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A very active person facing ACDF and conflicted - what to do?

yogarunskiyyogarunski Posts: 23
edited 10/15/2014 - 10:32 AM in Neck Pain: Cervical
My MRI shows moderate to severe compression of my spinal cord at C5-6. I was having pain down my arm and tingling. The pain is now subsided, and most days I feel great, not even needing to take motrin. I do have some mild tingling in my left thumb on a daily basis, and sometimes my muscles in my neck feel sore, but nothing more.

I am a 37-year old female, and extremely active. I practice yoga 3-4 times a week, run 1-2 times a week, and love to downhill ski. I haven't taken more than 10 days off of working out in 3 years. I don't see myself doing that anytime soon, either. The thought of surgery scares the crap out of me, to be honest.

Every medical professional I have seen that has seen my MRI (neurologist, two NS, and my PT) says my MRI is really bad, and some of them have said they can't believe I'm able to be as active as I am. My PT even said he can't believe that I am able to even walk.

I am still doing yoga, although they stopped me from running, so now I walk. I go back to the NS on 10/23 and will likely schedule surgery.

If I get a one-level fusion, what can I really expect as far as recovery? I know that everyone is different, but the thought of taking more than 2 weeks off of working out drives me insane. I need to get up and go - my body is active and I want it to stay that way. I've been told no skiing in 2015 and the thought of this makes me crazy.

Thanks in advance,


  • sandisandi Posts: 6,343
    edited 10/15/2014 - 4:13 PM
    and recovery........it is a bit different for everyone, based on their particular medical condition, the type of surgery done, the approach used and the recommendations of the surgeon.

  • Kookoo4KKookoo4 Posts: 5
    edited 10/16/2014 - 12:41 PM
    I too have compression in that area and like you, most symptoms have subsided. I was told to contact my neuro should anything start back up and I did so today reporting pins and needles in my feet. They told me it can be a back issue and to contact pain mgmt which Is strange to me. I wasn't hoping for surgery as I too am terrified of it but I'm just so confused. I know this doesn't answer your question but your story sounds a lot like mine so id like to follow it. I too am only in my 30s and pretty active (minus the skiing) lol
  • I am facing an ADCF too for foraminal narrowing at C6/C7. It's so confusing when the pain comes and goes. On good days I question the need for surgery, on bad days I'm begging for it. My chiropractor advising against it doesn't help. But I've talked to people who have had great outcomes. I just had a second opinion yesterday, and he agreed that ADCF is my best option. Having two surgeons agree on the procedure helps too. My biggest fear (aside from the surgery itself and outcomes) is the difficulty swallowing afterward. I'm glad I got a Ninja not too long ago! I'm a little older than you, 40, and not so active (I was thrilled when I was told I couldn't take up running afterwards, lol), so I guess my concerns are a bit different from yours. I know this post doesn't help your question, but it might be good to get to know others who are facing this surgery in the near future and compare notes?
  • I had Spinal cord compression at C5/C6 also with myelopathy. Mine was severe enough that it was progressing to the point of losing function on my right side. I had flare ups where I couldn't turn my head and use my right arm/shoulder for a while before we found out the problem. It took about 2.5 yrs to get a doctor to take my pain seriously and to refer me to a neurosurgeon or to even get an MRI done. By the time I got in to see him, I no longer had a choice and it was scheduled 2 weeks after the appointment. They couldn't even say that it would make the pain go away but it was more to keep the cord compression from worsening. I am almost 6 weeks post ACDF surgery. I have pain every day yet which is not surprising because its still early.
    I know it has been said several times before me but only you and the doctor can decide if this is the best path for you. Some people wake up from surgery and feel pretty good, some don't feel so hot. There is some throat discomfort for some people. My mom had hers done on Tuesday and she had a sore throat but not so much in the pain from them moving stuff around. She also had some soreness in the back of the neck. I had a bit more pain from that one but I have other issues that seemed to contribute to the pain. I had 2 friends that had this done and they both said they felt great afterwards.
    Tracie C
  • The user and all related content has been deleted.
  • Thanks for the replies. I scheduled surgery today for 11/3. Still not sure. My exam is unremarkable. I have no loss of strength at all. But I am having pain every day (however, it's tolerable). I rarely even have to take anything for it. I am still doing yoga 3-4 times a week, but did have to skip last week once because of the pain. My doc says it will be like this if I leave it alone and it could get worse.

