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Spinal Cord Disorders Message Board


Spinal Cord Disorders Board Index


First of all I want to say I am new to the healthboards site but have spent some time reading other posts which have been helpful as I don't feel alone. To give everyone a quick background I am 47 and back in my 20's was in an accident where I received whiplash but at that age bounced back with no problems. In 2005 had a bulging C6-C7 disc which healed with therapy and meds. Since then I have had a few flare ups that last about 2 weeks and go away. On 10/30/11 I screwed my neck which started with some neck pain, then 2 days later severe muscle spasms left shoulder blade, then severe pain radiating down left biceps, left forearm, left wrist and now numbness and tingling left hand. Tried massage and chiro which caused severe pain. Then vicodin and oral predisone. No relief. MRI shows a Large right sided focal disc heriation with disc material extending inferior along right dorsal margin of C6. This compresses the right ventral thecal sac and creates slight flattening along the right ventral cord. C6-C7 mild indentation along the left ventral thecal sac which may represent a small left sided uncinate spur or very small left sided disc protrusion. It is possible that this is some disc material from the C5-C6 level.

I had 1 cortisone injection last week which lasted me long enough to get through the holidays. Now that has worn off. Walking and riding in a vehicle about kill me. I seen a neurosurgeon who says surgery and I will see another one in 2 weeks. But all points towards an ACDF. Help!!! I am scared that I may the unlucky and regret it but if I don't have surgery I can't live like this.

Please give me some wisdom on what to do and does anyone know neurosurgeons in the Sartell, MN area?? Thanks and sorry for the long post.
I just typed a very long response and the computer logged me out. Usually I copy the info just in case that happens. Naturally I didn't. This will be a bit shorter. You need to remember that everyone is different on how they deal with pain and recovery, I am very glad I had the surgery, just wish I had some it years earlier. A little history about 7 years ago or more, I was have terrible neck pain and migraines. Ended up with an MRI that showed bone on bone at C6-C7. Found an OSS very nice. Not knife happy and conservative. Said I would ultimately need surgery, but to try everything first. I tried home traction, PT, meds, chiropractor, acupuncture for many years. I had additional MRi' in the following years. In 2010 I had increased arm pain, heaviness, achiness and pins and needles down to my fingers. That is when I tried the cervical epidurals and selective nerve root blocks. I added a pinched nerve to the mix and could not drive comfortably or wash or blow dry my hair. I new I needed to do something as my quality of life decreased tremendously. My surgeon recommended the 2 level surgery with the possibility of a 3rd depending on what they found when they went in. I got name of other OSS and NS and asked my surgeon to see which ones he would have perform the same surgery on himself or a family member. He picked 3 out of the list and that is how I went of other opinions.
frenchfri1003 - I appreciate your story and yes please add more of your progress. When this surgery was first sprung on me I said no way absolutely no surgery. But like you said the quality of life sucks. I dread every time I have to get into a vehicle the pain is so horrific. I am a true shop a haulic and no longer even enjoy that. No that really made my decision. I too have the severe arm pain and needles and pins in my wrist and hand and at times in the neck. It is hard to explain to people who have never experienced this. If they look at me I can turn my head pretty well it is all the other symptoms that are horrible. Before reading up on what to look forward to I told my work that I would be out a max of 2 weeks. Boy was I wrong. As I said in an early post I am an RN. However, my job is a little different. I am a Regional RN over 8 group homes in 4 different towns. My houses are anywhere from mental illness to the lowest functioning of clients. I spend most of my time with paper work so no lifting. I was also thinking about starting a part time job back at my hospice nursing. I guess that will not happen either. I am hoping since my job doesn't involve lifting that I can get back at least within 4 weeks. But it is the driving and like you said now that it is winter that is scary to thing of driving after such a surgery. Yep, we never know what we have until it is too late and we have to make these type of decisions.

My question is after surgery was there any type of program or exercises that you eventually got into to ensure a healthy back. I know so people talk about walking but I live in the country so outside walking is not an opinion. Any thoughts? Sorry my msg got so wordy!!
If you are only having one level done, then your recovery may be much quicker than mine especially if you don't have the swelling issues i had. I actually watched both an animated and actual surgery on line. I needed to know what was going to happen to myself. I never realized how significant the surgery was until after the surgery and during the recovery. I only freaked out the day before surgery and there was a pill for that. Being an RN you probably have too much knowledge which can be a bad thing. i was told I would be back I think by 6 weeks. Not sure where you live, but NY had a horrible winter last year with snow and ice. I had to drive about 30 minutes each way to work as a teacher. I was concerned about being bumped by the kids and wore the soft collar to work int he beginning. I used either a scarf or a bandanna to cover the collar and color coordinate my outfit. The kids were always curious what I would wear. I got bandanna's at Michaels.

