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Headaches and pain following anterior cervical discectomy.
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Headaches and pain following anterior cervical discectomy.

I am 2 years post-op anterior cervical discectomy with fusion to relieve compression on spinal cord at c5/c6 level.  Had lots of pain and progressive leg weakness, right arm pain, and unable to write + loss of balance.  I have had 18 months of constant neck pain since the surgery, worse in the night and on wakening.  Every morning waking with severe headache and pain radiating from back of head to over eyes and sometimes down one side of face. This  feels like a combination of nerve pain and a peculiar sensation, as if the bones at the back of my neck are being stretched from the inside.
Finally, after 18 months, the stretching pain has eased but I still have the headaches 2-3 times a week.  On my 2 year check with the Neurosurgeon he said the pain could have been due to the titanium cage having been too big and that my pain should continue to improve, or it is just that my body has taken longer to adjust to surgery.
I also still have difficulty swallowing and have always felt that something is pressing against my throat, and I have a weak voice, my arm pain is worse than before the surgery.  My legs are now stronger and the neck pain I had prior to the surgery has gone.
Do you think these headaches will go and the swallowing improve.  If not do I have any other options.  I was realistic about the surgery and did not expect miracles after having had this problem for over 24 years (now 48), but I am finding the pain so debilitating.  I have a desk job which does aggravate the symptoms. Also, will there be any long-term effects of the cage being too big.

Thank you


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Avatar_n_tn
The main reason for this type of surgery is to prevent further neurological disability, which it seems was sucessful in your case. Obviously it would be worse if you were paralyzed etc.

It does not necessarily treat the pain though, and it seems like you now have a chronic headache disorder which may be best managed by a headache neurologist with a medication both ot prevent headaches and ones to treat exacerbations. Getting specific neck physical therapy in order to improve muscle tensiona and posture id s important also.

THere can be residual disc fragments after surgery which can press on the esphogus and cause difficulty swallowing - I dont know if your surgeon exlcuded this by doing a postop MRI.

Its hard to comment on the cage without knowing more detaiols about your specific case.

Good luck
41 Comments
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Avatar_n_tn
I had cervical fusion C2-C6, March 2005 for pain on left side, headaches and numbness and tingling and other neurological problems.  Was feeling pretty good after the surgery, went through some PT, but quit because I can do the same stretching at home, and I really didn't think it was doing me any good. About 2 months ago the pain has returned on my right side and having severe pain running down back and arm. Few days ago, right arm has started to have uncontrollable tremors.  I have trouble doing anything with my right arm, and I am right handed.  Went back to doctor and took x-rays and tells me everything looks good with surgery.  They put me a 14 day run of steroids, but that has not done anything.  I wish I never had the surgery done.  I am in more pain now than I was before and cannot get any relief from anyone.  Orthopedic surgeon thinks I should be feeling fine, my general doctor won't do anything because he doesn't want to step on the Orthos toes.  Cannot get any relief.  If anyone out there is thinking of having this done make sure you talk to your doctor about the "WHAT IFS", like if this does not work.  They tell you that you'll be good as new and that is definitle not the case.  Be careful, because it may end up making you worse.
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Avatar_n_tn
This is interesting to know.  I will be having a Cervical Discectomy Fusion of the c3-c6 in a few weeks.  I feel confident about the process, but easy for me to say, all I am feeling now are the nerve pains in my neck, upper back, shoulders and arms, and all the aches that go along with the pains so any hope for relief sounds good to me.  My surgery is beng done by a neurosurgeon.  I was told that this type of surgeon is what I need, not an orthopedic surgeon, because it is dealing with multiple compressions on my spinal cord.  I hope I am headed down the right path.  I am only 37 years old.

Eduardo, it sounds like you had what I am going to have.  I am curious  to know if you had any other pre-exisiting health conditions...  I am considered obese, and that seems to be my main concern going into and coming out of surgery and recovery/therapy.  Care to share anymore?  Email me at ***@****  Thanks and hope your pains get resolved!!
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Avatar_n_tn
I had this surgery (ACDF) for severe compression on spinal cord with a prognosis of continued deterioration leading to inability to walk etc, probably within 3 years.  I was 46.  I took 3 months to consider the surgery and do my homework.  At the end of the day there really was no choice for me.  I have had quite a few problems, so I would advise anyone having this surgery to consider it as a last resort and when all else has failed.  Then go for it with a positive but realistic approach.  Whatever your choice I wish you well.
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Avatar_n_tn
I am 37 and have been told by my neurosurgeon that he is recommending that I have a disc replacement/fusion in my lumbar. My problem is that for the past 4 mos I have been experiencing ever growing pain in my upper left leg.  What started out as an irritation has grown into needing heavy medication just to function. (900 mg neurontin 3xday and 10/500 hydrocodone 3xday, then 100/650 darvocet between doses).  The only explanation I have been able to get so far is that of degeneration.  The pain in my leg is currently intense burning, stabbing, and muscle soreness. None of which goes below the knee.  I am unsure what kind of alternative treatments I need to be asking about, besides heavy medication.
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Avatar_n_tn
Some other things that I forgot to add about my condition are that my upper left leg is hypersensitive and constant lowere back pain/discomfort.  Thank you for listening.  Any suggestions or comments about what I should be looking for or asking about would be greatly appreciated.
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Avatar_n_tn
I assume that you have had an MRI scan and not just an x-ray to show degenerative changes.  If not I think you would be advised to have one as they show a greater degree of accuracy as regards nerve compression etc.  I think you then need some clarification from your neurosurgeon as to the extent of the damage.  If you do not have spinal cord compression then Physiotherapy combined with appropriate medication can prove very effective. There are medications specifically for NERVE pain that are very effective Gabapentin/Pregablin? These are primarily anti-convulsants so they do have a sedative effect and you have to build up dose gradually. Acupuncture can help also for pain relief.  I would discuss with your Dr and then try conservative methods first before embarking on the surgical root unless there are symptoms showing spinal cord compression, which is a different ballgame altogether and then surgery unfortunately is sometimes your only alternative, depending on severity of symptoms.