    I still don't know what I should do. This surgery sounds really tough.
  • I don't have much pain either, which always baffles my doctors. But, the pain has slowly increased over a year's time, as well as other neurological symptoms. I used to have symptoms only only my left side, now they're becoming more frequent on the right. I've scheduled surgery for December, mainly due to sick-leave, but also to have more time to think about, ask questions about, and research the procedure. It is a huge decision.
  • I am not as young or active as you, but at 47 I would still like to enjoy the equestrian sports I've always loved as well as being a walker, hiker, traveller, etc.. The idea of having a surgery that would potentially prevent me from riding again is just so depressing. I herniated a disc at c6/c7 earlier this year and now have numbness, tingling, pain, and twitching on my left side indicative of nerve compression at c7. The MRI showed all kinds of additional issues like stenosis and DDD. I take 1800 gabapentin and 200 celebrex daily as well as doing a lot of icing. I've done two rounds of epidural injections and I'm still not sure if I should have the surgery. No great words of wisdom, just commiseration.
  • well, surgery is a week from today. My left side hurts me every day. Perhaps I'm in denial, and I just need to go do this. While at yoga today, my whole shoulder was on fire. This is not normal and while it's tolerable, it's not normal, and I think I just need to get this taken care of. Not one medical professional that has seen my MRI thinks that this is something that will get better, apparently, it's a pretty severe herniation pressing quite badly on my spinal cord.

    I'm going in with a positive attitude - trying to think that since I'm in great shape, eat healthy, and don't smoke, that I will be back in the gym in no time.

    My doc seems to think I will do well - he thinks I will be back to work (I'm a lawyer) in 2 weeks and he said no restrictions after 12 weeks. So, I will keep you all posted on recovery as much as possible.

  • claydohcclaydoh Posts: 19
    edited 11/05/2014 - 2:54 PM
    just based on what you've described here, your case seems very similar to mine.

    we're both young and somewhat active/fit.

    keeping that in mind, i think your likelihood of success is very high. i had the same restrictions. back to work in 2 weeks and no restrictions after 12. so far i'm following that path and i feel pretty great.

    also, if you need a little confidence boost -- i really loved the way this doctor described the ACDF procedure.
    EDITED to remove link to physician's website

    best of luck to you in your surgery and please keep us updated.

    Please see the forum rules at the link below for more information.
    You agree not to post specific physician names or health care facilities , devices or product names on Spine-Health.com.


  • And so far, so good. I do not have a collar and won't wear one. I haven't taken a pain med in 12 hours (it's weds at 4 pm and my surgery was Monday at 8 am). My incision site is sore and tight and it's not pretty. The first day was really tough. My throat hurt something awful. That got better at night. I had a pain pump which was a god send. Glad I spent the night in the hospital. Make sure you have lots of soft foods smoothies etc for when you get home. I made a bunch of soup and froze it ahead of time. I know that I can still have some setbacks but I'm feeling better than I expected on day 3. I think being physically fit prior to surgery makes a huge difference.
  • I had my ACDF surgery (C4-5 and C5-6) on 10/20. The numbness in my arm and fingers was gone right away. (I have had twinges of the feeling once in a while, but nothing severe.) I am very active too. I ran almost everyday. I've neck pain for years, but as my running progressed, the numb/tingling feeling started. I was able to work through the pain, but finally stopped because it wasn't worth it! It was a true bummer, as I was up to 18 miles.
    After 3 opinions, I decided on surgery. Overall, it will probably be the best thing, but some days I feel great and I think I over-do it, and then I pay for it. Frustration gets the best of me, as I am very limited in my activities. Last night may have been one of the worst nights since leaving the hospital. For the most part, I've only need Motrin for pain, but last night was rough and after not being able to sleep all night, I finally caved and took the pain pills. I am returning to work tomorrow, and I am so excited to get back into a routine. I go for my one month appt on Friday and I am anxious to hear how I'm doing. All this being said, be sure to follow your doctor's directions! I am happy to hear everyone is doing so well Keep us updated! Good luck!
    Kristen Kostielney
  • Glad you're doing well. Motrin? Are you allowed to take that? I was told no Motrin for 6 months so fusion could take place. I take Tylenol. Hoping you continue to feel better. I go back to work this week - 2 weeks post op.
  • rapotterrrapotter Posts: 1
    edited 11/17/2014 - 4:18 AM
    Hey Yogarunski,

    Thank you for keeping us posted on your progress. I am in a very similar position to where you were pre-surgery. I am 28 year old male who is very active (a lot of golf and basketball) but I have a herniated disc at the C5/C6 level with pain and numbness in my right arm. The pain is serious enough that I have given up golf and basketball since the summer. I have good days and bad days. Some days the pain is so bad (despite taking aleve daily) that I feel like I must get the surgery. Yet, on other days the pain is manageable and I feel like I don't even need to take the aleve. I suppose, like you, the realization that this is limiting my ability to do the things I love means I must opt for surgery.

    Please keep me posted on how you are recovering post-surgery as I am very anxious about how bad the recovery will be.

    Wishing you a speedy recovery!
    - Ricky
  • May I ask why you didn't for disc replacement vs. the fusion? Glad you are doing well so far!
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