Sports & activities after ACDF surgery???



  • cocodrillo: i understand where you are coming from - and i def agree with the glass half full scenario. sorry to hear about your hip - do you think it is related to your back/spine? my current worst pain is actually from the middle of my back - the physio thinks the weakness associated with my neck injury has really aggravated a pre-existing issue. i think the core exercises are starting to help though. --my fascination with bodies comes from how inter-related things are. especially with spines. let us know how you get on!

    nkdbear1 and ranger: i totally agree with the not pushing too far (being reckless). especially with fusion. i wasnt cleared for physio until 4 months post-op - as my surgeon wanted to see fusion on xrays first. its hard, because in a lot of ways you feel ok, so its about doing what you should. also, i tend to almost always feel ok doing things, its the next day i feel it in my muscles. plus im very aware that i dont want to damage the discs above/below my fusion. im 37 - so this has to last me a long time (well hopefully!). 

    nkdbear1: i hope you got all your questions answered at the consult. after surgery i used to try and go on 3 walks of differing lengths every day - i did this for months. i listened to audiobooks. it was quite nice to get up and move about. 

    good luck everyone!

  • Hi cocodrillo -

    I'm just looking around here for the first time and wanted to reply to your post, since I also crave camaraderie on the still-an-athlete-post-surgery front. And I also find it's helpful to surround myself with people who are doing what they can do, whatever that is, with joy and drive and commitment. We all have our coping mechnisms, and one of mine is that I have to avoid people who tell me I am doomed to a lifetime of failed surgeries: if I believed that and located my life in that terrible fear, I would not make it through the pain and extreme difficulty of this recovery.

    I'm 45 years old, just about 10 months out from lumbar rebuild (discectomies, laminectomies, bone revisions, L5 fusion), and very active again already, within limits. Luckily, my great passion/sport is swimming, so the low/no-gravity and almost zero impact nature of the sport has meant that I could make it the center of my rehab once cleared to start PT.

    It also helped that I was swimming at Master's level until my real spinal crash about 5 months before the surgery (I had limitations and partial disabilities for 10+ years, but with physio help could train with neoprene jammers for back support - and while I would sometimes lose my legs entirely, I'd just keep swimming until they came back, ha, and I was able to compete sometimes). Some of that deep muscle strength held even through months of inability to walk,  and this helped me recover, I am sure. Or at least helped the muscle to come back more quickly after the brace came off two months post-surgery.

    I started with water walking and dry land rehab, then began swimming again, then upped my distances, then got a private coach, then swam Boston Sharkfest - VERY CAREFULLY! ha! but with total delight - a mile open water race across Boston harbor on the six month surgiversary. I am now training to swim across the straight of Gibraltar (2019 or 2020 depending on the Channel Swimming Association permits). Before that, this coming summer, I will swim Skaha, the longest open water lake swim in Canada (about 12k).

    I wanted to train for for triathlon. What has become clear to me as I recover is that the water loves me, and takes really good care of my back. Impact and gravity? Not so much. :(  I can walk, even really long and hilly walks, with no penalty as long as I "walk soft," but did one 5 hour steeper mountain climb with some bouldering and lost a full month to really damaged mobility and very bad pain.

    And I want no-more-surgeries and the ability to do ultra-distance marathon swimming more than I want triathlon, and I want to be swimming a mile at a time when I'm 80 as many of my role models do, so the (totally personal/individual of course) decision I have come to is to stick with the low/no impact stuff and avoid the banging that may shorten the life of my hardware, or compromise the bones and vertebrae around it.

    For me, the rehab has been so excruciating, and the whole context so exhausting and often terrifying, that I have to have joy and accomplishment at
    the center of my focus or it's just too hard.

    So I go all-in to the swimming, since that doesn't compromise my rebuild - and going all-in is pretty essential to my nature, as it sounds like it is to yours. :)

    We are all so unique in how we cope and in how we heal. Who knows what you will be able to do, and only you can decide what risks are worth it for you. But I'm cheering you on for whatever sustainable joys you build.

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  • Today marks 6 months since my surgery......I will keep posting on this thread as it may help others and give a bit of hope.

    To recap I burst fractured C5 after falling from an enduro bike head first down a sheep drop, the accident was actually very slow speed, the drop was the problem. I didn’t’ know I had broken my neck and continued to ride off road for another 3-4 hours, my wrist hurt more than my neck. After discovering the damage I was flown back from Romania to the uk after 3 very bad days in a Romanian hospital where the staff and patients smoked openly on the wards, I wore a very uncomfortable neck collar which was covered in someone else’s blood and I had to wear a nappy, not happy times. I had surgery to plate C4-C5-C6 with a corepectomy cage where C5 had broken in 2 parts. Surgery was successful and I was on my feet the next day, home within 3 days and back to easy work duties after a couple of weeks, driving again at about 1 month.

