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numb skin on neck after ACDF

gethealthyggethealthy Posts: 303
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:35 AM in Neck Pain: Cervical
I'm going on my 6th week post op on a 3 level cervical fusion. I went to the doctor with several questions. One was when the area around my incision would stop being numb. He said maybe never. Uggggg!

Has anyone had their neck stay numb permanently?

There's a lot of adjusting to the new you after surgery. I hope to find out more when I go for PT Sept 10. I'm excited. I hope I'm not disappointed. The PT has worked with lots of my doctors cervical patients so he should know what he's doing.

I got approval to start light strength training. I'm thrilled. My once firm body is looking like an old party balloon. I lost weight and gained inches. Who says you can't spot reduce!



  • I had a 4 level cervical fusion 12-8-08 C4-7 with a long vertical incision, I also had numbness around the incision for a number of months. Both my NS and PM doctors said it would go away slowly from the outer edges inward towards the incision. After about four months it was gone.
    I am looking at another surgery below C7 due to a new bulge, see a new NS this Thursday, can't take the pain any longer.
    I hope your numbness goes away in time.
    Take Care
  • thats great you can start getting back in shape. i've given up on my shape which is something like a pear. lol
    the numbess went away on me so no big deal. even if it stays it sure beats pain...you wont even notice it :-C
  • Lynn,
    Have had surgery on several body parts.Always experienced numbness around incision site-whether it was my knee or neck.All went away with time.I'm sure it is different for everyone.Anatomically,the nerves are cut with any kind of surgery.Most will come back with time.My knee scar is the only one that has not recovered all feeling-but it has never bothered me.I'm just happy the surgery was successful.Sounds like you have a positive attitude-that is the most important thing for me while accepting the new bolted together me. Good Luck
  • Lynn, my 3-lvl surgery was last October 21st, with a long vertical scar, and my incision is still numb along with some numbness above the incision. I had a large area of numbness around the incision and the feeling has been coming back "around the edges" like Rick said, but I doubt the feeling will ever come back in total.

    But, I don't really care, so it doesn't bother me.

  • I was numb for 4 months! PT made it go away! Wished I had gone sooner!
  • Hi, I am 13 months post acdf c4-5,c5-6 and experienced the same thing you have. I still have the numbness that kind of runs under my chin to the bottom of my scar. It did become less noticable as time has gone on but I have been told will probably stay. I don't notice it unless I touch it for some reason...then it is weird because I kind of feel the touch at the bottom when I am touching at the top....

    Hopefully you will be like the others but if not like someone said if you are pain free a little numbness isn't so bad.

    Good Luck.
  • and it's still numb! I guess it takes time. Doc said it could stay with me, it's a nerve they cut that causese it. My cut is horizontal, not so much vertical. I am not sure it that could be the cause as well. Doc did tell me it takes three months for the stitches inside to go away.
  • I was numb too (post. cerv. foram. C5-6 & 6-7)
    & 4 mos. after surgery I went to PT & they worked the area & the numbness went away finally. It just takes time, they say, for muscles & nerves to settle down, because they have been severely upset. I hope you get relief like I did, but sooner, because I am almost 5 mos. post op now. Other muscles are sore now in my back, lol, because I went w/o using them for so long. But at least I know what it's from & can laugh & move on, knowing it will pass too! Great talking to you 2 girls. Get well soon - be patient - I know it hurts!
    BIG HUGS >:D<
  • :H I hope you have better luck than I..but you might be on to something with the way you are cut. :? Mine is kind of diag. Then I had thyroid surgery 9 months later and they cut horizonal...so I just figure I won't get the feeling back but I did get used to it. I really only notice if I touch it or someone or something else does.

    Best wishes,
  • Love all of your comments. It's so nice to have others that have gone thru the same thing.

    I started PT and am loving it! I was super picky. I drive 45 minutes to the PT that does my surgeons cervical patients. I didn't want to have someone looking stuff up in a book or on line LOL.

    He's breaking up the scar tissue around my scar ( horizontal scar) and moving my neck SCARY! It's helping a lot. My neck was so stiff. I was scared to move it. I got a great massage on my neck today and was in pig heaven.

    I'm starting to see an end to the storm and am excited.

