It has been two weeks since my surgery having Anterior Cervical Discectomy with Fusion between C3-4 and C4-5 and I couldn't be more pleased with the results. Not normally one to write in forums, I felt obligated because I learned so much from reading other people's experiences.
My problems started with slight tingling in the fingers of both hands about 3 months ago. I waited a couple of weeks thinking that I just had a pinched nerve in my neck (I've always had problems with muscle tension in my neck and between my shoulder blades) but when my right fingers' tingling started to creep up my hand I decided to make a drs. appt. After having an initial x-ray, an EMR and finally an MRI of my neck, I was diagnosed with cervical disc herniation with the disc pressing forward on my spinal cord. In the short time between having these tests and seeing the neurosurgeon my symptoms had progressed quickly in my right hand and arm. My hand was so tingly that it was painful to touch anything and made it difficult if not impossible to pick things up or use a keyboard (my job required typing 8 hours a day) and my right forearm felt like it had been injected with Novocain. My neck and back felt very tight but I was fortunate not to have much pain at all.
When the surgeon recommended surgery as soon as possible to remove the two discs that were compressing the spinal cord and fuse the vertebrae together using a plate and screws I was petrified. Like most people, I had heard and/or read about back surgeries and felt there must be other options.
After much research (with my family helping with that task) it was apparent that surgery was my only option if I didn't want to have permanent nerve damage. We researched my surgeon and the hospital he was affiliated with, all showing excellent results. Because there was only two weeks before the scheduled surgery date, and it was two days before Christmas, there was no way to get a second opinion without giving up my surgery date. With the symptoms getting worse every day, I wasn't willing to do that so, with much fear and trepidation, I went forward. (I should add, between the research we did and from interaction with my surgeon I felt very confident having him do the surgery.) I was told what to expect - a 1-3 night hospital stay after the surgery, 3 weeks in a hard cervical collar and another 3 weeks in a soft cervical collar. The incision would be in the front of my neck, about 2-3 inches long. They would slide my esophagus over to get to the discs, remove the 2 herniated discs, replace those discs with donated bone that would have my bone marrow (removed from my hip during surgery)injected around it to prevent rejection, fuse the two vertebrae together with a plate and 3 screws and sew it up. It sounded dreadful to me! BUT, I woke up from recovery with very little discomfort until I had to swallow some water, and then some soup. That was a prerequisite to going home! The fact that I managed to do that allowed me to go home after only one night in the hospital. The swallowing pain remained to be the most discomfort (it wasn't the throat so much as it was the muscles around the throat) I suffered. Each day it got better and after about 4 days it was just slightly troublesome. I had immediate relief from the Novocaine feeling in the forearm, all the tingling in my left hand was gone and only my fingers on my right hand had slight tingling to them.
Two days ago I had my follow up visit to remove the stitches and to be fitted for the soft cervical collar! I was doing so well that I could begin transitioning from the hard collar to the soft collar and it had only been 2 weeks!
It will probably be another couple of weeks before I return to work full time only because it isn't a good idea to sit in the same position doing the same thing for several hours at a time. As frightened as I was to have the surgery, I am so grateful that I went ahead with it. I should have very little limitations with head movements from side to side, if any, and will be able to resume my normally active lifestyle after the reasonable healing period of several months.
I realize that everyone is different and reacts differently to surgeries but this has been my experience to share with you.