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Anterior Cervical Discectomy and Fusion at C5-6 C6-7

Started by Southerngirl on 12/14/2019 12:02pm

I recently went to a neurosurgeon and he is recommending this surgery due to chronic degenerative disc collapse with loss of nuclear signal, sclerosis, osteophtyte, Luschke process, frank stenosis and spinal cord compression (all those medical terms). I have suffered from migraines/headaches for years and now beginning the left arm pain, heaviness down to hand and fingers and at times right arm ( numbness and tingleness). I even get it in my feet, which been told can be associated as well. I have read some post and information on how the surgery helps with the neck pain and arm pain but has anyone have experience on the surgery being successful with relief with their migraines/ headaches? The surgeon said it would relieve the migraines since they start from the back of my head but at times they start from the side as well and I have read that can be associated with the neck as well. Any information is appreciated. Thanks

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I would also like to know some input. I am having surgery got the same as you , Southern girl and wanted to know when does the numbness go away in hand and balance come back to normal. I am worried and scared. Being out of work for any extended period of time is not an option. I need my feeling back ... when does it come back.
Thank you for any help on this.

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I am 31 yrs old and ~10 months post op C5-6 ACDF (Anterior Cervical Decompression and Fusion), my surgeon used a cadaver bone graft; I was not a good candidate for a CDR (Cervical Disc Replacement) due to spinal instability throughout my cervical spine. This was all due to a college basketball injury and that's when I began to have symptoms at the age of 20yrs old. I was not sure at the time I had disc injury causing nerve impingement. I pretty much had a headache every single day of my life from then on; I thought this was from stress and or/my perpetual hangovers. Some days I could not lift my left arm in the mornings and it was painful; there would be a burning pain down my lateral deltoid- I thought I had a rotator cuff tear because the symptoms were almost the exact same if I had a shoulder injury.
Around age 25 things began to get really bad with the headaches/migraines, constant neck pain, numbness started in my left hand when I would be sitting/driving or when I wake up; all the symptoms began to ramp up with frequent severe flare ups. The last 3 years I feel I was living in a fog of pain; the headaches were 24/7, neck pain, daily muscle spasms, severe burning sensation down my left arm, jaw pain, tingling down my scapula, I couldn't sit or drive for more than 10 min before both my hands started to go numb- It once was only the left side. I would be driving and couldn't feel my hands and have to pull over. I also have the Lhermitte's sign- with deep neck flexion both hands would go numb and I would get a shocking sensation through my arms/spine/legs. I went to physical therapy weekly for years- dry needling 1-2x a week for the spasms. I was heavily medicating myself daily on pain relievers, muscle relaxers, THC/CBD on top of mixing alcohol nightly to sleep (yes, I know this is dangerous but I was at that point of desperation). I was irritable, moody, pissed off at life; the headaches negatively affected my relationship with my girlfriend, social life, work. You literally go insane trying to work with people and function with a 24/7 headache. Found a surgeon which took over a year getting bounced through the system to "check all the boxes that I've tried everything."
The second I got out of surgery I almost felt better immediately- yeah I had a good amount of post operative pain but its nothing like that nervy pain I had before - but they give you the good meds to get through this (I only needed oxycontin for about a week post op and intermittently weeks after)- and constant use of ICE, I had to sleep on an ice pack for weeks to sleep. ICE ICE ICE. But my headaches were GONE, almost immediately. And that was my main thing that was becoming debilitating, I could live with the radicular symptoms, but I could not handle the constant headaches anymore, I was at my breaking point- that consistency makes you literally go insane after awhile. The headaches were what was ruining my life. My neck pain is gone, the burning in my left shoulder was gone, improved sleep, improved energy. Initially after surgery I had intermittent radicular symptoms in my hands but have mainly been resolved at this point.
Now with my neck pain gone, I have a lot of upper back pain, thoracic/rib pain, muscle spasms in this area. These issues in my upper back are severe, the spasms are pretty bad. I could only be up and moving around for short periods for a long time bc my back would spasm. Eventually I can physically do a little bit more and more, but its taking a long time to improve my postural endurance. My thoracic pain has pretty much been constant, I'm still dealing with daily spasms in my upper back. But I work on my feet and I'm moving around all day- although sitting for long periods isn't good either.
I am happy with my surgical results, neck pain/headaches almost completely gone! I'm getting frustrated with my upper back though bc I'm close to a year out from surgery. My surgeon said I shouldn't have that pain still, but I do. Obviously I'm trying to strengthen my back, but by the time I'm off work I have to sit/lie down bc of the back spasms. The ability to strengthen this has been SLOW, just getting through the day will feel like a lot of work for your spine for months. My neck would feel fatigued. Most patients are back to their normal activity, exercise, function sooner than me- but hey most people having this surgery are an average of 60 yrs old give or take. Their activity level is much more sedentary than a 30 year old. They may be retired, no longer perform physical jobs, no longer play sports, etc. I am not yet back to running, sports, strenuous activity-
So YES my ACDF gave me successful relief of my headaches. I feel like myself again, I can think without the brain fog, I'm in a better mood at work, I'm less irritable with my significant other. My sleep/energy has greatly improved.
Sorry for the length of this, but I hope I helped give you some feedback on getting a neck fusion; the symptoms I had and before/after.

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