Degenerative Disc Disease----help

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New Member

Date Joined Jan 2011
Total Posts : 1
   Posted 1/28/2011 8:59 AM (GMT -6)   
confused  After about a year and a half with severe shoulder pain, many doctors telling me it is just a muscle I finally got a diagnoses.  The pain in my shoulder has been for almost 2 years now then 6 months ago my arm and fingers started tingling and going numb.  My MRI showed servere DDD and 2 herniated discs.  Recommened to go see the spinal surgeon.  The only thing I am confused about is that I had a nerve conduction test done which showed no nerve compression.  Everything I read says that is what is causing my numbness and tingling in my arm and thumb, index and middle finger?  I am hoping they will just do the surgery because I cannot bear this pain anymore, I have tried NSAID's, motrin, tylenol, physical therapy and nothing works. It will take away the stabbing pain, but the dull pain is still there and the arm and finger tingling is getting worse and worse.  I just don't understand why the nerve test or the EMG showed nohting?  Has anyone else ran into this?  For the past year I have not asked for any pain meds because the one time my doctor gave me percocet (only because vicodin and tylenol III makes me sick) and when I told one doctor he yelled at me.  I cannot take this pain anymore, I am really getting mentally drained because of this.  Any adivise would be greatly appreciated.

Veteran Member

Date Joined Jul 2009
Total Posts : 2042
   Posted 1/28/2011 10:55 AM (GMT -6)   
That nerve study really only concluded that there was not a problem with the nerves in your arms and hands. Your problem is further up the street at the spine.
2 confirmed herniated lumbar discs. Spinal Arthritis. Spinal Stenosis, diabetic peripheral nueropathy.

spinal soldier
Veteran Member

Date Joined Dec 2009
Total Posts : 687
   Posted 1/28/2011 12:13 PM (GMT -6)   
like jim says that test (EMG) is just one of many diagnostic tools that really is not always needed in my opinion but it is another time when you cough up money. you may need surgery after all is said and done but it is not true that pain medications (opioids) are used for your spine pain. the surgeries on the spine are no cake walk so you MUST get a exact diagnosis from at least 2 orthopedic or neurosurgeons that only do spine work. now they have a spinal fellowship specialty program that has allowed them to concentrate soley on spine surgery. every major metropolitan area has a few so try to get a referal to them. the Intactable Pain Patients guide posted yesterday on this forum is also great educational info. for any pain sufferer. good luck to you
L4,L5,S1 bilateral Laminectomies, Foraminotomies 2002
L4-S1 PLIF with instumentation 2008,

current Rx: fentanyl patch 75mcg. , Roxicodone 30mg prn qid,vistaril 50mg prn nausea, Lyrica 150mg 2x,Adderall 20mgs 1x A.M. 10mg PM prn, Soma 350 mg 3X, Elavil 25 HS, diazepam 10mg bid prn, Supplements: CO-Q10 100mg, Vitamin D 2000IU, Fish-Oil1000mg EFA, B-Complex50 3x/day, GABA 750mg,

Forum Moderator

Date Joined Feb 2003
Total Posts : 15852
   Posted 1/28/2011 3:21 PM (GMT -6)   
Hi Dawny and welcome to Healing Well's chronic pain forum. I am sorry that you have to be here but glad that you found. Wow, you have really been through some suffering for quite some time but at least now you know what is wrong with you. It is so frustrating when drs tell us its one thing and and dig their heels in and not listen to actually what is going on with us. At least now you know what the problem is and hopefully can get on the road to fixing it.

I would not stress over the EMG study being normal. For one thing their accuracy is not all that great and I am still amazed that drs bother sending people for them. Meaning, I have seen more normal studies than abnormal. about the only time we ever saw an EMG come back positive would be testing someone for carpal tunnel syndrome. That is truly the only time we ever saw positive findings was for carpal tunnel syndrome. I worked for attys all of my working years and read medical reports all the time and I could probably count on one hand how many times I ever saw an EMG study be positive when testing the upper and lower extremity for nerve damage, when it fact there was nerve damage there. Like I said, don't stress over this test it really means nothing.