I hope this is of some use to you.  I speak from having such problems for over 20 years.  I have worked in the medical profession for a long time and find Drs are generally quite bad at explaining anything to patients, physiotherapists are a much better source of information and will often take the time to explain in english what is going on.  

I hope you are pain free soon.
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Avatar_n_tn
Hello!
I had anterior cervical fusion on nov 1st 2005 on C4-C5,C5-C6 disks. My neouro surgeon replaced the heriniated discs with a bone graft from bone bank. Its been three and half months now. The pain I had before the surgery was gone. But my right arm is still weak and getting numbness in my right side face and right leg. Couple of weeks ago I made a mistake of lifting my nephew who is 10 yrs old. He fractured his leg and I forgot about my surgery and lifted him. I am worried because of that something would have happened to the neck. Is there any ideas when this numbness and weakness will go and when can I resume to my regular activities like lifting a carry on lugguage and putting it in a air line cabin etc., for that matter lifting anything more than 10 pounds.. Please advice.

Thanks
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Avatar_n_tn
I had this surgery on 2/27/2006.  I was out and about two days later, the only problem I seem to have is in my throat (swallowing & choking at night).  I have some pain in one shoulder but not severe.  Prior to surgery I was experiencing a lot of neck and arm pain (severe arm pain felt like something was squeezing my muscles really hard).  I had a lot of bone spurs removed and had C-5/6 through C-6/7 and a bone graft.

I like reading your posts.
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Avatar_n_tn
I ruptured a disc and had a C5-6 anterior fusion in January 2005.  Shortly thereafter, I started having pain throughout my body.  My lower legs have major edema (consistently 11-17+ on an inflammation test where <3 is normal) and I developed red star or snowflake patterns on my lower legs that are painful to touch.  Off to the side of both elbows and knees are trigger points for pain.  After testing by many specialists for rheumatoid arthritis, ms, lupus and other diseases, my diagnosis is fibromyalgia.  Now, I can take one step forward, but the succeeding steps make my legs feel heavier and heavier, almost like there is lead in each leg, and after about four or five steps I cannot pick my legs up to move, and I freeze in place in pain.  I can go down stairs, but cannot even go up two or more stairs.  Also, when I am motionless, anything pressing on my left leg from my thigh to my hip (either from the top or bottom, such as a bed or a chair) causes me extreme pain.  When I stand for more than a couple of minutes, the same thing happens in my left leg.  In other words, I can't move or sit or stand, and I feel like I am between a rock and a hard place.  I take Neurontin, Nortriptylene, Trazadone, pain killers and muscle relaxers for my pain.  I go to physical therapy in a warm pool three times a week.  I can barely make it from my car to the supermarket, where I need an electric scooter to get around the store.  I am in the process of purchasing an electric scooter and am nearly totally disabled and almost housebound.  If my neurosurgeon had taken a better history, he would have found out that I suffered migraines, had irritable bowel syndrome and had TMJ surgery, all precursors to fibromyalgia (which I did not know).

I have two questions:  (1) Should my neurosurgeon have taken a better history and told me I was in a high-risk category for fibromyalgia secondary to the trauma of a fusion?  (2) Are there people that have the same symptoms as I do and is there anything else I can do to ease my pain?

Thank you for listening.
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Avatar_n_tn
i had cervical discectomy for c4-6 with metal plate & fusion on 1/23/06 and feel worse than I did before the surgery..I also have fibromyalgia but was diagnoiced 5years ago with it...It does not feel any different since my suregey however it is possible the trauma of your surgery brought out the fibro....This is usually do to accidents and body trauma which causes fibro..I take muscle relaxers for the fibro but can find no help for the neck pain...Have been on vicodin for 1 1/2years prior to surgery and now have high liver enzymes so was perscribed straight codiene which also barley takes the edge off my pain. Any suggestions anything without tylenol in it.
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Avatar_n_tn
i had anterior cervical fusion on C5 and C6 just 3 months ago .  I had a herniated disk.  The injury was years ago and I suffered from bouts of neck pain and periodic hand numbing.  However, 3 months after surgery - even tho the hand numbing has stopped, I have lots of pain in-between my shoulder blades, and recently my legs are really uncomfortable.  Anyone else have this?  What is up with the legs?
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Avatar_n_tn
I had a C5-6 fusion and plating on March 13. I have degenerative disc disease and did not know it until I was involved in a MVA with the proverbial whiplash injury.  I had severe headaches, neck pain and  interscapular pain.  Since the surgery, I have a relief of the pain so far and am hopeful that this will continue. However, I cannot swallow anything but liquids.  I am wondering how long this might last? Is this temporary due to swelling of the esphogus?  Has anyone else experienced this and how long until you could eat a regular diet?
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Avatar_n_tn
Had c-4 to c-5 ACD w/fusion and hardware JAN 19 2006.  I do have headaches now that were not there before.  My neck pain isn't stabbing anymore, it's just a soreness feeling.  My reason for the surgery was to prevent paralysis.  The disk was hitting my spinal cord.  I still have numbness in my arms, but not as bad as before.  How long before I feel better is my question?
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Avatar_n_tn
After reading everyone's comments I'm freaked. I had ACDwF last November. Everything seemed to be going extremely well until this past weekend. I have no idea if it is related, however over the weekend, the glands under my neck become swollen and I begun to run a low grade fever. Physically I was feeling fine until I layed down Monday night. I noticed discomfort once again in my neck. As of today the pain has increased and is now back in my shoulder and the top part of my arm.

