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Heating Pad Safe Near ACDF Hardware?

I had my ACDF C5/C6 on 4/10/14 (just over a year ago--yah!) Still dealing with flare-ups of muscle pain and spasms as my nerve regeneration continues and I return to normal activities and rebuild my strength. My surgeon's office referred me to their rehab guy who has encouraged me to use heat. I'm having a big flare-up this weekend, so I laid down this afternoon with a heating pad across my pecs and up over my collar bone (so just under my incision area by a couple inches). I had a tank top on and the heating pad on medium (NOT high), but after 20 to 30 minutes, the area was quite hot and a bit red and splotchy. I had never thought of it before, but is it safe to have a heating pad that close to the hardware? Does it get hot? If so, could it damage the nerves or nerve roots? I was fully fused nine months ago, so that's not an issue.

Obviously, I can't reach the rehab guy on a Sunday night, but have any of you had experience with this issue? Have you used a heating pad near or directly on your surgical area? Has a doctor or PT person ever advised you whether this is safe or not?

Kind of worried here and would really appreciate some insights.



  • BlessedMom74BBlessedMom74 Posts: 322
    edited 04/26/2015 - 5:13 PM
    I'm pretty sure it's perfectly safe. For the heat pad to be hot enough to penetrate deep enough to make hardware hot, you would be suffering third degree burns on your skin. I use a hot pack all the time and my skin turns very red and blotchy. That is perfectly normal.
  • BlessedMom74 --
    Thank you so much for your kind reassurance. A positive and full recovery means so much to me that I get scared every time I think I may have done anything to jeopardize it. So glad to hear I haven't messed up. Thanks again! Jules
  • dilaurodilauro ConnecticutPosts: 9,835
    Heating pads have different options. Some its just On/Off, some have Low/Med/High while others have dial options. Then some also have moist heat.

    You are far gone since your surgery, so a low to medium heat should not be a problem. I personally prefer using moist heat.
    I use one of those hydrolattors, put it in hot water for about 8 minutes, wrap it up in the sleeve and use it on my neck, hip, shoulder, wherever.

    But still, its always best to discuss it with your doctor or pharmacist.
    Ron DiLauro Spine-Health System Administrator
    I am not a medical professional. I comment on personal experiences
    You can email me at: rdilauro@veritashealth.com
  • I sent a message to my rehab guy (an actual doctor) via the portal last night. He's great at responding pretty quickly, so I imagine I will hear from him this morning or at least sometime today, as long as he's in the office. I will post his response so as to help others who may have the same question at some point.
  • I just received a response from my rehab doctor, which has only heightened my concern. He wrote: "I would be cautious with prolonged heat at surgical site, 10 minutes max. Otherwise could try ice as well." I wish he had been more specific about what kind of damage I could be risking after all this time. I put in a call to the neurologist who has been advising me a bit along my recovery as well. Since nerve issues are his expertise, I thought he could provide a more definitive answer, but his nurse said she won't be able to ask him until the end of the day and will call me back either this evening or tomorrow morning. It's going to be a long, nervous day! Jules
  • dilaurodilauro ConnecticutPosts: 9,835
    when it comes to any Ice or Heat treatments.
    At all of the physical rehab centers I have been to, they have default timers set at 10 minutes for each of those treatments.

    I am not sure what damage your doctor is talking about, but I know when it comes to heat, you have to watch out for burns.
    I used one of those microwave bead pillow. I had a sweatshirt, placed it under my back and when I woke I had a 3rd degree burn which needed plastic surgery. The fact that I was on a lot of pain medications at the time and did not feel the heat and that the heat was trapped by my body, just intensified the heat.
    Ron DiLauro Spine-Health System Administrator
    I am not a medical professional. I comment on personal experiences
    You can email me at: rdilauro@veritashealth.com
  • From My Spinal Surgeon's Nurse:

    "A heating pad right over the surgical will not heat the hardware to the point where it could burn the nerves. Typically, we recommend 15 minutes on 15 minutes off in general, but using longer than this will still not cause any damage. The only concern for long term use of the heating pad would be the irritation to your skin. So use as tolerated."

    So I guess I'm okay...this time! I think I'll just stop using heat altogether to be on the safe side!!!

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