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c-spine surgery veterans....2 + years since surgery

PatriciaPPatricia Posts: 154
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:30 AM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery

Most of the topics in this forum focus on acute symptoms and care but I was hoping to find some spineys who had their surgery more than 2 years ago. I know there are some out there....dilaro! In fact, I read a post of yours recently that stuck with me. You were commenting on having had your head tipped back for a long period of time (can't remember what you were doing) and you commented on how your neck muscles were not happy with you afterwards. I've noticed the same. Even just going to the lighting store to look at new light fixtures, I found that I couldn't look up for very long. Maybe this type of problem remains with us forever??

Anyway, just looking to meet the c-spine surgery veteran's out there (2 years or longer) and find out how you're doing.......

1) How many years since your c-spine surgery?
2) Have you noticed any improvements in symptoms after the 2 year mark or all symptoms were gone by 2 years?
3) Have you had new or recurring problems....where (level) and what?

Thanks!!!!!! Take care everyone!


  • I had two posterior cervical surgeries at C1 and C2 in June 07. The problem that the surgeries were for, was resolved with the surgeries however the complications from those surgeries are a bear. As a result of those surgeries I have total atrophy of two muscles in my neck and partial of others. I have since had to get a c-spine spinal cord stimulator to deal with the pain these problems and others have created.

    So was the surgery successful? Yes
    Do I regret it? No
    Are the complications a drag? Absolutely
    Would I do it again? Absolutely

    My symptoms from prior to the surgery are gone.

    Hope this helps,

  • If I remember correctly you posted a pic of an MRI of your neck, showing the atrophy of the muscles. I was shocked! I guess I naively assumed this would be corrected with PT, exercise and ROM improvements. I'm sorry to hear that you are still dealing with it. However, glad to hear that your initial symptoms are gone. How is the spinal cord stimulator working?

    I'm pleased with my surgery as well. Without it I would probably be in a wheelchair today. However, I'm surprised that maintaining "normal" health for my neck is a continuing effort. Exercise is critical for me otherwise I begin to feel some of those old familar pains and I still have to be careful not to overdo any stretch or else I'll pay for it for days.

    I'm still hoping that the leg pains will go away. Just wondering if I'm being too optimistic.
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  • The muscles were completely denervated and no longer exist. No amount of exercise will ever bring them back. The only thing they have offered as a way to try and "fix" it, is to do a nerve and muscle graft with no guarantee that it won't make things even worse. So I'm grateful that the SCS helps with the pain without causing other complications.

    I don't think we can ever be too optimistic. We just have to be realistic in the results we get on a daily basis. If we "give up" and say "this is as good as it will ever get", then that's where the progress will stop. Staying optimistic allows us to always keep our options open. Many people disagree with me on this, but that's their right and I wish them all the best.

  • I had my C5-C6 ACDF a little over 3 years ago. You can review my history, which I have posted in considerable detail often enough on these threads. Suffice to say, I feel as if I made a mistake and that fusion brought nothing but a debilitating outcome that took me 2 years to recover from. Ironically enough, it was at around the 2 year point where I could once again start to live. Ever since the 2 year mark, I have really progressed, recapturing the life of jogging, soccer, and professional career ambition I enjoyed up to the day of my surgery.

    Ultimately, my fusion was superfluous. The point is that I would be even stronger had I avoided the fusion that was supposed to be a silver bullet for my pain, as promised by my doctors...the same doctors who cannot answer the questions you posted. Hell, if you get credible answers, please let me know. I have been looking for a long term, statistically significant study correlating fusions to outcomes across different demographic groups, especially in terms of pain outcome. Nobody has yet to give me such evidence.

    Here's one more kicker: I overcame my fusion by taking matters in my own hand. I rejected the slippery slope of increasing dosages of pain medication and more speculative surgery. I found professional athletes with fusions and spoke to their PTs and doctors. I accepted that if it was murder on them, why not me as well? But by the same token, if they could recover and play professional sports again, why couldn't I recover as fully as they did?

