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How do you all handle seeing people and them usually hugging your fused neck hard when you see them?

Faith981Faith981 Posts: 88
edited 10/08/2018 - 4:07 PM in Depression and Coping

I have a 3 level fusion from C4-C5, C5-C6, C6-C7. When I see people that know my neck is fused, (and these people are even nurses), they greet me with a hard painful hug around my fused neck. The most scary scenario for me is a funeral where people are sobbing, they tend to hug around your neck and squeeze the tightest. It not only hurts but I'm sure it increases wear and tear of the spine accelerating the time you need your next spinal fusion and lose even more mobility.

I just don't have it in me to for example, greet someone at their family members funeral and say, "I'm so sorry for your loss, don't hug me around my neck." It is very awkward and feels selfish. Or seeing a friend, and saying, "It's so good to see you, don't touch my neck." But I need to find a pleasant way to communicate this as they're coming at me. I even try to raise my arms high for the hug and people go over them, pull down my neck and squeeze my neck! At first I thought these people were unusual but it happens so frequently. And the people I tell forget, it's exhausting. I think only someone else in the same situation can really understand and give advice. Any advice on how to handle this? I would greatly appreciate it.



  • dilaurodilauro ConnecticutPosts: 13,587

    When did you have that fusion?  After a year, all the hugs in the world are not going o do any damage.   It might make you a bit afraid of what could happen, but 

    Ron DiLauro Veritas-Health Forums Manager
    I am not a medical professional. I comment on personal experiences 
  • Thats a horror for me as people squeeze as they hug or pound my back.

    My buddy gave me a hearty hug and i about passed out from the pressure..i dont normally make sounds of pain but i scared him when i did..i had to sit.he..got frightened that he had killed me..lol....

    I explained after a bit and now greets with soft hugs.

    My pastor who i had not seen in ages was a exeter Irish gentleman whome we loved dearly.

    He pulled me into a hug and pounded my back gently as he had since my teenage years..except now my T Spine was not as strong as before. Being the perceptive sort he patted my shoulder gently and asked what happened in between the years between our meetings. 

    I generally avoid hugs now..which is hard because i am a hugger of my close ones

    The pain and fear simply is not worth it

    William Garza
    Spine-Health Mod

    Welcome to Spine-Health

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  • nutcase007nnutcase007 United StatesPosts: 947
    Faith981 - I kind of like your idea of a sign "I'm so sorry for your loss, don't hug me around my neck".  I'm an old, fat guy so most people are not motivated to give me a hug.
    I had my third ACDF this past January, so my neck and upper shoulder muscles are still stiff/painful.  My recover is taking very long this time since I am now fused from C2 to C7.  I am known to use my cane in situations where I might meet people do not know my recent medical history, like at funerals.  The use of my cane is legit, because I have at times standing stability issues, since my last ACDF.  People, when they see that cane tend to give me a little more physical space.  
    Please remember that you deserve that "safe space" because of your medical needs.    

  • dilaurodilauro ConnecticutPosts: 13,587

    I guess since my last ACDF was back in 2000, I am so accustomed to hugs and that it doesnt bother me at all.   But in fairness, I can remember the times when my shoulders were about to be replaced, a simple handshake would send me through the roof.

    Perhaps a image  wouldnt hurt

    Ron DiLauro Veritas-Health Forums Manager
    I am not a medical professional. I comment on personal experiences 
  • Faith981Faith981 Posts: 88
    edited 10/08/2018 - 9:52 PM

    Thank you to all your replies. I've been hurting worse since yesterday after a "hug" burning from my neck down my arm. While driving I hit a pothole several years ago, about a year after my fusion and developed a big herniation (C7-T1) right next to it on my spine that was perfect in the last MRI. I don't think it matters how long ago your surgery was, once the large fused segment is there and it pushes in an opposite direction it could cause permanent damage on the discs that were once designed to bend together. I'm considering sometimes just saying, "I'm sorry I can't hug you, my spine hurts too much today." Even someone at a funeral could hopefully understand. I'm reluctant to say it because I don't want any focus on me and my pain but I think it may be the smartest thing to protect myself.

    God bless you all and your health. It isn't easy but I'm grateful to have this forum.

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  • nutcase007nnutcase007 United StatesPosts: 947
    Faith981 - I've been thinking more about your question since yesterday.  What's wrong with wearing a soft neck collar for an hour or two when your in situations like a funeral like you had described?  An hour or two once in a while for such situations I don't think would cause any harm.  It would be almost like a "please do not hug sign" to hopefully create that "safe space" that you need and deserve. 
    I know most spine surgeons go ballistic about neck collars after an ACDF and normally don't want you wearing them.  A soft collar for a hour or two, how much damage can that do vs a painful hug?  Another crazy idea I've considered is to wear my vehicle handicap sign around my neck for such situations. 
    I know the dilemma.  Just trying to be creative.  

  • Faith981Faith981 Posts: 88
    edited 11/11/2018 - 11:55 PM

    @nutcase007- Thank you for your thoughtful response. I've thought about that too. I may be over thinking it but I may feel awkward suddenly showing up wearing my soft collar to a funeral like I was trying to get attention to myself. Usually when I do wear it I cover it with a softer fabric, in winter it looked like a turtleneck and people still touched me. My thoracic spine has hernaitions and they hurt. I'd have to make it obvious I'm wearing it or leave it uncovered. Am I weird for worrying about that I would look like an attention seeker? I guess after over 20 years of pain I've had my fair share of disbelievers, ever after my 3 level fusion, go figuire.

  • nutcase007nnutcase007 United StatesPosts: 947

    @Faith981 - It sounds like we have a lot in common, our 20+ years of chronic pain, multiple fusion levels (mine is C2 to C7), a desire to just be "something close to normal" and very sensitive to comments/responses of people around us. 

    We are not trying to get attention!  I have to resist longing for the days when things were normal.  We need to protect ourselves or our chronic issues will likely get worst.  That doesn't mean that we let our chronic pain totally define who we are (I'll admit at times I don't think I'm having much success with that one).

    If a person has a broken leg, they use crutches for a while.  They are not trying to get attention.  I just wish my neck would recover as fast as a broken leg.

    I have immediate family that doesn't believe my chronic condition, even after I show them MRIs and other diagnostics of my neck.  I've come to the conclusion that there are several groups of people in their responses to our chronic conditions:  (1) those who don't care and are often known to make stupid comments, (2) those who do care, but don't know how to respond (3) and a few who do ask how they may help and are usually very sensitive.  Often the last small group have chronic conditions of their own or have close family/friends who have chronic conditions. 

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