My incredible neck surgery to fix my pinched nerves

| June 6, 2009 | 114 Replies

I am so very lucky when it comes to health care options. It’s distressing to think of the millions of people live (and used to live) with deep or searing chronic pain who did not have this kind of treatment available. I was lucky to have good health insurance and highly competent doctors. No one, however, should have to deal with this sort of pain without treatment and hope.

For the past two years, I’ve been struggling with a pinched nerve in my neck that caused serious pain in my left arm and left side of my back. On several occasions, I referenced some of the treatment I have been receiving, including this post on acupuncture, this post on the incredible fact that there is a skeleton inside my body, and this confession that I don’t do well when it comes to getting injections (a post which sprang from my need to have epidural injections for pain relief).

I’ve had all kinds of conservative treatment, including intensive physical therapy. None of my conservative treatments worked.

The most recent symptom was numbness several in my fingers (feeling in some of my fingers came back, but not in my left index finger).   It’s worth taking the time to tell you what my doctor told me about numbness.  If you have it, permanent nerve damage is being done. If you don’t jump on it and address it quickly (within a matter of weeks), you might lose that sensation permanently. Numbness is different than pain, then, which doesn’t usually cause permanent injury.

Because I had significant numbness, I had surgery, which occurred four days ago. It was an “anterior cervical corpectomy/discectomy and fusion, with bone graph and instrumentation.” What this means is that the surgeon removed two of my cervical disks, freed up my pinched nerves by carefully drilling out bone (there turned out to be four of them in the operative field), filled the now-empty disc space with my own bone and cadaver bone, and locked three vertebrae and the new bones into place with a titanium plate with screws.x-ray

Here’s a recent x-ray, where you can see my deformed lower vertebrae.  During the operation, my doctor verified that my vertebrae were covered with bone spurs, which have now all been trimmed clean to allow my nerve roots to reach down into my arms.  BTW, if you are middle-aged (broadly defined!), your spine isn’t so pretty either, but if you’re lucky you are asymptomatic.  Tongue in cheek, Dr. Riew had initially advised me that I had “gray hair of the spine.”

img_7083Here’s the incision: about 2 inches wide on the front of my neck. The sight of it makes many of my friends squeamish. The surgeon goes in at this site (using a microscope) and gently pushes the trachea an esophagus out of the way in order to see what he needs to see (that causes minor temporary swallowing problems in many patients, including me).

I was taking slow walks around the hospital floor on the night of the surgery (with a drip assembly in tow). I was released the following day—hospitals plainly tell patients that hospitals are not a good place for people–once you are able to leave you should leave, due to the risks of super-germs. Yesterday, I took two tablets of Tylenol. Today, I am not taking any drugs at all, even though I was provided with strong scheduled medications). I thus commend my surgeon (Dr. Daniel Riew of Barnes-Jewish Hospital in St. Louis). Who would have thought that on each of the past two days, I would have been able to crank hard for 30-minutes on a stationary bicycle? Really and truly, this was a medical miracle, one which happens in hospitals every day in order to relive people of chronic pain so that they can reclaim their lives. At least those of us with medical insurance. At the hospital, several people told me that the best way to prepare for an operation is to be physically fit when you go in. I worked out almost every day for a month before the surgery and I’m assuming that this was a big factor in my ability to be able to pop back up soon after surgery. I know that many other patients for this type of surgery can be flat on their backs for one or two weeks. I personally know another person — a regular at this site–who had this same surgery. Perhaps he might want to come forth an share his experiences too . . .

Here’s the bottom line: The pain in my arm is now gone, the pain in my back is almost gone. I do have some lingering numbness in my left index fingers, though it has improved a bit. I’ve been told that there is a decent chance that I will get my feeling back in that finger within the next few months (this is critical to me, because I am an avid guitarist). A surprise bonus is that my “good” hand is now improved. I was suffering some nerve impingement there too, but didn’t’ attribute that stiffness to a nerve problem.

image by JuJu Vieth

image by JuJu Vieth

Even though I’m squeamish about needles, I got over the fact that I was stuck with an IV for my entire stay. Not that I stared at this line much.

