Welcome, Friend!

It looks like you're new here. If you want to get involved, click one of these buttons!

Veritas-Health LLC has recently released patient forums to our Arthritis-Health web site.

Please visit http://www.arthritis-health.com/forum

There are several patient story videos on Spine-Health that talk about Arthritis. Search on Patient stories
Protect anonymity
We strongly suggest that members do not include their email addresses. Once that is published , your email address is available to anyone on the internet , including hackers.

All discussions and comments that contain an external URL will be automatically moved to the spam queue. No external URL pointing to a medical web site is permitted. Forum rules also indicate that you need prior moderator approval. If you are going to post an external URL, contact one of the moderators to get their approval.
Attention New Members
Your initial discussion or comment automatically is sent to a moderator's approval queue before it can be published.
There are no medical professionals on this forum side of the site. Therefore, no one is capable or permitted to provide any type of medical advice.
This includes any analysis, interpretation, or advice based on any diagnostic test

Nerve Damage and Muscle Recovery after ACDF Surgery

I had c6-c7 ACDF surgery 12 weeks ago. I opted for surgery as I lost the use of about 85% of my left triceps due to nerve root compression and was hoping to regain my strength. Since my surgery, I have been diligent with physical therapy and weight bearing exercises to build strength in my left triceps. This has helped to some extent. To date, my left triceps are at about 35% capacity compared to roughly 15% presurgery and it is regaining some bulk lost to atrophy. While I am happy that I made this gain, I find that I am getting frustrated with my rate of progress and am wondering if this is it or if others have had different outcomes. I would be happy learn what type of post op experience people have had in regaining muscle strength following a cervical herniation that caused muslce weakness in their arm. Thanks for your comments.


  • RangerRRanger on da rangePosts: 805
    hey murray,
    I can so relate to what you are experiencing, trust me, patience is a virtue when it comes to recovery. Take your time building your strength back and listen to your therapist. I can honestly tell you that I am far stronger now than I was long before my anterior & posterior fusion of C4 thru C7 in 2007. Be very careful not to herniate adjacent discs as from now on you will be putting additional stress on those. I dread every time I need to go in for surgery because I think about the recovery and how long it takes to gain my strength and stamina back. Since that surgery, I've had to bounce back from two other surgeries, one a wrist fusion in 2010, and a rotator cuff repair in the summer of 2012. I'm not done either, another cervical spine fusion is just around the corner so I get to do it all again.
    I am determined to bounce back and be better than before, you can too murray, you just have to want it bad enough and be careful not to overdo it and set yourself back.
    Take care,
  • murraymmurray Posts: 3
    edited 05/22/2013 - 4:13 PM
    Ranger, thanks for your encouragement. Good luck to you.
  • Venom929VVenom929 Posts: 9
    edited 05/23/2013 - 5:04 AM
    I am 39 yrs old and had the same cervical fusion one year ago. My symptoms were in right arm with muscle atrophy in the tricep. I had symptoms for about 8 months before I got the surgery so my only regret is that I waited too long. That being said, I am very active and keep myself in great shape. I am just now after 1 year of post op training, getting my rig tricep back to equal strength with my left. I concentrated a lot on diet and nutrition, lots of protein and I worked single arm excercise e only. Nothing with a barbell or even push-ups because you will compensate with the stronger arm. I bought some resistance bands and I have had a lot of success using those to regain the strength/size in my right tricep. As long as progress is being made, you will regain the original strength. Start light with high repetition to get that tricep muscle used to "firing" again. Don't compare your weak arm to your strong arm, just compare your weak arm to itself in 2 week increments! Good luck
  • Venom 929
    Thanks for your comments. Its good to know there is someone out there with almost exactly the same issues. Also glad you confirmed unilateral exercises versus bi-lateral, That was my thought as well, but had a PT guy tell me you still get benefit from bi-lateral workouts. I think I'll stay unilaterally focused at least for the the tricep. Our only really difference is your still a youngster :) ; I'm 57: Thanks again.
  • On a side note to my previous post I did notice a loss of strength in my right pectoral/chest muscle which I assume is directly related to,this level of disc. I had immediate pain relief after the surgery and all symptoms of tingling/ numbness were gone immediately. I struggled to fuse at first due to my use of smokeless tobacco/ my Dr forgot to inform me that nicotine in any form is bad for spinal fusion. So a few weeks of a none stimulator and the fusion began to take. Keep us informed on your progress and what type of things work for you.
  • Hi Murray I realise this thread is a year old but I have been through exactly the same thing as you. I had a herniated C6/C7 and lost about 90% of my strength from my left tricep, pec and rear delt. I had ADR surgery at the end of Feb 2013 and up to this date have returned about 65% of my strength back in my tricep. It has been a very frustrating journey but a positive one as four out of the five specialists I saw said I was unlikely to see any strength return as I had left my surgery so long and had lost so much strength.
    As a former (and hopefully will be again) National level bodybuilder this injury was very hard to deal with and there was many times when I felt like giving up. I realise that my tricep (particularly the inner head) will most likely never return to normal, I am hopeful of building myself back up to get back on stage again. I saw a neurologist who said the nerve would take between 400-500 days to regrow from the nerve root to my tricep. So I guess in about ten months or so I will know what percentage I will end up at.
    The most important thing is making sure you include some isolation unilateral exercises to ensure full contraction on the injured side and that the good side is not just compensating for the weaker one. I have been guilty of probably training too heavy as I have been so keen to get my strength back, when I believe I would have been better off going very light and concentrating on making sure the muscle contracts fully. Perseverance is the key. You need to think in terms of years rather than weeks as far as regaining your strength goes.
  • I'm going through what a lot of people on this post are with disc herniation at C5 (shown on MRI) and loss of strength in my left arm (can't put my suitcase on the overhead rack on a plane any longer). My orthopedist recommends ACDF surgery. I'm managing the pain with medication, but worry about permanent loss of left arm strength. Does anyone have any idea how long I can postpone surgery for other less invasive treatments and still hope to regain arm strength if I end up choosing surgery?
  • Hello Murray,

