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Old 12-26-2006, 08:20 AM   #1
Jonathan Kessler
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I haven't been active on the boards for a while, and my CF has been somewhat curtailed (but not cut off completely) because of a neck injury (disk degeneration) that has gotten more severe over the past year.
The doc is now recommending cervical fusion (c5-6-7). I will be getting a second and maybe a third opinion, but there seems to be some sense in what he's saying.
Anyone here had their cervical vertebra fused?
What was your experience, what was the recovery like?
What is your current capability (workout, etc)? How long were you unable to workout post-surgery?
Thanks for any information you can share.
JK
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Old 12-26-2006, 08:31 AM   #2
Elliot Royce
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I have C5/6 and C6/7 herniations that are pretty significant (full extrusions). It's now been around 3 years since they started and I choose not to have surgery. I did epidural injections, acupunture, PT, etc. Gradually the pain went down. A number of studies have concluded that there is no difference in clinical outcomes after 5 years between those who get surgery and those who do not. So the major reason to get surgery is if you can't stand the pain anymore or if you have muscle weakness or numbness, which can become permanent. Also, if you have spinal instability, which is dangerous. Make sure you talk to an experienced orthopedist and not just a surgeon. Orthopedists see the full spectrum of patients, including those who recover on their own. Surgeons tend to see the more pathological ones.

My concern would be that with a 3 level fusion your flexibility is going to be pretty compromised. They say there is an elevated risk of herniating the adjoining disks as a result (more stress on fewer disks). I believe you only have 7 cervical disks so nearly half of yours will be locked. Also, not every surgery is successful in eliminating the pain and some people end up worse than before. There are a few internet sites for people suffering from post-surgical problems and it's incredibly depressing.

Most doctors tell you that if it doesn't clear up within 6 months it won't clear up. That's not true. I stuck with it for more than a year, trying different things, and it eventually went away. Sometimes it resurfaces when I compromise my posture or overdo a movement. You need to think about what you're doing that may be aggravating the nerve. For instance, I stopped all arms overhead work for several years. Also anything that would tighten the neck muscles (trap raises, etc.). Also no chest work to avoid pulling my neck forward more. An injury like this needs to be worked around.

Bottom line: I would only get the surgery if you can't stand the pain, the muscles are weak or numb for a period of time, or you have spinal instability.
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Old 12-26-2006, 10:51 AM   #3
Matthew McCarty
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There is this instead:

(Link is safe)
http://www.laserspinecenter.com/procedure.html

I know several people that have had the discs fused in the back and neck. All of them said they would not do it if they had it to do all over again. Also -- one told me he now has another herniated disc due to the inflexibility of the current fused disc putting too much pressure on the other discs. So anyway -- I would get a lot of opinions before I did anything.
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Old 12-26-2006, 11:47 AM   #4
Elliot Royce
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Forgot to mention: they are working on an artificial cervical disk which could be commonly available in a few years.

And there are other surgical techniques which I did explore. Unfortunately there is no right or wrong in back or neck pain, and everyone will tell you something different. More conservative surgeons will only be comfortable with a full fusion while others go for partial discectomies. It really is hard to figure out what's best.

On the other hand, if you are in excruciating pain and this is ruining your life and requiring you to take heavy painkillers, then you may not have an alternative to surgery. Thousands of people have had successful surgeries.
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Old 12-26-2006, 12:04 PM   #5
Jonathan Kessler
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Thanks for the input. I don't take surgery lightly, and am going to look at alternatives and get 2-3 opinions. I've been working with an extremely good physiatrist, who does not recommend surgery lightly.
4 epidurals in a year is what my doc considers the limit (actually 3 but we did 4) without recovery.
Fortunately I'm not in acute pain most of the time, and though there is nerve damage the nerve is recovering (I attribute some of that to doing Crossfit and Filipino martial arts, both of which require lots of new recruitment patterns).
The bad news is that the MRI shows, if not instability, no margin for error. There is no space around the spinal cord at those disk junctures. So a major problem is potentially just around the corner. Meanwhile, if I move or stand wrong, or reach down (think deadlift) or look up (think squat) I aggravate it, which typically means tingling and/or pain shooting down my arm, indicating an unhappy nerve.
I know the potential downside of surgery. I also know 2 people recently who had very successful discectomies. Lots to think about.
I'd be interested to hear if any crossfitters on the board have had it, or other "step beyond epidurals" treatment, and their results.
JK
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Old 12-26-2006, 12:29 PM   #6
Elliot Royce
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Sounds like you've done your homework. Good luck with finding relief!