Now, all I need to do is to wear a plastic neck collar for six to eight weeks (the “Miami J Collar”). Here’s what it looks like (see photo below). I did wake up, panicked and claustrophobic, several times this week. I’m hoping that panicked feeling doesn’t return each night, or it will be a long six weeks. This panicky feeling does make me appreciate, though, how difficult it must be for many other patients who need to have large parts of their bodies (or their entire bodies) locked down for extensive periods. img_7180

I did want to give this epilogue in that I had mentioned (= whined about) my symptoms on several prior posts. But everything looks good now, and assuming that the bones all heal correctly, I will not be physically limited in any way, other than having a modest loss in range of motion in my cervical spine. To me, it was well worth it to give up some neck motion to get rid of the arm and back pain and (hopefully) to recover feeling in my left hand. It was worth it, even though I need to constantly explain to people that I didn’t have neck pain, but that they needed to operate on my neck to fix my back, arm and hand.

If you know anyone with hand numbness, there might be hope for them too, but send them this post and urge them to not put off a doctor visit or else they might suffer permanent damage.


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Category: Health, Medicine

About the Author ()

Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich lives in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where he lives half-time with his two extraordinary daughters.

Comments (114)

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  1. Rhonda says:

    I had my surgery on 8/1 & so far so good…still having a burning sensation in my shoulders if im on pc for very long…he did a fusion on c5 & c6 on me…i go back for my follow up on 9/13 so hopefully it will look good…ive also got spurs in my neck but he didnt say anything about removing those just putting the cage & doing the fusion…i must be prone to spurs cause i also have 2 on my left heel & 1 on my right…and with the fusion i cant take my meds for that & cant go for my steroid shots for it so now my feet is giving me way more pain than my neck did…its really bad when i hurt too bad to go shopping…and thats saying alot for me..hopefully on the 13th he will give me the go ahead to start taking those meds again & that i can start getting the shots again…already had surgery on foot too & that didnt help :(

  2. James says:

    Hi, I was having this neck pain problem since 4 years ago and now I am 32 years old. I have went to 2 times or X-ray before and the report shown that “XR-C4/C5 reduced disc space”. In these 2 years, I have gone through the physiotheraphy for some exercises that taught by doctor. Till now, I dont feel better but even feel there is some pain on my right scapula area as well. May I what is your advise for my condition? Thanks in advance!

    • Erich Vieth says:

      Sorry, but I’m not a doctor and I don’t give medical advice except that you should talk further with your doctor. If you’re not convinced your doctor has the right approach, seek a second medical opinion.

    • Ben says:


      I am not a doctor, however I do give medical advice.

      Make sure that you have a good mattress, with no divot in the middle. The divot adds to any contortion you might be experiencing during sleep, in my experience. Sealy posturepedic is my brand.

      A thin, yet firm enough pillow (so that you don’t end up folding in half to make it thick enough) is key for healthy neck. Try testing how your neck is positioned by feeling the curvature with one hand while you are laying down about to sleep. If you neck is contorted, consider a new pillow/bed.

      Take up swimming. Yoga. Nothing too crazy at first. Gently head/neck exercise — tilt the head left and right but only while the neck is straight (not while you are craning foreward). Reach your arms above your head and do gentle side stretches (also making sure head is not craning forward).

      Stretch your triceps regularly. (raise arm above head, reach backward with same arm and touch shoulder, then push backward on elbow with other arm)

      Don’t do anything too drastic, it will take time to heal, work gradually toward getting more circulation in the back/neck/spine with exercise and stretching. I do stretching in bed if I am injured. Focus on the relaxing muscles/tendons which are opposite the affected area (in general for musculoskeletal injuries) — which I guess in this case would be the front of your neck/throat. Maybe some *gentle* stretching like leaning your head back over your chairback while at work so it is still partially supported but you can feel the stretch in your neck(front).

      My hip just went “out” two weeks ago (after playing/showing off soccer with old men) — now I am battling sciatica — as the doctors call it. I predict full recovery, even though I can still only stand for 10 minutes before pain. My main method of recovery is ibuprofen for pain and swelling, heating pad, gentle massage and deep massage, stretching (as discussed above — the muscles opposite the pain).

      Things to consider — hydration — need to be hydrated in order to heal. Drink at least 25 glasses of water per day. Hehe ok just drink a lot of water. Consider if you are eating enough green vegetables for a healthy caveman? Don’t be afraid to just eat a carrot, slice of red pepper, a slice of whole grain bread, nibble of cheese, and a handfull of spinach/lettuce/greens for breakfast.