    I hope all is going well and you have made tremendous progress since your initial post. I am (52) scheduled for surgery Thursday (Feb 26, 2015) and was hoping my muscle atrophy would return much sooner than what I have read as a result of your inquiry. I have muscle atrophy in my right pec and right tricep, bone spurs, foraminal narrowing at C6/C7 causing a pinched nerve. I was experiencing pain; back of neck, back at right shoulder blade, down right arm tricep, down to two small fingers with tingling and numbness, a freaky switching of right pec and 50 percent strength lost. Symptoms began September 2014, and ceased November leaving me with the atrophy which gradually deceased. Although in December I was ready for surgery, the earliest appointment was Feb 2, and after surgery physical and clearances my actual date is Feb 26.
    I am a gym rat and haven't worked out since October and dying to get started on recovering. I am determined to get back to my previous state and strength, I am willing to work patiently and had started working isolation exercises for chest and triceps. I was using dumbbells mainly offset different levels of strength in my left compared to my right.

    I hope you have updated information and please don't hesitate to share or enlighten me on areas that haven't been addressed in the recovery timeline.
  • I had fusion surgery back in September for disc herniation with spinal cord compression and myelopathy. I also have some issues with muscle weakness in my arms. I have been going through physical therapy since November to deal with all the pain. I still have pain and weakness but I am working on it. It does get better. I don't know how long you have had issues. For me it was about almost 4 yrs ago now that all my troubles have started. I would get a second opinion. There is still a lot of work to be done to "fix" the weakness issues. I don't want to discourage you from it but know your options. Its a long road
    Tracie C
  • I am 43 and had acdf surgery on c6-c7, 17 days ago. I also had 2 significant bone spurs anterior and posterior which made the surgery last 1.5 hours longer then expected. I am also herniated at c3-c4. I have dealt with the herniations and the resulting nerve issues ( loss of right tricep, finger numbness, arm numbness, headaches, etc...) for over a decade. Some things went away, others did not. The surgery has been hugely successful and I am out of pain for the first time in a decade. I have no complaints but do have a few questions and hope someone might enlighten me.