Are you doing to be referred to a neurosurgeon? Since it is your neck involved and I am assuming you are seeing a PCP, I would ask for a consult with a neurosurgeon. Neurosurgeon are more trained in the nerves and such than an orthopedic. The orthopedics drs are trained for the bony structure and such.

Anyway, I wanted to pop on and tell you welcome aboard. Some of our other members have had neck surgery and hopefully later on they will pop and tell you hello. WhiteBeard is one of our members that recently has had two neck surgeries and he would be a good one to ask questions of. He is a retired RN too. Of course none of us are drs here we can just pass on our own experiences to you.

Take care.
Moderator Chronic Pain Forum

White Beard
Forum Moderator

Date Joined Feb 2009
Total Posts : 3686
   Posted 1/28/2011 7:47 PM (GMT -6)   
Hi dawny

Boy I cam empathize with the arm pain! Nothing makes it go away, and I would be really weary about seeing anyone who does spinal or neck manipulations as I was nearly paralyzed from having that done! For me the surgery took away the arm pain just about immediately! I have had three fusions done in my neck two in the last 18 months! and one back in 1985! two of the fusions they did an ACDF Anterior Cervical Diskectomy and Fusion ( they removed the herniated disk and replaced it with bone graft material which fused the vertebra above and below where the bad disk was together!) In March 1985 they fused C-6/7 together then in September of 2009 they fused C-5/6 together. This past November ( last year 2010) they did a posterior fusion of the articular joints at ( C-3/4) This was definitely the worst of all of them! and the recovery time is much more difficult and allot longer! The ACDF is literally a piece of cake, your only in the hospital a couple of days, and you have to wear a soft cervical collar for a few weeks! For me it took away my arm pain just about immediately, and it was well worth having it done. When you come out of surgery they have you on pain meds, usually a PCA pump, make sure that you tell your doctor and nurse if your still having pain, DO NOT play the tough guy/girl and try and grin and bare the pain, it will only set you back in the long run! Anyway if I can be of any help to you just let me know, you can also E-mail me by using the envelope on the side under my name. if you do not want to post! Make no mistake this is a serious surgery, but as my surgeon told me of all the different areas of the spine, the anterior cervical disk fusion was one of the easiest, because of the ease of access for the surgeon! Anyway see your surgeon and see what he says! I along with all the rest of us here on this forum are here for you!

I wish you well and Good Luck to You!

White Beard.

P.S. Where are my manners, I just about forgot!!! Welcome to the Healing Well Chronic Pain Forum, You are now not alone with your pain! You have family here that know what you are going through and although we can not fix you we can lend you our ears, and listen and give you our support and what advice we may have. So when you are in pain and or frustrated, come here and share your burden with us, maybe just maybe it will lighten your load, and make things just a bit easier for you!
Moderator Chronic Pain
After spending nearly 22 1/2 years in the USAF, I retired in Sept, 1991. I then went back to school and became a licensed RN in 1994, and I worked on Oncology and then a Med Surg Unit, I became disabled in late 1999 and was approved SSD in early 2002!-- DDD, With herniated Disk at T-12 and L4-5. C5-C6 ACDF in Sep 2009, C6-C7 ACDF in Mar 1985, Osteoarthritis, Ulcerative colitis, Chronic Pain, Fibromyalgia, Complex Sleep Apnea, and host of other things to spice up my life!(NOT!) Medications:Oxycontin, Percocet, Baclofen, Sulfasalazine, Metoprolol, Folic Acid, Supplemental O2 at 3lpm with VPAP Adapt SV I am White Beard with a White Beard!

Regular Member

Date Joined Dec 2010
Total Posts : 213
   Posted 1/29/2011 7:31 AM (GMT -6)   
I have also had pain, numbness and tingling in one of my hands due to nerve damage somewhere. I had an EMG done and it was negative. My doctor then sent me for an EMG/QSART which tests the smaller nerves on the surface. A regular EMG tests the nerves that are deeper under your skin. My QSART test was positive with my EMG being negative.

DX pyoderma gangrenosum, Acute Myelogenous Leukemia, Bone Marrow Transplant, Chronic Pain syndrome, Chronic Kidney Disease Stage 3, Major Depressive Disorder, Radiculopathy, Bilateral Hip Pain, Insomnia,Left Groin Hernia, Bulging Disk in Lumbar Spine, Tear in Lumbar Spine, Tendonitis and Bursitis in both hips.

