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No neck pain and told I need emergency ACDF, 39 years old

mikeccmmikecc Posts: 4
edited 09/09/2014 - 6:50 PM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
Here is my story. First, let me tell you a little about myself: I am 39 years old, healthy male, married, and father to a 5, 6 and 8 year old. Within the past 30 days I was playing basketball, swimming laps, softball league, lifting weights, jogging, running our small business of 11 employees, volunteering in Sunday school, just very active if you get the point. We all feel physical pain differently, and I don't remember having much pain this year, but never any pain in my neck. About 6 months ago I noticed playing sports that I was feeling radiating shocks through from my arm pit to my fingers when jumping or throwing certain ways. I thought maybe I had a pinched nerve, but I really had no idea. Later this past Spring I remember complaining about carpal tunnel (so I thought). I spend a lot of time on the computer so I dismissed the tingling and numbness from ulnar area of elbow to 4th and 5th fingers in both hands and decided to get a stand up desk, get ergo equipment, etc. Nothing changed with the wrists and fingers, but it was really never painful. In June I began waking up at night with hands that would fall asleep which was annoying and I started thinking about seeing a doctor. At the same time I noticed weakness in my right leg and feeling like was dragging the leg when I was sprinting. I went to my primary doctor for a check up who told me I had ulnar neuropathy and give it 6 months to heal, stop leaning so much on arm rests, etc. I told him about my legs and it was dismissed as complications of old knee injuries. He referred me to physical therapy and orthopedic. At my first and only physical therapy appointment I described how my legs felt while sprinting and they tested my reflexes. They found hyperreflexia and clonus. The whites of their eyes got big as they struggled to explain the symptoms with the assumed diagnosis. When I got home I read about clonus and hyper reflexes - from that point (8/15) I was consumed with fear and anxiety about neurological diseases. I went back to my primary doctor who nonchalantly said, "yea, maybe I should send you to a neurologist..." I found my own neurologist (thank you PPO) and saw him 2 days later. He diagnosed me with cervical myelopathy. He found things like babinksi sign, other areas of clonus, etc. Actually, I had no idea what cervical myelopathy was, but I had to lay down! HA! It sounded scary, and I had NO idea there was anything wrong with my neck. The next day I had an MRI, 8/22, and my neurologist referred me to a neurosurgeon for an immediate appointment. He said, drive carefully, if you get in a car accident you may be done. Nice. On 8/25 I met with the head neurosurgeon for a great hospital in San Diego and scheduled emergency surgery for 9/2. I had a large herniated disc at c5 that would require a two level ACDF. Reading about the surgery, potential complications, recovery time, was terrifying. The present symptoms were not that devastating to my lifestyle but I felt I had no choice but to take care of this or risk paralysis. My boys are just starting to play baseball and I just starting playing catch with them in the backyard. My daughter was starting kindergarten, ballet and just taught her how to dive and swim. I'm in my 30's (albeit for only another 4 months), how can this be happening? Thankfully my surgery was deemed emergency so insurance and everyone cooperated quickly. The anxiety and fear was replaced with courage and strength thanks to the praying and support of many. Exactly 7 days ago at this hour I was on the operating table. About 36 hours after surgery began I was able to go home. I have had almost no pain and have taken an average of 2 Norcos per day. Heck, my second meal after waking up was a cheeseburger! Yum and how nice it was to finally have some positive momentum. I felt great but was still ready and prepared for pain. It was been 7 days and that pain never came, thank God! I sleep through the night and my wife takes great care of me so I don't over due it. Unfortunately my symptoms are no better and that is hard to imagine for the rest of my life, but I am trying to be optimistic. And glad to have a life to look forward to recovering from ACDF.

Take what you can from my story. Just wanted to share...

Philippians 4:6-7
6 Don't worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. 7 If you do this, you will experience God's peace, which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.


  • I also had non-descript symptoms with no neck pain when I found out that I had severe cervical stenosis. I was also given the "be careful or you'll be paralyzed" story and had surgery within two weeks of the discovery. Nerves are weird..
    I am also a firm believer in prayer and my faith has carried me through this process, You have a great attitude! Nerves take time to heal so don't give up on further recovery yet.
  • welcome to Spine Health. I hope that your recovery continues to go smoothly and just be careful and not let the little ones grab you or jump on your back.......they tend to not think and we tend to forget to remind them when they are little that doing that is a no no when we have neck or spine issues.
    It takes time to see how much recovery you are going to get from the nerves that were damaged, so a lot of patience goes a long way......and expect ups and downs. It's part of the process.

  • I assume you are recovered fully by now and probably won't see this post from me. I am 2 weeks post op and hanging in there- but this past month and a half has been a shock. I too was experiencing numbness and horrendous tingling in my arm, but no pain. It started 6 months ago and became worse. After injections and PT didn't work, I was sent for an MRI and heard the same news. For 3 weeks, my long commute to work stressed me out big time as I was told even a minor accident could paralyze me. At 53, I'm a bit older than you but I am in good shape for an old broad:). Highly active before, I am anxious to get back to it and am having a hard time "resting." I also had an autograft with my two level ACDF, so my hip is very sore. If you see this, would love to hear how you are getting on now. I am in the San Diego area as well.
  • Update

    Just a few days short of 4 months I have absolutely no neck pain and I notice almost no change at all in neck mobility. I have been swimming regularly (with a swimming snorkel) for about 7 weeks, started jogging 2 weeks ago and even played full court basketball last night. My doctor cleared these activities but I had no expectation of doing so mush so quickly. My NS did say my story could have been very different as the bruising on my spinal cord and mylomalacia was serious. In fact, he said that many patients he sees with my injury are in a wheelchair and never get out. To think I played full court basketball yesterday after hearing those words just a few months ago, thank God!

    My remaining symptoms are clonus which I experience in mostly in my right leg, a little in my left, and in my right hand. When I stress my body it acts up and I get the ticks. Of course I have hypereflexia too but that does not bother me much. The most annoying thing is the pain that I have in my arms along the ulnar nerve. Had an EMG to rule out any other problems but that result indicated the problem traces back to my neck. My 4th and 5th finger in each hand fall asleep almost every night. Hoping these symptoms improve with time. I take neurontin for the nerve problems in hand but from what I have read about clonus, if it is not resolved after removing the compression, then it's not going away. Ever I guess. That is depressing but I am thankful for what I have which is so very much.
  • Thanks for the update!
    I also have cervical myelopathy, and am 3 weeks out...impatiently waiting to see my response. I actually got worse in the last week, so it is great to see that although you retained some of the crazy reflexes, you have a great quality of life otherwise!

    ACDF w/Corpectomy C3-6 12/8/14 ; Laminectomy C3-6  5/19/2016

  • WxguruWxguru Posts: 14
    edited 12/31/2014 - 11:20 AM
    Great to hear your story and update! I have issues with hands falling asleep at night along with hyper reflexes with some very minor clonus. Fortunately my MRI's have shown no damage to my cord although there is some flattening. I have avoided surgery for 3 yrs now and hope I can continue to avoid. I have herniation at C4/5 & 5/6 and large bulge at C3/4. So my back isn't in the greatest shape. In talking with both my chosen orthopedic spine surgeon and my neurosurgeon...they both have said several times that after surgery it can take up to a year for nerves to wake up or regenerate. Whatever you have at the one yr mark is what you most likely will have for the rest of your life. I too am a believer and certainly look to God for strength....Thano u for your story!
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