    I feel like there is swelling in my throat . No pain, but it does feel hard to swallow now and again, is this normal? I feel like the hard collar has bruised my throat. Is that possible or is that me being whiny? Any insight would be appreciated. Thank you.
  • lauriesuellauriesue Posts: 2
    edited 03/02/2015 - 10:40 AM
    Hi there,
    I had emergency cervical spine surgery about 2 years ago. I had lost control of my left leg and the surgeon told me that I had a great deal of athritis and disease. He did a cervical spine fusion. A few months after that, my left leg still did not have any strength, and he said to give it time. A couple of months later, I suddenly had excruciating pain going down my left leg. It was so bad, I had to take a couple of perosets just to take my daughter to school. Flash forward a few months when the pain did not go away, the surgeon had me take some MRIs. The MRIs revealed that I had practically so space in the discs in my lower back, but said he did not recommend another fusion as it could break down the rest of my spine. When I asked him what he would do if he were me, he said " I'd shoot myself in the head." Those were his exact words. Flash forward a few more months, and my sister forced me to go to xxxx in NYC. The surgeon there said I had to have a fusion, quickly, or the pain would worsen, and I could end up in a wheel chair. Well I had the surgery now 10 months ago. The pain is gone, but I still don't have the strength back in my leg. I can't walk on my tippy toes or push forward, which means I can't go for long walks, play tennis, dance, pretty much anything. The surgeon said it could take up to two years to recover my strength. While I am really happy not to be in bad pain, I am very sad that I can't resume my life as an active person. Could anyone tell me whether it is possible for me to regain that strength? Or is the nerve too damaged. I'm very depressed about this. Thank you!
  • Post-surgery update!
    I had ACDF Surgery (C6/C7) 10:30 AM, Thursday, March 5, the surgery lasted approximately 2.5 hrs. Reader’s Digest version first – Totally Amazing! I’m yet to experience any pain or pain as result of the surgery has been very minimal.

    Day 1: I was able to eat a normal meal for dinner which included: meatloaf, string beans and wedged white potatoes washed down with water and ginger ale. Although it took 30-40 minutes to slowly eat, I was successful with little soreness in my swallowing. I was a little afraid not to take any pain medication so I had my first pill around 5:00 PM, continued to sip on ice water and Sprite soda, around 11:00 PM finished off two cups of ice-cream and second pain pill at 11:30 PM prior falling to sleep.

    Day 2: My Dr. visited my room by 7:40 AM, removed the top badging, drainage tube and reviewed surgical tape that would remain. Checked for pain and soreness and authorized my discharge. I took my third and final pain pill at 7:30 AM and have not required any medication for pain or muscle spasms.

    I’m going summarize and to skip to (Day 6) March 11, 2015: The grace of God, daily exercise by walking, stationary bike, CPAP machine (sleep apnea), lemon and honey, water and plenty of rest has contributed to what I am experiencing so far as amazing recovery. It’ is my hope the switching of my nerving endings in my pectoral and triceps are positive foundational signs for full recovery of muscle atrophy. In closing, the ONLY pain I have experienced; in my chest cavity (esophagus) when swallowing and increase in my heart rate exercising.
  • Hello All,

    Has anyone had any success or considered water (warm or cool temperatures) exercises?
  • Hi, I wanted to chime in about the throat issues- they should have told you, or maybe they did, and you were overwhelmed- partially it's related to the postop swelling, and partially from the stretching of the laryngeal nerve during surgery, because of the anterior appraoch. It should resolve over time. In rare cases it can persist, and can be treated but i forget how at the moment. But 17 days is still well within the norm.
    3/7/2015 C4-7 ACDF
  • JayejayeJJayejaye Posts: 1
    edited 04/27/2015 - 5:18 AM
    Hi, i am new to this site, I don't know what to do and feel like a burden on everyone, I keep crying and feel bad and feel like no-one really understands, although everyone is fantastic. I am normally a strong person or so I'm told and hate having to ask or rely on anyone. I can't walk unaided at the moment, I use a Zimmer frame indoors, and a wheelchair when I go out, it's so frustrating and depressing not being able to drive , visit friends or go shopping and I used to love shopping. I am 48 years old and had two operations ACDF 3.4 & 5 on 19th December 2014 and the second 30 th December .By the time I had my first ACDF operation I was collapsing on the floor every time I went to the bathroom and kept dropping everything, my arms and hands were on fire and I couldn't use them. My nerves were compressed with spinal stenosis. I collapsed and was rushed to the first hospital where I spent three weeks waiting to be transferred. Finally I was rushed to (a specialist hospital) for urgent surgery! I was told by my consultant they were operating to prevent further damage to my spine and that it could take up to two years to walk again if I do, as the nerves have to heal and repair. The following day aFter the operation I told the surgeon on his rounds that I felt like I had been hit by a bus and perhaps it was my fibromyalgia, but he dismissed me and asked me when I would be well enough to leave so I told him I would go home the following day. When the Occupational therapy came to see me I cried and told her I felt so ill but I would go home as it was Christmas. At home I felt like I was dying and told my son and my new husband that I needed to go back to the hospital. I went to my GP to get the staples out of my neck and saw the doctor he said I looked really bad I told him I still couldn't walk and felt soo Ill, he told me to go straight back to the hospital which I did. I had another mri on my spine and they found a blood clot had formed in the same area they had just operated on and needed to be removed urgently to stop paralysis. Again I had to sign the consent form and was told I might lose my voice box this time. It was a different surgeon as the first surgeon was on holiday but the same anaesthetist, I asked him if it was my fault as I had twisted my neck to pick something up while in bed and he said I was lucky and was sorry that it was their fault as they had left a bit in when operating the first time. I have felt a lot better since the second operation and have improved a lot , I can use my arms now although they still burn, But it is still very difficult to walk, I know it takes time, could anyone tell me how to keep motivated, it's now been a long time.

