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Degenerative Disc Disease in Neck

Started 1336854068.033 in Health & Fitness | Last reply 1337883079.757 by vancouverUSAgal

Do any of you have this? I'm in agony and wondered what your experiences are and what you've done to alleviate the pain and stiffness. I have an appointment next week with the doctor of course, but first hand experiences are helpful too.

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DogMom1336857856.237485 PostsRegistered 4/21/2010

I have degenerative disc disease in my neck. I had been experiencing increasingly frequent stiff necks and then all of a sudden (this was 6 years ago), I had severe pain that was causing such agony and numbness in my arms, hands and even feet, I could hardly stand it (and I have a very high pain threshold). I went to a chiropracter for a couple of weeks which helped very slightly and then my primary care physician injected a muscle relaxor into the muscles of my shoulder. That also helped slightly, but the pain continued. I was then sent for an MRI which showed two ruptured discs. The discs were protruding pretty severely into my spinal cord and that was what was causing much of the numbness. After several more months of physical therapy and 2 cortizone (epidural) injections, I continued to have severe pain and numbness. A neurosurgeon recommended disc fusion and after much consideration, I decided to have the surgery. So far, so good. I am not in pain anymore and the numbness mostly went away. I have just a very slightly tingling in my hands if I sleep in an ackward position. My doctor said that I do run the risk of other discs bulging or rupturing below the point of where I had the fusions, but there are things I can do to help avoid that. For example, I used to be a runner, now I no longer run. I also sleep on a special pillow that supports my neck. I keep my weight down and I also am careful not to lift heavy objects above my head. Another thing I do that seems to help tremendously is I get a deep tissue massage (concentrating on my neck and shoulder muscles) once a month to help keep the muscles relaxed. I am on a computer most of the day at work and, therefore, have a lot of stress on my neck and shoulders. I also put heat wraps on my neck when I am sitting around watching television. The heat just seems to help relax the muscles. Besides a little stiffness in my neck on occasion, I am painfree. Cold weather seems to make my neck worse than warm weather. I probably have some arthritis now in my neck.

I know what you are going through and how miserable it can be. Keep working with your doctor and try several approaches to see what works for you. I did feel like slight traction made my neck feel better, but the relief didn't last long. Also, there are some prescription muscle relaxors that helped, but I couldn't take them because they made me so sleepy, it was hard to function at work. Good luck and hang in there. Just keep trying different things until you find relief. I am afraid it may be a somewhat lifelong battle, but one that is certainly managable.

conlt1336858282.3571871 PostsRegistered 5/22/2007

Yes, I have it in multiple vertebrae. What works for me is Physical Therapy but by a Manually Trained Therapist. They do massage and manipulation to get you out of pain. I trust them so much more than a Chiropractor. Of course anti-imflammatory's and pain pills anywhere from Tylenol to Lortab depending on how bad it is.

rarejan1336859614.653743 PostsRegistered 5/14/2011Western New York

Thank you so much for sharing your experiences. I'm at my wit's end today. I have the heating pad on my neck and took some OTC pain medication but it's still painful. This has been coming on for quite a few months now and seems to have worsened in the last couple of weeks. When this first started, I had xrays and the doctor was amazed I didn't have more pain for the advanced state it was in. It seems now like the pain has caught up to the severity. I didn't think about the massage route...I'll have to ask my doctor about it when I see him. Thank you both for your suggestions. Dogmom...how long was recovery after your surgery?

DogMom1336861194.647485 PostsRegistered 4/21/2010
On 5/12/2012 rarejan said:

Thank you so much for sharing your experiences. I'm at my wit's end today. I have the heating pad on my neck and took some OTC pain medication but it's still painful. This has been coming on for quite a few months now and seems to have worsened in the last couple of weeks. When this first started, I had xrays and the doctor was amazed I didn't have more pain for the advanced state it was in. It seems now like the pain has caught up to the severity. I didn't think about the massage route...I'll have to ask my doctor about it when I see him. Thank you both for your suggestions. Dogmom...how long was recovery after your surgery?