    Sorry to hear you're needing another surgery Rick. I know it happens to many. I'm hoping I don't need to or at least don't need to for a long time. A year out is tough. Any idea why so soon? Keep me posted on that. I'll be sending "make it easy" thoughts your way.
    I am so happy to read that you are getting better through PT!!! AWESOME!!! I knew it work!
    BIG >:D< <<<<always>>>>
    Gosh, now we have to start getting back in shape!!! I know what you mean "look like an old party balloon" - gross! :O)
  • I am 8 wks post op C5C6..I am numb on the top part of my incision..dr said possibly in time the feeling would come back..this is new to me..so glad to hear people having same problems as I am..
    Wish u luck....
  • Laughing at you saying "so glad to hear people having same problems as I am" So very true. I had a very rough recovery & this forum is the only place I could visit & find comfort in the last 20 wks. ~X(
    Today, finally, no pain! I had a posterior foraminotomy at C5-6 & C6-7. I learned from in here that going through the back of neck is a very painful recovery. It was very tearful. The numbness on top of my incision lasted for almost 4 mos. and my shoulder muscle was locked up like a brick. PT took care of that! Wished I'd gone there alot sooner! What type of surgery was yours? I hope you recover comfortably. You sound good. :P
    big >:D< & big :*
  • I heard the posterior is really tough! You are a brave chickie

    Had to share that I've had moments of forgetting that I had surgery. How great is that? Then I move my head wrong and it screams out to me "Hey! remember me?"

    My range of motion is going to be affected especially to the left side. I was injured on that side so it makes sense that side is setting limits. I got mirrors for my car to help out with the driving. I can live with it.

    Getting really good posture is the main job for me. I tend to roll my shoulders in from all of those years protecting my chin. A boxers motto. We roll our shoulders in to get as much protection as possible.

    The PT explained that the muscles in my back can't do their job right which has caused a lot of muscle cramps. I'm starting to feel the difference having my shoulders back makes. It's tough for me to get them back uuugggg!

  • Brave chickie??? LOL Something else huh? Trying to hold shoulders back is what I am experiencing now. Seems once they dropped from the "protection" mode, 5 wks after, it just felt good to let them "hang"! I appy icy/hot around the neck & shoulders now & it works! I think my muscles are all back in place now. That was what was so tough, wasn't it? "protection mode"
    I too, like you, realize every now & then, that I actually have forgotton all about the sugery, and when I do, I am like "oh wow" I actually watched 5 min of tv without feeling any pain. So, I know when you can say that - it is almost 100%. The feeling is wonderful, isn't it? Glad you shared that! I am so glad you are getting there too!!! YAY
    I HAVE to get back in shape!!! We have 2 vacation trips planned before the end of the year! I thought I wouldv'e been well after 12 weeks max. What they said anyway! liars! I still can't believe the trmnt I got, or didn't get, with my surgeon!
    Still laughing at "hey remember me" :))( Know the feeling. hehe
    Take Care YOU!
  • DDD--ACDF C5/C6...with hardware....they went thru the front..I am on Hydroco..down to 1 a day now...using the Bone growth stimulator 4 hrs daily for at least total of 3 mos. I hate it..so much discomfort...I am now 9 wks post op and the incision is still numb..still has the hard lump..told it will go away..
    I wish I'd found this site alot earlier...finding out so much I wouldn't know otherwise..Sad to say, but it makes me feel better to know I'm not alone in this road to recovery...I can finally see a light at the end of the tunnel...Thks for responding to my post..I'm sending you lots of luck and only good wishes.....Take care..
  • Did you PT hold your head in his or her hands while you were lying on your back and stretch you? I'm going thru that and it's tough! Mine went too far last week and I had a really rough weekend.

    He made me come in and talk it through with him because I wanted to quit. I went in and he was great. I told him lying on my stomach was very uncomfortable during the pre massage so I now sit in a chair. He said I need to get loosened up or it will freeze on me. I'm to let all the folks know what is uncomfortable for me. The stretching will be tough but other than that I should be comfortable.

    How long ago did you have your surgery? MIne was Anterior by the way. 3 level too. fun fun.
  • Hi there! ;)
    I had all levels in C area cleaned up - Foraminotomy. It was done posteriorly April 28th. I went to PT 4 mos. after to get the muscles released from shoulder area. After 6 visits, getting tens unit, ultrasound, & deep tissue massages, I was ok. They never put me in any pain or made me do any exercises. You & I had dif. procedures done, so that explains dif. therapy. All is good now and only get sore in areas that I haven't used in over a year or so. No post-op pain anymore & I am back to all regular activities.
    Hope you'll be done with therapy soon. Maybe you'd be better off doing it yourself at your own pace. Not sure why you are still going - maybe it helps with the fusion?
    ;) take care girl
  • All levels? That's amazing. I asked if I would be a candidate for your procedure but was told it wouldn't fix my problem. I would benefit more from the fusion. It's a sure deal I was told.