    Thank you in advance for reading x
  • kushalkkushal Posts: 1
    edited 06/15/2015 - 12:04 AM
    recently i had a spine surgery of L4-5, s-1 for lower back pain before 1 week, but after a week i am feeling well when i am sleeping but having dificulty for walking single step. so is ther still any fault or jus muscle weakness?? amd cant stand straight. and how can i get recover it quick??

    There is nobody on the forum qualified or permitted to give medical advice all responses will be members own experiences only

    Liz ..... Spine-health moderator
  • I had my fusion in 2011 at C6C7. I have never fully recovered function of my tricep pectorals or deltoid. The cervical pain and headaches began to reoccur in the 4th year post surgery. The difficulty swallowing has also never completely corrected its self. I had a bone fragment compression my nerve and the left arm one day fell to my side. The surgery was done within 6 weeks of dysfunction. The arm is functional for the most part ( or I have learned to adapt) but still very week, the weakness has spread to my hand and to my wrist. I am a dentist by trade and this is leading me to a disability from my profession. I was told I will regain as much muscle function in three years and then what ever it is will be the final outcome. I have mild to sever degeneration above and below my fusion so the loss of articulation this past year with the reoccurrence of headaches can be associated with this progression. I know many who are completely healed so work at it hard.
  • SavageSavage United StatesPosts: 5,427
    Welcome to Spine-Health
    Please click on link for helpful information!
    Spine-Health Moderator
    Please read my medical history at: Medical History

  • I had both an ACDF (C5-C7) 1 year ago and a Decompression Laminectomy (L2-L5) two years ago. Both surgeries had positive impacts on my strength. However, about 6 months after the Decompression Laminectomy I once again had leg weakness. I also had other neurological issues since as painful tingling in my arms and my legs. I have a numb area on my left leg that I noticed after the first back surgery. I still have that. I too seem to have hit a plateau on gaining strength and continue to live with both neck and back pain albeit much less than existed pre-surgery. About 6 months after my ACDF, I begun to have memory issues. Those I believe can be attributed to enduring various neurological related pain issues that kept waking me up and night. The Neurologist gave me a nerve medication that enabled me to sleep again and my memory returned.

    Some of my other issues such as leg weakness, cramps, muscle spasms, and muscle twitches continue to exist. I am begging to believe that some of these issues may be the result of permanent nerve damage. Hopefully overtime I will regain more strength in my legs. However, the age thing is not working for me either. I am older than both of you that earlier in this tread mentioned your ages.

    My biggest thing is to manage my expectations of future capabilities and strive to continue exercising and hopefully regaining some strength. However, I most guard my expectations so that I can keep a positive attitude.

    The one thing that I have discovered about the aging process is that as you get older, lots of people talk about health problems. In many cases having to endure chronic pain and nerve issues is a much better situation to be in than what I find others my age and older are having to deal with. So I just count my blessings, endure the pain that I have, and keep trying to improve my health.

    By he way, the throat issue is common for ACDF procedures. The doctor disturbs your esophagus as part of the procedure. It has been over a year since my ACDF and I still have some issues although minor compared to the first 2-6 months.

    Jim Campbell
  • Hey guys just had my ACDF I had a fusion at 4/5 and and artifial disc placed at 5/6. My problem before surgery was pain and not being able to move my shoulder in a lateral movement and a overhead movement. Dr said nerve 4/5 was really "angry" looking and 5/6 wasn't. Much better. I'm one day post op no pain other than sore throat and the pain in my chest from anesthesia. I am 42 and I've worked as a RN in surgery and currently the Director of Surgical Services. The bad news is my arm is no better and Dr said could take up to a year to come back. My question is has anyone uses other means of rehabilitation besides just exercise? Such as massages and acupuncture? Also for the guys out there that were lifting weights have you used any HGH or anabolic steroids in your recovery efforts? My dr said HGH would be fine if I had assess to it.
  • SavageSavage United StatesPosts: 5,427
    Welcome to Spine-Health
    Please click on link for helpful information!
    Spine-Health Moderator
    Please read my medical history at: Medical History

