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C4-C7 fusion - afraid of certain movements causing adjacent disc disease

Faith981Faith981 Posts: 88
edited 03/22/2016 - 1:00 AM in Exercise and Rehab
Has anyone had a fusion such as the C4-C7 and as a result have been afraid of certain movements because of adjacent disc disease? I apologize to people who are aware already of what I'm dealing with but I'm still so frustrated and in pain. I had a fusion C4-C7 (10 months ago) and prior to that had a small disc herniation at C3-C4 that my surgeon left alone. After surgery at 41, he told me I most likely will never need surgery again. Well, I have a new small disc herniation C7-T1 that happened in the last two months ago (the C3-C4 has pretty much not become worse for the last year) that I'm currently going to physical therapy for. It is still hurting and I'm confused why I hear other patients come in to PT and say the exercises are helping them but I'm not having that kind of relief. I'm concerned it maybe a movement that I'm unknowingly doing.

I may have an illogical fear, so I just wanted to put it out there and get different patients opinions that I hope could be comforting. Sometimes at home or pt, I will be lying on my back and will slightly lift my head up to move my shoulder length hair away from under my neck. For example, if I'm lying on my back (supine) and I lift my head up/forward, I'm moving exactly at the C7-T1. So my head and neck are coming up and forward at the C7 but at the T1 my torso/ribcage and shoulders are back lying down putting an opposite force. Wouldn't that be a harmful motion for a spine fused at C4-C7? I do this movement because I forget, I'm trying to be "normal" and then I'm angry at myself for moving like that and possibly hurting my spine. As I read these forums I see some fusion patients are athletes and nothing seems to stop them, so perhaps my cause isn't from how I move so much as it is my fitness level perhaps? I'm not obese, but I'm not an athlete either. I could stand to lose 40 pounds to get back to my weight at 18 years old when I was very thin. The worse thing that happened to me to cause this C7-T1 herniation was hitting a large pothole or severe coughing from pneumonia that hurt like nothing I've ever felt before. Otherwise I think it could be caused from poor body mechanics or a lot of little bad movements. My pt tells me all of our bodies wear out on us but that doesn't really answer this particular question.

My PT also tells me I shouldn't be afraid of any movement that doesn't cause pain, but I don't completely trust that. Should I not be concerned about a movement like the one I just mentioned putting undue pressure on the adjacent spinal discs? What has been your experience with this? Do I just need to become really strong and my neck will be protected?


  • Faith981Faith981 Posts: 88
    edited 03/26/2016 - 11:38 AM
    In case some people have wondered what I mentioned above. I finally received some good advice to protect the neck. In any movement it is a good mechanical habit to tuck your chin in first before slightly lifting the head. This contracts the muscle behind the neck to help protect the discs.
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  • Mp3,
    I too try to be careful but my health practitioners like my physical therapist say I move very stiff and it isn't healthy. I think my movements are slowly becoming more fluid. I'm curious, were you advised to be in a hard collar 24/7 for 3 months? I was and I think I have new permanent arthritis from it. I constantly hear crunches, snapping and clicking in new places around my neck and base of my skull. I'm feeling a bit more upset today. I had a sleep study and it showed severe sleep apnea. I don't have the results yet, but I know I have it from the tech putting on the mask in the middle of the night that was horrible for me. I have a paralyzed right vocal cord from the fusion which has made it harder to breath while sleeping and I have been told having my tonsils removed may help. I'm 42 and was just researching what it can be like to have them removed as an adult. The surgery can even herniate your spine above the C3 among many other rough complications. When does it end?
    Thank you for the get well wishes. I hope you are feeling better too!
  • Hi there,  I think we are similar in our experiences only you are a year further down the line than me.  I had a 3 fusion C4-7 and then a single spacer put in C3-C4......I'm trying to figure out what to do but am afraid of PT due to the damaging of other discs above and below...any thoughts?  thanks

  • Faith, for what it's worth, After my ACDF of C-5 through C-7, 3 years ago which ended up not fusing ( Psuedoarthrosis meaning false joint ) last MRI showed some damage to C-4. Surgeon advised if he has to go back in due to hardware failure, He'll go posterior and do one level above and 1 level below. So getting back on your case, Be yourself! Yes it's great to protect your neck and not foolish things such as Rollercoasters, skydiving ( you get the picture ) but LIVE your life! If it hurts don't do it! PT is great mainly to strengthen your shoulder and neck muscles but again, if a certain exercise causes any neck pain lighten up some! Adjacent disk disease is still a controversial topic by the Top experts in the field. Regardless, enjoy what You can do!☺️


    Veritas-Health Forum Moderator

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  • I had C4-C7 fused almost 4 years ago.  My surgeon told me that do to my age, at the time 52, that I most likely would have another level needing fusion later.  He said he typically sees the adjacent syndrome from 5 to 10 years after the surgery.  I don't let the thought of another level stop me from doing anything. 

    laminectomy c4/c5 2008, ACDF c4-c7 Jan 20 2014 sched
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