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    Old 06-02-2006, 08:39 PM   #1
    dnorton356
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    post ACDF anxiety attacks

    I am post single level ACDF 4 weeks. Compressed spinal cord, osteophytes,numbeness, burning in the extremities, all that good stuff I 've been reading about so much here for the last three months as I prepared myself for surgery. I think my surgery was a huge success. I no longer limp and some numbness has subsided in my left arm. I went back to work five days after surgery and started driving 10 days after surgery. I couldn't be happier about the results except....The first 10 days postop I was on Percocet. I was still in discomfort after finishing the Percocet, and having difficulties swallowing. So fter a few days of tylenol (which did nothing) and rising anxiety about difficulty swallowing my Doctor gave me some Vicodin. I was only taking Vicodin in the afternoon when my throat and swallowing discomfort seemed to get worse. It worked great for the next ten days. I was able to walk for an hour every evening and sleep well. Anyways I finished up the Vicodin five days ago. The lumo in my throat gets more pronounced as the day goes on and I find myself having panic attacks by dinner time. I don't really have that much difficulty swallowing. Its just a lump in my throat, and it feels like my airway is slightly constricted. I'm a mess by evening. I have tried Xanax. I take 1mg once in the afternoon which calms me down but makes me really tired, so I don't exercise. question - I know this swallowing difficulty is a common result of the operation, but is there a specific medication or therapy to help as the weeks go by and hopefully this goes away?

     
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    Old 06-03-2006, 05:32 AM   #2
    Ramsfan
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    Re: post ACDF anxiety attacks

    After my 1st surgery I went through the exact same thing. If I sat in a chair or recliner I would start to doze off. The movement of my head drifting back felt like it was cutting off my air supply and I would suddenly wake up feeling like I was going to suffocate. I went 9 nights without any sleep. I stayed in my recliner with an alarm I set every 20 minutes for fear of falling asleep and suffocating. I had my wife take me to the ER twice due to panic attacks. My NS took x-rays and asured me that nothing would happen. He finally gave me Xanax. Usually it wouldn't effect me to much but because I hadn't slept in so long it knocked me out almost immediately when I got home. I slept straight through the night. When I woke up the next morning realizing that I wouldn't suffocate the panic attacks went away and I had no trouble sleeping. The lump in my throat was still there but I knew I wouldn't suffocate.

    Hope this helps.

    Frank

     
    Old 06-03-2006, 06:28 PM   #3
    ember919
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    Re: post ACDF anxiety attacks

    It seems you jumped right back into activity pretty soon after surgery. Even though you're feeling good, you need to remember that your body went through a trauma - surgery - and needs time to heal. Inflammation is one of the body's natural reactions to trauma and, since you can't take anti-inflammatoriies (Tylenol and Vicodin are pain meds), the only way to make it better is by resting. Sometimes boring, sometimes inconvenient and, yes, sometimes just not possible, but you need to get it when you can. I'm no doctor, but the fact that you say the swallowing discomfort gets worse in the afternoon is, I think, a prime indicator that just your daily level of activity right now is catching up to you by the afternoon. As you "use" your cervical spine during the day, those surrounding tissues, the ones that got poked and prodded and moved around during the surgery, are acting up by saying, "Ow, dammit, would you give me a break?"

    I understand and sympathize with the panic attacks. The feeling of and worry about not being able to breath or swallow is a horrible one. If you poke around on the board a bit here, you will find others offering advice about anxiety medications, foods that are easier to eat, help swallowing pills and all sort of other stuff.

    I was lucky. My swelling wasn't bad and didn't last long, and any other problems I had were mild and only lasted a few weeks. I know that if I'd had problems like ramsfan or dennisgb, I'd have been a basket case.

    Sometimes now, eight weeks post ACDF, if I have been talking too much, or maybe belting along to 80s hair band music while in the car, I might get a little sore or become aware of the feeling of something (I'm guessing one of the screws?) at the back of my throat. I might still get a pill momentarily stuck in my throat once in a while. And sometimes, first thing in the morning, when I'm still groggy and half-asleep, when I take my first swallow of water (taking a pill) it will come up out of my nose. (anyone else with that one?)

    I hope your sypmtoms subside soon and that you find help for dealing with them until they do.


    To be fair, some people do have long term trouble with swallowing. I

     
    Old 06-04-2006, 12:05 AM   #4
    ThoreauFan
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    Re: post ACDF anxiety attacks

    You've come a long, long way. Pat yourself on the back, later when it's safe.

    I don't know if you're feeling claustrophobic because of the throat or if it goes beyond that - breathing faster (even unknowingly) followed by a pounding heart rate because of the increasing anxiety and release of adrenaline.

    Dunno that this will help, but I did learn a little trick for the heart pounding, fast breathing thing. I had a coach who would run a team into the ground when I was a kid. At the conclusion of a practice, when our hearts were beating wildly and we were hyper-ventilating, we were taught a method to slow all that stuff down.

    Later on, I found out there was a biological basis.

