Welcome to my neck pain story.

This is my online journal of the struggle to overcome neck pain which developed into a herniated disc between C5-C6 and ultimately neck surgery.  I have no medical qualifications or expertise.  My intent is to personally track my own journey and in so doing, to share it with others who are at some point in their own neck pain journey.  Perhaps you will learn from my experience, or will be able to add a comment that will in turn help others.

If you are reading this, then you probably already have or know someone close to you who has neck or back pain.  I wish you well.  For me, this has definitely turned into a marathon and not a sprint, which I originally was hoping for.  Good Luck to you.







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Saturday, April 10, 2010

Pre-testing for the Surgery, mid-September, 2008

Pre-testing.  My disc replacement was being done by Dr. Todd Albert at the Jefferson Hospital in Philadelphia.  I had no past personal knowledge of this hospital but believed it to be a hospital with a good reputation.  The Rothman Institute has an impressive suite right opposite the hospital in downtown Philly.  It was there and to another medical office I went to get all my pre-surgical tests done.  To say this took the best part of a day was not exaggeration.  Going from one office to another, it was not an unpleasant day as I had allowed time to do this.  In the process, it was discovered I had a slight heart murmer.  I had to return on another day to have a stress test done.  My heart murmer was of no significance I was glad to find out, and may in fact have had it for many years.  For the stress test I had to walk at a steady pace on a treadmill set at a significant gradient.  I passed.

10:02 pm edt          Comments

The Rothman Institute, Summer 2008

RothmanInstitute.gifThe Rothman Institute, Summer 2008.  My neck situation was not improving.  My husband and a friend started talking up The Rothman Institute.  They knew people who'd had spine or bone-related problems.  The consensus was I should make an appointment and see what they had to say.  My husband knew someone who had a lower back problem and they recommended Dr. Todd Albert.  I sent him a fax summarizing my neck pain history, treatments, and medications and requested an appointment.  Dr. Albert was a neuro/orthopaedic surgeon.  You had to have a significant problem to get an appointment to see him. My first appointment was about 6 weeks into the future. 

I first spent about 30 minutes discussing my condition with a junior doctor.  He was delightful and went to great lengths to tell me what I already knew.  But I also learned that I was losing strength in my left arm - a sure sign of nerve damage.  To this day, my left arm is not as strong as my right arm.  There was no going back. Then I had a consult with Dr. Albert.  He has a great 'bedside manner.'  He took time to answer all my questions which were numerous, he exuded confidence from his many years of experience.  I felt like I was finally speaking to the right man.  You can read more about his education, certifications and professional associations.  He is now the President of The Rothman Institute. 

The conclusion was I would significantly benefit from a disc replacement.  My disc was never going to unherniate, and I was losing strength in my left arm. This is an important indicator that permanent damage had set in.  Dr. Albert was confident that this would solve my problem.  This was about pain elimination - my ultimate goal. 

8:04 am edt          Comments

Neck Pain Progression - Spring 2008
Neck Pain Progression - Spring 2008.  One year later, again in the Spring, I was suffering from that same sharp pain in my neck, radiating down into my shoulders.  My entire neck was painful, but this time things were different.  I had tingling in my left arm, going down into my hand.  I was given Naproxen EC 500mg, 1 tablet twice daily - an anti-inflammatory to relieve the pain, Tizanidine HCL 4 mg tablet twice daily - a muscle relaxer, and eventually Cyclobenzaprine 10 mg at bedtime - another muscle relaxer and to help me sleep when my arm got very painful.  I went for physical therapy but got extremely upset when it hurt more after than before.  (There is no 'hurts so good' about this pain.)  Weeks and weeks went by with no relief; in fact, it was getting worse!  My orthopaedic doctor, having gone through the usual routine, put me on a dose of steroids, and then a second round.  No effect.  The doctor prescribed a Swingline neck traction unit on the floor.  I used it but felt only moments of relief and then the pain was as before.

My husband had an old neck traction device from the 60's that was used by his Grandfather sent to us.  It was a pulley system that we set up in our unfinished basement with a dining room chair under it.  The idea was to pull on the handle which in turn pulled your head up that was held in place by 2 pieces of fabric under your chin and back of your neck.  The whole thing looked like a scene from a horror movie.  Although I was told great relief could be attained, not sure about the logic.  I had to pull down with my own hands to pull my neck and head up.  I felt like I was working against myself, although I do recall some relief.

I even tried accupuncture.  The practitioner was referred to me.  I do think I felt a little relief, but on the third visit, I got a shock when he undid my bra without letting me know in advance.  He did nothing untoward, but that was enough for me. Faced down in a pillow, it felt like he was 'making a move.'  Enough!  I was out of there!

I then tried a chiropractor.  Not sure about these folks.  The man I visited was extremely nice and knowledgeable about his practice, but that twisting and cracking really wasn't my cup of tea.  They assured me I would see improvement, but according to the ladies in the office, it may take up to a year.  A year?  Any guarantees with that with 2+ visits per week?  The chiropractor didn't like my antiquated traction unit and recommended a bag of water suspended with a pulley from a door.  He gave me a program of weights and numbers of pulls and length of each pull session.  Again, only temporary relief.