Before surgery, the one thing my neurosurgern couldn't explain was the fact that the nerve damage (and spurs) were on the left side yet all my neck/shoulder/arm pain was on the right. ???  Prior to surgery xrays and MRIs of my neck and shoulder showed no issues with the right side. The right side is where the pain has returned.

I'm not sure if the pain is a result of increased activity or if it stems for other issues. I'm honestly sure sure if I'm up to starting the doctor and xray thing back up to only be told the xrays look fine. Pain meds have always been a last resort for me because I am in alcohol recovery and no better than to tempt fate. However the thoughts of living once again in the pain I was in 24/7 prior to surgery seems even less of an option.

I guess my question is has anyone done okay after surgery to later have the pain return and then the pain leave again?

Is it worth going back to the doctor to be told all has been done or could something else be going on? Which obvious I wouldn't know without returning to the doctor ...
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I had my cervical fusion Aug 2005 with a titanium plate over C3-4-5.   I had an injury March 2004.  My workers comp. wouldn't okay my surgery for 1 1/2 yrs.  I laid on the couch and drank for pain control.  No one believed I was injured.  I paid for most of my care for over a year.  Pre and Post op care consists of Chiropractic Adjustments, Acupuncture, Physical Therapy and Deep tissue massages (not soft feel good massages).  I was about 8-10 weeks post-op went I begged my Chiropractor to take x-rays and lightly adjust my neck.  It felt great!!  He was so careful.  It helped my cut down on my spasms and pain so I was able to decrease my drinking and pain pills alot.  I am a Chiropractor and Haven't been able to work at anything for over 2 years.  I've been in PT 7 months. It helps but it shifts my shouder and back causing deep spasms and pain.  So I get adjusted 1-3 times a week (as needed) and Deep massage. This helps me get back into PT and the cycle continues.  My deep pain comes and goes with increasing PT weights or repetitions.  My Phsysical Therapist says I'm very slow to progress due to the delay in surgery  and set backs in PT. The surgery was a success, the horrible deep pain I'm sure you guys felt was gone -even in recovery I could tell I was better.  My left shoulder and back continue to be extremely week.  I can't lift a 5 pound weight! (Rats!)  They're going to release me back to full time work.  I can't sit up right for the day, I have to lay down 2-4 hrs alost every day.  I don't know what else to do!?  I'm better but very slow to have any prgress.  Any suggestions?  Thanks
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Avatar_n_tn
Apparently my stroke like symptoms I had on December 25th, 2005 were not stroke symptoms at all. After three months of tests they found that an old injury to my neck was causing my multiple symtoms (symptoms) such as SEVERE headaches,numbness to my left side of my body, other symptoms such as memory loss and severe blurred vision. Also my left arm seemed like it was asleep. I had my surgery on April 10th 2006. Which consisted of two removed disks, two cadaver bone implants,six screws and a plate that covers c-5 through c-7. I was off work for nine weeks and put to light duty there after lifting no more than 20 lbs. My post surgery symptoms have improved greatly, after having some doubt as to the success of my surgery, I have found that I may be one of the fortunate ones. I am back to work at a sheet metal shop pretending to be on light duty but finding myself able to do most all the normal things I used to do. I know everyone's situation is unique. I had severe bone spurs and almost every time I feel like I might regret what I had done,all I need to do is the stretching exercises that my therapists taught me. I feel better in no time. So don't lay there and get bound up! Just get up and do something to get back to normal. My situation has done nothing but improve! GOOD LUCK
               Rafe from UTAH!
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Avatar_n_tn
Apparently my stroke like symptoms I had on December 25th, 2005 were not stroke symptoms at all. After three months of tests they found that an old injury to my neck was causing my multiple symtoms (symptoms) such as SEVERE headaches,numbness to my left side of my body, other symptoms such as memory loss and severe blurred vision. Also my left arm seemed like it was asleep. I had my surgery on April 10th 2006. Which consisted of two removed disks, two cadaver bone implants,six screws and a plate that covers c-5 through c-7. I was off work for nine weeks and put to light duty there after lifting no more than 20 lbs. My post surgery symptoms have improved greatly, after having some doubt as to the success of my surgery, I have found that I may be one of the fortunate ones. I am back to work at a sheet metal shop pretending to be on light duty but finding myself able to do most all the normal things I used to do. I know everyone's situation is unique. I had severe bone spurs and almost every time I feel like I might regret what I had done,all I need to do is the stretching exercises that my therapists taught me. I feel better in no time. So don't lay there and get bound up! Just get up and do something to get back to normal. My situation has done nothing but improve! GOOD LUCK
               Rafe from UTAH!
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Avatar_m_tn
EVERY person considering ANY type of spine surgery should be told of the possible consequences involving the nervous system. Although most of us tend to worry about possible damage to the spinal cord during such surgeries, the likelihood of such damage is low due to the amount of protection mother nature provides.  However, it's much more likely that there will be trauma to the nerves exiting the spinal cord through the openings between the vertebrae.   In the head and neck region (cervical vertebrae), trauma to sensory nerves is likely to result in long-lasting pain, numbness, and other discomfort to the head, neck, shoulders, or even arms.  These neuropathies can often be treated well with anti-depressants, anti-seizure meds, and some of the newer meds for diabetic or post-herpetic (shingles) pain.  Elavil, Tegretol, Klonopin, baclofen, Neurontin, Lyrica, and Cymbalta come to mind, but there are many others.  It may take substantial trial and error to find something that works, and it may be necessary to cycle through various meds to ward off the  tendenccy of drugs to lose effectiveness over time, but don't give up.  Insist that your doctor treat your pain as the very real problem that it is, and do not be afraid to ask for narcotics if they help with the pain.  Fentanyl patches along with oral codone preparations (for breakthrough pain) can often make constant pain much less difficult to bear.
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Avatar_n_tn
I had a Ant. C5-6 Discectomy/fusion a year and a half ago, after numbness/tingling in both hands and fingers and pretty bad neck pain. I'm a nurse, so not feeling my hands was very hard at work, couldn't start IV's, and ended up getting stuck by a dirty needle one night without even knowing it... so I finally decided to have surgery. The numbness and tingling were gone immediately, the neck pain was better. Things were slow to heal, but better for about a year, then I noticed the neck pain returned slowly, down my shoulders a bit, intermitently. Then I was in a very mild car accident about 5 weeks ago, and gradually I've regained numb and tingling hands and fingers again. Not that I've even been back to the doctor, accept the eval the night of the accident, but I don't want surgery again, the thought of going through that long recovery again. I had forgotten until reading everyone's accounts about the shoulder blade pain, the trouble swallowing for so long, etc. I feel lucky to have had such an easy time, and it still seemed so miserable as it was! A fusion can really be messed up by the slightest little bump, my car accident was hardly even a tap, and here I go again. I'll just keep living with this until I can't stand it I guess, or my neck is too painful. I also have a new baby at home, and I don't want to miss out on taking care of him for a month or more, because picking him up would be out of the question after surgery, and I don't know who I would get to help while my husband was at work for a month.
