Hi there! I've been reading this board for a little while now while preparing for my C5 - C6 ACDF surgery.
I have had arm pain for a little over two years now after being rear ended in a car accident. I was the passenger. I remember feeling pain in both of my arms when we got hit. The accident did not require a trip to the hospital or any medical care at the time. Shortly after, I began acupuncture and chiropractic treatment. I didn't have tests of any kind except for some x-Rays at my chiropractor's office.
Over the past couple years, my arm pain has waxed and waned, depending on what I do to exacerbate it, but was still always present. I am a very active 51 year old and I'm sure I have made things worse at times from not listening to my body and not doing certain things when I was feeling pain. Fitness, nutrition and all things natural are a passion. I love to walk and run some (mostly uphill sprints), work out with dumbbells and kettlebells, as well as other physical activities. This pain has really put a cramp in my style.
I have also had carpal tunnel issues over the past 20 years, which started to get pretty bad. While getting a nerve conduction test from my neurologist, he recommended that I see an orthopedist because he didn't think my arm pain was related to the carpal tunnel. The orthopedic surgeon I saw took x-rays in his office and could find nothing wrong with my bones. He thought it was nerve related, so sent me for an MRI. The MRI showed 2 bulging/herniated discs in my neck. The orthopedic surgeon I saw doesn't deal with the neck, but recommended a steroid injection. I tried this, but found no relief at all. The next step was physical therapy. I loved the physical therapy...probably because I love exercising and knew that I wasn't doing things to make it worse...as I tend to do. I stopped the physical therapy when I had carpal tunnel surgery since I couldn't use my hands for the exercises. As soon as I got the go-ahead from the carpal tunnel surgeon to exercise as much as I wanted to again, the intense pain returned. I had been dealing with the pain for two years by this time and it had really affected my quality of life...playing with my grandchildren, etc., so I finally decided to see a neck surgeon to see what my options were. My first appointment was with his PA, who recommended another steroid injection in a different place. So, I got one in each side of my neck. The anesthesiologist must have hit a nerve because I now had numbness and pain that I never had before. It was relentless and made it hard to sleep. I hadn't slept well for quite a while anyway, but this was intense. After about 6 weeks of this, surgery was recommended. I had C5 - C6 ACDF surgery 6 days ago.
Before the surgery, I started researching the procedure and recovery like crazy. I got so nervous after reading about all the horror stories of people having trouble swallowing and choking on their food...and that sometimes it lasted for so long!! I have quite a fear of choking as it is. I couldn't read anymore about it because it was really freaking me out. I felt a bit better after talking with my surgeon about it. He said that it was a short procedure with only a one level fusion. He also assured me that I would know right away if I had a problem and I would be in a hospital. I decided to go for the surgery, despite all my fears, and focused on the goal...being able to do all the things again that I enjoy. When I was laying in the hospital bed waiting to go into surgery, I just couldn't believe that I was going to wake up and not be able to swallow. I wanted to get up and leave so badly.
Well, I woke up from surgery and although my throat was a little sore, i didn't have that golf ball sized lump in my throat that I had heard so much
about. I was scared to even try drinking water, but did so without a problem. Then it was time for a pain pill. I decided to try this with some applesauce. What a thrill and a relief that I could swallow the applesauce without a problem. I'll admit that I felt a little bit like I had something in my throat. But, it was way smaller than I had imagined it would be and didn't last long at all...was gone before I left the hospital a couple of hours later. I kept eating soft foods for the next couple of days while at home...smoothies, soup, rice, mashed potatoes. I never had a problem at all swallowing the food or pain pills. I started adding more solid type foods as I got more confidence. I made sure that I chewed things up really well before swallowing just in case, but started eating whatever I wanted. I am now eating grilled sandwiches, chips, nuts and chocolate...just as I did before the surgery. Tomorrow will be one week post-op and things have gone so smoothly. Sure, I had pain from the surgery for the first several days and didn't feel so great. I stayed on top of my pain medication and was able to keep on top of it. I am not taking any pain pills now except for Tylenol every once in awhile. Most of the pain I felt was at the back of my neck between my shoulder blades, which I believe is quite common. On the third day, I felt pretty miserable because I started having nausea and threw up a couple times. But, I started feeling better on day 4 and it just keeps getting better and better each day. I feel like myself again. I'm still trying to take it easy and not do more than I should. I keep telling myself that this is the only chance that I have to recuperate right. I'm very tired and fall asleep all the time. I'm sure that is great for healing. I get up and move around a lot too. They are both important parts of the healing process.
I mostly wanted to post on here with a positive experience with the surgery, so that others who have the same fears with the swallowing problems will know that it's not always the case. Of course each person will be different, depending on their circumstances...surgeon, health, amounts and levels of the fusions, etc. For me, it was a smooth and successful procedure. I know that others haven't had the same positive outcome and I'm sorry for that. I can only imagine how tough it would be to have all the throat problems. The pain in my arms before surgery is gone. The only pains I have presently are surgery related, and they diminish with each passing day. I look forward to picking up and playing with the little ones the way that I want to again. And so many other things! Welcome to Spine-Health
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