    I do not have the crazy screaming pain I had off and on for a couple of decades. I just have healing pain.

    I hope I'm better off with the PT. I am moving my head now which I wasn't before. I was totally locked up. I lost 75% of my range. I'm getting 50% on my right side and the left side is starting to come but it's tough.

    I don't know that it helps the fusion but it's suppose to speed up my recovery. I hope that's true. I know PT has gotten me thru all my other surgeries and injuries. This is the scariest one though.

    There's so much controversy about what is the correct thing to do. It use to be HOLD STILL now I'm being told with the plate and screws the idea is MOVE IT OR LOSE IT.

    Thanks for chatting with me about this.
  • Hey Lynn.
    I love chatting with you. In regards to "all" C areas, foraminotomy - not sure wtf he did while in there - not about to ask him anything now, because I have released him from my case. He did say 5-6 was showed most prob on MRI, & 6-7 a little prob as well & while he's in there, he'd check all the nerves to make sure they were free. 3 dif surgeons discussed doing foraminotomy, not fusion. Didn't care what they had to do, just do it!
    I, like you, still have mild pain, not screaming though. Family doc gave me some more vicodin & zanaflex because he said my muscles were still spasming, thus causing pain. I take 1 of each a day!
    That surgeon did tell me when he took my stitches out to "resume to reg activies & the more you move around, the quicker you will heal.
    You mentioned "what's the correct thing to do" - it's puzzling to me too - can't get a solid answer to that either. They all say "everyone is dif", well, DUH, CAN YOU AT LEAST TELL ME WHAT OTHERS HAVE EXPERIENCED? Maybe that would help ease the pain, to know others have similiar complaints & we are going to be fine! Just a few words of encouragement can really make a huge dif.
    Don't you feel we're fortunate to have this forum here?
    You have a great weekend and I hope you find comfort in this ever so painful recovery! Been scary for me too! Don't ever think you're alone in this!
    hug to YA >:D<
  • I didn't have such problem, but I think the best way for you is to consult with a doctor.

    Spam link removed by forum Authority (Cath111). We do not permit spam links on Spine-Health.
  • I had acdf surgery on c3-c4 in December of '07.

    Can't remember when the numbness went away, but it eventually did.

    I do remember how scared I was when trying to shave around the scar! ;)
  • I didn't think about how tough shaving would be for a man. ugggg! I wonder if just letting a beard grow is best? Then you wouldn't be able to see how you're healing I guess?

    How are you doing now shemp? Your 2 years old. I hope you're glad you had the surgery and enjoying your life.
  • I do have a mustache, but I could never sport a beard. Bleeeccch. I hate the way it looks and I hate the way it itches even more! ;)) Besides, I don't want to hide the scar. I think it looks really cool.

    I'm glad I had the surgery, but truth be told I didn't have any other options. The bones broke and were compressing my spine. And to rub salt into the wound I had a couple of bone spurs stuck in there as well.

    If I had to put numbers to it I'd say my hands, arms and left leg have responded splendidly to the rehab I've been doing and I'd grade them at @ 90%.

    My problem now is trying to whip my right leg into shape. I'm at the gym 4 or 5 times a week, so I'm sure it's only a matter of time. If anything I sure have lost a lot of weight as of late.

    I think one of the most important things we ACDFers have to work on is our attitude.

    Obviously I'm not happy with what happened to me, but after being hospitalized for 4 weeks and seeing how many people had it far worse than I really gave me a good perspective on things.

    I'm grateful I wasn't hurt worse than I was. I grateful that living here in NYC afforded me some of the best care I could get hospital-wise, rehab-wise, doctor wise and more importantly surgeon-wise.

    I've gotten a lot of support from family and friends, but the important thing for us is to have that positive outlook.

    I try to keep myself busy and I make sure that I'm never bored. I've never felt sorry for myself and on those occasions that I get the blues I just keep reminding myself it could've been worse.

    So the best tip I can give to my fellow ACDFers is to get busy! Walk! Exercise! Read! Do anything to get yourselves moving! Go! Go! Go!

    Whew! #:S Sorry for going off on such a tangent! But it sure feels good to have found a place to unload and be understood. As I said I've been fortunate to have received a lot of support from family and friends, but nobody knows what I really went through like some of the good folks here.....

  • Yeah attitude is important. I've learned to do amazing things to get thru this.

