For more than three years, I suffered with debilitating neck and shoulder pain. I also experienced arm, hand and finger weakness, numbness and tingling.
I went from being an active woman who ran marathons, skied and scuba dived to a woman who could not lift anything higher than her shoulder and had to collapse on a recliner every night. I began and ended each day with drugs and ice packs. Activities of normal daily life, such as washing the car or doing simple yard work, would sideline me for weeks. I became depressed and incredibly frustrated. This was no way to live.
During this time, I worked with my local physiatrist on various non-surgical treatments, including physical therapy, traction, trigger point injections, epidural injections, spinal blocks and electrical nerve stimulation. I also tried a variety of medications, including muscle relaxants, pain relievers, anti-inflammatory drugs, narcotics, anti-depressants, sleeping pills and even experimental Botox injections. I sought out psychological pain management that focused on breathing techniques, visualization and bio-feedback.
After exhausting all of the non-surgical options and finding zero relief, I researched my surgical options and became interested in disc replacement. I made an appointment to see Vikas Patel, MD, at the Spine Center at University of Colorado Hospital in Aurora, Colorado.
Dr. Patel examined me, reviewed my MRIs and X-rays and took some new ones. Based on my history and the many non-surgical treatments I tried over the prior three years, he recommended disc replacement surgery. Just four months later, I had an uneventful surgery with some pretty exciting results.
Two years later, my life is vastly different. Because of the deterioration of the existing discs over my lifetime and the resulting inflammation, I still have some pain. However, I have regained the strength and feeling in my hands and arms. My range of motion is phenomenal in all directions. I now take genuine pleasure in everyday activities—even chores—again!