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Old 11-21-2011, 06:53 PM   #1
Rachel Fazio
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C5/C6 bulging disc

Hi all,
I browsed through some of the other threads on here regarding disc/spine issues, but they all seem to deal with the lower back, so I thought I would post my situation.

I am fairly sure I know exactly when my disc started bulging in 2008; I hurt it at the gym, went to the doctor, and the muscle relaxers and pain medication prescribed didn't help. It flared up intermittently during 2008-2010. At first it was only when I did one or two types of motion, then more and more things progressively added to that list. Finally my family doc said I had occipital neuralgia and gave me oral steroids. They work like a miracle. PT did not work at all.

Finally in August of this year I had an episode where I had severe nerve pain to the point I felt like I was getting tased in the neck. My massage therapist did some testing and told me he couldn't work on me and I needed to go back to the doctor. The doctor told me if I was having that sort of nerve pain (and some numbness in my hands as well) I needed to go get an MRI. So after a great deal of arguing, I did.

The MRI showed "mild intervertebral disk space narrowing seen at the C5/C6 level." There was also a posterior disc bulge at the C5/C6 level "causing mild to moderate central thecal sac stenosis with mild flattening of the cervical cord. There is no neural forminal narrowing." All the others (C2-T1) were normal. Impressions also included mild degenerative spondylosis. To put this all in context, I am under 30 years old.

So after this I had a neurosurgical consult. Of course he wants to do injections instead of use the oral steroids should I have any more problems. He gave me a little PT booklet (I admit, I am not compliant with this) and a prescription for cervical traction (moderately compliant). I have since had flares where I take the oral steroids, which my family doc is still happy to write for me.

At this point, I am doing nothing. Pretty literally. I haven't CF'd in three weeks or so. I'm afraid to do much of anything due to the potential to flare it back up. When I do CF, I only go at maybe 50% effort and feel ****ty about that, so I'm just avoiding it entirely.

So here's what I'm curious about...
1) Recommendations regarding exercise, either what to do or what to avoid.
2) Input on steroid injections, particularly from those who have had cervical injections.
3) Input on surgery - I think discectomy. The neurosurgeon stated if I am using the steroids more than about three times in six months I should be considering surgery. He was referring to the injections, but honestly I use the oral steroids more than that, so I'm not too optimistic about being able to avoid surgery at this point. But, as they say, when you have a hammer, everything looks like a nail, so I don't entirely trust his opinion either.
4) Any and everything else I should be thinking about. I am way open to suggestion as I would like to get back to not just CF, but everyday activity again. At this point, I hesitate to carry a backpack or even sleep in certain positions.

Thanks everyone!
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Old 11-22-2011, 09:38 AM   #2
Spencer James
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Re: C5/C6 bulging disc

I don't have any advice to give, but I am just wondering --- do you know what caused the injury in the first place?
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Old 11-22-2011, 09:49 AM   #3
Megan Zetter
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Re: C5/C6 bulging disc

Try this first: "He gave me a little PT booklet (I admit, I am not compliant with this) and a prescription for cervical traction (moderately compliant)"

There is no miracle cure. If you want to treat this conservatively you have to put in some work.
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Old 11-22-2011, 07:24 PM   #4
Rachel Fazio
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Re: C5/C6 bulging disc

@Spencer: If I am correct, it was a fairly light overhead lift. I felt something in my neck give and by the next day it hurt so badly I had trouble holding my head up to drive. I could be wrong, but it was after that I started having increasing problems.

@Megan: I'm not entirely sure I want to treat it conservatively. After one course of PT, I just don't have a lot of faith that some crappy little booklet is going to help me. I think I may consult with a physiatrist after the first of the year when my insurance resets and see if he has any new insight. Regarding the traction, the neurosurgeon "prescribed" it for me 30 minutes, 3 times a day. I have managed to set up my traction device in front of my laptop and that allows me to be compliant once per day, but that's honestly the best I can do after work and everything else for the day. Sometimes on the holidays/weekends I can do it twice.

