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Spinal Cord Disorders Message Board

Spinal Cord Disorders Board Index

I've asked Saucer to come over and speak to you. She is just recovering from a major fusion that involved C2. She has tried driving. We have others here who were told no more driving as you lose about 75% of the movement of the neck. I am C3 to T1 and I lost about 50% but of late, that has been improving....but I am 4 years out from surgery. Initially, I could barely turn my head from side to side let alone see out the side windows. But she can tell you more than I can.

I really can't give you too much help. After re-reading your questions, I realized that since I broke my neck, I don't have the answers to your questions after all.

But I can tell you about the pain issue. I had 2 cervical surgeries both from the back. The first was to relieve stenosis and involved opening and re-shaping the bones. Pain was not good but the worst part was not being able to hold my head up until the muscles in the back started to heal. That surgery did not require a hard collar. But later, after breaking my neck, I had a hard collar for 7 weeks only as I was fused using an experimental bone putty that made you fuse faster. It is no longer available...the experiment failed but I did well with it. Again, the pain was tough but if you stay on the pain meds and don't allow break through pain to start, you'll be okay. Take the pain meds whether you need them or not at that moment. Keeps you from being in pain and starting the muscle spasms that make everything worse.

Use ice at home and once the staples are out, switch to heat to get the blood flowing well in the muscles. If they offer PT, do it.

If your doc was like mine, I got the back of my head shaved about halfway up the back of my head. Get it cut short before surgery as they don't exactly do a good job. And even then, they tape the rest of the hair out of the way and removing the tape hurts. You can expect a scar that starts above the base of the skull and goes down to about 1 level below the fusion area.

I was in the hospital for 8 days but I had complications.

You will probably need help at home because trying to do anything with a full neck brace on is hard until you get used to it. Sleeping is harder. My doc actually wanted to put me in a halo but I'm glad I avoided that. Hard enough with the full brace. Just try getting up out of bed with your neck totally straight and stiff(chin up so you see straight forward) and then you can see that you might need some help. Fixing food can be hard as you can't put your head down to see. Just spend a day holding your head completely stiff and then you'll get the idea as to what obstacles you'll face.

Since my problem was different, I never went back to "normal" and had to leave my job and go on disability. I had paralysis to battle. But I am now 4 years out and can happily say I've had very little pain compared to most. I take only Tylenol or ibuprofen if I hurt and an occasional muscle relaxant if I've overdone. No throat issues like the people with the anterior surgeries. But I do get the post-spinal surgery headaches and the only way I have found to get rid of them is to lie down.

Hopefully some others with long posterior fusions will give you more info. We had a guy here who had his at the end of January but he hasn't reported in for a long time. Guess he's okay so that is good. And hopefully you'll hear from Saucer.

Has your surgeon said anything about getting fitted for your neck brace before surgery? You might be able to. And then get your hair cut...nice and short in the back so they can more easily shave it...ask your doc about how far up he'll go. If I had it to do over, I'd make up lots of meals in the freezer or get in favorite TV meals for yourself(breakfast, lunch and dinner). Let others fend for themselves. The easier it is to do ANYTHING is what you want. The anesthesia leaves you very tired and the pain meds can leave you constipated and little appetite. My doc had me take a vegetable laxative prior to surgery and then once I woke I got them daily. They don't want you to strain to have a bowel movement. So make sure you have meals with lots of fiber. Start lining up drivers for any appointments you might have until your brace is off. In most states, it's illegal to drive with a hard neck brace on.

I'll stop there in hopes that Saucer joins us with ideas. Any questions, ask away.


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