If you are going from group home to group home then you will be doing alot of driving. A friends' son just had a single level fusion and was back to work in 2-3 weeks. Everyone is different. Just don't push yourself. Your body will definitely let you know when you have done too much. My best advice is listen to your body and don't be too proud to take pain meds or muscle relaxers. I remember trying to wean my self off the meds to early and waited until I felt some pain - big mistake. It took over 2 hours to feel some relief. So for the first few weeks take the meds. A stool softener is also a must as the anesthesia and pain meds wreck your bodily systems.

I would talk to your surgeon about exercises. Every surgeon is different with collars, PT and exercises. At first I used filled water bottle as weight and then moved up to a 1 liter bottle and then a 5 pound weight. I started out at my side and lifted them up to my shoulder both out to the side and in front. I also did rotations of my neck to the right, left, down towards chest and back looking up. Starting out 5 rotations every few hours and then increasing to 10 rotations. I also went to PT at about 8 weeks.
I did try and walk as much as I could last winter. I would walk to my next door neighbor and talk for a few minutes and walk home. I am in a development so it wasn't that far. When I felt strong I would go to a neighbor farther down the street or around the corner. If no one was home just going to get the mail or up and down the block. When it was too cold I just walked up and down the stairs from the upstairs to the ground floor to the basement or around each room. When I was going stir crazy a girlfriend would call me and take me for a ride. I went shopping with many friedns just to get out of the house. At times I would wait on a bench when they did their shopping if I was tried. As I got more comfortable I would drive to the closest store - 3 miles away just to get out and walk around the store. Hopefully you are not too far away from shopping or neighbors. Good luck and ask any questions you want.
I live in Minnesota, so sucky cold weather. Thinking it would be nice to live someplace warm after the surgery so I can walk outside. I am just wondering if it will be a single level fusion or a two level as the way I read my MRI that is one question I will ask as they did not go into detail about the surgery before as I did not want anything to do with surgery. (it was one of those moments that I could not believe what I was hearing so it was easier just to walk away from all of it)

I live 10 miles from town. With my job I usually just go to one town a day with the furthest being 27 miles one way and the closest being 10 miles. So no city driving all country driving, which is better. I bet your neighbors loved your little visits (haha) sorry I found that so cute. It is great that you could walk a little, then rest and visit before you headed home. Just love it.

The more I visit with others on this site the more my mind is put at ease. I am not alone. The funny part is when I was in nursing school I requested never to observe any surgeries that were ortho and bone grinding. So I am ignorant because I chose gallbladders, hystos, ostomies, c-sections, etc. I did not want to see or hear bones being sawed or ground. So actually I am glad I do not know that part of it. I am really familiar with staying on top of pain management having been a hospice nurse. Like now I may take a vicodin before work but try to use rest periods and advil during work hours as I do not want to be fuzzy or too tired at work. Once I am at home I do take the meds to control pain so I can sleep well at night. Yep, we need pain meds but I wish the colon would not clog up because of them.

I think I am more afraid of the throat issues as I am a baby when it comes to sore throats. That issue scares me alot. Do all surgeons measure for neck brace size before surgery? I will definitely have to ask my surgeon.

Thanks, jas1964
I guess Minnesota must have pretty brutal winters. How much snow do you get? How low does the temp go? Right now it is 20 degrees here in NY. No snow yet, but last year was horrible.

Knowing if you will have a single or double level fusion may make a big difference in the recovery time and ROM. I understand not asking questions the first time around. I bought a spiral binder and wrote all of my questions in it. I also dated each visit with the answers so it was a type of journal. I also kept a record of my symptoms, medications what worked and what didn't. I still keep the journal today. My OSS would always ask me if I asked all of my questions or needed anything repeated. He has wonderful bedside manner.


Even though you live 10 miles from town are your neighbors close? You certainly have alot of driving to do for work. Where I live in Long Island it is not the city but,, it isn't rural either. I live in a suburban town, no real city driving, but 2 lanes in each direction with malls and stores on either side. I could take the highway to work, but there is usually too much traffic so I take the side streets. Only takes me 20 minutes to get to my school.

I have a few stay at home neighbors and a few friends who are nurses so they have varied hours being home. On the school breaks my friends who are teachers were home. I was truly blessed having those short walks with breaks especially when it was 10 to 30 degrees outside.

Glad you were able to observe any surgeries. My visual was on the internet. That was close enough for me. I don't know if they sawed or ground anything in my neck. I was bone on bone so they opened up the space. Not sure how they took off the bone spurs.Not sure I want to know I think they may have slightly hammered in the cage inbetween the vertebra to create the space that was missing. i read the surgery notes a month after the surgery because I was curious.

