Pain in the neck, base of the skull, upper back, sometimes radiating down the arm.
(Webb City, MO)
Are there also degenerative changes in your lower neck?
Pain in the neck, base of the skull, upper back, sometimes radiating down the arm after surgery is a common complaint.
I have been suffering the above symptoms for several months now, ironically following a surgery on my lower back. I was doing physical therapy on my back and mentioned it to my therapist, so they had me doing basic neck therapy including traction. But I have pretty limited success with this approach.
I have since had an MRI showing a herniated disc at C5-C6 and a bulge at the level below.
I was actually scheduled for surgery, but it has initially been denied by insurance. This has given me the opportunity to rethink surgery and consider other treatment options, like chiropractic.
So I have a few basic questions.
1. Can/will a herniated disc heal without surgical intervention?
2. Are the symptoms I listed consistent with a cervical herniation in that area?
3. Do you think chiropractic can help me?
4. Any advice on choosing the right chiropractic doctor?
Thanks for your time!
Your complaint of neck pain following a general anaesthetic is not at all unusual; ask any chiropractic and he or she will tell you of umpteen cases they have treated.
During a general anaesthetic the neck is extended to keep the airway open. If there is one thing the cervical spine does not like, it's looking up for an extended period. The position reduces the size of the foramena where the nerve roots to your arm emerge.
It can certainly also affect the suboccipital region where the nodding action of the skull occurs. Headache is a common feature of this subluxation.
Perhaps you had a previous injury in the area, just lurking and waiting for such a difficult prolonged posture, maybe not; it's speculative.
1. Every chiropractor treats herniated discs virtually on a daily basis, most of which heal once the bulge has been reduced. They are more difficult in the neck than in the lower back.
2. The symptoms are consistent, but I would like to know if the following signs confirm it. Does turning your head to the affected side and then simultaneously looking up give pain in the lower neck, midback and or tingling in the arm? Is the upper limb tension test positive? Find it using the search function at chiropractic help. Is the pain and tingling in your arm relieved by raising your arm above your head?
The dorsal scapular nerve comes from C5 in the lower neck and supplies the rhomboid and levator scapular muscles. Deep upper back pain is common.
3. Yes, it's certainly likely that chiropractic can help you, though research shows that after six months of neck pain, no matter what treatment you have it's not likely to be "cured". I'm not suggesting that a case like yours is routine and a positive outcome with chiropractic is assured; much depends on the manipulative skills of the chiropractor and whether any "hard" neurological signs are present; loss of reflex, numbness or paresis of a muscle.
4. Finding a good chiropractor, one who has the skills and experience to tackle a case like yours is like locating the right architect to build your house, lawyer to take on your case or surgeon to replace a heart valve; talk to friends and neighbours and perhaps your doctor; don't rush to the first person listed in the yellow pages.
Good luck, Joel. This is one of the more painful conditions we treat, so don't feel you're whingeing about nothing. It's called iatrogenic illness; doctor caused disease. It happens in the chiropractic clinic too, so I'm not casting aspersions on medicine.
Let us know how you get on.
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