    I have monkey feet lol! I can lift objects off the floor, open and close cabinets and flush the toilet with my feet. My PT laughed when I dropped my car keys, slide out of my shoe and picked them up with my feet. "Cool trick" he said.

    I can see with my hands too. I wear a fanny pack so I don't have to carry a purse. I can get everything out of it without looking down which my 3 level makes impossible for me. My son thinks it's pretty cool.

    I'm a mover so I find a way to get done what I need to get done. My left arm should not be able to do the things it can according to the doctors but I just make it. I work very hard on rehabilitating it. It's a challenge.

    I've always been an athletic person so my body and I work together well.

    You're right about others having it tougher than we do. My older brother who was a jock and a car racer ended up with Parkinsons at a young age. He was sad for a day and then figured out how to get things done. He's amazing and my role model.

    I think my scar is cool too. I'm a martial artist so the stories I can tell are endless LOL
  • How are you? Are you still going to PT? I quit after 6 visits because I felt like they accomplished what was needed - unlocking the muscles in shoulder. Now the post op pain is in my upper back area. Poor muscles have not been used for a long time and really hurt now that I am getting around better!
    Wow, your brother really has a good attidude. Bless his heart.
    I hope you things are getting better & better for you.
    Take Care
  • I still have such a limited range of motion that I'm going to use out what my insurance allowed 15 visits. I have about 5 left.

    I want to learn what exercises are okay for people like us too. They're doing some strength training with me but not much. After the over stretch they stopped doing the strength training.

    You're at 5 months right? That's exciting. You don't have any fusion to go thru do you? I considered a a foraminotomy but the doctor felt that wouldn't solve my issues. I thought that was a faster recovery or is that just another story they tell LOL

    I have good days and not so good days.

    I hear you about the back muscles. They feel so weird. It's tough to explain to someone who hasn't been thru it.

    Does your head still feel heavy? When I lay it down it gets so heavy it's crazy. I have to have really soft pillows or the back of my head gets numb and uncomfortable. I have to rub it and change my position.

    I never was good about relaxing my back or head. No problem now. My neck is like a limb noodle.

    Do you plan on going back to PT?

    Talk to you soon I hope :-C
  • My neck's been numb since before I can remember! I imagine I was born with it, plus the vile neck-ache which accompanies it if I hold my hands in a 'piano-playing' position! I've never had any surgery on my neck and am used to it, although it's not something I'd wish on anyone. Val
  • Yep, it's been 5 mos. now since the foraminotomy. They explained this was best for me - had a nerve impendment, no herniations, etc. hmmm You only had your surgery in July. You're doing good girl! My neighbor had 3 fusions anteriorly, like you, a year ago, & has been long time healed. You're almost there it sounds like.
    Oh yes, my entire back muscles are my issue now. Use the heating pad a whole lot. Been using it so long that my leather recliner is scorched (pizzzed off) Got some zanaflex now & it's does wonders for the ever so sore back muscles.
    My head also feels heavy and I rest a whole lot on my down feather pillow. It's getting worn out. LOL. I'm rubbing head too. Since no one can tell me what to do, I just do what makes me feel better. I don't think there's anything out there to speed up recovery, so I just find comfort in any way I can.
    Same as you with the good & bad days. When it's GOOD it's sooo good & when it's BAD, whoa, is it bad.
    I've decided not to go to any more therapy - they helped me so much. I am progressing on my own now and know my limits. At this point in this journey, I am ONLY relaxing alot since I feel I am nearing the end of a very painful, stressful, times of hopelessness, boring, aggitating, trip. I went back to work after 2 wks of surgery & everyone here tells me I have made a major improvement. That encourages me when I have the bad days - to look back at where I was!!!
    That's good your neck is like a noodle, isn't it. hehe Mine hasn't gotten there yet! Still just a little stiff, but not near as bad.
    Thx for your update! Like to hear from you!
    Take care & write back!
    Are you taking any med?
    :* 's
  • Your neighbor is doing great! My PT told me today that most people feel like themselves after a year or so. If she's been healed for a long time that's great!

    I have a ways to go before I'm where I want to be. I know I'll not go back to as strong as I was. I was extremely active. Running, heavy weight training and such will not be approved. I'm okay with that. I just want to be very functional.

    I take extra strength Tylenol every night and sometimes during the day but not too often. I'm use to a little bit of pain. I only take it if I'm at a 6 level. I usually am about 1 to 3. How about you?

    What do you do for work? That's amazing that you went back 2 weeks after surgery!
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