Recovery wasn't long for me. I was out of work for 2 weeks and then went back every other day for another week or two. However, I have a desk job and was able to take it easy - that is why I wasn't out long. If you have a more strenuous type job - then it would probably be around six weeks of recovery. I wasn't able to drive for the first three or four weeks (I can't remember now exactly how long it was). Recovery really wasn't bad at all for me. Different surgeons have differents beliefs on how the recovery process. Some surgeons put you in a hard collar for several weeks, some put you in a soft collar. My surgeon had me wear a soft collar. I absolutely had to wear anytime I slept for the first six weeks, but if I was just sitting around the house, I could take the collar off. When I first got home from surgery, I felt it was easier to sleep in a recliner for the first couple of nights. My advice is to do just what the doctor and physical therapists instruct you to do. Don't try to overdo or you may suffer negative consequences later. I did as I was told and my recovery was pretty quick and painless. I only had to take some light pain medication the day after I came home and I think that was because the swelling peaked at that time. I really can't say that I was in any real pain after the surgery except for a really bad sore throat for about a week. Everyone is different though. Keeping a positive outlook really helps! {#emotions_dlg.biggrin}

Oh, I meant to ask you if you have tried putting one or both arms over your head (bending the elbows) while you are lying back in a recliner or lying down flat? That helped me alot. It is suppose to take pressure off some of the nerves that run along your upper spine. It is worth a try. When I was in extreme pain, that along with Tylenol was the only thing that would give me any relief at all.

I'm thinking about you - and saying a prayer that you get some relief soon! Hugs to you!

rarejan1336866222.793743 PostsRegistered 5/14/2011Western New York

Thank you so much! I'll try your suggestion and see if that works. I laid down for an hour with the heating pad on and it's a little better. Right now I'm laid off from work so that's not an issue at the moment. I can take it easy when I need to...like today. This getting old business isn't for the faint of heart, I can see that.

{#emotions_dlg.rolleyes}

happy hous­ewife1336866574.44731960 PostsRegistered 1/4/2007

i have a disc herniated in to the inside of the spinal column at C7 and it doesn't actually hurt - it itches - constantly, over my left neck and shoulder. When I had this 5 years ago I went to a rehab docotr who sent me to PT for exercise and traction. It really helped me and the results lasted 5 years but recently the itching has come back so this summer I will see that doictor again to ask him if I can try the same treatment a second time.

When faced with senseless drama, spiteful criticism or misguided opinions walking away is the best way to defend yourself.To respond with anger is an endorsement of their attitude. -Dodinsky

happy hous­ewife1336866757.75731960 PostsRegistered 1/4/2007
On 5/12/2012 rarejan said:

Thank you so much for sharing your experiences. I'm at my wit's end today. I have the heating pad on my neck and took some OTC pain medication but it's still painful. This has been coming on for quite a few months now and seems to have worsened in the last couple of weeks. When this first started, I had xrays and the doctor was amazed I didn't have more pain for the advanced state it was in. It seems now like the pain has caught up to the severity. I didn't think about the massage route...I'll have to ask my doctor about it when I see him. Thank you both for your suggestions. Dogmom...how long was recovery after your surgery?


When I had surgery on my lower back I woke up in the Recovery room and realized the pain was gone totally. The post op pain is scant in comparison to the pain I had endured from the nerves being pinched.

When faced with senseless drama, spiteful criticism or misguided opinions walking away is the best way to defend yourself.To respond with anger is an endorsement of their attitude. -Dodinsky

lizzief1336868483.782619 PostsRegistered 9/27/2011
Rarejan, I feel for you! I was diagnosed with DDD when I developed a sharp pain at the base of my neck after working out. I saw a neurosurgeon and he told me to stop working out, and the pain should subside. That was 25 years ago. The condition worsened over the years, but I was able to control the pain with ibuprofen. Seven years ago, I had breast cancer, and during those surgeries the pain worsened to the point that I needed to see a surgeon again. I had a cervical fusion at C-5 – 6 three years ago. Unfortunately, I still had considerable pain, and I had to have a posterior cervical fusion two months ago because the first surgery did not heal properly, which apparently is common. I still have some cramping and nerve pain in my shoulders, but the surgeon says that should subside in about six months. I did everything I could to avoid the initial surgery. That included physical therapy, acupuncture, massage therapy, narcotics, epidural injections you name it. My advice to you is to get a couple of opinions from reputable surgeons who may or may not be in your immediate area. You shouldn't jump at surgery, but neither should you take as long as I did to finally admit to yourself that's what you need to alleviate your pain. You will know if and when the right time has come to do the surgery. I wish you luck in your journey, and hope you can do so without being too much pain. Living in chronic pain can affect your whole life. Don't let too much time go by before you do something about it!Last edited on 5/12/2012

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rarejan1336870104.9833743 PostsRegistered 5/14/2011Western New York

Thank you morning lover & lizzief for your words of encouragement...I really appreciate it. You have all given me much food for thought.

