I still live in daily fear that some little accident will trigger a relapse. But at the moment I am extremely grateful I was able to avoid a second surgery. One fact I found when researching this problem ... MRI studies have shown that herniated disks do not always equal pain in the patient - some patients with blown disks seem to function just fine, others not. How come is that? I infer it's not simply a matter of mechanics in that area.

WARNING!! I should add that regular prednisone usage is nothing to enter into lightly ... the drug is both a blessing and a bane - some serious side effects are possible - my doc monitored my blood like a hawk and we did some bone density scans before, during and after the process.

I wish you well ... surgery should be your last resort but I had good results with mine though I'd do almost anything to avoid a repeat. Each person faced with this crap has to make some tough decisions about the trade-offs involved in each path of care.

Thanks for the clarification
Of course, this is internet advice, but it looks like you don’t have a disc problem. Bulging discs are not clinical. No neurosurgeon would operate on a bulging disc. When they herniate and actually compress the nerve root or spinal cord, that could be an indication for surgery. But you don’t have a disc problem. Therefore, traction is also unlikely to do any good.

The reason they are proposing going in through the back through a keyhole is that they do not need to get at the disc - just the foramen. It is not as invasive as a the normal disc removal with either fusion or instrumentation.

Stenosis means that the opening has narrowed. Your nerve compression is not caused by the disk pressing on the nerve root, but by the opening being too small. You probably have small openings by nature. Arthritic changes and inflammation can cause that to narrow down so much that the nerve root is compressed. It feels the same as a disc compression, since the nerve root doesn’t distinguish where or how it is being compressed - it just doesn’t like it.

The fact that you have the kyphosis and other problems as well as the stenosis is a pretty good indication that you have poor mechanics in that area. So I think that yoga is a good start. PT from the right person could help, but not the typical HMO routine of giving you a leaflet and throwing a hot towel at you.

A good book is Back Care Basics, written by an MD from a yoga perspective - widely available. If you can afford it, Alexander Technique lessons and myofascial release therapy could really help along with the yoga. If that doesn’t work, and the pain is too bad, surgery could work, but won’t solve the mechanics that caused the problem.

Oh yeah - where are you. If there an Egoscue Pain clinic in the area - which is basically yoga based, that could really help. You could try Egoscue’s Pain Free book, or even internet participation which is also pretty cheap and could really help. I believe that Egoscue ( has had pretty good results with stenosis. You can call them, and their approach can’t hurt you.

Good luck, and hope to see you on the water.

The numbness in my left fingers feels
better already.

what you need
is a new Necky