      Be conscious of posture at the computer and while walking stairs. The head should be directly above the body to minimize stress on the neck. Again, changes in posture are not to be taken lightly, there are a lot of competing forces at work — make any changes gradually — for example practice the new (improved) posture for just a few minutes the first day and that way you can see if you end up getting muscle spasms. Have you ever seen a military guy — the way their neck is so straight? I tried doing that and I think I injured myself by adopting the straight neck too quickly or doing it too much — I got a stiff neck — so I dialed it back a bit and now I feel fine and my posture is fine though not exactly rigid like military dudes. Be aware that changing neck posture may (obviously) put more pressure on the lower and middle back. Learn to adjust your own vertabrae, feel them, massage (gently!), and get to know what it feels like when they (muscles/connective tissue) are tense versus relaxed.

  3. Rhonda says:

    I was glad to find this post before I had my surgery. Dr Gregory Ricca in Searcy Arkansas did my neck fusion & spur removal..he is awesome..never had to wear the neck brace & now the scar is almost invisible…this is the best surgery I’ve had with such a success..wish I would of had it done sooner…he is about to do my back surgery fusion within the, next month which is another fusion

  4. Ben says:

    Oh, … and whenever I have back or neck pain/spasms, I have found that leg stretching (all the large leg muscles including lower leg and sides of leg/hip) often offers instant relief.

  5. SusanB says:

    hello –

    I am a 51 year old female, normally in excellent health and shape. I injured my cervical spine 2 months ago I believe doing yoga (shoulder stand into plow pose). I had pain and spasms for 2-3 weeks but later took oral steroids which seemed to knock out the pain. I an now left with sigificant right triceps weakness and a numb right index finger and the adjacent side of my middle finger has a numb sensation. I had an MRI which showed bulging discs and amongst other things, marked narrowing at the C-6 neuroforamen.

    So I have a “pinched nerve” at C6-7 and was told I need decompressive surgery…which I very much want to avoid. I don’t have pain and I’m told that the surgery (most likely an ACDF) is not a guarantee to fix the weakness….but that if I wait, my chance of gaining recovery of my triceps strength lessens. I am right hand dominant. My right hand is also crampy and computer work is difficult.

    Am curious if anyone has avoided surgery and gotten their strength back? I am feeling pressured to make a decision about surgery and that time is not on my side.

    • Erich Vieth says:

      My doctor mentioned that many people experience some pain relief without surgery. I don’t know about recovery of strength. I was also told, however, if one loses sensation, that the nerve is being damaged, and that one should seriously consider prompt surgery. That is what I did in my own case. Good luck to you.

    • John C says:


      Please do not allow your condition to drag on. You could, probably will, end up with permanent nerve and spinal cord damage. My Mother ignored hers, even though she had severe pain, as well as weakness and numbness. Now, she has to wear diapers the rest of her life, because of the damage it did to her spinal cord. She regrets not having the surgery sooner.

      I had ACDF surgery 3 weeks ago. I am still having pain, in my neck and shoulder blades, but, it gets better each day, as long as I don’t do too much. The numbness and weakness are gone. One of my discs had protruded several mm’s in to my spinal cord. Had I followed my Mother’s footsteps, I would more than likely, experience future paralysis or worse. Make sure you find a Surgeon that has done many (hundreds) of ACDF’s and see if you can find who the Doctor’s use for such a surgery. Check their record, well and make sure they have no lawsuits or serious complaints and that they haven’t moved around a lot. Preferably, a a Surgeon that has practiced in one location, for years, with a clean record and good reputation among the medical field. You can go to a Rdiology place, where they do MRI’s and x-rays and ask the staff what Doctors the do tests for and which ones do the most surgeries and for how long. That’s how I got on to my Surgeon and then I found out he did the same surgery on one of my other Doctors. Best wishes to you and please let me know how it turns out for you. Just don’t put it off! OK?

  6. SusanB says:

    Thanks Erich. My actual surgery consult is not until April 9th. I’m now two months post injury. I just worry about a fusion with the anterior approach as I’m a professional vocalist and I have heard there is a risk to the voice and vocal cords. I found a few people online who had a raspy voice after surgery, one woman said she lost her singing voice! Also, what about in 10-20 years with age and gravity? It seems that further surgery will be needed at some point.

