question for cervical fusion patients

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solar powered
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Date Joined Nov 2007
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   Posted 1/21/2010 7:04 PM (GMT -6)   
Hello. I was wondering what procedures and therapies did you do before you had your cervical fusion surgery? A good friend of mine has had chronic neck, shoulder pain etc for several years. She finally saw a neurosurgeon about 1 1/2 years ago and of course he recommended surgery. She declined at that time for various reasons but now the pain has gotten worse. She made an appointment to see the surgeon again to set up a date for fusion. I am really concerned about her doing this especially since I don't feel she has done everything possible to avoid it such as PT, nerve blocks, etc. Actually she hasn't done any of that kind of stuff yet or only made a half-hearted attempt at best. I don't want her to be in pain of course but I consider any spinal surgery as the absolute last resort. I am afraid for her. I am also concerned that this surgeon is so willing to cut on her without other things being tried first. I know that he cuts, that's what he does as a surgeon but I think it is irresponsible if other options are available first. I tried to convince her that this is important enough that she needs to get a second opinion also but I don't think she wanted to hear that. She is like the rest of us, she just wants the pain to go away and for it to go away right now. And of course she knows people that had fusion done and think it was the greatest thing they ever did but none of them are far enough post-op to have run into that lovely complication of the vertebra/disc above and below the fusion going to heck. I did mention that to her. I told her I wasn't trying to scare her but wanted to make sure that she was aware of all this possible stuff. She may not listen to me but maybe she will listen to you guys. So anyway, I would really appreciate hearing about the pre-op things you tried as well as any advice or other thoughts you could share with her. Thanks so very much for your help. Lisa
If I can laugh at it, I can live with it.

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Date Joined Dec 2008
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   Posted 1/21/2010 9:01 PM (GMT -6)   

Hi Geckogirl,

ABSOLUTELY....tell your friend to get a 2nd opinion.  I had triple fusion in 2000 after 2 discs ruptured and the 3rd while waiting for surgery.  I had no choice but to have surgery!  Immediately after the surgery of course I had relief of the horrid, indescribable pain and some relief of the numbness.  However, it took 11 months before I was able to return to work and from that day forward I entered the world of CP.  I have done many therapies since then and am always researching and trying new treatments.  Prolotherapy might be something your friend could look into along with PT, etc.   A friend of mine had 4 levels fused 2 years ago and is doing GREAT, very occasionally she has spasm but thats it, for now anyway.  Her symptoms were severe neck pain,spasm with numbness into the fingers.. she had disc bulges but no ruptures.  She tried PT and Trigger point injections before consenting to surgery.

Whitebeard recently had cervical fusion, so he can probably give you great input on this subject!

Please urge your friend to get a second opinion from another Neurosurgeon and maybe a Neurologist too!


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Date Joined Jul 2008
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   Posted 1/21/2010 9:22 PM (GMT -6)   
I agree with Patti. Your friend should get a second opinion and possibly even a third opinion just to make sure that all bases are covered before surgery is done. Tell her that I was gung hoo about following my surgeons directions as well. He wanted to do surgery on me and we had not even tried any of the shots or therapy before this. Well the morning of surgery I showed up at the hospital at 8am ready to do this, but my surgeon was running behind and I did not end up in the pre-op room until 3 that afternoon. Hubby was not allowed to accompany me back to the pre surgical waiting area and there I sat waiting....and waiting....and thinking...and thinking.

Something in my gut told me to RUN! Run from the surgery that day and I was not sure why or what possessed me to do it but I stopped the surgery right there and then. When my doctor came in he asked me what was the matter and I explained to him that I needed some time to try other things. He was very kind about this and realized that we had not tried any other procedures for the pain. He thought since I wanted the surgery that he would go ahead and do it.

Yes I did go back to this surgeon....he's the top in the state of Wyoming and did a very fine job on my three fusions, but we did not communicate very well at first so that is why I am expressing to anyone who is thinking about surgery to really look at the big picture. Has everything that could be done been done?? Have all non evasive procedures been tried?? Run through the questions for this through your mind before you opt for surgery peeps, or it could be a big problem..


Good luck

I live to "Tame My Pain!" 

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Date Joined Jun 2009
Total Posts : 974
   Posted 1/22/2010 6:50 AM (GMT -6)   
Alot of insurance companies won't even ok surgery unless other procedures are tried first.

I had cervical fusion in 2006 C-5/7. It took care of the finger numbness, arm tingling but I have had severe muscle spasms in my neck since the surgery and now take Neurontin 1200mg per day for this. It helps but never takes away all the pain. I also had Lumbar fusion the same year. 3 yrs later and I already have a bulging disc above my lumbar fusion and the area above the cervical fusion is starting to give out. I do have degenerative disc disease so my disc are going to give out easier.