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I would like to talk to someone that had went throught this before I had. C-4,5 and c-6,7 Had the ACD w/f. The First one in Jan,2000 Then again in Oct,03 .I am still having severe back and neck pain on more days than not, When I sit or stand for a period of time my back pain and my neck feel like there on fire.The numbness in my hands is still there on most days and sleep forget about it. I get about 3-4 hours a night if I'm lucky just no way to get comfortable. And after 3 years I have tried everything. What I'm wondering is does it ever stop. or get easier.
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Avatar_n_tn
Hi, boy I thought I was the only one with these miserable headaches and pain since my anterior discectomy and fusion of c5-6/6-7 with bone grafts in fall of 2003.  The headaches are dibilitating and no meds seem to help.  I also have degenerative disease and was found after a MVA.  My lumbar l3-4/4-5/s1 are all damaged and or bulging.  I have an unexplained burning stabbing pain now off to the right of L5 and burning pain 1/2 down the right leg.  I am trying facet joint injections, they don't seem to have any effect on the pain.  I don't know if injections of steroids into the cervical fused areas would help, does anyone know?  I don't want to be doped up on narcotics, I have a very sensitive affect with meds.  With my work I need to function and that just is not happening lately.  I already lost one job due to the pain and disabling effects.  Any suggestions?  Thanks
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Avatar_n_tn
Hi there, I had an anterior cervical discectomy around 1 mth ago (june '06). I have also had headaches since surgery & pain on moving & swallowing etc. Also, numbness in my right hand/arm has not improved, neurosurgeon told me it could take 12-18 mths to return, if it returns at all. The disc between c5/c6 had herniated/slipped & was trapping nerve root at spinal cord. I didnt have fusion & didnt get an implant due to the fact that I am a police officer & would have been unable to return to operational duties had I had implant. I was told I would feel instant relief from pain & as yet I havent! Feel a bit put out, as I'm still in a lot of pain & can still only turn my neck a maximum of 90 degrees, despite doing exercises I was given by physio every day. I asked my Dr when I would start to feel better & he said that was like asking "how long is a piece of string!". I feel as if I have gone thru with surgery needlessly, resulting in a scar I didnt need! Am hoping I'll improve soon & will update this as & when I feel like a new woman! Fingers crossed...
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Avatar_n_tn
I had anterior cervical fusion surgery in November of 05 (8 Months ago) between C5 and C6.  They put in a cadaver bone and a plate.  Yesterday they did an xray and there is no fusion happening at all.  There was sliver of some new bone down the back side but it had cracked.  The PA I saw was unclear as to what the implications would be if I did not have a second surgery through the exterior of the neck.  They said I fall into the 5% of those out there who do not fuse.  I am a healthy, athletic non smoker of 43 - I dont take anti inflammitories etc...I have been diagnosed with Osteopenia but I am taking the proper meds for that.   The pain is there but minimal.  What are the risks of living with this unfused?  I want to go back to skiing, biking etc...
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Avatar_n_tn
Hello, I have been told by my nurosurgeon that I needed an anterior cervical disectomy w/ fusion. The doctor insisted that if I didn't get surgery that I would end up paralyzed. After he said the word "surgery", all I heard after that was just a loud noise in my head. I am deathly frightened, it was always the other guy getting chopped, not me. Now, it is my turn to get chopped. I tried to research as much as possible about the surgery and it's procedure on the internet. I even went to an exhibition here in NY called "bodies" to get a better understanding and examine exactly where and how the surgeon would actually perform the operation on my neck.
    Abouit 5 months ago I had total numbness and weakness in my left arm and leg leg which also effected my left knee making it hard to walk. I went to see my chiropractor and after some readjustments to my spine and some meds from my ortho doctor, I felt 100% better. Now this nerosurgeon wants to chop me like last week, and very insistant he was in pushing the paralysis issue. He told me that he has been doing this for over 10 years and he is an expert. I felt like telling him "so what? I've been masturbating 3 to 4 times a day since I was a little kid and now I'm 44, but that doesn't make me an expert in doing it to other people!" Is he just looking for some pay day to purchase a new car or something? Should I also get alawyer as well? I discussed this issue with my family and close friends and they all insisted that I get a 2nd and 3nd opinions immediately which I am. Infact, I am seeing another neurosergeon and paying him out of my own pocket for his consultation. I suggest anyone else do the same, get a 2nd and 3rd if need be, a 4th if you can.
    After logging on to this sight, all I've read is one horror story after another after another. I've stared going to the gym and I enjoy it alot working out on the heavy weights because of the way it transforms your body and makes it stronger and sheds off the unwanted pounds. But now, after reading all these horror stories I will not be able to go back to the gym ever again to work out nor will I even be able to go back to work ever again as well. So what knid of alternative is this surgery anyway? Not one comment that I have read is even positive at all! Are there any successful post surgical people out there at all? And "you" "sugarfairy", for Christsakes man, how bad is your situation? You claim to have had this problem "24" years? I just recently started having them! And DML50, StillHurtin, Wapy, Nataraj and you, FibroFlogger, holy ****! No ******* way!This is a fucken nightmare1 If you told me that I only had "one" of "two" choices to save my life, "one" being forced to put a uniform back on and fight in Iraq for 13 months or "two" go for the surgery, I would go to Iraq for 13 months because I know that I can have an effect on my own outcome. But with surgery, your outcome is dependent upon the skill of your doctor and luck if everything goes well and there's no complications or screw ups.
    Please, please, please, if any of you have any type of encouraging words for me or if you know of people had had this surgery and back on their feet with "NO" problems please, write to me and let me know, (***@****) it seems only the folks who are writing here are the ones hurting after the so called needed operation! Please, any comments at all, I don't drink and now I've started drinking in order to numb out the fear and anxiety.
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Avatar_n_tn
I am 40 years old and10 days postop now from an anterior cervical discectomy with fusion at C6/C7.  I had a variety of pain from my neck down my left arm over 6 weeks, some of it quite debilitating...particularly in the shoulder area. At times it felt like I had dislocated my shoulder. I also had numbness develop in my index finger and thumb and less noticeably my entire left arm.  A large loss of strength in my left triceps and chest was my ticket tosuregry however, as the doctors all said it could become permanent without surgery.

