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Tricep Strength improves- no pain. Should I have c5-c7 fusion in a week?

PodzolPPodzol Posts: 3
edited 06/08/2015 - 5:06 AM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
Thank you for taking the time to read this. I'm a 48 year old female. I am scheduled for surgery in 7 days, but am showing quantitative signs of improvement, and am wondering if I should hold off the surgery

About a month ago I woke up with a wicked stiff neck that rapidly ended me in the hospital. An MRI revealed arthritis throughout my neck with spurs, and herniated c5-c6 and a totally blown out c6-c7. Kind of a mess, really. No accident, just gradual decay.

I had terrible pain in my arm, some tingly/funnybone, pressure, burning, freezing, feelings that last all day sometimes, and significant loss of strength in the tricep.

To get me through until surgery, I was given opiates, which make me sick, so I don't take them, anti inflammatory meds, nuscle relaxants and neruontin. Right now, I only take the neurontin. I had to stop the anti inflammatories because I am scheduled for Surgery (c5-c7 ACDF) on the 15th of June. I take the muscle relaxants intermittently because they make me dopey and I need to drive.

The pain is mostly gone now. Quite bearable without meds. The weird nervy feelings are less intense and less frequent, although present every day in some way. My tricep strength at worst was about 12% of what it should be. It has improved over the past week to about 35% of what it should be (Link to graph of data I have been collecting: http://bit.ly/1HianWF

I measure the tricep strength by straightening my arm against the tension of a bungee cord tied to a post, I measure the distance that I can stretch it and use f=kx to calculate the pounds of force I can apply with mostly my triceps. See image here: http://bit.ly/1Ipso4d

So-- I read that you shouldn't wait for surgery if your strength is compromised. You can end up with permanent strength loss. However, I have also read that discs can slowly improve on their own and the body breaks down the extruded disc material and symptoms, including strength can be regained. I don't know what to do. I certainly don't want to do permanent muscle damage, but all of my symptoms are improving on their own.

Should I have scheduled surgery in a week? Will I be risking permanent strength loss by postponing it?

No one on the Spine-Health forums is qualified to give you a medical advice , that has to come from your doctor


  • Asil65AAsil65 Posts: 112
    edited 06/08/2015 - 5:42 AM
    Your situation kind of sounds like mine. I had a completely blown out disc between c6-7 with multiple pieces pressing on my c7 nerve root. My triceps strength was starting to get a bit better but the pain was unbearable 2 months post blow out. I did the surgery because of the pain. Now my left arm is pain free and my strength in my triceps is improving at a faster rate. My Surgeon said there were 3 pieces of my disc crammed into my c7 nerve root still after 2 months post blow out. Maybe you are one of the lucky ones whose pieces of disc dissolve faster and there is less pressure on your nerve root. There is still a problem with the disc space between your vertebra where the herniation occurred. Talk to your surgeon see what he thinks.
  • I've had this surgery and completely regret it. Since then I've had a total of 5 neck surgeries. If you do go through with this I would highly suggest one thing. If I had this to do all over again I would DEMAND for them to use my own bone from the very beginning. I rejected cadaver bone twice and then rejected the synthetic stuff they tried in surgery 4. Your body is highly unlikely to reject something that comes from you. That is just my own opinion coming from been there done that way too many time. I truly hope and pray this works for you. I've been suffering from this pain for over 20 years and it dominates my life. I am only 42 years old and had my first surgery at age 33.
  • Based on your description, I would absolutely advise against the surgery. Plain and simple, you are not a candidate with your improving symptoms.

    I have experience opting against the C6-C7 fusion, after having severe tricep strength and pain issues. It took a year, but the symptoms did resolve, the pain left, the strength returned. That was 20 years ago after a 40-50 G-load plane crash. You are resolving quicker than mine did. Patience is key. The NASA surgeon that gave me this advice hit the nail on the head. It can take a year or so sometimes. If you can wait, then wait. Fusion is not to be taken lightly.
    Toni in Phoenix
    L4-L5-S1 Anterior Fusion Apr 4 2015
  • I saw several doctors both neuro and ortho and only one of them said the surgery was up to me if I ever wanted it. All surgeons describe it as elective, it must make them less liable if something goes wrong, but I had 5 surgeons tell me I would slowly become paralyzed and my discs would not heal. When I got the surgery was up to me, but I risked loss of function. I had constant pain, numbness and weakness developed and only got worse over time.

    It sounds like you have time to watch it heal. I definitely would! Do get second opinions though to be sure.
  • Thanks everyone! I certainly appreaciate how you shared your experiences with me! I discussed my improvement with my surgeon, and he agreed that the surgery was no longer in my best interest. I am very pleased.

    I still have numbness and some pain, but with that being tolerable without meds and my strength mostly back, i feel much much better!

    Be well!
  • I understand why you are having second thoughts, its a big surgery. I am scheduled to have a C5-7 fusion on the 17th and am really scared. I have suffered for 2 years with pain. I woke up two years ago with crippling pain in my neck, chest, shoulders, arms, and tingling fingers. The pain has been all over the place. I have good days where i think i am totally fine and don't need any surgery and there is days where i can not even get out of bed because the pain in so bad. I don't really know what advise to give you because I have not had the surgery yet but in my opinion my quality of life is suffering. I am 28 and was super active and have not been able to do any physical activity in the last 9 months because of the pain.

    Good luck with what ever decision you make. I hope you can get your life back soon.

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