I was not prepared for the throat issues. But it allowed me to lose a little weight so i looked good when I went back to work. (LOL) Have to look at the bright side. I would think that if you need a collar you should be fitted for the neck brace before surgery so you can take it to the hospital with you? I would ask for a hard and soft collar. Even if you use the hard one for a week and the showering like I did.

When is our next appointment with the surgeon or for the additional opinions? Good luck.
[QUOTE=jas1964;4904008]My next appt. is on 1/10/12. I am counting down the days as the pain medication is not cutting it and a few hours at work and I cannot concentrate. Believe me I have a whole list of questions. My NS may not have enough time for me but hopefully I will get all the answers.

Right now in MN we really don't have any snow and the temps have been in the 20 and 30's. My neighbors are not close so I am thinking of getting my mom's treadmill. I get bored on a treadmill but it will do the trick. I think the loosing a few pounds point is good, that is okay just not the way I have to do it. It is just to dangerous for me to go out by myself on the road for a walk. I know the driving and not being able to get up and go when I want will be a huge problem. I will deal with it.

I will for sure post after my appt next Tuesday and let you know what I find out. I just cannot image waiting another month or so for surgery as life is unbearable now. As I am sure many of you know.

I will keep in touch.[/QUOTE]

Just read your posts, I had a cervical disectomy fusion with hardware in 2002 from c4-c7 ,my surgeon was still not sure even up till 30 minutes before the surgery if he was going to do 2 or 3 levels , he did do 3 ,I guess he had to get in there and see how things looked, I put off this surgery for 5 years because I was afraid of getting my neck sliced, actually it is not that bad , it took 50 minutes, afterwards ,I had a very sore and tender throat and swelling , I was only in for 1 night ,off work for 8 weeks , the more levels the longer the recovery, he sent me home with a bone stimulator and some percocet , because of the metal in my neck , I get really cold at the incision site when I am exposed to cold wind and I lost a little range of motion
[QUOTE=frenchfri1003;4903997]

Glad you were able to observe any surgeries. My visual was on the internet. That was close enough for me. I don't know if they sawed or ground anything in my neck. I was bone on bone so they opened up the space. Not sure how they took off the bone spurs.Not sure I want to know I think they may have slightly hammered in the cage inbetween the vertebra to create the space that was missing. i read the surgery notes a month after the surgery because I was curious.
[/QUOTE]

I've been doing that too. Don't know if it's such a good idea because I get spooked but it's always good to know what they are doing to you I guess.

Did you ask the surgeon's office to see the notes or the hospital? I think it's interesting to read stuff like that.

Also, what sort of questions should one ask right before surgery?
Cervical problems are definitely scary as it almost feels like brain surgery. Our spine is our control center and in the past I have had little neck injuries like bulging discs but of course time, PT, and pain meds helped and then life went on. But when I injured my neck this time it was different and I kept saying no way is anyone touching my neck and no way am I have surgery or cortisone injections. Well guess what? I have no choice in the matter. I give credit to everyone who has put up with pain and setting their lives aside to be able to handle pain for years before surgery. I just can't do it. It has been since Oct. 31 and it seems like it has been a lifetime of pain. The vicodin is like taking sugar pills as it does not cut the pain. Thank god I have a temperpedic mattress but sleeping on my back really bites as I am a side sleeper. So this Tuesday I will see the NS for another opinion and then I have one more opinion on the 17th. I cannot even imagine waiting another month for surgery. I have shed many tears as I am sure many others have.
[QUOTE=jas1964;4905983]Cervical problems are definitely scary as it almost feels like brain surgery. Our spine is our control center and in the past I have had little neck injuries like bulging discs but of course time, PT, and pain meds helped and then life went on. But when I injured my neck this time it was different and I kept saying no way is anyone touching my neck and no way am I have surgery or cortisone injections. Well guess what? I have no choice in the matter. I give credit to everyone who has put up with pain and setting their lives aside to be able to handle pain for years before surgery. I just can't do it. It has been since Oct. 31 and it seems like it has been a lifetime of pain. The vicodin is like taking sugar pills as it does not cut the pain. Thank god I have a temperpedic mattress but sleeping on my back really bites as I am a side sleeper. So this Tuesday I will see the NS for another opinion and then I have one more opinion on the 17th. I cannot even imagine waiting another month for surgery. I have shed many tears as I am sure many others have.[/QUOTE]


My Neuro's PA said that nerve pain doesn't respond too well to narcotics so that's why the vicodin is not working for you(didn't for me either-and they gave me MS Contin)


Good luck-I hope you get some relief soon!





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