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Old 11-19-2013, 05:53 PM   #1
Tom Matusak
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Post ACDF advice

I'm 7 weeks out from 2 level ACDF surgery (C5-C7). I had an x ray taken last week and met with my surgeon today. Based on what he saw, as well as my overall progress so far, he set me free! He said there was no need for PT because of everything I've been doing on my own. I've been back in the gym for 3 weeks, doing machines mainly, running and cycling a couple days a week, walking 3 miles/day and doing a hell of alot of stretching and mobility work. The only issue I have is 24/7 spasms in my left side, pec, tricep, bicep and infraspinatus. This was present prior to surgery. I do self massage all day long, but everything tightens back up within minutes. My doctor stated that it isn't anything cervical or thorasic related and more than likely a muscular issue. Does anyone have any idea what could be causing this? Other than that, I feel great and am gaining strength back. There is no way that I think I am anywhere close to resuming Crossfit yet (I'm 52!)!!! But, I DO want to get back. I'm still a little leary of jumping back in to overhead lifts mainly. Any advice on a safe/realistic road back? Thanks!
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Old 11-19-2013, 06:54 PM   #2
Brian Strump
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Re: Post ACDF advice

What's ACDF surgery? My guess is cervical disc fusion.

As for the spasms, my guess based on what you has said is that those muscles are getting tight because they are compensating for some inhibited muscles in the neck, or shoulder girdle.

Just smashing them with a ball will continue to have the same result until you actually address the cause of the muscles spasming.


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Originally Posted by Tom Matusak View Post
I'm 7 weeks out from 2 level ACDF surgery (C5-C7). I had an x ray taken last week and met with my surgeon today. Based on what he saw, as well as my overall progress so far, he set me free! He said there was no need for PT because of everything I've been doing on my own. I've been back in the gym for 3 weeks, doing machines mainly, running and cycling a couple days a week, walking 3 miles/day and doing a hell of alot of stretching and mobility work. The only issue I have is 24/7 spasms in my left side, pec, tricep, bicep and infraspinatus. This was present prior to surgery. I do self massage all day long, but everything tightens back up within minutes. My doctor stated that it isn't anything cervical or thorasic related and more than likely a muscular issue. Does anyone have any idea what could be causing this? Other than that, I feel great and am gaining strength back. There is no way that I think I am anywhere close to resuming Crossfit yet (I'm 52!)!!! But, I DO want to get back. I'm still a little leary of jumping back in to overhead lifts mainly. Any advice on a safe/realistic road back? Thanks!
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Old 11-19-2013, 08:11 PM   #3
Zach Long
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Re: Post ACDF advice

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Originally Posted by Tom Matusak View Post
I'm 7 weeks out from 2 level ACDF surgery (C5-C7). I had an x ray taken last week and met with my surgeon today. Based on what he saw, as well as my overall progress so far, he set me free! He said there was no need for PT because of everything I've been doing on my own. I've been back in the gym for 3 weeks, doing machines mainly, running and cycling a couple days a week, walking 3 miles/day and doing a hell of alot of stretching and mobility work. The only issue I have is 24/7 spasms in my left side, pec, tricep, bicep and infraspinatus. This was present prior to surgery. I do self massage all day long, but everything tightens back up within minutes. My doctor stated that it isn't anything cervical or thorasic related and more than likely a muscular issue. Does anyone have any idea what could be causing this? Other than that, I feel great and am gaining strength back. There is no way that I think I am anywhere close to resuming Crossfit yet (I'm 52!)!!! But, I DO want to get back. I'm still a little leary of jumping back in to overhead lifts mainly. Any advice on a safe/realistic road back? Thanks!
Depending on your insurance you can probably go to PT without a doctor's prescription. In NC, state legislation allows for patients to come directly to us.

Have someone check you our for shoulder girdle/neck imbalance like Brian said and see if they can find the route cause of the spasms
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Old 11-20-2013, 02:59 AM   #4
Tom Matusak
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Re: Post ACDF advice

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Depending on your insurance you can probably go to PT without a doctor's prescription. In NC, state legislation allows for patients to come directly to us.

Have someone check you our for shoulder girdle/neck imbalance like Brian said and see if they can find the route cause of the spasms
I'm pretty sure the culprit is the infraspinatus. I was able to get the tip of a theracane on one of the trigger points. I held it there for a few minutes and could feel pain referring down my arm and in the front of my shoulder. But, it just spasms and won't release. My massage therapist had the same issue prior to surgery. Anything I can try on my own to get a release?
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Old 11-20-2013, 06:37 AM   #5
Brian Strump
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Re: Post ACDF advice

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Originally Posted by Tom Matusak View Post
I'm pretty sure the culprit is the infraspinatus. I was able to get the tip of a theracane on one of the trigger points. I held it there for a few minutes and could feel pain referring down my arm and in the front of my shoulder. But, it just spasms and won't release. My massage therapist had the same issue prior to surgery. Anything I can try on my own to get a release?
Your question should be be why is it keep coming back? Second question is; am I really on the infraspinatus. I'm not sure how familiar you are with the shoulder anatomy, but there's alot of stuff happening in that area.