Veteran Member

Date Joined Aug 2006
Total Posts : 9661
   Posted 1/30/2011 11:54 AM (GMT -6)   
Please don't go in thinking surgery will end your pain, it seldom gives 100% relief.
So take heed in what the others have said, get more than one opinion if surgery is
mentioned, as close friends of mine that have had surgery tell me
"once surgery, always surgery" cause they've needed more surgery. If you've
not tried injections then maybe see about those or radiofrequency ablations.
and maybe a good pain managemnet doctor can try muscle relaxers...and
there are other pain medicines out there as well, so maybe seek out help from a
better pain management doctor.
Hope you can get a low pain day soon.
well wishes and healing hugz and keep us posted...
* Asthma, Allergies, Osteoarthritis, Spinal Stenosis, Degenative Disc (Lower Lumbar S1-L3 and Cervical C5,C6, C8 and T1), Fibromyalgia, Gerd,
Enlarged Pituitary Gland, Sjogren's, Ocular Migraines, mild carpel tunnel, ect.... "Would be nice if we could use the edit button in real life"...


New Member

Date Joined Jan 2011
Total Posts : 6
   Posted 1/30/2011 3:58 PM (GMT -6)   
Hi ~ I agree with the previous poster in that surgery does NOT always end the pain. Pain is NOT a good reason to have surgery. Surgery is ONLY to correct mechanical problems. Most of the time you're still left with the pain, or sometimes the pain is even worse.

Also, after surgery, the levels above/below will fail because they have to take on more of the load. This seems to happen more often than not. So you end up in a vicious cycle. The American Med. Soc. found that most of the people who had spinal surgery last year would have had the SAME results if they had gone to physical therapy. Now that's scarey. They also said that there has been an alarming rate of NEEDLESS spinal surgery in the United States. Hmmm.

Personally, I think I would at LEAST try physical therapy knowing what I know now. I've had 2 open spinal surgeries and I'm much worse now than I was before. I wish I'd had PT before the surgeries -- but that was before the internet - and before I could talk to others so readily.

Best of luck to you and God bless. Hugs, Lee

Forum Moderator

Date Joined Feb 2003
Total Posts : 15852
   Posted 1/30/2011 5:26 PM (GMT -6)   
Dawny I just want to remind you that the people on this forum have had surgery and did not get the results they expected for one reason or another. Had they done well after surgery they would not be on this site. Its a real mixed bag, some people do well after surgery and some don't . No one can tell you what kind of a result you or anyone else will have from surgery. I do suggest as always getting a 2nd opinion if surgery is an option.

Take care.
Moderator Chronic Pain Forum

Veteran Member

Date Joined Nov 2008
Total Posts : 1037
   Posted 1/30/2011 7:22 PM (GMT -6)   
Hello Dawny...and Welcome. This post reminds me of someone else who had the exact same problem with her arm and, it's not as uncommon as you might think...Do you spend a lot of time on the internet? Or have you ever fallen asleep with your arm hanging off the bed? I did that once and my arm was screwed up for a month!! Anyway, like it has been said, just because one test shows nothing wrong doesn't mean that there is NOTHING wrong...Know what I mean? get other tests done...get other opinions if needed...If you don't trust what's been said to you then find someone else....


New Member

Date Joined Jan 2011
Total Posts : 14
   Posted 1/30/2011 7:25 PM (GMT -6)   
Has anyone mentioned to you the ulnar nerve? Basically, it begins in the hand and ends at the base of the neck. Wikipedia has several simple yet good anatomical diagrams of the ulnar nerve. i would ask the dr.s about this nerve. . It can trigger major pain from dull and chronic to sharp and stabbing. For me, it's the source of pain and muscle spasms from my shoulder through my neck.
For me, pain meds aren't very effective.When this nerve is inflamed, about the only treatment that gives me relief is resting my arm in a sling to take stress off of the shoulder and collar bone. I haven't had back or shoulder surgery, but I have severe problems with both.

"Life by the inch is a cinch; by the mile, not worthwhile."
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