Immediately after surgery all of the arm/shoulder/neck pain I had before was gone.  All that was left was a slight numbness to the finger and thumb, and of course some weakness still in the left side which no doubt will go away with a little physical therapy.  It feel a ton stronger already regardless. Surgery was on a Thursday and I was back to work(desk job) 4 days later on Monday(unfortunately).

The surgery did cause some severe difficulty swallowing for the first 4 days or so, and then gradually lessening to be almost unnoticeable right now at 10 days.  I had on again/off again headaches for the first 4 days as well, but not so severe that the pain meds didn't control them. The numbness in my finger/thumb went away after a few days post op.  Needless to say I am incredibly happy with the results.  I was lucky in that everything else in my spine checked out and this appears to have been a singular anomaly.

Right now Im just waiting on my followup appt. to see whether the fusion is happening or not.

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Avatar_n_tn
I am 40 years old and10 days postop now from an anterior cervical discectomy with fusion at C6/C7.  I had a variety of pain from my neck down my left arm over 6 weeks, some of it quite debilitating...particularly in the shoulder area. At times it felt like I had dislocated my shoulder. I also had numbness develop in my index finger and thumb and less noticeably my entire left arm.  A large loss of strength in my left triceps and chest was my ticket tosuregry however, as the doctors all said it could become permanent without surgery.

Immediately after surgery all of the arm/shoulder/neck pain I had before was gone.  All that was left was a slight numbness to the finger and thumb, and of course some weakness still in the left side which no doubt will go away with a little physical therapy.  It feel a ton stronger already regardless. Surgery was on a Thursday and I was back to work(desk job) 4 days later on Monday(unfortunately).

The surgery did cause some severe difficulty swallowing for the first 4 days or so, and then gradually lessening to be almost unnoticeable right now at 10 days.  I had on again/off again headaches for the first 4 days as well, but not so severe that the pain meds didn't control them. The numbness in my finger/thumb went away after a few days post op.  Needless to say I am incredibly happy with the results.  I was lucky in that everything else in my spine checked out and this appears to have been a singular anomaly.

Right now Im just waiting on my followup appt. to see whether the fusion is happening or not.

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Waby if your fusion did not take I would be very concerned.  You ddfinately do NOT need to be skiing etc.

I am fused at c5/6 and 6/7.  I get pain on the right side of my neck radiating up the right side of my head similar to a migrane (migraine).  This happens most days.

