I just got back from seeing my doctor.
This is not good. My doctor is a sports medicine guy. He tells me that he always recommends physical therapy, localized steroids, stretching, over surgery when he believes the severity of the injury justifies it. In other words, he tries to avoid sending people to a surgeon if he can. He told me flat out that he does not think any of those things will help me. My condition is severe enough that he highly recommends surgery... and to get it done as soon as possible. He has given me the name of several reputable spinal surgeons in the area. I am looking in San Diego as well.
The surgical options include ACDF (anterior cervical discectomy/fusion), PCDF (posterior cervical discectomy/fusion). The posterior version (in which the cutting happens from the back of the neck instead of through the throat) can sometimes be done without fusing the vertebrae. In other words, they can remove the bulging portion of the disc and leave you with what you have left. I sure hope for this one, since I am still relatively young and want to maintain a somewhat active lifestyle post-op. There are other options as well, including the insertion of cadaver parts (yes, that means neck parts from a dead guy). I will see a neurological surgeon soon and find out all the options, recovery times, costs to me, insurance info, the whole nine yards.
Recovery from any one of these surgeries is generally a minimum of 12 weeks. Yeah. Um. Yay. Going overseas is definitely not going to happen. I have no idea what I am going to do about work. I have no idea what I am going to do about money. I have no idea if I am going to get better. One thing I do know... I want my arm back. Here is an overview of the most common surgical practices.
There is no point in freaking out though. It's just another challenge. Plenty of people deal with much worse, everyday. So, it is what it is. I will try to stay positive. Nevertheless...stress is building.