    I have a big already paid for trip to Europe with family at the end of July. Really don’t want to miss it but it’s terrible timing if I need surgery. If they could even get me in I would need to have it by mid-May I would think to be able to go on the trip. I know you can’t really answer my questions but I saw you waited two years and still had a good result.

  7. Stan says:

    I had a very very different story
    I had a pinched nerve in my front left lower rib that caused me left breathing weakness and all of my bones in my neck are pretty much swollen now after 17 months. The bones on my sternocleoimastoid ( I cannot search for a name of it but pretty much it belongs to that part and I have all of the bones on it swollen), the bones of my back neck and the bones of my front which include the bones next to the Adam’s apple and whenever I try to maneuver my hyoid bone with my fingers I can feel the sound that perhaps comes from the friction between the hyoid bone and the bones behind my neck?

    To tell you the truth, you got it very on point in your first paragraph that It’s distressing to think of the millions of people live (and used to live) with deep or searing chronic pain who did not have this kind of treatment available. I am from a Asian city Hong Kong. The public health care is not able to help me. I don’t have any medical insurance. And I am sure orthopedists won’t operate on me just because of my “neck scoliosis of right curvature” let alone my phrenic nerve problem.

    I am only 20 years old, do you see how devastated I am feeling? Right now, I think I am going to the UK to have surgery..

  8. Ben says:

    Did not recover as quickly as I had hoped/predicted from sciatica and hip strain. Tried to stretch through the pain too quickly and loosen things up (like how I would with most muscle spasm / tendon injuries) but I think this ended up aggravating the already overstretched/injured nerves. This was a non-typical injury for me.

    Also, I realized only after watching a youtube video about sciatica that I should have been using cold compress instead of heat (and also to sleep/rest on my side opposite the pain). While the heat made for instant relief, I don’t think it was helping with swelling.

    I guess its been about a month now – finally feeling better with no pain killers. But I can only still walk/stand for about 10 minutes until I feel some discomfort. Most likely I had/have a bit of disc aggravation. Should be back to full speed in 1 more month.

  9. shakthi says:

    hi.I am a 21 year old girl, and have been suffering with pain from my neck sown to my shoulder through to my arm, joint areas, finger tips my back, my hip are down to my leg including my knee and toes. I also have a major muscle spasm in my shoulder/back area. I was repeatedly given wrong diagnosis(since august 2012) initially because the affected area was only my right hand neck and shoulder.

    Eventually i saw a neurologist in november. I used a neck brace and was put on neurontin medication.IT Did not help.By December my whole right side was affected and had an mri scan done.The mri scan showed clear! yet i had every symptom of a pinched nerve:loss of reflexes,burning/pain electric shock sort of pain in my leg,muscle spasm, weakness of my right side, numbness, tingling doctor said the mri must not have picked up the pinched nerve because it must be so small, but why such severe side effects? at one point i was immobile on my right side because of such sever pain. i was given more neurontin ans told to have plenty bed rest and not carry anything heavy, which i did when i was discharged at the end of december.

    I started recovering at the end of january.i stopped limping and walking. campus started in february and i started to go backward in my nerve tests showed clear as i have To watch my every movement,always in pain.I cannot bend my right knee or sit with my leg folded,cannot run,carry my heavy books,etc. I don’t know what do do next? im very worried!


  10. Stan says:

    Dear Shaktai,

    Hi I am 20 year old Stan from Hong Kong.
    I am sorry to see what you are going through! We are all on the same boat. Though you and I have different parts of our nerves pinched so I cannot exactly feel your pain and discomfort the way you do. Like you, my Mri also saw no phrenic nerve palsy for my left suspiciously pinched phrenic nerve. And I have also bone swellings around my neck and my doctor told me to live with it without doing anything about it. We will figure out a way to resolve these things and we will go through this together and after this we will be stronger persons!

  11. steawart says:

    I am having the exact same problem after an injury at work this is a workmans comp case and I am having a time getting a position to take care of me under the workmans comp I have got me an attorney to work with this if anyone knows of any one else that may be able to assist me in this so I can get back to my life without all this pain numbness in my left side I would appreciate it have a nice day

  12. Ben says:

    So it turns out I was somewhat optimistic about the speed of my recovery.

    The pain and spasms have been part of my life for the past 2 months (including at work), gradually easing but with some ups and downs. However, things have been improving steadily the past 2 weeks or so and the pain is now actually quite bearable — and I can stave it with various techniques — see below.