I figure I will just live with it.  My concern is I am 56 in good health otherwise and wonder what my neck will be like if I live to my late 70's or mid 80's since most of my family has lived to be in thier late 80's to late 90's.  Good genes.
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Wapy if your fusion did not take I would be very concerned.  You ddfinately do NOT need to be skiing etc.

I am fused at c5/6 and 6/7.  I get pain on the right side of my neck radiating up the right side of my head similar to a migrane (migraine).  This happens most days.

I figure I will just live with it.  My concern is I am 56 in good health otherwise and wonder what my neck will be like if I live to my late 70's or mid 80's since most of my family has lived to be in thier late 80's to late 90's.  Good genes.
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Wow! I was scared before i astatrted readin these..now im really really confused!! I don't unerstand some of the problems that are associated e/ this procedure..Where are the Good stries that are involved w/ this operation?? I am being told that you are in-n-out like a cheese burger... I am thinking abour  doint the dugery in a few weeks. Iam  being told theres no other way to fix the problem...With all the advances in medicine today you would think they could do this w/ a laser so theres no scars or plate, screws etc>> that is why i decided to write thisI have reallly been searching the web for as much info on this as possible. Can someone enlight me on this?? It seems theres alot more of negatives than positives w/ this??  Please help me understand this...Thanks--db
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I had ACDF with donor bone on June 30, 2006.  Prior to the surgery, I couldn't do much for eight hours at a time.  My left arm was losing strength pretty rapidly and the pain worsened with each passing day.

Had my first appointment with the ortho guy.  He popped my MRIs into the viewer, did some tests on me, then popped the x-rays into the viewer.  I'm no doctor (pretty sure I ditched every anatomy class I had), but even my untrained eye could easily see the gigantic lumps protruding into the spinal column, which definitely had a compressed look to it on those x-rays.

Doc said normally he likes to try a few things - physical therapy, other options - but with the amount of strength I had lost, he was recommending surgery.

I have an acquaintance who sells disc replacements.  Through his network, he checked out the doctor for me and assured me he had a good rep and was not one of those docs who is "quick to cut."  I decided to have the surgery.

Surgery @ 7:00am on Friday, June 30
Turn off morphine drip @ 7:00pm same day
Released from hospital @ 7:00am next morning
No need for pain killers after Sunday, July 2

Wore the collar for two weeks.  Went in for my followup and stitch removal (no stitches - just glue...they simply peeled it off).  Was told I'd have to wear the collar four more weeks.

I have had no pain since a day or two after surgery.  My left arm is still weak but nothing that some exercise will not be able to cure.  The only issue I had was a TMJ-related issue.  The collar would push up into my jaw while sleeping.  This stressed the tendons and/or ligaments in my TMJ and caused a small amount of pain.

I voluntarily quit wearing my collar at the seven week mark because I was tired of my jaw and inner ear hurting.  It's been a week and the jaw/ear pain is still there but not as bad.

Last remaining issue I have is something I don't even consider an issue.  Due to having my neck in that collar for near eight weeks, the muscles in my shoulders and neck are reluctant to move.  They've had it easy for a while and don't want to work now.  Again, just something I'm pretty sure can be handled with a little stretching and exercise.

Back to work slinging cards tonight.  No worries, no trepidation -- soooo ready to get the hell out of the house!

I may be one of the lucky ones, or maybe too dumb to know better (it was my first surgery, first stay in a hospital - ever), but I'd do it again in a heartbeat.  I feel just as well as I did before I started having the aches and pains, the x-rays look great.  Life is good!
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Well I just had my 3 wk followup.  X-Rays looked good, though its too early to tell if fusion is happening or not.  At least the bone graft, plate and screws are still where the doc left them.  No need for the collar anymore, just cant lift more than 20lbs for the next month till my next appt.

If you're looking for a positive discectomy story I think I have to qualify.  I've been working since 4 days after surgery(graphic designer), and have no problems.  No more headaches, no more numbness, no more arm  or shoulder pain, no more swallowing pain.  The only pain I have is  a slight pinching between the shoulder blades if I turn my head certain ways.  It almost doesn't qualify as pain its so minor.  And I'm only 3 weeks post-op so I'm fairly confident that it will go away as I continue to heal.

Hope this gives hope to somebody else in need of the same surgery as me.  I literally feel as good as new only 3 weeks out!

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I had C5 C6 and C6 C7 ACDF, donor bone, and titanium plate last Thursday, 8-17. So far, my recovery is better than I expected. All of the horrors of recovery that I prepared myself for so far have not come to pass.  I don't have swallowing problems and I was very afraid of that one.  My sister is an RN and she advised me to eat cold things such as popsicles, Icees(sp), if I have any difficulty because that would help swelling in the throat.  I am putting iodine on the incision for 10 days and keeping it covered per dr instructions, the only small problem I have is when it starts to absorb, I get stinging, relieved by putting ice on it. I have a cervical pillow that I bought from the chiropractor years ago and I'm using that.  I will go for x-rays next week, follow up with the neurosurgeon next Friday, expect to start physical therapy 3 weeks post op.  My neurosurgeon is also prescribing a bone stimulator to ensure my fusion will be solid.  He does this with EVERY patient that has a 2 or more level fusion.  I'm being very careful to 'loaf' which is extremely hard for me.  I intend to be gentler on myself than what the doctor advises to have the best outcome for me.  I don't want to compromise my recovery in any way.