{#emotions_dlg.wub}

sfnative1336877056.265642 PostsRegistered 4/23/2007Portland, OR

rarejan:

It would be interesting to find out if other folks on either side of your family experienced similar symptoms. I got the "gene" from my Dad's side of the family, so started to develop DDD some years ago. I've lost 2.5" in height and just this afternoon, came home from the mall and then laid down to rest my back and watch the NASCAR race. Ten minutes later, I yawned and felt moderate pain at the base of the skull on both sides. When I tried to move my head back into neutral, i.e. lower my chin, I couldn't do it. My head was stuck.

DDD is not reversible. I do hope that you can find treatment which addresses your levels of discomfort. Good Luck!

"Don't follow any advice, no matter how good, until you feel as deeply in your spirit as you think in your mind that the counsel is wise." Joan Rivers, RIP

rarejan1336878137.0933743 PostsRegistered 5/14/2011Western New York

Thank sfnative. My mom has DDD in her back unfortunately. Wow your head stuck??? That would've freaked me out! I'm watching the race too, although my head's pounding, but I'm determined to see the end of the race. Go Smoke!

Angry Bird1336878927.074918 PostsRegistered 10/17/2007TX

It has been 9 years since my DDD surgery. I had developed bone spurs on my bulging disc. The pain and ROM was so bad that I couldn't lift a gallon of milk or push a grocery cart. My quality of life wasn't good since I was in constant pain with no relief. I was really concerned about getting addicted to the pain killers and muscle relaxers.

Neurosurgeon was terrific...I was so ready mentally for the fusion surgery. After surgery, I had sore throat for about a week and had to wear a hard collar all the time during recovery. After 4 weeks, had to go to PT until I regained some strength back in my neck but it was such a relief to be out of pain.

My NS told me I have another bulging disc but if I was careful it may not pose a problem and so far so good. Listen to your doctor. Mine told me to never wear high heels ever again and suggested Birkenstocks..he wears them in the OR. Now I only wear Birkenstocks or I am in dire pain/aching throughout my whole body. There is truth to the claims that Birkenstocks give a custom orthotic.

I have some physical restrictions like I can't stand on my head, {#emotions_dlg.laugh} which I don't miss..... ride roller coasters that have a whiplash type motions, water ski, just was told to avoid any rough stuff.

We went to Home Depot to get ceiling fan and I can't move my neck back to look straight up so have to stand back and look at them at different angle. No big deal..I am fine and out of pain. I can't turn my head completely around when backing up the car. When weather changes to cold temperatures, I feel some slight discomfort in my neck due to the metal plate and screws. Again, minor things for me.

Please keep us updated on your situation. Others have given some great suggestions. I know how you feel and hope you find a solution quickly to get relief from the pain.

KEEP LOOKIN' UP 'cuz that's where it all is!
~Kidd Kraddick~ 8/22/1959-7/29/2013

rarejan1336879390.2173743 PostsRegistered 5/14/2011Western New York

Oh thank you Angry Bird...I appreciate that you shared your story with me. I'm a Birkenstock lover too and wear them every day. I'm happy to hear you're doing well after surgery...that gives me hope. Oh and I like your siggy...I have enough cat hair around to make an outfit I think. Lol. Wink

footballmom1336881143.81380 PostsRegistered 8/16/2007edge of the earth five miles east of the pacific

I've had two surgeries--first one for my C5-C8 and the second C3 and C4. I had to wear a hard collar for each recovery, and my recovery from my second surgery was quicker than the first. I also slept in the recliner.

I always took a pain cocktail of tylenol and advil together, it usually took the edge off of my pain. And I always ice my neck, seems to help me. I tried the PT and really didn't have alot of improvements. I do have deep tissue massage to help keep my muscles loose.

I noticed nobody mentioned the range of motion you lose after surgery.

I still have pain, some days worse than others, but I live with it, for now. I do not want any more surgeries, plus going up to C1 and 2 is more scary--for me.

Good luck on whatever you decide:)

rarejan1336881531.7533743 PostsRegistered 5/14/2011Western New York

I'm not sure which direction I'll go in and a lot depends on what the doctor says, of course. I don't have a lot of range of motion now and don't even drive much because of it. I'd like to try alternate ways to alleviate the pain, if I can. Thank you for sharing your experiences!

