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PRE/POST ACDF Exercise Surgery Rehab

I have decided to write about my journey into the world of cervical spine surgery in the hopes it may help others. After 4 years of hell and not getting anywhere in Canada, I decided to get help in the USA. I will be having an ACDF on July 7 at C67. This will hopefully help the longstanding nerve problems I have had down my right arm in the C56/c67 distribution for the past 4 years. I also hope it will help with the debilitating nerve root pain and headaches I have. I am paying out of pocket because in my country I have been deemed not bad enough (I have no reflex changes or muscle atrophy). In any event, because I am a very physically fit 45 year old women who has tried to keep fit during this challenge, I am going to try and keep everyone posted in my rehabilitation. I feel that there are enough bad news stories out there about cervical spine surgery and I am hoping that if I go into this as healthy as possible that maybe my results will prove differently. Full disclosure - this injury has slayed me: I have 24 hour/day headaches, I have limited use of my right arm due to the increase in neck pain, I have difficulty flexing my neck, my exercise routine has been really become limited and I have gained 12 pounds of fat….but I am persevering. So here goes - I hope this proves interesting for someone and keeps me on point. Today, I did a cardio attack class - but in low impact mode (avoided the push ups)


  • EnglishGirlEEnglishGirl Posts: 1,825
    edited 06/03/2014 - 5:44 PM
    Thank you! I find this really interesting. I'd be pleased to go on this journey with you. ;-)

    Will you give us a little background on how this all started for you, which diagnostic tests you've had, what you've tried to deal with it etc.

    I'm from England & now I live in the USA so I know about the differences between those 2 medical systems. What's it like dealing with spine injury in Canada?
    Osteoarthritis & DDD.
  • LizLiz Posts: 7,832

    Liz, Spine-health Moderator

    Spinal stenosis since 1995
    Lumber decompression surgery S1 L5-L3[1996]
    Cervical stenosis, so far avoided surgery
  • aliscottaaliscott Posts: 8
    edited 06/11/2014 - 8:22 AM
    Well it is amazing what a week can bring…. after 4 years of hell, as I mentioned, I have been brought back "into the fold", so to speak… Through some wheeling and dealing, I got in to see a neurosurgeon (which takes a year up here in Canada) for a second opinion. Just to go back a bit - I was diagnosed with, well nothing but arthritis by a Ortho/Spine Fellow here. He said I had mild degenerative changes. 2 years ago. My symptoms - Non stop 24 hour headache/nausea/vertigo; constant c567 right neck pain, constant numbness down the right c6 distribution, and on and off c7 numbness. Basically this is now year 4 that this has been going on - but now I had the left side going on as well (down C56 distribution). So I went back to the SAME Ortho/Spine guy (my mistake - but I was in the system to see him).. He said still NO GO - I had basically mild/moderate changes and "pain sensitization"… SO i said EDITED it, I am going to the US. Immediately, 3 of the best neurosurgeons (one being Peyton Manning's surgeon) said I need a 2 level ACDF. The second opinion (which was begging and pleading - and not through my doctor) here in Canada was by a Neurosurgeon and Fellow He said - Yes indeed I need a double ACDF. Problem his he is not a Fellow in Spine. So I am torn. So torn - do I take my hard earned 40 thousand dollars and have it done next month - or wait, get it done here, not by a spine guy, and have it for free….. in 6 months. Dontcha love public system. Sacrifice health for the almighty buck...
    Oh - as for pre-op exercising, I am continuing to jog (not walk) - I believe the tractioning of the nerves by arms when walking irritate the nerve roots and the gentle motion of the jogging, with the head tilting in extension helps the disc material move anteriorly, thereby taking pressure off the central disc herniations. Does anybody have this phenomenon. It certainly helps with my chronic headache symptoms - doesn't cure, but takes the edge off.


    Post edited by Sandi- the use of foul, obscene or vulgar language is NOT permitted on Spine Health.

  • How many fusions has the neurosurgeon in Canada done in the past? That would be my big question. I know! I'm shallow ;-) I come from the land of free health care (UK) & I still object to handing over my $25 copay so the idea of $40,000?!?!? Now that you've got the diagnosis & go ahead is there no way to get with a 'real' spine guy in Canada?

    I know nothing about the system. Maybe that neuro has done hundreds & hundreds of fusions with great results. They're surely not letting him practice on you!! It's the rest of your life. I would hate for you to save the money & regret it but think how you could celebrate your 'new' spine with $40,000!!

    Keep us posted. ;-)
    Osteoarthritis & DDD.
  • Sorry I haven't posted in awhile. The past month has been busy to say the least. I kept up with my jogging three times a week albeit slowly. Stopped doing any attempt at upper body strengthening - the pain was just not worth it. I did really concentrate on proper posture and postural exercises. The week before surgery (last week of June) I managed one run and one bike ride. And on July 7th I had a 2 level ACDF (c567). Was discharged on the 8th and drove the 7 hours back to Canada that day. That was a long drive, but glad I got it over with. Started with walking immediately. Thus far I feel my hands are better but my shoulders and neck feel "achy" and tired. This hard collar is mighty uncomfortable, especially for sleeping. My goal is to walk 3 short walks daily. Nothing especially long, as I found out yesterday, anything over a 1/2 hour and I get burning in my traps. So far so good. If anyone has any advice in the early days of their surgery please feel free to add. This is uncharted waters for me. And I don't want to do anything stupid - hopefully one surgery and one only.
  • 2 weeks post surgery and things are progressing, I think. Off the pain meds still but still quite uncomfortable. I have been walking every day with the hard collar (another 2 weeks with that) doing 5 to 7 miles. Watching my posture. My deep ache that I have had on the right C567 area for app. 5 years is gone as is the complete numbness in my arm when I walk! I think that is good - the bad, well, I have a lot of myfascial trapezius pain bilaterally (which was there beforehand) that causes terrible headaches (that were there beforehand). So one problem is better but still dealing with the other. I had just wished everything would be gone! I know - early days - but after so many years you just want it gone. Chin up…. Keep walking - that is what I tell myself.
  • Coming along nicely - still walking and have started low impact aerobics (with more aged women). Just to get the heart rate going. I am having troubles with right rotator cuff - have a slap tear - and the ortho wants to wait 6 months to fix it. So that problem will have to wait. If I do too much, I will have dermatomal numbness down both the left and right arms. That has happened twice on the left (lasting 2-3 days). Still having right trapezius mucles "spasms" - that go up behind my right ear. Headaches overall are much better - the deep eye throbbing I had for 3.5 years is gone and now I suffer from more trapezius headaches (in the typical referral pattern). On no meds. Neurosurgeon wants me to keep moving. So hopefully with time things will continue to improve. No more collar and am driving a bit (although a tad nervous). cheers
  • It's a long road...... to get help in Canada. .. this week i saw a neurologist ( he has a 2 year waiting list ) I relate to your story because i may have to look for help in USA also. ( cervical 5 and 6 ) is where my damage is. I was injured at work 4 years ago and it has been a nightmare since. I worked 12 hour shifts full time -- now i am disabled and need help with everything. It is great that you are able to exercise. I am able to get in my pool and slowly walk around, this is about all i can do. All the best to you & keep up the great attitude !
    Cynthia Salmon
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