    Fast forward 6 months......some days I forget what has happened, I can be completely pain free and I feel I can almost do anything, some days not. I had a bad few days last week and used heat pads on the back of my neck in the evenings. The worst trigger for pain is swimming, but it is getting a little easier each time but only hurts the day after, not during. No painkillers needed at all now. I had an x Ray and consultation with my surgeon last week and he’s happy with progress, my metalwork may have moved a tiny bit, but he said that sometimes it does settle a little. He’s happy to let me cycle once the weather improves and there’s no ice on the road. I will be over the moon to get out for a ride. The best thing for me getting through this has been to keep moving, I am not trying to be a super hero by saying how well my recovery is going or whatever, some people reading this might think so, but that’s far from the truth, but I’m now training harder and for longer than before my accident. The training has kept me going mentally too, I feel such a difference after a session. I’ve sold 2 of my dirt-bikes, 1 is still waiting for when I can ride again, which may be a long time. I’ve now had contact from several people who have been through the same surgery and are now riding again, so my goal is to do the same. I miss racing every weekend and I’m also missing my snowboarding holiday with my family in a few weeks time, staying at home looking after the dogs. That will be a tough week. It’s not been the easiest 6 months of my life, it’s been an emotional rollercoaster but I’m counting my blessings and moving on, I have awesome family support and being a stubborn old trout I absolutely refuse to give in. Next X-ray and consultation is in 6 months, I will add to this thread then. I hope to have completed my first triathlon before that time, I hope so because I’ve paid for the entry anyway.  I don’t even really like running that much, or swimming in cold brown water. Hopefully the bike ride will make up for those bits.

  • Im just coming up on 11 months post acdf surgery c4-6 also from compression fracture to c5. My fusion has healed great and I would say I have 90% ROM back with little to no pain ( can be a little achey after a big day of activities). I have been back in the gym and slowly working back my strength to almost where it was a year ago. I have been snowboarding and skiing 3-4 times a week for the past 4 months with no issues. Coming into the summer I was looking into getting a mountain bike or dual purpose dirtbike but a little nervous as my accident was still fairly recent. Just wondering If anyone out there has had a similar surgery and how mountain biking or dirtbiking has been for them? 

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  • Hi DaveG, that is great to hear, I had started to wonder if there was anyone else out there with similar results, so I’m really glad to see your reply. Keep posting! I’ve heard a lot of positive stories recently (sadly not on this forum) about people doing all sorts of activities after cervical fusion.

    My family went skiing without me last month and I was miserable, no two ways about it. I was worried about myself for a while. However my sights on a achieving finishing a triathlon in July are very firmly set. I have been cycling on the road a few times and am smashing all of my PB’s in the gym every week. My physical goals have been a focus on recovery which has helped mentally in huge amounts. I have very little pain now, I’m working hard, I carry my sleeping child to her bed every night when she sneaks into our room and she’s no featherweight. We ride our bikes together again. I chop wood on freezing cold days and sweat buckets. Life is good, the darker times seem further away and time is healing. Roll on summer. Now 7.5 months post surgery. 

  • 10 months now. Mostly pain free. Cycling on a road bike with no issues, head down and bum up. Went open water swimming last night for the first time to train for the upcoming triathlon, 1500 meters done, swallowed a lot of green water but got round ok with steamed up goggles. Nerve pain in my right arm is gradually fading, the more I do the better it gets. The lack of positive posts on here is worrying but I'll keep updating, maybe someone who's just started this journey will find comfort. My biggest issue is not being able to drink the last third of a bottle of beer as fast as I used to, can't tilt my head back enough.

  • This is a great positive thread, thank you for that!

    I had a great fusion of C4-7 with C6 corpectome, 2 cages and one plate. All due not to accident but to arthritis. I now have arthritis in the level below the fusion, C7/T1, mostly on the left but very tight. I was back to hiking mountains in 90 days post op. XC skiing that season just a few months later. I was very happy.

    Then there’s my knee arthritis, which left me with a flare but did get in some XC skiing this winter, but over the last five years with the new level acting up, it’s been acceptable until recently when I get numbness and pain from just *walking*!!!! I am so pissed off.

    Seeing the NS this week. At this point the only real option is to go back in, from the front, and do the fourth level for my C8. 

    I am not bad if I just sit like a lump. But even walking from a parking lot into and through a store is causing problems. This is no way to live.

    My biggest concern is what he will take off the list of things I can do after this surgery, so I am really looking for encouragement too. I can see the MRI, so I get that there is really no other option, it is so tight ttight tight on that side. All I want to do is to be able to do my brisk walks (hilly 3-4 miles/day), hike up and down mountains and XC ski, my true love. I think the kayaking will not be a problem.

    I would love to hear from the original poster, hope they are doing well. I did so well after the first surgery 8 years ago. But I will be honest that this 4th level is worrisome. 

  • This is a fantastic thread.  I did disc replacement c5-c7, so a way easier procedure to recover from. 

    Walking 2  miles or more the third day.  Driving after 5 days.  Never took a pain pill. 

    The doctor called my recovery “freakish”.

  • One year post accident now. All going very well considering the mess I was in a year ago. I get a little sore now and again, mostly when sitting doing nothing for too long. I get a few muscle spasms in my right shoulder and arm, not painful, just annoying. I completed my first triathlon two weeks ago, it was a bit messy but I got round and I couldn't be happier. Good luck all. 

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