By this time I was having a hard time making it through each day at work!  I was wearing ice packs around my neck during the day - sometimes held there with packing tape - what a picture.  There were the odd quiet times I would go into an office and lie on the floor for 15 minutes, just to get the pressure off my neck. I would come home and have to lie down for a couple of hours trying to find some relief.  It never disappeared, not even for a moment, but rest did take away the severity. 

I placed my left arm which had all the tingling and pain in a sling at the suggestion of my doctor, and this did help at times, but it's not easy to type with your arm in a sling. During all this I couldn't help wondering what my boss was making of it all.  Was I for real?  Was I building a claim for disability?  He didn't say too much, watching and waiting.  Although quite honestly, what could he say?  I tried to play down my symptoms, but this was no time to be a martyr.  The economy was starting to feel the pinch.  This was no time to lose my job.
7:51 am edt          Comments

Friday, April 9, 2010

NECK PAIN IN 2006 and 2007

Neck Pain in 2006 and 2007.  My husband gave me a laptop computer Christmas of 2005.  Like the first time you use a cordless phone, the opportunity to use a computer anywhere in the house was liberating!  Soon, though, I discovered to be the most efficient and have more working space, the kitchen table was the most practical choice.  So there I sat, for several hours at a time.  I had a small direct sales business that kept me communicating with my customers, entering orders, every day.  At the peak before Christmas I was grabbing every moment I could outside of taking care of our young son.

Fast forward to the Spring of 2006, and my neck started to trouble me.  It was very painful - a sharp pain that was in my neck and went into my shoulders, especially on my left side.  I went to the GP who sent me to a neck doctor.  He sent me for physical therapy and gave me some pain killers.  After only a few weeks the pain subsided and I stopped taking the pills and the physical therapy.  I was fixed ....

Fast forward to the Spring of 2007 and life had taken a 180 degree turn around.  My husband had become self-employed the previous year.  As much as I was reluctant to give up doing only part-time work while I took care of our son, finances and our need for health insurance meant I would have to join the full-time work force.  This would open new opportunities, but I was sad to leave my old life. 

I took on a new job in sales and marketing in a field in the IT industry that I knew nothing about.  It was and still is a great opportunity, but it came at a huge price.  Within 2 months of starting this job I started to develop those same neck problems, more intense this time.  Back I went to the doctor and again we went the route of pain meds and physical therapy.  Eventually after a number of weeks it worked itself out.

This latest incident was directly related to stress; the tension that was playing out in my shoulders was pulling on my neck.  The stress of a new job got the better of me.  Was this ever going to end?  I felt like I was fighting repeated battles with no chance of winning the war.

10:44 pm edt          Comments

Working at a computer

Working at a computer

Most of my working life has involved working at a computer.  I'm one of the 'worker bees,' never having ranked to any significant level of management.  Therefore, I don't travel or attend numerous meetings. So, I sit and sit and sit in the same position using the same muscles, enhancing the same bad posture habits year after year. 

I think this is the single most effective way to traumatize your spine.  The body was never made to hold any particular position for extended lengths of time.  Consider the pedicurist, or the dental assistant - ask them if they have back or shoulder pain.  Undoubtedly the answer is yes. 

My bad posture habit was and remains that when I am concentrating on what I am doing, especially when using certain software programs, I tend to lean-in towards the computer, not realizing that I hold the same position for several hours at a stretch. This creates stress and tension in my shoulders, which pull on my neck and can result in a headache, rigid shoulders and a neck that sounds like fire crackling when I turn my head.  Not good!

The fact is, I store tension in my shoulders.  Yes, I can actually say I do carry the world on my shoulders, or at least it certainly feels that way!  I believe that after years of reinforcing this bad habit, my shoulders are now so tense they are like bricks.  I have developed a defense mechanism - whenever I sit at my desk my shoulders automatically tense, even before I feel that they need to.  It is referred to as  'muscle memory.'  If you look at the diagram of the bone structure and the muscles attached to the spine, you will see that the upper back and should muscles all attach to the neck.  When the shoulders tense, they pull on the neck.  Over time this creates excessive pressure on the discs between the cervical vertebrae, and before you know it, you have bulging discs and, if not corrected, a herniated disc ....

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9:49 pm edt          Comments

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www.arc4life.com Neck Pain Relief Products
Arc4life is all about natural pain relief through neck pillows and neck traction systems designed for improving your posture and giving you better sleep. Read our testimonials about our neck pillow.

http://www.ReJuveness.com  Scar Management solutions.  It worked for me - even my doctors were impressed!

Fiona Thompson
Taken 1 year after surgery

The Author of this Blog

Here I am 1 year after surgery, in the Fall of 2009.  Happy days; a far cry from my pain one year earlier.  Below you can view a closeup of my scar.



My scar 1 year after surgery
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My scar after neck pain surgery.  Dr. Albert explained to me that access is much simpler going through the front of the neck and eliminates cutting through any muscle which would extend recovery time.  In fact, he told me that it is possible to use a finger and push through the neck to the back of the neck or spine.  Read my Blog entry about how I prevented any ugly scarring on my neck using ReJuveness silicone and scar cream.  It really works!

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