Angry Bird1336881987.7434918 PostsRegistered 10/17/2007TX

My bone spurs were found when I had the MRI. Until then, my family doctor treated it differently. The MRI results came in and I was immediately referred to the neurosurgeon. Thank goodness, he was wonderful. If Birkenstocks are good enough and recommended by him, then I am going to take his advice!

Have you have an MRI? This will clearly show the problem and what solution is necessary to get you out of chronic pain.

KEEP LOOKIN' UP 'cuz that's where it all is!
~Kidd Kraddick~ 8/22/1959-7/29/2013

sfnative1336885603.075642 PostsRegistered 4/23/2007Portland, OR
On 5/12/2012 rarejan said:

Thank sfnative. My mom has DDD in her back unfortunately. Wow your head stuck??? That would've freaked me out! I'm watching the race too, although my head's pounding, but I'm determined to see the end of the race. Go Smoke!


Smoke didn't quite make it. Ran out of gas! How frustrating. However, the 48 won which pleases me because he came from literally over the hill from where we presently live.

Also, did have a disk removed and fusion at C5-6 which was enormously successful. Just prior to the surgery I only had 5 degrees of motion to the left. Otherwise my neck was frozen. Did have lots of PT and NSAIDS, but no help as my neck was that bad.

Have you had an MRI, been prescribed physical therapy and NSAIDS? This is the usual protocol prior to consideration of surgery as a solution.

Forgot to add: when it gets bad and you're in horrible spasm, ask your doc to consider prescribing Flexoril or Valium. OMG! This was the only thing that allowed me to keep driving so I could turn my neck to see, until it got very severe.

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Last edited on 5/12/2012

"Don't follow any advice, no matter how good, until you feel as deeply in your spirit as you think in your mind that the counsel is wise." Joan Rivers, RIP

rarejan1336926397.6973743 PostsRegistered 5/14/2011Western New York

Good morning! No I haven't had an MRI and I can see that's something I will probably need. I have more of an idea in my mind now, thanks to all of you, of what to ask the doctor and possible courses of treatment before going the surgery route. In addition to the pain, did any of you feel pressure? I'm not sure how to describe it other than a very uncomfortable feeling of pressure which makes my throat feel funny.

PinkPagoda1336931445.8336 PostsRegistered 4/23/2011

I also have this and 4 weeks ago had a cervical fusion done on C5-C6-C7 so I am still in the healing stage. I worked at a computer 8 hours a day and had many of the symptoms you described before my surgery. I also suffered from numbness, weakness and pins and needles feelings in both hands, which has still not resolved itself after the surgery but the Dr. did say that would improve in time within the year.

Before the surgery, I tried everything: chiropractor, epidural injections, massage, advil, etc., and nothing helped - if anything, I got worse. I finally got an MRI and xray done, which confirmed that I had herniated discs, and then had no choice but to have surgery to help alleviate the pain since I could no longer work. My hands were so numb it was like having rubber hands, which made it nearly impossible to do a computer desk job.

My advice is to see your doctor and listen to their recommendation, and then get several other opinions to be sure you really do need surgery if that is what is required. I saw three different surgeons to get their opinions and brought a copy of my MRI and xray for them to view - you only need to pay for these once and then you can ask them to make you a copy to bring to the other doctors.

Also get a thorough understanding of the approach they will use since there are options. I did not get the titanium plate and screws that is one of the options; instead, I got cervical cages to replace the discs that are anchored within the vertebrae so that there is no odd feeling when I swallow. This is a major surgery and it is in your best interest to be very well educated in your options when you make your decision and what to expect so that you have no surprises.

As for the range of motion loss, that is determined by which vertebrae are fused - since the side to side motion is governed by the higher vertebrae (C1-C2), you may not lose much motion if you are having the lower neck vertebrae fused as I did. I can still turn my head side to side, and was told that would improve as I continue to heal. I also was told I will lose some up and down range, but that shouldn't be much and I am grateful for the range I still do have.

In the meantime, make sure to stay very well hydrated - I was told by one doctor that this was very important since the discs are like sponges that hold water. If they dry out, they become very brittle and are more likely to slip and herniate. If they slip and push against a nerve and/or the spinal column, that is what triggers the pain, numbness, tingling, etc.

