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  • ACDF with fusion C5-C7 amI doing the right thing?

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    Old 10-25-2008, 06:06 PM   #1
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    ACDF with fusion C5-C7 amI doing the right thing?

    Hello, I am a 40 year old man who is in good shape and I lead a very active life style. Over the last ten years I have on and off again next pain. It began as a stiff next that would be painful and limited my range of motion in my next. As time went by things progressed and pain began to go into my traps and towards my right shoulder. I would treat my condition with a chiropractor and message therapist. A few years ago things began to get more frequent and severe sometimes taking 3-6 weeks to recover. Over the last six months things have gotten worse in the last couple months I have had three very painful events. I also began to get numbness in my fingers. The last event was 6 weeks ago. The pain was horrible, my head seemed to be forced down it hurt so bad to look up. I not only had numbness in three fingers but at times my arm would feel like it was coming back from being a sleep. I got in to see a NS and had a MRI and a CT with dye in the spinal fluid. I was also treated with a seven day steriod, anti inflamation meds, muscle relaxer and pain meds. The results of the tests showed a herniated disk a C6-C7 and a large bone spur at C5-C6. I was very surprised to hear that treatment would be surgery ACDF with fusion C5-C7.

    I about hit the floor. All I could think about is my life style would change and I would be forced to lead a less active life style.

    I have several questions and look forward to your comments.

    1. How is your range of motion in your neck after you heal?
    2. Could you exercise lift weights, run and continue physical activites after you healed?
    3. If you had a two level fusion did it eventualy cause other problems in your neck.?
    4. How long until you were able to go back to work?
    5. How long until you could exercise and lift weights?

    Also I have the surgery scheduled for November 20th. At this point in time I am not in pain. I do still have numbness in my finger tips. Also my range of motion in my neck is not great looking up. The main reason I am still planning on having the surgery is I continue to have problems and the keep getting worse than the time before. My thoughts are get the area stabilized before I have any more damage done.

    Your thoughts and comments are really needed.

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    Old 10-26-2008, 01:12 AM   #2
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    Re: ACDF with fusion C5-C7 amI doing the right thing?

    Mike: Actually your issues are in a good spot for minimal loss of range of motion. I had same surgery in Jan 07. I was out of work for almost 3 months. Desk job, with lots of computer work, which ranks right up there for adding stress to this particular region.

    Everybody fuses/heals at a different rate. Complete fusion can take 6 mos - year. I would think you might want to be careful during that time period.

    So far, I have not had any issues with adjoining discs. Although I was told C4 will need to be watched. I did develop some random nerve pain, in my feet primarily, and if you find a map of the CNS (central nervous system), you'll see that the C5-7 region has nerve endings all the way down to the feet! It's a pretty delicate system, and the ensuing inflammation from surgery takes quite a while for things to "calm down".

    I am not a particularly athletic person, but I did always consider myself active.

    I slipped on the ice in Jan 08, a year after my initial surgery. Try to avoid that if you can.(!) My pain levels stayed way too high following that accident. By April of this year, I was Dx'd with fibromyalgia. It happens to a fair amount of people after they experience cervical trauma. I didn't learn about this until after my fall on the ice, when researching my pain. I found out that about 50% of fibro folks have had some sort of cervical trauma. (if you google "cervical trauma induced fibromyalgia", you'll be much further along the learning curve than I was when I was going through it)

    You current situation sounds similar to mine. The parathesia (numbness) you are experiencing is pressure on the spinal cord. It would be important for you to not do anything that could put you at risk of any kind of cervical trauma until you have your surgery. I had severe cord compression issues, and I was told that any additional trauma, ie, car accident could potentially cause paralysis. For me, surgery was not an elective surgery. And so, I live with the fibromyalgia as a result.

    And, your situation has it's own unique factors, so it doesn't mean you'll go through any of this the same way I did. But, you asked, and I for one, wish that I had better prepared myself. I learned on Dec 20th I needed surgery, and the only reason the NS waited was because we were both going away for Christmas. Mine was his first surgery of the new year, though, on Jan 2, 2007.

    Best wishes - I hope that the shape you are in now helps you get through this well!

    Old 10-26-2008, 04:36 PM   #3
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    Re: ACDF with fusion C5-C7 amI doing the right thing?

    Hi Mike. I have two herniated discs in my neck which I'm trying to manage it. I also have kyphosis in my spine, fibromyalgia and arthritis. The NS told me that I don't have to have surgery right now, esp. since I have a lot of other issues. One surgery I did have was carpal tunnel on my right wrist, and that was hard enough.

    I'm not trying to scare you, but my brother-in-law had cervical fusion surgery, and he is a dentist. He said to me not to do it. He suggested to try everything else first. What happened to him is (1) he still has pain and (2) he can't move his neck to do his job properly so (3) he now has lower back pain from bending over to fix people's teeth, etc.

