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swimming with a fused neck

AnonymousUserAAnonymousUser Posts: 49,670
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:21 AM in Exercise and Rehab
has been impossible to date, since I can't turn my head to breathe. but, in time. meanwhile, wondering - are any strokes better? or do some stress your neck out more? I realize this is an obscure question, but wondering if anyone out there has some knowlege ...


  • I had a C5-C6 fusion 2.5 years ago. Within 3 months, I was doing aqua exercises as part of my physical therapy. I concentrated on side strokes and even dog paddle, where I would hold my neck rigid and not turn. I was in massive pain back then and it was extremely difficult.

    Fast forward to now, where I still do swimming at the San Francisco Bay Club. I still do not turn my neck, always holding my head above water and paying the speed and efficiency penalty. Of course, I am not so worried about speed and efficiency so this doesn't bother me too much.

    By the way, when I started experiencing extra heavy pain that prompted me to go into surgery, swimming might have been a part of it. I was swimming daily in the late summer of 2006, which I think exacerbated my disc that I herniated 17 years earlier. It's just a theory and I could be wrong.

    I love swimming, but given that we both had neck fusions, I would be careful about strokes that require serious neck movement. I now run and play soccer, but I have not had the courage to swim like this since surgery.

    Cheers, Mate
  • I love swimming too, spent much of my life in a pool. People always mention it for after back surgery, but I'm thinking it may not be an apres-neck surgery activity. I would love to run again too - glad to hear that you are up and running!
  • Hello,

    Many years ago I wore a neck brace having had a car accident so I understand a bit of your plight, you could try side stroke this would allow you to breath just at the surface of the water if you can support the weight of your head without subsequent pain.

    You could lie on your back with a float or two on your torso to assist buoyancy and use a breast-stroke leg kick, have you asked at the hospital they usually have PT that are used to helping patients swim, or the bath themselves will have swimming instructors that may be able to help or ask the Nation Swimming Association, just an Email.

    I have to do more non impact stuff now, so as you say the running and golf have had to go.

    Good luck and keep going.

    Take care. John
  • Which reduces head movement. This is a "swimmers snorkel" made by a company called FINIS.

    I use this in combination with a pool bouy (leg float) for doing freestyle, and I use it with a kickboard, kicking with my face down in the pool.

    I've found this system (this snorkel and swim goggles) forces water up my nose however, so I had to use a nose clip as well. So I'm pretty geeked out when I swim.

    My main exercise in the pool has been a water walking program, but I'm 3.5 months post lumber surgery and have added in some regular swimming, which gives a nice stretch to my back.

    I agree with the others that you should check with your surgeon and/or PT about what would be right for your situation, but this might be an option you could run by them.
  • I would suggest swimming with a snorkel....it's what I do...no surgeries to date, but major c spine issues that potentially could involve "major major surgeries", per my DR. I just use the garden variety snorkel, but understand there are front mounted snorkels available which I think some folks mention here...It seems odd initially, as all one sees is the bottom of the pool..but it is small sacrifice for the joys of swimming for me.. I don't use a float board as it is too complicated to do so with the snorkel and it arches the lumbar spine for me. I am stopping often to take water out of my goggles, but for the love of swimming, I'll do what it takes...
    There's a master's swim group that uses my pool in the morning, and there is another woman who swims with a snorkel each day..Swim teams actually practice with them as it helps them focus on their strokes instead of their breathing..
  • Funny how we are not given help or directions after spinal surgeries-PT for a while then out.I write this stuff so I can "hear"myself say it.Imagine the anatomy of a fusion.One disc is gone and strain of activity is placed on disc's above and below fusion.Anything that causes a lot if turning,twisting,pulling will stress not only fusion site but discs above and below.Which puts us at risk for another disc herniation. I am 4 years post cervical fusion-and still practicing acceptance of limitations.The only swimming we should be doing should not involve our head in the water-absolutely no diving{my neuro guy actually told me that one}-dog paddling or using a kick board is the best.I know how hard it is when you love a sport- I have given up many-but am trying to do what I can and be grateful that things turned out well.Have had 3 spinal surgeries and am just now learning-don't want any more-so I am trying to walk-yoga with limitations-recumbant bike.Not my choice of exercise,but what my body can do. Good Luck
  • To JaneEllen...wondering if you've tried swimming with a snorkel...so then your head stays above the water/just at the water line....Might that work for you? I can imagine how scary it must be to try things again after surgery....Every day I have to judge whether I feel well enough to swim and I haven't had surgery yet..just a really, really awful neck.....
  • I had no idea when I started posting how long I'd be attached to this site! But always something new - may need to just toss my pride and snorkel through the pool. I am already carrying pillows to meetings, and a couple times on the phone I've had to let anxious people know I would look at their email when I got off the floor. but I hear you janeellen, I want to save those remaining discs (and, never, ever, have surgery again - ugh).
  • dilaurodilauro ConnecticutPosts: 9,877
    When we have something that limits us, its great that we can find ways to workaround that.
    I too can not swim because of the cervical fusions.
    I used to love to swim, but since I cant move my head side to side, it sort of limits it.
    So, I swim, face down in the water, continue my stroke until I need to breathe!
    I used a swim float for a while, but I guess I felt strange doing that. SO, I did go over to the back stroke, but never loved it.
    A Snorkel , I like it. Can you use it with or without a mask?
    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
  • you can use a snorkel without a mask or with a mask. your neck stays still. if overhand crawl hurts the neck just do underwater dog paddle. at least its moving :-C
  • It's been a while since I've been on the site...I swim with a snorkel and slide the attachment down so it is hooked onto my swim goggles. This may not be the best way to do this, however. I have seen some swimmers use a front mounted snorkel which attaches to swim goggles a little easier. They are about 30.00 or so, I understand. I have not had to use a mask, for which I am thankful. Somehow wearing the swim goggles makes me feel as if I am still in the best shape possible! Delusional,I'm sure, but I'll take it... It took me the longest time to convince myself that I could move through the water well with a snorkel, but it works..I am swimming almost as quickly as I did before. So, if you love swimming, I would suggest trying it...
  • chicagogal:

    Due to a ruptured disk in my neck which was causing radiating pain down my left arm and numbness in my fingers, I had to stop swimming for a considerable period of time. When the inflammation and symptoms dissipated, I was able to gradually return to swimming (front crawl) by paying careful attention to proper technique/form. If you are swimming with proper technique, you should not have to turn your neck to breath. Instead, role your body to breath. To help improve my balance and rolling, I switched to a front-quadrant style of swimming. There are many YouTube videos which can help you with this, or you might look into the Total Immersion swim program. I decreased my swimming volume, but my swimming has actually improved. I limited my pool swimming to doing the TI drills twice a week, and only do continuous swimming once a week.


    P.S. I didn't much like the swimmers snorkel...
  • So most of you are saying forget swimming in the future?? I love to swim. Am 3 weeks post 2 level ACDF with plate and screws. When I asked about activity following the procedure, it wasn't mentioned swimming would be out. I do karate, tennis, bicycle ski. All I was told was that skiing might not not be a good idea this season, but returning to the above should be fine. Is this just not true? Then I just want my neck back to what is what is was before. I haven't swum a lot as I had shoulder surgery too 5/08. Now I feel like I'll be an invalid :''( :''( :''( before I'm 50. Depressed as it is .
  • I just have to say I am at 2 weeks post adcf I had c6-7 done july 31 2009. I love to ski and swim. So this summer I managed to get up on 2 then I did slalom just to prove I still could. I wanted to remember it since I knew I would be fused from c3-7 from here on out. I do plan to get up on 2 next summer. Well playing it safe that is on very calm water and no showing off. I hope that I will be able to swim again. I love the calming effect water has on the body.
  • I'm kind of glad this old thread is back. :) After I was fused at the C5/6, I didn't have too much problems with swimming in so far as breast stroke and breathing. Once the C6/7 was added to the mix, I could no longer turn enough to breathe. Sniff..

    On the flip fun side though. I had to undergo water survival training due to my job, and so I modified some of those strokes to adapt. Doggy paddle works well, using my arms under the water splaying them out, I bob up and breathe, so that works pretty well. Back stroke is out as I can't arch my neck anymore enough to do that stroke. I use my pool more for aqua therapy now verses 'swimming' like a regular person! :)

    PCTF C4 - T2, Laminectomies C5, C6 & C7. Severe Palsy left arm/hand.
  • =)) I tried to swim, that was a giggle, I thought ok, so I will try to relax enough and allow my body to float, almost drowned. So now I sit on the step and kick my legs like a bicycle, I stretch my bisquick legs (I like to call them that, they are lil fluffy these days), and I walk across the shallow end several times. I am definitely back in the life jacket stage of my life again. I am full circle, people always say that will happen to us.
  • Hehehe... I had the fortunate experience of having to learn "new" methods of swimming due to my job (retired now), and so I applied them after my next level was added. "Swimming, what's that", hhehehe... I hear ya there!

    Thanks to that training, I can swim with just arms or just legs....play the "jelly fish" etc. I and water get along great, as long as I remember my survival training. :) I know, not all go through it, but thankfully I did.... :) 8>

    PCTF C4 - T2, Laminectomies C5, C6 & C7. Severe Palsy left arm/hand.
  • I have C2/C3/C4 fusion from rugby injury (hangmans break) with virtually no neck movement.
    I swim with this snorkel:
    URL Removed

    I used to hate swimming, but love it now with the snorkel.
    Great for breastroke, crawl is "challenging".
    I also recommend indoor rowing which I do instead of running - it's a tough workout but absolutely zero impact, and is good for strengthening wasted neck muscles. Best done without snorkel.


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  • I had a posterior C1/C2 fusion 3 weeks ago and my PT suggested that the backstroke may help my muscle spasms in my upper back while supportiong my head. Just a thought.
    April 2011 C1-C2 Fusion (Brooks wiring)
    January 2012 C1-C2 Revision Fusion (Harms Technique)
    2010 - current: Trigger Point Injections, Epidural Injections, Bilateral C2-C3 Radiofrequency Ablations
  • Swimming for several decades with a double level fusion in the neck. I waited a year after surgery.

    It was vital to my rehab. I felt alot better every time I did swim. When I didn't swim, I would feel worse.

    Pain is a great motivator. After five years of swimming I could take breaks from swimming and the pain would not come back.

    Jogging and running really put the stress on the joints.
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