My symptoms prior to surgery were nerve pain into my head (both sides of neck, and left side of head), collar bone pain, pain down between my shoulder blades, left foot nerve pain, left shoulder, arm, hand, and finger pain.  My right hand started to develop the familiar finger pain this summer and the neck stiffness increased.  I didn't have to do anything to aggravate the symptoms.  Carrying a handful of weeds in my left hand made my left bicep hurt.  I put up with all of this discomfort for years, being told I have a neuropathy, take Neurontin, Baclofen, and anti-inflammatories.  I did the med route, the chiropractor, and physical therapy.

I love to work out in the yard and we have 1/3 acre.  Pushing a lawn mower, using the weed whacker, sweeping, and all that goes into taking care of your yard would make my neck hurt for a week or more. Carrying groceries into the house, housecleaning, even driving caused me discomfort.  This year I had 2 episodes of left arm weakness that scared me. After helping a neighbor with some yard work, when I was undressing to take my shower, my left arm felt different and when I showered, it continued.  A couple weeks later the same thing happened after I did some yard work at my home.  My arm recovered from the weakness, but I didn't want to ignore it so I discussed it with my primary doctor.

I did my research, found out my own primary doctor had the same surgery, only 1 level, and talked to other people who had the surgery.  My brother had a 2 level after a car accident years ago.  My mother fell down the stairs a couple years ago and cracked a vertebrate that resulted in wearing a halo for a long time.  All of these people are feeling great now. I was terrified of this surgery but the 2 things that eased my mind was that my primary doctor advised me not to wait too long, she did and has permanent muscle wasting in her right arm and some tingling. The second thing was the OR nurse who would care for me in the OR had the same thing done and she said it was the best decision for her.

For me, attitude makes a difference. I think I was in good physical shape prior to surgery because of all the yard work and activity level that I maintained in spite of my problems.  (I always figured I'd hurt either way so I may as well reap some benefits of activity.) My neurosurgeon says I can return to running in 6 months.  I'm starting to go for walks to 'get out of the house' and I hope my good luck continues, I have a strong faith in the Lord, who is the only one who truly knows how much I have put up with, and I believe that OR nurse was a gift from him to ease my mind further. If you are Catholic you know St. Therese, 'the little flower'. She told the Lord she wanted to do good on Earth after her death and she always uses roses as her sign.  My sister sent me flowers and did not know what the florist chose.  There were 12 roses in the bouquet, three big Red ones and 9 pink rose buds.  My mother (a strong believer in St Therese) sent me a plant; it came from "A Bed of Roses" flower shop.  

I empathize with everyone who suffers from chronic pain and health issues, I have had my share since 29, and I
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In October of 05 I visited my reg doctor due to migrains which I developed and lasted for weeks.  This was my 2nd time in experiences these over this type of duration.  I also explained that I had pain in my shoulder area, and numbness/tingling in my right thigh.  He refered me to get a CT Scan and to follow up with a Neurologist.  The Neuro refered me for a MRI on my L-spine and to see a EYE specialist.  My CT scan came back normal.  The eye specialist refered me for an MRI of my brain and orbits - normal.  I did not follow up with the eye doctor.  L-spine showed DDD at multi levels and was refered to a neurosurgeon and a EMT of my lower.  The surgeon refered me for anther MRI of my R shoulder and C-spine as well as a EMT of my upper.  I was also refered for PT but prior to starting it was canceled prior to starting upon the results of my MRI/EMT.
   I had a 'Anterior Cervival Fusion with plating on C5/C6/C7 in July of 06.  This surgery was performed for several reasons; Severe DDD in those areas, compression of the roots and Edema of the cord at C6/C7, spondylosis with myelopathy, cervical radiculopath, ect, ect....This is all due to bad genes, I did not have any injury that I can directly relate any of this to.  I had a 2nd opinion prior to surgery and was told the exact same thing - recomended surgery to relieve the pressure on my cord/roots and to hopefully stop the pain which it causes.  I had all the tests; CT Scan of my head; MRI of my brain, orbits, L-spine, C-spine, and right shoulder;EMT on my upper and lower extremities.
   I am 7 weeks post op right now and still in my Aspen collar for another week.  I was out of work for the first 4 1/2 weeks after surgery and have now been back for 2 1/2.  The time I was off work I had ZERO pain and symptoms which I indured daily pre op.  I am an automotive designer working at a desk on Unigraphics (software) on a 40 hour schedule - 8 hours a day.  My pain and symptoms are BACK and for the first time admitted that I wish I wouldnt have had this performed.  I was told at my 4 week post op surgeon appointment that I had damangened my nerve at both levels and that I would be symptom-matic untill the nerve heals completly, or 'scabs' as I understand it.
   My pain is a radient (warmth) pain in my right shoulder/scapula area and has moved into my upper arm and has progressed towards a painfull hand - I find it hard to grasp items or even make a fist.  I never had any pain on my left side till recently.  It is starting above my left upper shoulder, at a height even with my collarbone.
   I also have a bad lower back and was told that it is a matter of time before something would have to be done for that.  In addition to that I have a torn tendon in my right shoulder that he wants to keep an 'eye' on.
   It is hard for me to 'complain' about these symptoms to anyone, because I know that people are sceptical of injuries that one can not directly see, and my wife has MS so this is so minor when related to her.

