I injured my neck In the last two weeks of my holiday in Europe this year. Although it would be great to say it was done jumping off a boat into the waters off the Amalfi Coast- it wasn’t. It gradually came on, and I think some pretty dodgy pillows didn’t help either. Chances are I may of had some changes in my neck for a while, but it was this aggravation that caused my pain.
The MRI above highlights a C5/6 disc protrusion, which distorts (bends) and creates narrowing in my spinal cord. In addition there is some degeneration at C6/7. The tricky thing with MRI’s are that they show ALOT. How do you know that the findings are actually related to the pain and symptoms you have? In particular when they show things like degeneration. Research has shown that signs of degeneration are present in very high percentages of healthy people with no problem or pain at all. In addition these signs can be part of a normal ageing process.
On return to chilly Melbourne in September it was football finals, and the mighty magpies were playing- I’m not sure if it was my overt cheering that aggravated my neck further, or maybe it was just the heartbreak from loosing? Regardless, I decided to get the MRI and then seek the opinion of a neurosurgeon to discuss some sensations I was getting in my hands and feet.
It was something I had never had to deal with on a personal level before, and it was quite a scary experience. I was lucky enough to seek the opinion of three different neurosurgeons in Melbourne who each provided a similar insight into what was going on-from my scan. However their conclusions, and suggested course of action were quite different;
1st- 50% likelihood to need spinal surgery, review in one month
2nd- Recommended spinal surgery
3rd- Possibility for surgery, but continuation of conservative approach and review in one year
What I learnt from this is a surgeons opinion is just that. It is a statement based on their own knowledge, previous patient experience and what they view on imaging. Its kind of like going to see a mechanic, chances are they will want to fix your car. Going to surgeon they are likely to want to ‘fix’ your spine. It is in the nature of their profession to want to help with the specialised skills that they have. However your body is not a machine, and does not play by ‘machine rules’.
I decided to go with the 3rd option, I surrounded myself with health professionals who understood me and my situation. I referenced the statistic that 96% of disc bulges do spontaneously resolve- I’m trying to make sure I’m not in that 4%. I keeping moving, doing my rehab, having some treatment and modifying my activity.
My advice to those in a similar position is to get a good team in ‘your corner’, seek advice and opinions from those who can help you make an informed decision about your health.