If money is not a major object, then consider the Alpha Klinik in Munich. I've consulted them twice. They are way ahead of the US because the FDA and threat of lawsuits do not slow the pace of medical innovation as much. They have had great success with non-fusion approaches and consider fusion to be a last resort. When I say money is no object, it's only because your insurance will probably not cover it but the costs are hugely lower than in the US. An MRI ran me about $300 and the full disk surgery would have been around $12000.
family/work safe link
www.alphaklinik.com

They have done thousands of procedures with very good results. I always go for the doctors with the most good results (sounds obvious but a lot of people turn to someone familiar and local)
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Old 12-29-2006, 02:48 PM   #7
Dave Macdonald
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I already put this post out on another thread. It can go here also.

Your neck can get better. I've seen my own x-rays and others.
I had a bad neck injury over in Europe (American Football, Berlin). It lasted almost fours years and grew worse. The medical docs wanted to fuse my neck. A lot of the players were going to chiropractors. I went three times a week for six weeks. My neck/back pain disappeared. Ten years later, I currently play rugby for my city and see a chiropractor once a week during season, couple times a month in the offseason. I feel great. Had the med docs fused my neck, I would not be on this forum or playing any sport. Chiropractic is extremely common in the professional sport world. The key is finding a good chiropractic doctor. Many are athletes. I know several that play rugby. Good luck.
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Old 12-30-2006, 02:02 AM   #8
Fiona Muxlow
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My BJJ coach had spinal fusion due to injury. Since then he has fought in a few pro mma events and still does BJJ comps but here is his story which he posted on a mma.tv forum.after someone had asked about taking time off due to neck injury.
I know its not quite the same situation as yours but you may be of interest.

"About 6 years ago I injured my neck in training. The injury was misdiagnosed by a physio and a doctor. I continued to train. Two weeks after the initial injury I wrestled a 110 kg wrestler (alternate for the Atlanta olympic team) and injured it again. Physio again said give it a little rest it's only a muscle strain. 4 weeks later I fought for the first Aussie Middle weight Shooto title against Brad Aird. He neck cranked me in the first round to the point where my nose touched my chest. The fight went the distance and within minutes after the end of the fight I knew there was something seriously wrong with my neck.

By the time I arrived home from my flight I was experiencing the worst pain of my life. I visited the Cowboys Football team physio who immeadiately place me in a neck brace and called an ambulance. MRI and Xrays revealed a ruptured( 3 free floating pieces ) C5/ C6 disc and a fractured C6 vert. A week later I had a spinal fusion of the C5/ C6 and a synthetic disc placed in. By this time the pain had subsided but I had already lost at least 70 % size in my shoulder and bicep and the tricep had all but disappeared. After arriving home I was going stir crazy sitting around the house so decided to water the garden. When the hose become snagged I tried to flick it loose and because of the atrophy I dislocated me shoulder.

I know this is all a bit long winded but I must tell you that since the operation I have had constant pain and injury with my right shoulder/ arm due to the loss of stabiliser strength around my shoulder and reduced size and strength of my tricep. Also had a scare about 18 months back when the C6/ C7 disc bulged from another training incident. Initially I took four months off training to work on my strength but it has never been the same.

My advice would be to stop any training where you are not in full control of the movement and resistance. Unfortunately this means grappling. You need to see a physio or doctor that deals directly with high impact sports like Rugby league or rugby union because they see this type of injury all the time. I'm not saying give it up for the rest of your life but give a rest for at least two to three months to give your neck a fighting chance. Go to training and watch what people are doing but stay off the mat for a while."
There is more to the post but the rest is grappling related.

All the best
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Old 12-30-2006, 07:29 AM   #9
Dave Macdonald
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Fiona,
Several of the chiropractic colleges in the USA have large rugby programs. Needless to say, they have studied impact injuries and degeneration intensely. I'm sure many player/docs get to diagnose their own issues. Then their teammate/docs fix it:-)
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Old 12-30-2006, 06:13 PM   #10
Fiona Muxlow
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Dave, i didn't mean to give the wrong impression, i have nothing against chiropracters.
I even still like Ryan Parsons after he gave me the worst black eye i have had in my life (stray elbow while grappling not during a treatment) three days before a big job interview :msn-wink:.
I have my own neck degeneration issues due to head butting a car while riding a bike a few years back:crutch00:.I know what a good job they can do.

Jonathan just asked if anyone had spinal fusion and i posted my coaches story for him. His was not a degeration problem, his neck basically got snapped, for him surgery was the only option.

Fiona


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