That's why I was asking for input on the injections and surgery. If I can just gimp along until the stars align properly for me to have the time and money for surgery, and that will really FIX it, then I'm happy to do that. I just want to make sure that would be a good option since it's not something I could have a "do-over" on once it's done.
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Old 11-23-2011, 11:05 AM   #5
Michael Burke
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Re: C5/C6 bulging disc

Rachel,

I've had herniated l5-s1 with sciatica a couple of years ago. It was an ordeal. I was a candidate for the shots, but decided to treat it conservatively. I chose a PT provider who was doing the McKenzie method for dealing with sciatica, did a 14 day course of prednisone, and then was on prescription strength ibuprofen for 3 months.

Nothing other than walking around for 3 months. That wasn't planned, just how long it took to subside after ceasing lifting, running, jumping, sports, etc. I did do McKenzie extension stretches multiple times per day...constantly, actually, and they helped.

I had the sciatica for 6 months or so previous to that and eventually found myself unable to deal with it and finally came out of denial that it was going to have any improvement trying to stay at my same level of activity.

I'd suggest give yourself the best shot at treating it conservatively first, which means being what you're going to hate 'inactive' for longer than you probably want to. Surgery is no joke, complications can be serious and long lasting.

There is a McKenzie protocol for dealing with the neck, and a little booklet you can buy to the effect of 'How to treat your own neck'. I'd look it up. 15 bucks on amazon, and there is a 'McKenzie Institute' webpage that would list providers in your area.

Most likely it would be a PT affiliated with the folks who give the shots, and ortho's...I'd look for one who does know those people in your area, and hearing from a McKenzie person when to go to the next step (shots, surgery) and have their advise on your case would be worth it to you I'm sure.

Herniated discs and spinal injuries are tough to deal with and they are increadibly slow to heal. They're easy to tweak and reinjure while they're healing, so to get better you have to accept you'll need to make changes in the short term. My feeling is that limping along will not work and eventually you will be forced to stop and completely rest, or else the injury could progress and you could end up having to have surgery. All in all, my feeling is that the sooner you start treating it right the quicker you will be back to your previous activity level. But treating it right, right now...is probably doing nothing (for the most part), getting on and consistently taking some kind of NSAID at a prescription dose appropriate for you according to your Dr, and then doing extension type stretches.

Something to keep in mind...if you haven't had rest for months without doing crossfit or other vigorous activity, you don't know that conservative treatment won't work. That's what it is, and why most people heal from herniated discs by 'doing nothing'.

Good luck with it!

Last edited by Michael Burke : 11-23-2011 at 11:15 AM.
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Old 11-23-2011, 02:54 PM   #6
Justin Z. Smith
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Re: C5/C6 bulging disc

Quote:
Originally Posted by Rachel Fazio View Post
@Spencer: If I am correct, it was a fairly light overhead lift. I felt something in my neck give and by the next day it hurt so badly I had trouble holding my head up to drive. I could be wrong, but it was after that I started having increasing problems.
Crap, neck stuff is nasty. Hope all goes well,

Justin
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Old 11-23-2011, 06:21 PM   #7
Diane Curtiss
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Re: C5/C6 bulging disc

My husband had moderate herniation at C5 and two bulging cervical discs. He does not Crossfit, but does pretty much standard bodybuilding type lifting. We really are not sure how he did it, but at 57 years old it could have been pretty much anything. After dealing with the pain, shooting arm pain, and numb fingers, he went to a neurologist who diagnosed, did the MRI and recommended the shots. Nsaids were not an option as he has a kidney transplant.

For him, anyway, the shots worked wonders. He had relief within days after the first one. With the second one, three weeks later, all the numbness, except for a very small part in the tip of his finger, was gone. It was followed up by traction and physical therapy appointments. The shots were not a painful procedure for him. It was done in the local hospital and took less than an hour. They gave him versed intravenously and also numbed the area a bit. He had no issues with the procedure either time.

