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Pain??? Upcoming ACDF C4-C7 and PCDF C2-T5 w/Instrumentation

I'm slated for the above surgery on 8/5. My spine has been degenerating due to radiation therapy in 1983, along with a few exacerbating events. I have had chronic neck pain for at least ten years, along with numbness and tingling in my arms and severe pain in my right shoulder. I've had three ortho surgeons recommend cervical surgery--one emphatically suggesting that I have it right away (almost ten years ago) and another only recently adopting a sense of urgency. The third was solicited only for an additional opinion, and he has maintained that I will eventually have to have surgery, though he has been weighing my pain and symptoms against the risk and recovery of surgery. Another factor is that my neck has curved forward noticeably, with C7 protruding significantly on my back.

My neck pain has gotten to the point where I cannot stand or walk for more than a few minutes before it forces me to lay down. The doctors all agree that without surgery, I my neck will continue to deform until I'm permanently staring at my feet. My MRIs show moderate stenosis and some significant bulging disks. Right now I'm taking oxycodone as needed. I have a couple of episodes a week that aren't handled by my pain meds, but I don't want to ask for stronger painkillers.

Over the last week or so, I have been avidly reading these forums and pondering what I consider to be "pain."

I would appreciate hearing how others describe their pain. I'm thinking that I'm going to trade a known pain for the unknown pain of recovery, which spineys on this site tend to describe as severe. Please let me know how your pre-surgery pain felt as best you can, and how you treated it. I'm also interested in your post-surgery pain, primarily how it compares with your pre-surgery pain.

Thank you for your help!


Radiation therapy 1983 to mantle, chest and lower spine
Cervical issues since 2000
Whiplash on boat in 2003
Cervical surgery scheduled for August, 2015


  • Sounds like you will be having a pretty big surgery- I did too..always the over achiever. I think here you will find every thing from easy recovery to more difficult. I was so worried about this surgery (that seems to be universal.) My symptoms were 95% better in the recovery room. I think people tend to post less as they get better because they move on with their lives and don't have time anymore.

    After surgery some say is the hardest part because it is so boring. You are not supposed to do very much and I have to wear this hot collar in the Texas heat until September (ugh!) Even after my big surgery, I was allowed to go back to work (still have to wear the collar though and cannot lift more than 5 pounds.)

    There is a head here "Richard A...my journey." This is a fairly long one where about 7 of us regularly post from beginning to end.I think that would help you a lot and you are most welcome to join our group. We have had our ups and downs and some are doing better than others but we all agree surgery has helped a lot more than hurt.

    Good Luck
  • Motor1MMotor1 Pittsburgh, PaPosts: 556
    When you realize that your symptoms are interfering with your daily activities, that makes the surgery decision easier. It sounds like you have done your research & got several opinions.
    You will be having a big surgery! Make sure you talk to your doctor about how he plans to manage your pain after surgery.
    I believe everyone's judgement of pain is different? What one person would label their pain at a 5, others might label it a 8 or 9?
    Read the forum that ivym talked about. It is a great group of people that share their true experiences through their journeys. Also, look up the "must haves" for having surgery. There are some great tips on what you might need to get before your surgery, to make your recovery easier.
    I've had 2 cervical fusion surgeries & just 7 weeks ago, I had rotator cuff surgery. My second neck surgery was through the back of my neck, and I honestly thought that was the worst pain ever? Then, I had my shoulder surgery, and I now say the shoulder surgery was worse than the neck surgery?
    I wish you well in your journey! Keep in touch.
  • BaldLegalEagleBBaldLegalEagle Posts: 9
    edited 07/22/2015 - 6:36 AM
    i found Richard's thread in the recovery forum and whiled away a few hours reading the first nine pages. I'll finish it this week. It has impressed me with the love and support the group displays.

    I also found the must-haves (that was the page Google first led me to on Spine-Heath). What a great list! I dragged my wife to Costco to secure a good deal of the suggestions. I've noticed recently that getting off the john is already a challenge, and I'm going to get one of those seats with handles to help out after surgery. (Isn't it strange how we can open up about private stuff in this community?)

