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Symptoms following ACDF C5-C6-C7



  • I had to sleep in the recliner for a long while after my 2 ACDF operations. I remember being like you for the first 3 or so months...weird pains, some excruciating to the point I thought I did something wrong...but previous posters are correct...everything inside there is going thru a new process after a trauma...nerves begin to regenerate and it hurts a bit before it gets better.

    Carole Munns
  • Volfan, always call your MD when it’s that bad! Nerve pain can be unbearable at times but usually starts decreasing. I know what we’re saying is hard to find comfort with but youll start noticing some changes shortly. Some you’ll just get used to after awhile! Others will have to be managed by a pain management MD. Hang in there my friend!

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  • How have you been doing? I read through this thread, and am hoping you've gotten help for the pain. I remember going to the ER before surgery because I couldn't handle the pain.

  • Thanks for the comments everyone. I just had a pretty wild weekend...where to begin? On Thursday 12-14-17 I was having issues going #2 (thank you oxycodones); I took miralax and drank alot of coffee - which I had been doing almost daily and had been working fine. On that day I began to feel nauseous around lunch time and eventually threw up quite a bit. I was immediately shivering after throwing up - checked my temp and it was 101.4 F. I tried to drink some fluids but I just couldn't get much down due to nausea; I laid in the recliner and bundled up. About an hour later my temp was 103 F and I was feeling flu-like symptoms. Wife rushed home and took me to the ER. By the time I got there I was barely able to hold my head up and needed help walking around. They pumped me full of fluids, drew idk how much freaking blood and checked for the flu (negative). What came back from the blood results was extremely odd. My CK (creatine kinase) was over 1,500 - so I had Rhabdomyolysis. They did chest x-rays and an MRI because they were worried I had some sort of infection in my neck at the surgical site. My neuro reviewed the MRI and said everything looked great/consistent with where I'm at post-op. Incision looks great too. I end up getting discharged on Saturday 12-16-17 because I hadn't had a fever in 24 hours and my CK levels where up (600) but trending down. I went home and slept for about 14 hours straight and since then I haven't had any pain medicine or muscle relaxers, I have no arm pain at all and my neck/upper-middle back feels stiff but minimal pain. This is of course in complete contrast to what I felt at the hospital and prior to my stay. Their best guess is I had some sort of virus that had to just 'run its course' and then I was okay. I still don't see how that caused freaking Rhabdomyolysis?! All of my symptoms were symptoms of Rhabdo; I'm more inclined to believe the severe arm pain had some involvement. I am a power lifter and my right arm has atrophied to about half the size of my left arm. The doctor also told my wife while I was in recovery that he had considerably more trouble than the typical patient getting to the inside of my neck to perform the surgery due to my muscular neck (that was the only issue of note, which is great as that's nothing really). I just wonder if the rapid atrophy in my right arm and maybe some trauma to the muscles in my neck had a hand in this at all...

    Anyone else ever have this issue post-op with ACDF?

  • volfan4life87vvolfan4life87 Posts: 20
    edited 01/04/2018 - 1:02 PM

    For anyone still following this, I had my 4-week follow up with my neurosurgeon on 12-28-17 and I was released for physical activity. I couldn't believe it, so I discussed specific exercises that I do and got the green light on everything except box jumps. So yes, deadlifts, squats, etc. I was told to take it easy and ease back into it, that I would feel fine performing the activity but would know the next day if I knew I pushed it a little too far. I found this to be the case, as I was able to deadlift 315lbs with no issue whatsoever but I found squatting 275lbs to be a little taxing on my neck muscles the next day (will limit self to 225 for now). Also, before chastising please note I typically deadlift 450-500 and squat 365-435 ranges for my exercise. Additionally I very gradually jumped up to the weights I noted over about 6-7 sets. So for me that was easing back into it. My arm weakness will limit my ability to bench press, tricep press, and shoulder press.

    I went to my first PT session on 1-2-18 and was told I had excellent mobility in my neck and was in far better shape with regard to mobility, pain (I have none) and overall recovery compared to most the PT sees for my surgery. Primary goal is to restore arm strength and I was told by PT that I should begin to see strength return within 2-3 months given how quickly I acted when symptoms originally presented. I'll continue to update with progress since I could find literally NO record of someone with significant strength loss due to herniation, etc. and time of recovery post ACDF.

