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C5/C6 fusion - anyone had it done

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C5/C6 fusion - anyone had it done

Old 12-12-18, 12:17 AM
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scozim 
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C5/C6 fusion - anyone had it done

I'm scheduled for a C5/C6 fusion on Jan 8th. Most likely the result of some degenerative changes (I'm 53) but also a bike crash I had 7 years ago in a mountain bike race where I pitched over the handle bars and landed on a rock with the top of my head, breaking my helmet and compressing the cervical spine. It was probably the only crash I've had where, upon standing up, my initial thought was "man, that one really hurt." My neck has always felt "off" since then but the doctors couldn't find anything until I started having pain and numbness in my left arm in April.

Just wondering if anyone else has had this surgery (or a single level fusion surgery in the cervical spine). I've read alot of different sites about recovery, what to expect, etc. But, I'm curious from a cycling perspective what the recovery was like, how long before getting back on a bike (think indoor trainer or stationary at the gym), resulting range of motion with the neck, etc.
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Old 12-12-18, 10:31 AM
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I had a 4-5-6-7 fusion in 1985 . I was not an avid cyclist at that time and was 34 years old. I had bone removed from my hip for the fusion.
My recovery time was two months . The primary therapy was swimming. I returned to my prior job as a welder in a heavy manufacturing plant.
My surgeon estimated I lost about thirty percent strength in my left arm and there is definitely permanent nerve damage. Lost some range of motion turning head to left.
Have very mild pain in arm every day.
it will occasionally flare up but aleve takes care of it. I also use fish oil in large guanities for a few days to help with inflammation.I do not routinely take any pain meds of any kind.
I took up serious cycling in 2004 and have done a lot of long distance. I have completed RAGBRAI six times.
I hope yours is at least half as bad as mine . You should be able to return to full duty.
I crashed in 2006 ,did a face plant that hurt my neck and I wass off bike for two months.
PT brought me back.
Get an experienced surgeon who specializes in this procedure.
Goog luck you should be fine . But expect to lose a little but still have more than enough.
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Old 12-13-18, 10:20 PM
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About 9 years ago I went over the handlebars and started to feel numbness in my right hand/fingers, I still have one finger numb and sometimes my neck muscles need rubbing as they tend to tense up but otherwise things have worked out fine. Took me 6 months to get back on the bike... They took some bone from my hip and fused the c6 and I think they cut the tendon to the c6 so it wouldn't pull on it so the other muscles need to work harder, but life is good. I hope/wish the best for you.
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Old 12-15-18, 12:11 PM
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Fusion 2007

I have had 4 spinal surgeries including fusion of C5/C6. The fusion was done in 2007 and I was 54 at the time. I was actually going to have a mechanical disc replacement, but my pre-op bone density scan showed Osteopaenia. This meant the vertebrae were not strong enough to support the disc. Hence, the fusion. I had 2 partial disectomey in the lumbar area, 1999 and 2002, and in 2004 I did have mechanical disc replacement at L5/S1. I was part of a clinical study with that because it was still considered experimental. I have done well with the disc replacement but a lot of the people that had the same thing done did not do so well. I think they do not even do that in the lumbar area anymore. I was also part of a study with the C5/C6 surgery as a part of the comparison of fusion to replacement. I have also done well that the fusion. I do, however, have more neck pain than I have in the lumbar area, it radiates through my shoulders and into the hands. Compared to all the issues I had before the fusion, I am good. The pain, tingling, numbness is not constant but does flair up sometimes. I still ride road bikes a lot, but have set ups that are less stressful on the spine and shoulders. My biggest issue with biking is in my hands. The numbness and tingling happen after some time on the bike, maybe 30 minutes to an hour in. I move my hands and my position on the bike quite a bit and that is a big help. I also have arthritis really bad in the thumb joints and that is really painful. Once again, I am comparatively OK with all of that. I got 6,000 miles on bikes last year and am about 4,000 this year.


The best advice I can give you; do what the doctor says and what the therapist says when you get to the physical therapy of recovery.Do not overdo/over-stress things when you start to feel good. Eat well, keep your weight down and get rest.