Good Luck to you and I hope your doctor visit goes well. It is very important to address this before it becomes worse - listen to your body if something doesn't feel right because there is a reason.

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rarejan1336932194.913743 PostsRegistered 5/14/2011Western New York

Thank you so much PinkPagoda! I too have the numbness in my hands and it's very annoying as there's no strength there to pick up anything. The worst of it comes and goes, but it's always there in a mild form. Excellent advice about drinking water and I don't do enough of it. I also quit smoking, which of course has many health benefits, but was indicated in everything I read about disc disease. I haven't smoked long nor did I smoke very many, but I figured it would certainly help my situation and would have other benefits too.

I wish you the best in your healing process!

PinkPagoda1336936501.56336 PostsRegistered 4/23/2011

You are very welcome, and I appreciate your well wishes!

That is very good that you have stopped smoking - if you do go ahead and get the surgery, they will tell you that smoking will not be good for the healing process and will prevent the fusion from taking as well as it could.

Also, I did not realize that you are having the issues with your hands. My symptoms started in Dec. 2011 after an awkward fall while cleaning my tub. I landed on my left hand but also felt an odd sensation travel up my arm into my neck and then the numbness, tingling, weakness started soon after. My doctor told me that having surgery within 6 months of the accident would allow for the best outcome of relieving the hand issues; he said that that longer I waited, the less likely my hands would return to 'normal'. I am happy for you that you will be seeing your doctor soon to address this problem - don't wait much longer because we don't realize how much we use our hands until they don't work well anymore.

hckynut1336970495.6719624 PostsRegistered 5/20/2006Nebraska
On 5/12/2012 rarejan said:

Do any of you have this? I'm in agony and wondered what your experiences are and what you've done to alleviate the pain and stiffness. I have an appointment next week with the doctor of course, but first hand experiences are helpful too.

I"ve had 3 crushed cervical vertebrae in my neck since the mid 1970's. I've had times where I hurt to lift my head and I had to use my hands to support my head when getting up from lying down.

I've had both of my Sports Med Certified Orthopods look at old and newer MRI's, and both of them told me I would be taking a risk if I wanted them to do surgery. One specializes in the Spine, from the neck on down to the tail bone. He told me he would do it, but that it would be a 50/50 deal on would it help, or possibly make it worse. That was about 3 years ago and now I have not intention of doing it with those odds.

I can't take NSAIDS or aspirin because of my colon bleeding issues, so the strongest I can take is Tylenol, and it does very little. What helped me most was working on making all the muscles that support my neck and head as strong as I could. This included the "trap muscles", and this helped me more than anything else I could do.

There are times where it really bothers me, and there are times when the other more serious things going on with my body bother me more. When I shift my mind to my heart/lung/colon/kidney problems, seems like my neck pain is no longer a factor.

Now I've had 3 ruptured lumbar discs removed over the years: L-5/S-1 and L-3, with the "L-5/S-1" removed via open back surgery.

One thing that did help me more than most other things years ago was buying and sleeping only on a "neck cervical pillow". But I have slept in a lounge chair now for 17 years because of my back issues. Haven't found any type of bed that I can sleep in for more than 3 hours, and I can hardly move when I get up. Gotta get right into a hot shower and stand there for 10-15 minutes to get my blood and muscle temperature up several degrees, and then I can flex pretty much as normal.

Wish I could help you more with this, but this is the best I can do for you.


hckynut(john)




rarejan1337004743.8173743 PostsRegistered 5/14/2011Western New York

Hi John! Thank you for sharing your experiences with me. I agree with you about getting into a hot shower to get all the parts going. That's the first thing I do in the morning...it works wonders. What kinds of exercises do you do to keep your neck muscles strong?

PinkPagoda1337871308.8236 PostsRegistered 4/23/2011

Hi rarejan......just checking back in with you to see how your doctor visit went recently. Please let us know - I hope you are doing OK!

rarejan1337878879.2033743 PostsRegistered 5/14/2011Western New York

Hi Pink! Doctor's visit was interesting. The last time I went, the doctor I had didn't explain things very well and the doctor I had this time was totally different. I had to switch because my previous doc left the practice. Anyway, he took a lot of time explaining all the things going on in my neck. I have three different things going on: arthritis, stenosis and spondylolisthesis. The next step is an MRI, which I just received paperwork for and permission to do today. Once the MRI is completed, my doctor can refer me to a specialist.

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