    Your body has a thermostat, for lack of a better term, to regulate your breathing and heart rate. It's based partly on blood chemistry (oxygen/carbon dioxide levels - don't remember the specifics). You can try taking a series of slow, deep breaths and then pursing your lips to help you slowly exhale. The slower paced breathing helps re-balance the blood gases, which then returns your heart rate to a more normal level.

    I like Ember's term "using your c-spine."

    Last edited by funny4mony; 06-04-2006 at 12:07 AM.

     
    Old 06-13-2006, 08:35 PM   #5
    merryish
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    Re: post ACDF anxiety attacks

    As much as you should know that the swallowing difficulties are common and often pass -- you should also know that the anxiety is common, and will pass.

    I went through this, too -- I worried about the swallowing. But I also worried about every other thing. I worried that I had an injury in my thoracic spine because it hurt there more than in my neck after the surgery; I worried I had MS because I had tingling and occasional numbness in my feet as well as my arms; I worried I was having heart problems because my chest hurt. You name it, I panicked over it. I worried that I shouldn't have had the surgery, that I'd done this huge and horrible and permanent thing to my body and would never fully recover and couldn't take it back.

    I would never try to minimize your completely legitimate concerns about your swallowing problems, but I worried as much about my emotional problems as I did about anything else when I was at your stage of recovery. So I wanted to at least say that if the anxiety attacks themselves are worrying you, it's normal. There's an actual emotional curve that most people I've seen here go through, and it seems as real and physical to me as the aches and pains and whatnot. I'm told that surgery is so physically traumatic to your body that you're flooded with hormones and neurotransmitters during the process, and that your emotional regulators are completely out of whack for a long time after the surgery as a result.

    That line in the pamphlets that says "some depression after surgery is normal" and that your recovery "depends as much on a positive outlook" as anything else? That line should read "you will probably be incredibly f****d up emotionally for a very long time after surgery. this too shall pass."

     
    Old 06-15-2006, 07:12 AM   #6
    ember919
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    Re: post ACDF anxiety attacks

    merryish,
    have to admit i laughed my head off at your "..incredibly f____ up" comment. i can see the t-shirts now, with jjmaxx's "i went to my ns to get my neck fixed and all i got was this lousy three-inch scar" and your remark on the back. i'd buy one for sure.

    i was at my ns's office two days before surgery, anxiously peppering his PA with last minute questions. when i jokingly told him about the "lousy three-inch scar" thing, he actually laughed, and i swear that melted all my anxiety away.

    i love this board. everybody is great.

     
    Old 06-21-2006, 06:03 PM   #7
    CodaTN
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    Re: post ACDF anxiety attacks

    Whew! I was thinking I was the only one left mentally *** up after this procedure! You should make those shirts and market them on cafepress.com or something! I know I'd be all over it! :P

    I had ACDF @ C5-C6 on April 24th. At my follow-up 2 weeks later, my NS said he'd release me to go back to work if I wanted. I didn't even want to think about going back to work! I managed to get another 3 weeks off, then 2 weeks @ part-time, before finally returning to full time.

    In that time off, I had so many "nervous breakdowns". I was so messed up that I wanted to have myself committed! Fortunately, I found a doc who got me on anti-depressants and gave me a new script for xanax. It took about 3 weeks for me to level out, but I'm doing okay now.

    I've recently started having the panic attacks. A couple of days after I returned to work, the tingling and pain came back in my right arm. Now, for the past week, I've had an intense burning sensation on the palm of my right hand, and both of my heels. Yesterday it was all so intense that I not only had "restless legs", but restless arms too! I couldn't get comfortable, had to keep moving!

    Also, a few days ago, I started feeling the suffocating pressure on the esophagus. It seems to get worse when I eat, and later in the day. Fortunately the xanax helps a bit by keeping me from focusing on it.

    Is it "normal" for this sensation in the throat to start this late? I swear it feels like at least one screw has backed out! I can't even sleep these days due to the discomfort. I went to bed at 11 last night and woke up at 3:30am and never went back to sleep! And I even took a Sonata last night!

    Anyway, I have an appt with my neurologist tomorrow (don't go back to the NS until August)...I'm going to mention all the pains, tingling, burning, choking, etc. Hopefully he can reassure me that there's nothing really wrong!

    Last edited by CodaTN; 06-21-2006 at 06:20 PM.

     
    Old 07-19-2006, 07:54 PM   #8
    dnorton356
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    Re: post ACDF anxiety attacks

    Thank you to everyone for your comments on my anxiety. I saw my surgeon this week. Told him the only issue I have is swallowing. He looked at current x-ray, said the screws are flush and the only thing in there is scar tissue. In very polite words he basically told me to get over it, already! I think he's right. Its better then it was seven weeks ago, and it will continue to get better, I'm sure. I have been using my pain meds from the surgery (vicodin5/500 to deal with the pain and anxiety together-and its worked for me. Ive tapered down to 2 or 3 in the evening and expect to be off them all in a week or two.) This whole experiance has been nothing but good to me. Now I just have to fix the lower back (third set of epidurals started today-ouch.) and I'll be back to running marathons-or not!
    Thanks again.
    Dave

     
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