    A few things have helped me which I would like to expand on.
    Wrapping the injured hamstring, about 5/6 of the way up the leg helped provide support and forced me to limp (thus reducing movement of the affected area). Also I just yesterday took some herbal supplements, Valerian root the main ingredient (recommended by my local herbal store). Also they gave me topical Arnica.

    I have had to go back on the pain killer a few times (ibuprofen and aleve) due to some setbacks — due to attempting to return to activity to soon. Sidenote — I heard Stephen King talking about his new book and he briefly discussed his own bout with oxycontin — he rather enjoyed the oxycontin but realized he was addicted and was able to kick the habit. What I took away from his (King) anecdote about his bout with pain killer is that even after the injury has healed, the brain with keep sending the body signal of pain, in hopes that it will get a dose of the painkiller which it is accustomed to.

    Some meditation has helped with spasm and also I think the positive attitude is a boon to my inner strength and endurance of pain. Periodic rests, and laying down on the healthy side (put pillow between knees) when possible calms the flare ups. Limit stairs and walking.

    A little bit of heating pad if I need some immediate comfort, but mostly cold packs seem to offer longer lasting help with symptoms.

    Certain stretches (simple quad and calf and groin) offer instant relief, but only when done carefully (by avoiding stretching the painful/injured ligaments on the outside of the hip too much). Drinking “extra” water (probably the right amount).

  13. Lisa says:

    How did you get to Dr. Riew? Did you see others first and he was referred? My husband (almost 50) has been in severe pain for 6 weeks due to a possible pinched nerve. Just got xray earlier this week. Any insight how you got started would be helpful.

    • Erich Vieth says:

      Lisa: I had conservative treatment by various health care providers for several months. Because the problem wasn’t going away, I had a consult with Dr. Riew. That gave me piece of mind and provided me with information regarding my surgical options. Several months later, when the numbness kicked in, I decided to have surgery. It was not a spontaneous decision by any means.

  14. Here it is….about 17 years ago, I fell down the stairs at night. I broke my neck at c6/7 (I am pretty sure), fractured my sternum, that is about it. A 7 hour surgery at NYU hospital in New York, was performed, I recouped for about 3 months, and with PT was back teaching ballet and jazz. About 6 years ago the pain, burning, numbness and aching returned, from my right jaw, down the neck, across my shoulder, down arm, and pins and needles in my right hand. I had a laminectomy, which did not work. I started going to a very reputable pain managment doctor (also a neurologist), had vicodin prescribed on a daily basis, cerival epidurals, and surgery on my lower back for a ruptured disc, L4/5. I have been suffering with intense pain for 3 years, and now it is really debilatating. I am seeing a very prominent neurosurgeon, who is conservative, he sent me to a physiatrist who felt that with my history of the shots not working, and the fact that I had viral meningitis a year ago, not to mention my cancer, chronic lymphocytic leukemia, my compromised immune system…..shots are not the way to go, he is going to write to the surgeon, and say just that. I see him again tommorow-and am really hoping and praying that I will be given surgery, as my life is really suffering. My limitations are ridiculous.
    so, if you have any questions, do write or call, and I will keep you all up to date. Thanks, for reading this, as it is cathartic for me to just write it out.
    Holly K.

    • Erich Vieth says:

      So sorry to hear your story, Holly. I had never before had severe pain for which medication did NOTHING to alleviate it. I was lucky. I hope you have good days ahead.

  15. Rassi says:

    HAS ANYONE HAD ANY CHANGES IN VOCAL PITCH, STRENGTH OF, OR TONAL QUALITY SINCE ACDF: Anterior Vertical Discectomy and Fusion SURGERY??? HAS YOUR VOICE CHANGED AT ALL? DID YOU GET YOUR VOICE COMPLETELY BACK? This is EXTREMELY important to me. I am a singer and used to do voiceovers. Hope to continue and pursue. Any feedback is deeply appreciated!

  16. Tim Hogan says:

    I had a mild reduction in the higher end of my vocal range but, I am 58 now. If I work at it, I come close to hitting my former top notes but, it is more difficult at the beginning.

    I sang tenor in a chorus with the St. Louis Symphony and my university. I have noticed a lessening in a former tendency toward vibrato and richer tones in my now more baritone range (both which I like but, I am not a pro!). I did no exercises regarding my voice which may make a difference and I would discuss this with the physicians before surgery.