    This is just his experience, but I wanted to give you the feedback.

    Good luck, whatever you decide.

    Old 10-27-2008, 10:13 AM   #4
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    Re: ACDF with fusion C5-C7 amI doing the right thing?

    Hi Mike! I had a 2 level ACDF C5/6 & C6/7 on June 19th of this year. I am 41 years old and fairly active. My issues sounds a lot like yours...I wasn't in a lot of pain for a while basically stiff neck issues but then my arm and fingers started going numb and tingling. My spine was impinging on my spinal cord and nerve and I also had a bone spur. The results of my surgery have been very good. My surgery was on a Thursday June 19th, I was in the hospital for 2 days, went home on Saturday June 21st, no collar or anything. I went back to work 2 weeks later...only 4 hours a day for 2 weeks with a 20lb weight restriction...but after the 2 weeks back to work full time with no restrictions. My NS told me I could start walking and jogging again after the 2 weeks and basically everything was back to normal. My range of motion is now better than before the surgery. I arm and finger pain and numbness is completely gone and I have most of my stregnth built back up in them. I still have some pain in my neck and shoulder at times,(but nothing as bad as before surgery) but my NS has sent me to physical therapy now thinking that it is just tension built up and that the therapy will help. My NS doesn't like using collars on the neck, he thinks the collars only weakens the muscles and makes recovery process longer. Basically I was back to work 2 weeks and within the next 2 weeks fully released with no restrictions. I am much better off since I had the surgery and would recommend you having the surgery....

    Old 10-27-2008, 11:26 AM   #5
    Jay Bee
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    Re: ACDF with fusion C5-C7 amI doing the right thing?

    Hey Mike - you'll quickly find that everyone's experience is a bit different. I've heard lots of horror stories, lots of success stories. I'm a 34 year old male, have done softball and bowling leagues, play some pickup ball, some weights, etc... I had ACDF C5-6 on 9/20/08. I was back in the office (office/desk job) on 9/29/08 which was probably a little too soon... then I worked half from home, half at the office the rest of that week and the following week. Been back to my normal in office times since then.
    Soft collar for 3.5 weeks, been off for 1.5 weeks. Doing PT now.

    > 1. How is your range of motion in your neck after you heal?

    I'm still apprehensive about moving a ton, and think I will take it slow until about 3 months out.. sounds like for a 1 level fusion the change in range of motion isn't noticable (after awhile... i.e. 3 months to a year out...)... once you get up to about 3 level, then there is some, but not usually a huge deal... now, if you're playing professional sports, it's probably a different story... check out the updates on Chris Duncan, a major league baseball player.. he got the ACD... but not the fusion. I know Medtronic has the Prestige and there's at least one other offering as an alternative to fusion, which can address range of motion concerns...

    > 2. Could you exercise lift weights, run and continue physical activites after you healed?

    I've seen some docs that say, "stay away from free weights... go to resistance if you're doing weight training".. other than that its going to depend on your specific situation I think... my doc wasn't concerned about me being active in the future... he did say, "don't play football", but really left it at that.

    3. If you had a two level fusion did it eventualy cause other problems in your neck.?

    You'll find plenty of people with multiple surgeries. Even with one level, you are going to put some additional strain on adjacent areas... I am changing some things I do (i.e. work station setup, my horrible posture, some exercises) to reduce the chances... but, being younger and having had fusion surgery is certainly a concern for me.

    4. How long until you were able to go back to work?

    As mentioned above, I had surgery on a Saturday.. .9 days later I was at work. A bit too soon, probably.. so, for day 10-24 I worked about half at home and half at work. After three weeks I've been back to normal, in-office hours. I know people who have been out for 5 weeks. I know people who have been out for just 5 days. Definitely take it slow.

    Your thinking on keeping the Nov 20 date make sense to me. Your history of pain is similar to what I went through.. I finally went in when the tingling started (and I told them I thought I might need rotator cuff surgery - so they took an x-ray of my shoulder.. "uhh, shoulder looks fine. We should do an MRI, sounds like C5-6..".. and they were right). The couple of weeks before surgery I really didn't have much pain to speak of.. some tingling/numbness.. overall, I had felt much worse in the past. But, I did try PT for a little while (i.e. traction) and it was evident it wouldn't help long-term after a few visits. So I went through with the surgery. Now I'm just over 5 weeks post-ACDF and feeling pretty well.

    Old 10-27-2008, 09:24 PM   #6
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    Re: ACDF with fusion C5-C7 amI doing the right thing?

    Everybody is different - and keep in mind with my responses that I had significant nerve impingement and stenosis - not all of which could be taken care of in one procedure (but that's the exception....not the rule).