    Hence, I found an honest and caring Physiatrist who helped me make informed decisions. Slowly but surely, millimeter by millimeter, my cycles of pain diminished and my cycles of relief grew. A 3 month regimen of light doses of Gabapentin and Amitryptolene at the 1 year mark opened a window of opportunity to increase the scale and scope of my PT and work outs.

    I simply got lucky. I escaped becoming a spinal lifer. Most of my pain is now gone. I have been diagnosed with a perfect post operative spine. There are no recurring problems, only a deeper and more intense manifestation of the symptoms I had before surgery...but nothing like the 1st 2 years after surgery. I am whole again, albeit compensating for the changes in my body, but I can compete and win.

    I hope my luck spite of the fusion and the doctors that promised the world with it. We will see. Again, just to drive the point home, whatever happens, I find it macabre irony that doctors aren't asking me the questions you posed on this thread.

    Cheers, Mate
  • C, I agree with you and so does my husband. He's been my rock through all of this. I can't help myself....I keep trying...I keep hoping. Sometimes I wonder if I'm asking for too much, but the next thing you know, I'm back in the gym exercising and working on strengthening my core. I'm not sure if that's optimism or determintation.

    mate, It's always difficult to hear a story where the outcome from surgery was worse than the symptoms going into the surgery. I know a lady who had an ACDF and she was much worse post-op. I made sure that I wasn't headed for the same surgeon. But I am glad to hear that you have finally achieved some success, no matter how long it was or what path you took to get there. Your doctors were wrong if they promised you the world. Mine never did. He told me up-front that I wouldn't be 100% (I mumbled to myself that I would.) But we had to stop the progression that was happening. So, if nothing else was achieved, at least the surgery would prevent me from being permanently disabled.

    Having said all that, I truly believe that surgery isn't completely successful unless the patient does his part and that means; reducing the bodies dependency on artificial pain killers (and I don't mean dependency on narcotics, I mean allowing the bodies natural pain killers to work); working to strengthen and rebuild the muslces that are necessary to support the spinal structure so the remaining disks and soft tissues aren't having to do the job; being optimistic and doing everything in his power to work towards continuous improvement. My recovery was tough, painful and slow. I still couldn't drive without pain for over a year, albeit the pain was continuously decreasing. At 6 months post-op I still couldn't lift my arm over my head without my thumb going numb. At 1 year, my neck was still weak and I was back into PT. My balance and coordination were miserable. I could go on and on. Ultimately I kept pushing and working towards better health, never knowing if it would help, but always believing that it would. It has.

    We're all different and our situations are all different so those questions can't possibly be answered consistently or similarly. Maybe that's why our doctors can't (won't) answer them for us.

    Take care!
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  • We're all different and our situations are all different so those questions can't possibly be answered consistently or similarly. Maybe that's why our doctors can't (won't) answer them for us.

    The unfortunate reality is that the medical community cannot even begin to adequately dispense answers due to a lack of comprehensive tracking of outcomes. This is why spinal surgeries, especially fusions, continue to be a roll of the dice when it comes to at least pain impact. Nevertheless, this doesn't stop many doctors and medical outfits from extolling fusions exactly as a good pain mitigation procedure.

    I know too many people who have tried their best in fostering a successful recovery, but actually have been made much worse because of fusion surgery. As I experienced their state of being for a miserable 2 years, I just cannot let go the fact that most were advised that fusion would help them...just like I was. Again, I ultimately recovered, but I get angry when I think of legions of people whom permanently go on pain medications because of the unpredictability of outcome for fusions.

    Don't get me wrong, as I am optimistic for what the future holds. I definitely believe that treatments will eventually solve our issues quickly and with minimal trauma. In the meantime, we'll keep fighting the good fight. I know I will, as I'm determined not to become a lifer.

    Cheers, Mate
  • The unfortunate reality is that the medical community cannot even begin to adequately dispense answers due to a lack of comprehensive tracking of outcomes. This is why spinal surgeries, especially fusions, continue to be a roll of the dice when it comes to at least pain impact.

    Interesting statement! My doc included me in a study which includes patients in Canada and the US. At each visit before and after surgery I completed a pain & functional ability questionnaire. The unfortunate aspect of the study is that it only follows the patient's progress for 2 years post-op. A missed opportunity for sure.
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