    Erich, any differences for you in your voice, you are still performing?

    • Erich Vieth says:

      Tim: Still playing guitar and singing. I haven’t noticed much difference, but I didn’t start singing out until shortly before the surgery, so I don’t know if the surgery affected my range.

  17. Jenny says:

    Reading what you have wrote gives me hope. For 5 years I have woken up in the middle of the night with pain I can only explain as a charlie horse in my upper back going from my shoulders to just about the middle of my back my muscles would be so tight then I would get a burning sensation down my spine then I would start getting sick from how serve the pain was this of course would make my back spaz even more. This would go on for hours days & even weeks. I have had an MRI that showed a bone spur and I have arthritis from my neck down and into both my hips, I was in the E.R. on May 14th and after getting my 6th set of x-rays they found the pinched nerve. I am now waiting to see a neurosurgeon. I have down P.T. Narco Vicaden & Gabapitin along with epidermal’s and 8 cortisone injections all to no help. So thank you for giving me hope when I was ready to give up on never having a pain free day

  18. tinar2764 says:

    I just had the same surgery except mine was a right c5, c6. Ahhhh the relief I feel! Mine was performed by Dr. Tibbs at UK Medical Center. My pain surprisingly was in my arm, shoulder and diaphragm. All, from what I understand, is part of the phrenic nerve that was entrapped. Glad you are doing well! I will be back to work next week. For a 50 year old energetic female, I am relieved to be able to work and enjoy life again.

  19. Karen Polson says:

    I had this surgery 2 weeks ago today, having great results ! My situation was almost exactly like yours. So glad I didn’t put the surgery off and wait! Best of luck to you

  20. grumpypilgrim says:

    Erich wrote, “Really and truly, this was a medical miracle, one which happens in hospitals every day….”

    I’m glad Erich’s surgery went well. Indeed, when there is either numbness or extreme pain, there is no time to waste. Immediately consult an expert physician. Do not waste time on alternative or minimal care practitioners, because time lost could very well be function lost. One of my relatives had a surgery very similar to Erich’s, after wasting several weeks with a chiropractor. When this person finally sought expert help, they were sent straight to the emergency room, with surgery a few days later, narrowly avoided spending the rest of their life in a wheelchair due to degradation of some vertibrae. Failure to act quickly can be a life altering, or life ending, mistake.

    But my other reason for this comment is to take issue with the use of the term, “miracle,” to describe this surgery. I know Erich didn’t mean this term to be taken literally, but one of my personal rants is the widespread (mis)use of this term to refer to things that are not supernatural events. It reminds me of the ebola-stricken aid worker who, when released from the hospital this week, thanked God for his recovery…utterly ignoring the extensive medical care he received in Africa, the experimental medication that significantly improved his condition, the private air-ambulance trip that brought him to the U.S., and the extensive care from U.S. hospital staff during his weeks of recovery. It’s not a miracle and it’s not god. It’s modern medical science. Medical science that has often had to fight organized religion every step of the way. Let’s keep the credit where it belongs.

  21. denise says:

    Erich, 4 doctors have recommended a C5-6 and 6-7 acdf after a fall I took (which complicated my already degenerative spine at age 55). I’m a runner and an athlete and am extremely concerned about being able to return to MY regular activities without causing further degeneration above and below the fusion sites. My s/s are incredible L sided scapular pain, constant numbness L lateral arm shoulder to hand running into my middle index, and thumb (with certain motions into my pinky) without neck pain. PT didn’t help alleviate anything permanently, I’m told by the physician shots won’t help my problems and I refuse to take lyrica and medications forever that make my mind feel like it’s not part of my body.
    I work in the health field and realize sometimes we are better off leaving well enough alone due to other health issues a surgery can create. I’m miserable without being able to work out due to the exacerbation in pain/numbness it creates. I’m unsettled in my decision to have surgery and know one should not move forward with surgery unless they have resolved themselves to it being the only resort.
    I explicitly trust this surgeon who has done 2000+ of these surgeries. He did say he wasn’t sure if this surgery would eliminate the scapular pain (which is my biggest complaint). I also know there are huge risks with this surgery should something go wrong.
    Btw did you have a bone scan prior to your surgery? I have a significant history of osteoporosis in my family which concerns me about a successful fusion.
    Your thoughts are much appreciated.