It has been frustrating for him, as he is not used to being sidelined as he has been from his exercise routine. Two months now, after the last shot, he is starting to do some of his normal routines, but at fewer sets and much lighter weights. If anything doesn't feel right, he stops. As others have said, you have to take the time to heal. This has been a long process for him, but he is taking the long view and doing what he has been told to do so that he does not reinjure himself.

You have to do what is right for you, but I will tell you that taking the oral steroids (I am guessing prednisone?) on a regular basis like you are is bad mojo. My husband has to take low dose prednisone for life because of his transplant and the immediate and long term side effects from that stuff are not good. Nasty stuff!

Best of luck to you and hope you are able to get some relief.
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Old 11-23-2011, 06:59 PM   #8
Rachel Fazio
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Re: C5/C6 bulging disc

Hi Michael,
Thank you for your suggestions! I have come to accept that I will not be able to do much for several months. I haven't had any trouble with running aggravating my injury though, so I was surprised to see you say you had quit running as well. Maybe it's just not to that point yet with me or maybe it has something to do with the disc location. Any thoughts on that? Right now the only exercise I've had for the past three weeks is walking my dog and two brief runs when I happened to go to a conference at a hotel on the beach - just can't pass up a chance to run on the beach

I have just bought the book you suggested - I was surprised to see how many positive reviews there were on Amazon! I am hopeful that will help. Unfortunately the nearest McKenzie PT to me is an hour and fifteen minutes away, so unless they happen to be open on Saturdays I won't be able to do that. Maybe with the book it won't be necessary though.

Also unfortunately, I am not sure I can take NSAIDs. I was having really bad heart palpitations there for a while when I was taking them to manage my neck pain. I went to a cardiologist and tried several different beta blockers at several different levels and they just kept getting worse. I finally stopped taking the Aleve and about three days later they were gone. I've taken some ibuprofen since then - and it may just be in my head now - but it seems like that makes it worse again. Right now I am just taking baby aspirin 1-2 times a day if I get a headache, but perhaps I will give the ibuprofen another try.
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Old 11-23-2011, 07:09 PM   #9
Rachel Fazio
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Re: C5/C6 bulging disc

Hi Diane,
Thank you for the input regarding your husband. I have had several people tell me they got the shots one or two times and that "cured" them. Originally I had been totally opposed, but then I heard that and started to reconsider. I am happy to hear they were painless for your husband though - I watched some YouTube videos of them and even the example patients flinched! That made me really worry about that.

Regarding the steroids, I am doing pulse therapy as opposed to taking them continuously. My doctor seems to think that this is unlikely to lead to any problems so long as I don't take them much more frequently than once per month. He did have me on dexamethasone at first but now he wants me to try medrol as apparently it is a bit longer lasting. He is trying to keep me away from prednisone due to the greater side effects.



Just to throw this in the mix, a large consideration for me regarding why I have so far opted to do the oral steroids as opposed to injections is just my circumstances right now. I am a graduate student with crappy insurance, which means I would have to pay for them out of pocket for the most part. I also live approximately 600 miles away from my family and don't have anyone to take care of me when I have a flare up of my nerve pain or to take me to or from a procedure like this. Right now I am also on an internship and have just started accruing sick leave, so I don't have a lot of time to take off at the moment either. At this point, if I need a major procedure done, I will have to plan it for the summer when I have leave to use and can go home to my family and have it done there. That is largely what I meant by "gimping along" for a while.
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Old 11-24-2011, 07:50 AM   #10
Mike Laroche
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Re: C5/C6 bulging disc

Rachel,
please please before you do anything else, any more injections, and certainly long before surgery. Read Dr. John Sarno's book, Healing Back Pain. Please watch this
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ABeBP...layer_embedded
It can be a difficult pill to swallow at first, and it puts the burden of getting better on you, rather than on a magic shot or pill or surgery to fix you.
Most people will not accept this diagnosis, but I can assure you from my own experience that it works.
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