thanks for all of your time, I feel for all of you............
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To follow up above, I am only 35 years old....
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After living with horrible neck pain for years, about 2 1/2 years ago I had a partial discectomy/laminectomy of C6-C7.  The surgeon removed the bulging disc material and stitched up the rest of the disc, and cut-out the back of the verbrae to make more room for the spinal column (this is what a laminectomy is).  What I didn't know was that a laminectomy would lead to an unstable spine.  A few months ago at work I was inpecting plumbing and was in an awkward position and came up fast and hit my head hard.  Immediately I felt the burning pain from my forehead, to the top and back of my head, down my neck, shoulders, and arms.  I tried seeing a chiropractor for a few months - no lasting relief.  I went to a Ortho Surgeon who sent me for an MRI. After reading the MRI it was apparent - when I hit my head it caused C6 and C7 to collapse into each other and they are rubbing against each other, and the disc is completely blown - and compressing my spinal column. I also have four bone spurs at that area due to the bones rubbing against each other. I am now scheduled to have a Discectomy/Fusion of C6-C7 in a couple weeks.  What makes me angry is this: if my first surgeon had just done a FUSION with the Discectomy/Laminectomy - I wouldn't have had spinal instability and wouldn't be in the predicament that I'm in now.  Beware of a laminectomy - it leads to unstable spine and possible future spinal surgery.
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Hello, i'm 27 yrs old and 3 weeks post-op for ACDw/fusion. Everything seems to be fine, I had lots of unrelieving neck pain for 9 months before I found out I had a ruptured disk causing spinal cord compression and swelling. 2 1/2 months before surgery it started affecting the muscles in my neck than to serious pressure headache for a month. That headache is GONE:) My problem right now is that I feel like there is something poking me in my throat sometimes. I'm also the only one who makes my house go-round and have a 7yr old daughter who is a great help with my 20 month old son. I don't have the support that I once thought, or wished that I had. Two weeks after surgery I had to have unexpected, emergency laparoscopic surgery. I don't think that i'm enough rest and relief from everyday life, could this be the reason for the throat problems (stress)? Other than that, I feel good.
Thanks,
Angels2halos
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I also wanted to add, a good pillow is key to being comfortable. I go into Neurosurgeon today, hopefully I find out what is wrong with my throat. Good Luck to anyone that is about to have this surgery. Don't set your expectations too high, too quick.
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Right now I'm wishing I hadn't stumbled on this site. I'm scheduled for ACD&F with bone spur removal on Monday, Sept. 18th. I spent months thinking my neck, back and shoulder pain were caused by incorrectly exercising but when my arms started having electrical current sensations and my hands became numb I realized there had to be more to the story. Dreading surgery, but feeling it would be the only way to obtain relief, I agreed to the procedure. I was certain that after Monday my symptoms would become progressively less noticeable and I would eventually feel better than I have in years. However, after reading the posts at this site, I'm really concerned about the future. Has anyone had total relief from symptoms and return to normal function after discectomy and fusion? Are those people all too busy running around feeling great to chat online? Is it only those of us with debilitating pain who sit at the computer commiserating???
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L-Hawk, I have had great relief and the Doc said that it may be just muscle spasms still at my throat. I've also been a little emotionally upset for those few days. I'm very independent and am not able to even pick up my son, this is probably the worst part of the surgery. Recovery seems long at the time, but when your released from the Neurosurgeon as I was yesterday, it seems like it was just yesterday. I do believe that the people that are just fine won't be writing in to here, because they have no questions and are feeling good. Well, I am on here to bring some positiveness and a little advice. I may be only 27 but I'd like to help with any advice and experience I have had.
My Neurosurgeon did not require me to have a cervical collar. I have just lived the last 3 weeks as if I had one on. I think the collar would extend my neck up to far and be uncomfortable. I have one and have not needed it since I asked for it. I also have hardware and everything is still in place and the swelling is, I think gone. So I just wanted to tell the ones that are nervous (rightfully so) that there is hope, don't be to discouraged. I'm really GLAD I went through with it, the before pain was not worth it. A little noise in my throat is nothing, in fact I had posted before that I also had to have Laparoscopic surgery a week ago, and I must say the co2 that they bloat your belly with was more painful than my throat was uncomfortable.
There will definitely be throat pain after ACD, due to everything being moved aside and manipulated. I found it to be worse at night. So, just keep some fluids next to you at all times for about the first week and a half.
If anyone else has any questions I will answer from my experience, I am not a Doc however I like and pay attention to most medical things and have read alot.
L-Hawk and everyone else who is about to have the surgery, keep us posted and let us know how it went. Take care.

Last words (I think) PILLOW, PILLOW, PILLOW that's key.
Don't get behind on pain meds, no matter how good you feel.
Be positive, have someone around, you may feel alone and helpless at times. Don't pick up anything, don't look up, or down, or side to side for a few weeks.

You are all in my prayers.
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Angels2halos,thank you for your words of encouragement. I have 4 herniated discs but I'm told only one is causing the neck pain and right arm/hand problems and the bone spurring has to go because it is what's causing the numbness and weakness in my left arm and hand. I'm 43 yrs old and I've had several surgeries including laparoscopy and a c/section. I'm an RN who has assisted in the OR on many ocassions and I'm not normally squeamish but the idea of having my neck cut open and cutting instruments hovering around my spinal column and voice box (I'm a 1st sporano in my church choir) have me more nervous than any other procedure I've dealt with. Not having surgery is not an option though unless I want to continue with this pain and the progression of numbness and loss of coordination in my hands (not good attributes for a nurse.) I'm just so thankful donor bone grafts are available.

I'd like to know what helped the most as far as recovery goes. My husband won't be very helpful (just not in his nature) and my 11 year old son will do what I ask but most of the time I will be alone. Any suggestions on what supplies to have on hand to make the recovery go as smoothly as possible?
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