I wish the best for you post-op.
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Old 01-22-19, 08:12 PM
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Update:

Surgery was two weeks ago. Pretty rough coming out of anesthesia. No neck brace per the surgeon. I was supposed to have a 2 week follow up today but he ended up in surgery this afternoon. I was rescheduled to next week and, fortunately, he'll let me drive to it (3 hours). Neck range of motion is getting better. However, the muscle spasms and neck/upper back spasms are continuous most days which is the most irritating part. Guess I'll find out next week what the next steps are. I've asked for a refill of the muscle relaxants and pain meds are down to Tylenol right now. Anti-inflammatories are not allowed for three months as it interrupts the fusion process.
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Old 01-26-19, 02:15 AM
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Neck pain is the worst for me -- old C2 injury from 2001, still bothers me sometimes. If I neglect the neck pain it'll turn into a horrible headache.

I use all kinds of stuff to cope with the neck spasms -- massage, vibrator, soaks in a hot bath with Epsom salts, topical analgesics like Stopain roll-on or Ted's Pain Cream. But sometimes nothing works except muscle relaxers and a moderate strength prescription analgesic like Tramadol or hydrocodone.

Last year my shoulder was broken and dislocated, and it re-aggravated that old C2 injury. The first health network I was taken too by the ambulance after I was hit by a car wouldn't refill prescription pain meds. They gave me what they called a 10-day supply but I made it last 6 weeks. I figured that would count toward demonstrating I was a low risk for abusing opiates, but no dice. They put me on a 6-month waiting list for their pain management clinic.

That was ridiculous. So I switched health networks (turned out I was eligible for the VA and they've been fantastic).

Meanwhile I tried some alternatives. CBD didn't work for me. A health store manager suggested kratom for the pain. I was skeptical, as I usually am about any herbal, "natural", homeopathic or unproven remedies. But I was still having trouble sleeping from the pain so I gave it a try. It's legal in most states. They just can't advertise it as a medicine or remedy for oral consumption. Most sellers either say nothing about it, or suggest it as a decorative potpourri or topical application, something vague and useless. Traditionally it's drunk as a tea in Asian countries where it grows naturally. The plant is botanically related to coffee.

Darned stuff worked great. For me a fairly low dose of kratom, around 1-2 grams, was almost as effective as a single hydrocodone or Tramadol, with fewer side effects. There are various strains based on the color of the leaf vein. Green vein is mildly stimulating like coffee, tea or a Coke or Pepsi -- not a strong stimulant at all. Red vein is mildly relaxing, like 1-3 mg of melatonin or a small dose of valerian root. The gold or yellow vein varieties are basically neutral, no stimulant or relaxing effects, but with pain relief that's more effective than any NSAID. All varieties are also mild mood enhancers. It's difficult to describe because most fans of kratom tend to exaggerate the effects toward the positive, while the FDA and hysterical anti-everything media outlets try to portray it as the next heroin or fentanyl epidemic. It's actually rather mild, subdued and unexciting. I'd compare it with a morning cup of coffee. Nothing happens immediately, but 15-30 minutes later you realize you feel human again and ready to get stuff done.

So if your pain is bad enough and prevents you from sleeping, and your health network won't approve refills of muscle relaxers or pain meds, it's worth considering kratom. I know it gets hard to work or think straight after 3 or more days in pain without sleep. And that won't help healing.

The simplest form is a tablet that's just compressed kratom that's been pasteurized from Etha. Their sample packs are very affordable and always discounted for new customers. Costs a little more but it's a good product. They lab test everything for safety and quality.

There are much cheaper sources of plain leaf kratom and it's usually in a fine powder form that can be mixed as tea and drunk, the traditional Asian method. But it's an acquired taste -- strong, bitter, a bit cloying. It's best mixed with hot chocolate, which complements the flavor. And heating the powdered leaf kratom in hot water for hot chocolate, tea, etc., also sterilizes it. Problems with e coli and salmonella are uncommon -- less common than with our own domestic romaine lettuce -- but I always use hot water to be safe.