    1. How is your range of motion in your neck after you heal? I haven't really lost much in terms of range of motion. I have trained myself not to strain when looking far right or left - if only to preserve my neck as it is. In fact this week I had to fix something on our ceiling and didn't even think about my neck while doing it. I'm subconsciously careful in that I won't strain to do something. It's junt not worth it.

    2. Could you exercise lift weights, run and continue physical activites after you healed? Lifting weights could be a challenge unless you are very careful about doing it ergonomically correct. A trainer could help you with that. I started walking on my treadmill a few days after surgery but limited myself so that if I felt any pain or fatigue I let myself stop (instead of standard workout routine where I might push myself). I've never done contact athletics or team stuff - but I do hike, walk, bike, etc.

    3. If you had a two level fusion did it eventualy cause other problems in your neck? I had a 2 level fusion. I had some significant nerve impingement that required another procedure this year. But thus far the level above and below the fusion are fine.

    4. How long until you were able to go back to work? I do a "desk" job and I took 6 weeks off. Mostly due to the fact I had an Aspen brace on for 6 weeks and although I thought I was great at the keyboard but I do glance down a bit on occasion which was painful and something I wanted to avoid. Since my Short Term Disability insurance approved me for 6 weeks I took 6 weeks.

    5. How long until you could exercise and lift weights? At around a week post-op I started doing the treadmill. Started at 5 min a day and added a minute per day and an incline level each week.

    The numbness in your fingertips is enough for you to go forward with the surgery. YOu mention in your post that you like to lift weights. If the nerve impingement in your neck is not fixed you could end up with weakness on the affected side. I am right handed and not a weight lifter - but my doctor can sens some minor weakness on the left side (my affected side). Nerve damage could be permanent if not taken care of quickly (when other treatments like steroids, etc, have not worked).

    I agree when you say "get the area stabilized to avoid more damage". My doctor did say "either I do the surgery now or I can't have you remain my patient, as the damage will only get worse". That jolted me into knowing that it was the right thing to do and the right time.

    *Forgot to add, I'm 42 now but had the ACDF at age 40.*
    Rt thumb fusion '13. R&L thumb arthroplasty '12 ; RT TKR & Bilat CTS' 11. Fusions: L5-S1('87), L4-S1('93), C5-C7('06), L3-S1('10), C4-C5('13). C5-C7 foraminotomy '08

    Last edited by SpineAZ; 10-27-2008 at 09:27 PM.

    Old 10-28-2008, 02:15 PM   #7
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    Re: ACDF with fusion C5-C7 amI doing the right thing?

    I'm 34 years old and a runner and I run 36 miles a week. I aslo bike, swim, and I've raced in a few triathlons. I injured myself on 9/15. I'm to the point where I can't take the pain anymore and I'm having a massive migraine every three days. The NS says I need to get this taken care of ASAP, but I need to have at least one injection first(I'm assuming it's insurance reasons). I'm calling my insurance tomorrow to push them for the approval. They are two weeks behind and I can't wait that long to see if the injection is going to work or not. If the first injecion does not work I'll be in surgery right away. I can't live like this any longer. I plan on running again soon after surgery, even if it takes small steps at a time. I know a few people who have had the surgery and have no problems whatsoever.

    Last edited by Nicole74; 10-28-2008 at 04:25 PM.

    Old 10-28-2008, 05:38 PM   #8
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    Re: ACDF with fusion C5-C7 amI doing the right thing?

    Everyone thanks for taking the time to post your advice and experience. It is great to see some success stories. At this time I am keeping my scheduled surgery of November 20th. I am pain free at this time but I can put my arm a sleep by looking up and to the right. My arm also still goes numb on its own thru out the day. My biggest fears were I would not be able to workout, SCUBA dive and maintain my active life style. I also feared I would be setting myself up for additional cervical problems after fusion of two areas of my neck.

    I look forward to reading any additional posts with advice or experience.

    Thanks again!

    Old 10-28-2008, 05:42 PM   #9
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    Re: ACDF with fusion C5-C7 amI doing the right thing?

    Hi Mike,
    It's amazing to read your post. It's almost as if I had written it. My surgery is on November 11th. The difference is that I'm having a corpectomy as well. My insurance does not pay for artificial disks, so I am having the vertabrae and two discs removed and caged with fusion.

    The pain is horrible. I have been suffering since July and I am soooo ready for the surgery. I am an active woman of 38, I ride dirtbikes, go off-roading, hike, etc. I'm concerned as well about how active I will be afterwards. I have considered several times not having the surgery, but all of the pain meds, therapy and injections have given me any relief.

    Make sure you ask your surgeon all of those questions.

    Good luck.


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