    On a small humorous note, I looked at my X-ray with my neuro but you can only see the top 1/3 of the plate on my neck and the first set of screws (looking at my neck from the side) due to my shoulder muscles obstructing the view. This X-ray was taken during surgery while I was out and they were pulling on my wrists to get my shoulder out of the way, but my shoulder muscles still blocked the majority of the metal :) Thought that was pretty funny as I hadn't seen anything like it online.

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  • Quick update - PT is going well. I've noticed the slightest bit of right arm strength returning. It's subtle, but I can definitely tell. No neck pain whatsoever. I did have another fever this past weekend and sinus troubles. I'm guessing between the surgery and my Crohn's medication (immuno-suppressive) I'm wide open for whatever is floating about this time of year. Yuck

  • I had my cervical fusion in June of 2013 and I am to this day, in pain EVERY single day! I have gone back for post op xrays numerous times to which they tell me, "everything looks fine"! My entire trapezoid area all the way up to my shoulders and down my shoulders under and through my arms is in some sort of chronic pay every day. I am NOT a medicine taker, unless I'm really bad, then I will take an Aleve or two. Other than that, I try to treat it with holistic methods, i.e., yoga, heat, ice, stretching which only does so much. I am thinking about retiring next year because I can't stand sitting most of the day, I think it makes it worse. I wish I never had it done! I am only 56 years old and some days I feel like I'm 90!

  • It is difficult to sleep at night. Do you have a wedge that you can use to put your pillow at the bottom of the wedge so that your neck is inclined rather than lying straight on the bed. It's supposed to help. I hope you can try this. Now, the pain is the other problem. It's been just a month since my three level ACDF surgery so I'm still in some pain, been taking those diazepam and a few Oxycontins. Two weeks ago, I was very reluctant to have physical therapy since I've already had four years of it and was not willing to have anymore. The surgeon convinced me that it will help, it's just a terrible time to have surgery when there's going to be ice, sleet, and snow, and it is difficult getting around in taxicabs.

  • mikebf53mmikebf53 FloridaPosts: 19

    I am almost 2 years post ACDF where the disk was compressing my spinal cord badly. I had terrible numbness in both arms and legs.

    The first year was difficult as things started to come back to life nerve wise, but had ALOT of strange sensations. Finally after going to another NS and starting PT, did I start seeing changes for the better. The first NS said just keep taking Neurontin. After PT, and even after 3 months, I went back to the gym to do light weights and get stronger. It took a while, but between that and PT showing me what to strengthen, I began seeing changes. After the surgery all I did was walk and swim and kept to a strict diet. As stated, don't smoke, drink, vape etc, be healthy as possible.

    Even now, I still get days where it hurts or after the gym sometimes I am sore in the scapula and traps and I get bouts of numbness in hands or legs. But surgeon just looked at new MRI from 2 months ago and said things are stable. Still have foraminal stenosis in c4-5, but didn't say surgery so I deal with it.

    On the whole and reading the posts here, patience is needed, but it seems no one is ever 100%. As both my NS told me, the goal of ACDF is to prevent things from getting worse, but there may be damage that will never get better.

    So in short, be patient and maybe it's just me, but still have plenty of strange stuff going on almost 2 years later from it.

  • volfan4life87vvolfan4life87 Posts: 20
    edited 01/19/2018 - 3:20 PM

    Deadlifted 405lbs last week. No issues whatsoever. Arm is still extremely weak obviously, but very slowly improving. I was able to bench press 135lbs 3 times for 1 rep last week - this week 3 times for 2 reps. I used to bench 385 and could probably throw 135 10 feet in the air from a bench press position, so this still sucks ass but it's improvement. It just sucks learning how to crawl again when not long ago you were sprinting, so to speak.

    Mike I'm sorry to hear about your issues that have continued. Did I understand your post correctly that you did not attend PT until around 1 year post-op? That may have something to do with not being back to 100%. My PT thinks I should get all of my strength back because I acted very quickly in resolving the compression. Muscle weakness first presented in the second week of September 2017, surgery was 12-1-17 and I began PT about 4 1/2 weeks post-op. I go twice a week and I do a couple of things at lunch time every single day. I refuse to accept my arm will not be what it once was again.

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