But if you can get by without it, so much the better. Most days I just use topical analgesics and oral diclofenac, a prescription NSAID that's more effective than the massive doses of ibuprofen I used to take, in just two small pills a day. But it's not a good option for folks who can't tolerate NSAIDs.
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Old 01-26-19, 09:51 AM
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Please try physical therapy BEFORE you go through the risk of surgery. It has worked great for relieving the numbness in my right arm from cervical spine injury.
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Old 01-26-19, 11:35 AM
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I am now close to 12 years post-op fusion at C5-C6. I still get muscle spasms occasionally, but usually not very severe. I did have an episode this week that was probably the worse I have had in a couple of years. It started last Sunday while riding in some pretty chilly wind/temps. I turned my head to check on traffic from behind me before crossing to a turning lane and had a sharp pain, right side, going down into the shoulder. I ate a couple of ibuprofen pm at bedtime and that helped. I still had spasms of and on through the week. Today, I have done some house cleaning with no spasms or pain. I am getting out for a ride shortly. For me, consistently, ice packs are a help in relief.
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Old 01-27-19, 11:44 PM
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Originally Posted by raceboy View Post
Please try physical therapy BEFORE you go through the risk of surgery. It has worked great for relieving the numbness in my right arm from cervical spine injury.
I definitely tried PT, chiropractic and massage which helped the initial pain but the numbness was something that wouldn't go away and the MRI showed definite spinal cord impingement.
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Old 01-27-19, 11:48 PM
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Originally Posted by delbiker1 View Post
I am now close to 12 years post-op fusion at C5-C6. I still get muscle spasms occasionally, but usually not very severe. I did have an episode this week that was probably the worse I have had in a couple of years. It started last Sunday while riding in some pretty chilly wind/temps. I turned my head to check on traffic from behind me before crossing to a turning lane and had a sharp pain, right side, going down into the shoulder. I ate a couple of ibuprofen pm at bedtime and that helped. I still had spasms of and on through the week. Today, I have done some house cleaning with no spasms or pain. I am getting out for a ride shortly. For me, consistently, ice packs are a help in relief.
This is good to know. I'm sure the recovery will be measured in months and not weeks. I'm trying to learn patience. At least I've been able to work on my latest bike projects since the parts weigh under 5 lbs.
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Old 01-29-19, 04:49 PM
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C5-C6 from the dentist chair.

This is scary reading, I hope to not go through any type of surgery, I went through two month of extreme pain on 3 pain meds that only numbed my brain. I am still dealing with pain but found massage helped a lot. Dealing with spiking pain and weakness in my left arm.
I really want to get back to running and cycling, it so depressing. How do you guys mange just sitting around waiting and holding your head steady to avoid the pain.
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Old 01-29-19, 05:35 PM
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Originally Posted by Shreck View Post
C5-C6 from the dentist chair.

I really want to get back to running and cycling, it so depressing. How do you guys mange just sitting around waiting and holding your head steady to avoid the pain.
That's the hardest part. I'm very active and have ridden 4 times since last September. The walking helps but it kills me not to be able to do anything around the property either. The glass half full approach is this is only temporary and by the time the weather warms up I should be back on the bike. But, there's no denying when the running/cycling stops it can be very tough to deal with.
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Old 01-29-19, 05:39 PM
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Surgery

Originally Posted by Shreck View Post
C5-C6 from the dentist chair.

This is scary reading, I hope to not go through any type of surgery, I went through two month of extreme pain on 3 pain meds that only numbed my brain. I am still dealing with pain but found massage helped a lot. Dealing with spiking pain and weakness in my left arm.
I really want to get back to running and cycling, it so depressing. How do you guys mange just sitting around waiting and holding your head steady to avoid the pain.
I have had 4 spinal surgeries with the last one, C5/C6, in 2007. The first three were all at L5/S1. I can tell you that the first 2 surgeries were done after being laid up for 3 to 4 months of excruciating pain, physical therapy that did not help me and mental anguish that I hope to never have to go through again. By the time I got to the point where the insurance companies would sign off on the doctors opinions, I was highly motivated to get surgery done despite being laid up for another 6 weeks before I could even start physical therapy, go through another 3 to 6 months of PT, and then finally getting the OK to slowly go back to normal activities, including return to work with light duty limitations. My 3rd surgery was a total disc replacement at L5/S1, mechanical disc that was still considered experimental. I was involved in a medical study to see how people did with the replacement compared to spinal fusion. I, fortunately, did, and still am doing, very well with the replacement. A lot of people did not recover well at all and I believe that procedure is no longer done for the lumbar area. I also have had my right shoulder repaired due to 3 tears. I have been laid up a total of close to 2 1/2 years with the 5 surgeries. I am 66 years old and I am physically in pretty good shape. Each of the past 3 years I have put 4,000 to 6,000 miles on my bicycles. I still work, transitioned to being school bus driver, no longer on any pain meds and I live with just my dog and cat. I have a pretty good life, and I believe that would not be true if not for having the surgeries. My biggest piece of advice would be to do what the doctors and the physical therapists want you to do post op.
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Old 01-30-19, 10:00 PM
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3 week post op today and the doctor surprised me a little. He removed the 5-10 lb lifting limit but said not to do anything heavy or crazy. Also said he was removing most restrictions and wanted me to really start working on my neck range of motion. The best part was the comment "if you can tolerate it, then I'm fine with you riding on the indoor trainer."

