Two and a half months ago, I was diagnosed with a C5/C6 disc
bulge and associated nerve root...
Two and a half months ago, I was diagnosed with a C5/C6 disc bulge and associated nerve root irritation and a small amount of muscle wasting in the area. On the MRI scan, the disc bulge is quite small, with no compression of the spinal cord. After the diagnosis, I was told to stop swimming and running, and I took time off work (which involves sitting at a computer a lot). Two months on, I am trying to return to more normal activity, but I am continuing to suffer with a variety of symptoms: neck pain around the scalenes felt while breathing, pain along the levator scapulae, pain all round the left shoulder (subscapularis?) radiating to the arm, stiff back (trapezius, right subscapularis, and other nearby areas), occasional difficulty swallowing (e.g. pills, or chewy foods), pain in the lats and intercostals. Normally, I have only one or two of these at a time (e.g., three of the most common are left shoulder pain, lat pain and neck pain, but I never seem to have more than one of these at once), and I do have days when I am almost pain-free. Sometimes I have pain when lying down, especially in the scalenes: ice often helps with that. Ibuprofen hasn't helped me at any stage. These pains seem to be much lessened since I was diagnosed, but they are impairing my quality of life, particularly when I try to do more (work on the computer, read, or carry a backpack), but also when there is no obvious trigger.
I first started suffering related symptoms in October last year, and have had several subsequent flare-ups. Physiotherapy initially helped to make me pain-free for a while. The latest flare-up started in May, and as usual physiotherapists were my first port of call: unfortunately, this time physiotherapy did not help, and after some time it became clear that both the manual work and the exercises were actively making things worse; in particular, I was advised to keep swimming and running. Perhaps partly because my symptoms are not exactly typical of a disc bulge, some physios and GPs described my problem as "psychobehavioural", but in fact my symptoms don't seem to be associated with stress. When I started having swallowing problems following the physio exercises, I went to a sports doctor, and received the diagnosis of a disc bulge, and the advice to rest. The doctor does not think I would benefit from an injection, or from further physiotherapy, or surgery.
I have several questions.
(1) Given the information above, would you expect the pain to go away eventually, allowing me to lead my normal lifestyle (possibly with some adjustments)?
(2) The last time I fell was 6 years ago, when I injured my shoulder. Could this disc bulge come from that time, and only become obvious now, or is it more likely to be caused by my lifestyle, which includes: carrying heavy backpacks, swimming intensely front crawl 4-5 hours per week with a somewhat improper stroke, running on pavements, sitting on the sofa working with a laptop on my lap (I don't do this any more)?
(3) Do you think that bad management initially has made my condition chronic?
(4) Should I seek any further medical evaluation for my problem? If so, who might I consult?