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Spinal Cord Disorders Message Board


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Hello everyone. I had an ACDF at the C5 to C7 6 weeks ago. I had it after stuggling with nagging neck pain sfor 15 years and since I was 20 yrs of age. I am one of those rare cases that had major degeneraion real early in life. This is NOT from any sort of accident, therefore I never had terrible range of motion, numbness in arms and legs, etc. 2 discs and 2 maor bone spurs on each side(4 total) were removed.

It only took a few days to get through the general recovery...no throat pain, no numbness or tingling, etc. That said, I have not seen a major improvement from what I felt like pre-surgery. Actually, I'd say this week has been the worst of the 6. I'm wondering if this week as worse than most because of the very cold temps here in chicago. I've needed more vicodin than the previous 4 weeks and it's not working as well. Basically, I'm dealing with what I've dealt with the past 15 years. I've already been told by my surgeon that my exrays look good and that fusion will take 3 months to 2 years. I have some questions..PLEASE at least answer 1 and 1A and if you have time for more super. THANK YOU VERY MUCH.

1. I'm looking for assurance from others who have had this that it can definitely take many months to improve, and that it's normal to not feel any better 6 weeks in. As long as people tell me that is normal, I'll stop focusing on it.

1A. For those who feel the ACDF helped, could you share how much better you feel today and how long it took you to feel a significant improvement and/or no pain at all?
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2. Does the actual process of fusing cause pain? I'm wondering if it is like growing pains we had as children..while the body is changing/fusing, that too can cause aching?

3. I was told to wear the bone stimulator for 6 weeks. That will be next week and I will probably not be feeling any better by then. Would continuing to wear it help heal sooner?

5. I don't want to go back to P/T...had a bad experience there. Are there any resources you can suggest that will teach me exercises to do after this surgery...where I can learn them on my own? Those specifically for cervical surgery?

6. I'm trying to stay positive, but if by chance I simply do not feel better after the alotted 3 month to 2 year time frame, are there other procedures that can be done to continue the pursuit of a relatively pain free life? What do people do if their fusion doesn't take? I guess Im just a bit confused. I would think if the two bad discs plus four bone spurs were removed, wouldn't it be nearly impossible to NOT feel better?

7. How often do you have xrays done to find out your progress? Surgeon said I didn't have to come back unless I am in pain and not feeling progress. As I said..already had my post operation visit and xrays..he said all was fine. What does that mean? I don't feel fine so what did he see in those xrays that I dont feel yet?

THANK YOU AGAIN for your help. I really appreciate it.

Spencer
1) You had MAJOR surgery, It is normal for many of us to be in pain (lots of pain) for several months. I found once I got out of my Aspen collar the spasms ebbed. Are you pushing too much? Are you driving? Your primary job now is to heal. I live in Fl. and shivering in the cold makes me have spasms in my trap muscles.
Try to wear a scarf to keep neck warm.
When I was in a car I felt EVERY dip, dent, bump in the road.
What helped?
I found switching to a cheap skinny pillow helped, a recliner helped, a long wedge pillow helped, moist heat helped. Stacking up phonebooks to keep my head level helped. I put my dinner plate on top, lifted my computer up, put cutting board on them...helps so you do not bend your head down.
Get a "task" chair for proper posture if you sit at a desk.
1a) about 3.5--4 months I felt great.

skipping to 5) I had P/T who was too agressive. I called another spine surgeons office asked who they used for p/t and had wonderful experience. Shop your p/t like you would a surgeon. Have a p/t come to your home or job to analyze your posture in action and follow what your p/t says to do! Pay the p/t to do this! If you dont have a P/T who will do this yoiu didn't get a good p/t This was one of the best things I did!


6) You are getting way ahead of yourself. Dont "try to be positive" but be positive and talk yourself into it. Plaster a smile on your face everytime you walk past a mirror. Rent/buy "the secret" video to help. And check out a copy of ths classic book "power of positive thinking" these things really work!

7) 3 months, 6 months 1 yr. And every Dr is different.

I didn't find this board until 1 month after surgery and I was in great pain. You will find great comfort and friends here.

July
Dear Sundance - you are on the road to recovery!! It can take a long time, but you will see continual, gradual improvement. Plus we tend to start doing more and then get little setbacks. I feel you may be one of these people.
I inserted your questions and my answers.

1A. For those who feel the ACDF helped, could you share how much better you feel today and how long it took you to feel a significant improvement and/or no pain at all?
ANSWER:

I have had 2 ACDFs, the first was C4-6 then a year later they took it all out a(called a revision) and did C4-7-because of new damage. The first time in 3 months I was completely well. THe second time it took a long time, but my problems are never going to be completely fixed because it continues. I too was young when the degree of my degeneration started (45) just out of the blue. Plus i just have congenital stenosis which I didn't fix with the ACDFs.


2. Does the actual process of fusing cause pain? I'm wondering if it is like growing pains we had as children..while the body is changing/fusing, that too can cause aching?
ANSWER: There is a segment of my pain that disappeared as the fusion became solid.

3. I was told to wear the bone stimulator for 6 weeks. That will be next week and I will probably not be feeling any better by then. Would continuing to wear it help heal sooner? ANSWER:
I didn't wear one. I did wear a hard collar for 11-12 weeks each time!! It takes up to a year to completely fuse, mine was about 15 months. Some people do sooner.

5. I don't want to go back to P/T...had a bad experience there. Are there any resources you can suggest that will teach me exercises to do after this surgery...where I can learn them on my own? Those specifically for cervical surgery?

ANSWER: My surgeon doesn't do PT for a very long time until complete fusion, just some palliative care and simple exercises. If you go to anyone find someone with good credentials like a sports physio person that is experienced in cervical rehab for athletes - I found them to be very good.


6. I'm trying to stay positive, but if by chance I simply do not feel better after the alotted 3 month to 2 year time frame, are there other procedures that can be done to continue the pursuit of a relatively pain free life? What do people do if their fusion doesn't take? I guess Im just a bit confused. I would think if the two bad discs plus four bone spurs were removed, wouldn't it be nearly impossible to NOT feel better?

ANSWER: I think you are just hitting a wall and in a couple days you will get over this hump. Many of us go through this doubt. They did a lot of drilling and work in your neck - it is traumatic! Like Julyg said - this is major surgery. You may not spend a week in the hospital but do not be fooled by this surgery. The good news is so many people go on to get well and do lead more normal lifestyle. It is really too early to introduce these thoughts into your head! STAY POSITIVE> To be truthful I didn't get back 100% and had a major lifestyle, career change and am in pain management for life. But for every one of me there are 7-8 people that get well.


7. How often do you have xrays done to find out your progress? Surgeon said I didn't have to come back unless I am in pain and not feeling progress. As I said..already had my post operation visit and xrays..he said all was fine. What does that mean? I don't feel fine so what did he see in those xrays that I dont feel yet?


ANSWER: I had xrays at these visits - for one year. first follow up, then 3 months, then 6 months, and finally at 12 months.


The cold is my enemy - I hurt worse and when barometric pressure fluctuates I feel it - I even made a chart to prove it to myself last year that it was weather related. I use heating pad a lot in the winter and it helps to keep your back/neck warm.


Hang in there - I bet you will feel better next week.





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