I would suggest that your friend see either a pain management doctor or orthopedic doctor first to see if she can get some relief using procedures or meds to find some relief. Surgery should always be a last resort. Cervical fusion limits how far you can move your head and can cause alot of problems if your job requires this.
DDD, osteoarthritis, fusion surgeries C-5/7 & L-4/5 both in 2006, torn meniscus left knee 2000 & 2002, buldging disc L-2/3

White Beard
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Date Joined Feb 2009
Total Posts : 3696
   Posted 1/23/2010 12:54 AM (GMT -6)   

I just had my second cervical disk fusion this past September, I had C5/6 done, in 1985 I had C6/7 done. That surgery was a must as I had massive damage done, and I was at risk of becoming a quad! My surgeon told me right after this last surgery that I was very luck to have went this long with out having to have another fusion done! He said usually the disk above or below the fusion goes bad with in ten years of the first fusion! He also told me that the lower cervical disks were the easiest to do surgery on, compared to most other areas of the spine! One of the things my surgeon also said was that the epidural steroid injections, ( although they did not give me any lasting relief they did help for a few days) anyway the injections helped confirm that the problem was coming from those disk areas, and combining that informatinon along with the MRI and EMG studies, helps the surgeon make the determination on whether the patient really needs the surgery. I know that I am having lots on upper neck pain going into the bottom back of my skull, I have had epidurals for it before and they helped me allot, well I asked my pain Doctor yesterday about getting them again, he thinks the pain is coming from C2 or C3 so he ordered X-ray and blood work and I am having an MRI done this Tuesday, he wants this all before he will do the injections again. He said that area was a mess before and he wants to know what he is dealing with!

I hope your friend gets a second oppinion and has had all the tests, MRI, EMG and everything maybe including injections before getting this surgery done. Also this surgery does have it's own set of risks, paralyzed vocal cords is one of them! My vocal cords on the right side are paralyzed because of my first cervical disk fusion! Something to think about!

White Beard

solar powered
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Date Joined Nov 2007
Total Posts : 538
   Posted 1/23/2010 10:44 AM (GMT -6)   
Thank you everyone for the insightful replies. I will make a copy of them to give to my friend to look over. I just want her to get relief from the pain but I also think she needs to make an informed decision so your replies should definitely help.

WB-good luck with the MRI. I hope it shows them all that info they need to help you out.

Thanks again everyone. Lisa
If I can laugh at it, I can live with it.

Veteran Member

Date Joined Nov 2007
Total Posts : 6795
   Posted 1/25/2010 5:45 PM (GMT -6)   
Sorry I'm late in replying but my computer has been giving me hassles, so I've not been able to post much. Don't know if that's fixed, but for today it's working better and I'll take it!

I've not had a cervical fusion, but a 2 level lumbar fusion which didn't help. However, I have had chronic neck and shoulder pain for over 25 years. I have managed it with what I learned from an excellent PT (also had some bad PT's in the process that made things worse, so get someone who really has expertise with necks!), changing ergonomics such as how I sit at the computer, screen height, using the right cervical pillow (takes forever to find the "right" one for each person and it seems I need to start shopping for a new one again), never using shoulder bags (had to go to a smaller, hand held purse or waist pack).....and with all those things I've mostly managed my neck without surgery. Back in the early 90's an MRI showed bulging disks, so I'm sure if I had an MRI now things would be much worse, but I don't have the insurance for that plus I'm not ready to have cervical fusion. Carpal tunnel surgery on each hand got rid of the numbness in my fingers, although if I sleep wrong I can get some tingling in fingers in the morning, but it goes away once I do my neck stretches. Oh, and I also use one of those neck heat packs nearly every day - usually am walking around with it on several times during the day!

Your friend will likely be sent for some PT anyway after the surgery. I think it's poor medical practice for a surgeon to suggest surgery before any other modalities have been tried. But it does take work to do the stretching (I STILL use the stretch routine the PT taught to me back in the 90's - would never have survived without it) and look at some other lifestyle changes. But your friend it likely going to have to do these things anyway.

I'd DEFINITELY get a second opinion, but I would think this is a good case for a physiatrist (NOT psychiatrist but physiatrist - specialist in physical medicine) because they really do know about many of these other modalities.

Surgery shouldn't be the first option unless there's some very serious and unusual reason, but even if I was having surgery, I'd get a second opinion.

Hope this helps a bit.

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