  • Hello, I know this is an older post but I would like to hear from anyone with similar issues.  I am 10 weeks post op from having 2 level acdf 3/4 and 6/7.  I was having a lot of pain and weakness in my right triceps.  I still have pain and weakness.  I thought maybe I noticed a little improvement this week when I tested my arm but it still hurts when I try to strengthen it.  I'm not sure if it is still the nerve or just muscle pain.  I'm worried that something else could be wrong.  I expect weakness for awhile but I thought the pain would go away.
  • mikebf53mmikebf53 FloridaPosts: 10
    I am 4 months from ACDF5-6. I was having a little pain, but terrible tingling in both hands and my feet and even face sometimes. Surgeon said after 2.5 hour surgery there was ALOT of compression from the spurs and collapse of the disc.  They told me tingling would get worse before better. After surgery almost no pain and I think I took pain meds 2 days more for the comfort to sleep. Since then maybe Tylenol once or twice and advil once. The tingling has gotten worse some days and better. I began taking Neurontin and it helps. As for strength, after 2 week follow up I was told to swim. I not swim 35-45 minutes 4 days a week. I walk 2-3 miles 3 days a week and since week 6 been backing the gym doing light weights. Yes my strength has dropped a lot where I used to be a 250+ bench presser and now I do 20 lb dumbbells. It will take a while but keep at it. The surgeon's nurse said over the course of a year or so you will have some strange sensations as the nerves need to expand and grow again as does the spine. I continually have tingling in my feet, but am able to walk and gaining strength each week. I went from barely able to swim 2 laps to now about a mile. 

    Patience is what I keep hearing so all these sensations and strange things I read on the posts don't seem that strange as was told to expect it and always seems like someone else is having something similar.

    Remember it took Peyton Manning 1 full year to come back with the best rehab, drugs, nutrition etc, so I guess like all of us, trying to be patient.

    Has anyone else had the issues with the tingling in feet and hands coming back after a few months?

    I consider myself lucky as don't have much pain, but trying to sleep sometimes when your hands and feet are tingling is hard.
  • Very similar.  I'm 3 months for ACDF on 6-7 due to a severe herniated disc.  The surgery went well with immediate loss of all of the never pain in the right arm.  But now the numbness in the right hand has gotten worse and now includes tingling in the right arm and slight tingling in the left arm plus some occasional tingling on my face with occasional neck stiffness and pain.   I finished PT about 10 days ago and I'm just following the regiment at home.... stretches, resistance bands, and light weights (5lbs).  Some swimming but not much and probably doing more yard work than I should but nothing that has cause discomfort or pain.

    I haven't taken much more than Tylenol once or twice a week since 3 or 4 days after the surgery.

    I go see the surgeon for the second post op in about a week and and hoping the he can offer something more than waiting.    The lucky part for me is the immediate loss of pain... prior to the surgery I could not lay down.  I slept in a chair and at that not much more than 2-3 hours a night.  So you're not alone in the issues... I'm hoping for more than be patient.  I'll update after post-op if the doctor says more than be patient.  Hang in there.
  • mikebf53mmikebf53 FloridaPosts: 10
    Good news is there is no pain. That is very similar to me. I still have some stiffness and weird tingling in body parts. I am glad you said in your face also as when first told neurologist he looked at me like I was crazy, but surgeon said it's all connected. I am now almost 5 months and can swim 45 minutes straight. I do weights 2 times a week for strength but nothing more than a 20 lb dumbbell on the bench. It will take time, but I am exercising, eating great and in my last physical of a week ago, my labs were fantastic. So you will get there and take care of yourself. It will take time as I am learning and have to remind myself.
  • SavageSavage United StatesPosts: 5,427
    Hello BlueWolf !
    Welcome to Spine-Health
    Please click on link for helpful information!
    Spine-Health Moderator
    Please read my medical history at: Medical History

  • mikebf53mmikebf53 FloridaPosts: 10
    How did your follow up go?
  • LizLiz Posts: 7,832
    This is an old discussion created by a member no longer on the forum 

    BlueWolf has not been back on the forum since making that comment  in  mid July so I suggest you send a private message as I want to close this old discussion.

    Liz, Spine-health Moderator

    Spinal stenosis since 1995
    Lumber decompression surgery S1 L5-L3[1996]
    Cervical stenosis, so far avoided surgery
This discussion has been closed.
Sign In or Register to comment.