I'm still having a lot of muscle spasms so I may wait a week before attempting the trainer but, still, this is 3 weeks sooner than I was expecting.
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Old 02-01-19, 09:11 PM
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I had c6-7 fusion February last year.I couldn't raise my arms above my head without a lot of pain.
I did the P.T. thing for a while without improvement and the surgeon was talked into doing the fusion.
He said at the outset there are no guarantees of a substantial improvement.
But after a year it's great and was well worth doing.
this is an ortho surgeon in the hospital I worked in as an RN who has a fantastic reputation that's well
deserved.
Later I had trouble with T 3-4 and my sternum ,we did a bone scan and they basically said you're old
and you have arthritis in the symphysis of your sternum and deal with it.
I couldn't pee after surgery and have had a green light laser of the prostate as well so I think I'm done
with surgery for a while.
It took about six months for my neck to feel right.
I was allowed to ride after three months but I walked miles before that.
Also I'm seventy-one and back riding mountain and road but road position is a moving target and one of
these days I'll nail it.
Good luck to you and do what the dr says.
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Old 02-05-19, 01:39 PM
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I am find some of you comments relevant that I have since found out that the cervical problems can cause Frozen Shoulder, I mentioned it to my doctor and he is thing a problem with the neck, but found that it is very common with a pinched nerves. I realized this on the weekend trying to do some modified core core work outs and the range of motion in on arm is ridiculous screwed with lots of pain with it. Its noting like the pain i get during my exercises just stopping at the edge of pain.

I was on one pain killer for nerve pain and it did not seem to work then I realized one of the side effects was muscle spasms, I had noticed it a lot in my legs and may have contributed to the extreme pain in my back. I stopped the drug cold turkey and tripled my intake of Magnesium to help with muscle spasms. They are way better now.

I did have a lot of problems too with anther pain medication where my bowels stopped working and I prostrate swelled like a tennis ball, I figured that way all the business down stairs stopped. Anther side effect of the pain killer caused swelling of internal organs.

I have been spinning a bit, my legs feel strong still but for some reason my legs are like cement when walking or climbing the stairs. Is this from in-activity and sitting too much? I am just not used to this.

Thanks for your feedback guys.
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Old 02-05-19, 11:59 PM
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During recovery from illness and/or injury it's not unusual for the body to feel like it's resisting our best efforts at physical therapy. It's tempting to take a day or three or a few weeks off, but the body just gets stiffer and worse.

I don't think I've had a morning in years without pain. I never actually want to get up but it hurts worse to lay there. I know I'll feel better if I get up, have some coffee and breakfast, stretch and move around. But I'm wobbling and dizzy for about 15 minutes. Every dang morning. After about an hour I start to feel human again.

Then I'll try a spin on the trainer bike, but my legs almost always feel dead for the first half hour or so. Takes forever to warm up.

But on the road I'm almost as fast as I was before the 2018 injury and illness. It just doesn't feel like it. But the bike computer and Strava say I'm doing okay. That's encouraging. I still don't have the old stamina and usually keep my rides to 20-30 miles. But that's not bad for now.
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Old 02-07-19, 08:17 PM
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Just got over having it 3 months ago was hit by a car coming home from work.had 4 bones in the neck broken and had to have fusion surgery.was cleared by the doctor this past Monday to take off the neck brace and resume activitys of course that was great news.no biking for 3 months and the doc tells me it's ok to ride the bike again just to take it very easy.so I try to ride my road bike when I get home a bmc Gran Fondo but after riding 3 miles was not easy to be that low and have to look up. So had to ride the older Cannondale mountain bike with a much more uprite position rode today almost 10 miles a little ackward but also very much doable think I felt better after riding then I do after a session of physical therapy hoping to be able to get back on the bmc soon but looks like it will be a while
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