    I'm in a strange situation because the work I do is desk work (programming and lawyer stuff) but I have found that prolonged sitting is also painful. I'm hoping that I can become much more productive after recovery begins. I work from home so I need to be careful to not overdo it, yet still drag my body down the hall into my office.

    My wife manages a tutoring center at a local community college and she teaches part time. She'll only have limited time to help me, but my parents are still around and have offered to take up the slack.

    I am very worried about getting out of bed (it's already a challenge) and about getting out of chairs. I generally sit on kitchen chairs, but when my neck is all trussed up I am thinking that a nice, soft recliner will be tempting. It's already a pain to get out of our reclining sofas, so I've been thinking about renting a power lift recliner. Has anybody done that? If so, was it worth it?

    Thank you for your words of support.

    Radiation therapy 1983 to mantle, chest and lower spine
    Cervical issues since 2000
    Whiplash on boat in 2003
    Cervical surgery scheduled for August, 2015
  • ivymiivym Posts: 278
    edited 07/22/2015 - 3:06 PM
    I have heard very good things about the lift chair. I don't have one though so I cannot personally say.

    You are right. getting out of bed takes a little practice. I roll on my side while sporting my hard collar which I still have to wear at night. Then I kind of bend at the waist while still in bed and schootch to the side. With a little practice I was able to do it myself in no time.

  • Thanks for your input on getting out of bed. That's pretty much how I need to do it now.

    I'm working on my wife for the lift chair.

    I'm also through page 15 on Richard's thread and still reading. I'm getting to know you by reading that thread.

    Radiation therapy 1983 to mantle, chest and lower spine
    Cervical issues since 2000
    Whiplash on boat in 2003
    Cervical surgery scheduled for August, 2015
  • We are here for you David.
  • Hi David, I had exact surgery as you in addition, they took bone from my hip to build up the fusion (bracket) as well as build up around C-7 because it had completely collapsed. I am 8 weeks post op today! For me, it was time for me to have surgery when my body completely gave out and I could no longer do the normal everyday routine. I'd say daily, around the time to make dinner for my family, I was on the ground in pain and was down for the count. Pain was approx 8-9, but my upper body just wouldn't do any more. I had been taking 3 10-325 Norco's per day for 1 year. After surgery, in recovery room, when I came to, I was screaming in pain! I guess surgeon had me on a very small amount of pain medication. (Mind you, I was on Norco for a year prior to surgery, so my body had probably built up a minimal amount of tolerance) At that point in recovery, I was a 10, painwise. They gave me some Dilaudid. Then my pain was at a minimum in hospital. 4 days later, I was sent home. That was scary. My husband had to work and I was on my own. Be careful, you really need someone home with you for a week minimum. Month #1 was bad. Pain was an 8 or 9, so I was taking Norco and muscle relaxer around the clock. My neck felt so foreign and swollen, and you think you'll never feel normal again. I wore a hard neck brace 24/7. It took a while to adjust to it . Week 3 & 4 were the worst with pain. Depression set in. I'm not one to just sit, EVER! I just finished 2 nd month. Month 2 was a little better. I had good days and actually felt happy, and other days, I felt pain, exhaustion like crazy, and pissed off at sitting home day in and day out. My swelling in neck went down and it felt like my own neck again! Yay! Now some days, I only need 2 pain pills (Norco) and other days, I need 5 in one day. My neck feels more stable, but my muscles in shoulder blades, top of shoulders, chest muscles, and neck muscles are exhausted and sore from doing light chores through the day. Some days I must overdue it and I end up so exhausted and I'm in bed for a few days sleeping to recover. Although, I don't get neck spasms anymore. And no more numbness, dizziness, nauseous, headaches, pain down arm, sinus issues, that I used to get before surgery, so i definenetely am happy that the surgery seems to have been a success! I have not received/used Ten's Unit. Praying I get one soon. I do use a magnetic stem field collar around my neck for 4 hrs per day to help with bone fusion. Its heavy on my 108 lb body! Still not driving unless its within 1 or 2 blocks from home. Surgeon said at least 1-2 more months before start p/t. David, I hope this helps give you an insight as to what you may experience your 1st 2 months of post op. I would also love to hear about anyone else's experiences and/or thoughts. I'd like to hear what I am going to be going through after the first 2 months post op. Thank you!
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