    • Erich Vieth says:

      Denise: I did not have a bone scan prior to the surgery. Like you, I was prescribed Lyrica. After reading the warnings I refused to take it. I wish you the best.

  22. 75 year old female with cervical ddd c1-c7. A chiropractor, while doing a spinal adjustment at which I told him don’t touch my neck, caused a pinched nerve three months ago. I had pain for four days on under forarm. Pain went but numbness in little and ring fingers as well as half my side palm area are there. After reading your neck surgery experience helped me make the decision to be brave and have the surgery. Hope I have a surgeon as great as yours.

  23. kevin gagnon says:

    i am 26. i just got insurance. i fell of a two storry roof when i was 17. when i landed on the ground i landed with my head hitting the ground first and my body at about a 30 degree angle. so most the force whent to my neck and right sholder. i never whent to the doctor and was laid up on a couch for a month and a half. after that things seemed ok. well when i turned twenty i started to realize things are not ok. my neck would move just right and i would here a pop and it felt like sumone was jamming a skrew driver into my spine and i couldnt move my neck at all for fear of crying. it would go away…sometimes an hour sometimes a day sometimes a couple days. at the time i smoked alot of weed so i could manage the pain that way.well this year my mom gopt a job working for the dot and i was able to be on her insurance till i was twenty six. this gave me three months. one day i was getting out of the shower and was drying my hair and i had a neck “episode” and the next day my entire right hand was numb and tingly and my left pinky and ring finger and side of my hand where the same. so i made a doc apt. bye the time i got in it was kust my pinky and ring and side of my hands that where numb. i told the doctor about the roof and all that jaz….he said i had carpal tunnel and sent me to physical therapy. i spent a month in physical therapy until the massage lady found a spot in my neck that made the numbness come all the way back and felt like the skrew driver fweeling. she told me i needed an mri. so i scheduled an appointment with the doc. the day of my apointment the physical therapy lady called the doc and chewd out the doc. the doctor gave me an xray. when he walked in the room to tell me the results i could tell it wasnt good. he told me i definitially broke my neck when i fell of that roof. he didnt say how bad and seemed very worried. he told me to get ahold of an ortho surgeon…..well that was this wensday. i have an mri saterday and then a follow up monday to see what exactlly is wrong. i live in forks wa….little town with idiot doctors. i will be going to seattle for surgery. can anybody give me an idia of what to expect? im sure bye the time anybody responds it will be to late but hey. im scared. thankx. my email is

    • > “i am 26. i just got insurance”

      I can’t find words for my luck, living in a EU country where every individual has mandatory basic health insurance.

    • Erich Vieth says:

      Planetary. You live in Holland, right? How do you explain the different treatment in Holland between public funded health care and the soaking of students re tuition?

  24. Gloria Fusco says:

    Hi, Erich, I’m 54 and recently had my surgery (very similar to yours), a month ago. My symptomes before the operation was an awful pain and numbness in neck and right shoulder.
    I am still experiencing some pain in neck and shoulder zone, but much less than before surgery. My doctor warned me about shoulder pain I will be feeling after surgery due to the traction posture (using some device) they put you into DURING surgery. He said they have to stretch your neck, so they use something that pulls shoulders down and neck up. My surgery lasted 4.5 hours, because they replaced 3 discs. So, it was a lot of time in that uncomfortable position. And even though you dont feel it while you are asleep, you sure feel the pain (you didnt have before) when you wake up.
    Well, my question is, did you feel the same post surgery pain due to this posture? If you did, how long did it last? I’m frustrated because my right side is fixed, but now my left is aching, and it was not!!
    I hope you see this comment soon! Be waiting for your answer. I apologize if my English is not quite right, I’m not American :)

    • Erich Vieth says:

      Gloria – My result was different than yours, probably because my situation was different. I never had pain in my neck or shoulder. My pain was in my back, chest, and down my left arm–numbness occurred into my left hand. I’m lucky that I don’t have neck pain even post surgery, unless I’m writing at a computer for long days, and I don’t know if that has anything to do with my pinched nerve.

      I’m sorry that I will give you the same answer I give to others: I’m not a doctor, merely a person sharing his experience. I’d recommend that you talk with your doctor about your pain. Maybe he/she can recommend some exercises, stretching or medication.

      I wish you the best . . .

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