My guess without seeing you(obviously) is that your neck has something to do with hit. It may not have prior to surgery, but after surgery will likely be a key factor that you are not addressing.
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Old 11-20-2013, 10:27 AM   #6
Steven Wingo
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Re: Post ACDF advice

Was there a traumatic event that led to disc injuries and the need for the ACDF (that is neurosurgeon lingo for anterior cervical discectomy with fusion by the way)?

The same thing that led to injured discs/compromised nerve roots may have injured other tissues in your neck which still need to be addressed. Even if the disc problems were just degenerative in nature, they got that way for a reason and soft tissue problems in the same area may be a cause or effect of that degeneration. Also, remember they are cutting muscles and ligaments (the anterior longitudinal ligament in particular) to be able to perform the ACDF, so further injury to soft tissue is caused by the surgery.

I'd recommend consulting a good chiropractor or a physiotherapist to see what they can find and recommend. There are things they can do to help figure out the problem and provide a remedy.

I hope the surgeon had explained to you that soft tissue problems would not go away due to the surgery. It is often a multi-disciplinary approach that is required to fix a wrecked neck. The ACDF can get rid of nerve pain, discogenic pain, and yes even some soft tissue pain by restricting movement, but in the end it is techniques other than surgery that you need to address the soft tissue problems.
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Old 11-20-2013, 05:17 PM   #7
Tom Matusak
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Re: Post ACDF advice

First off, I appreciate all the comments and advice!

Due to my age, sports history and lifestyle, I know there were some degenerative issues prior to my surgery. However, back in February I did a number on myself during a WOD. 5 rounds that included heavy deadlifts. On round 2, I got to the deadlifts and after my first rep, it felt like someone hit me in the back of the head with a club! I finished the WOD, but when I got home, i knew something was wrong. From that point until late July, I battled with shoulder blade pain, neck pain and constant tightness/spasms in my pecs and left arm. After 6 months of trying all types of professional help, I requested an MRI. The results led to the surgery.

The comments on neck issues are interesting. I'm doing a ton of neck stretches to relax the neck and traps, but the progress is very slow. I have decent range of motion now. But, my neck muscles feel like rocks and my traps are tight as hell. Alot of tightness in my left lats and rib cage. I can't seem to get them to relax.
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Old 11-20-2013, 06:18 PM   #8
Zach Long
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Re: Post ACDF advice

often times stretching a muscle won't get it to relax and can have the opposite effect. try doing ten reps side bending the neck or rotating it TOWARDS the painful side
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Old 11-20-2013, 07:56 PM   #9
Brian Strump
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Re: Post ACDF advice

Could be breathing issues, overcompensating diaphragm(it's a pretty important muscle too!) "Neck breathers" tend to use neck muscles, upper traps, scalenes, etc. to raise the rib cage, versus using the diaphragm to breather properly.

Also, just because a muscle is "tight" doesn't mean it needs to be stretched.
Muscles can be short and tight(think contracting a muscle), or long and tight; more likely a weak, under functioning muscle. Stretching the latter will not loosen anything up....it's already "stretched". Many times, those muscles need to be activated, or strengthened. Know the difference, or you're just guessing.

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Originally Posted by Tom Matusak View Post
First off, I appreciate all the comments and advice!

Due to my age, sports history and lifestyle, I know there were some degenerative issues prior to my surgery. However, back in February I did a number on myself during a WOD. 5 rounds that included heavy deadlifts. On round 2, I got to the deadlifts and after my first rep, it felt like someone hit me in the back of the head with a club! I finished the WOD, but when I got home, i knew something was wrong. From that point until late July, I battled with shoulder blade pain, neck pain and constant tightness/spasms in my pecs and left arm. After 6 months of trying all types of professional help, I requested an MRI. The results led to the surgery.

The comments on neck issues are interesting. I'm doing a ton of neck stretches to relax the neck and traps, but the progress is very slow. I have decent range of motion now. But, my neck muscles feel like rocks and my traps are tight as hell. Alot of tightness in my left lats and rib cage. I can't seem to get them to relax.
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Old 11-21-2013, 05:08 AM   #10
Tom Matusak
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Re: Post ACDF advice

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Could be breathing issues, overcompensating diaphragm(it's a pretty important muscle too!) "Neck breathers" tend to use neck muscles, upper traps, scalenes, etc. to raise the rib cage, versus using the diaphragm to breather properly.

Also, just because a muscle is "tight" doesn't mean it needs to be stretched.
Muscles can be short and tight(think contracting a muscle), or long and tight; more likely a weak, under functioning muscle. Stretching the latter will not loosen anything up....it's already "stretched". Many times, those muscles need to be activated, or strengthened. Know the difference, or you're just guessing.
Two questions; I see you are in Charlotte. Is there anyone in the Raleigh area that you would recommend that can help diagnose and treat? If not, what type of professional should I be looking for? Second, did you by any chance train Wil Johnson? I'm a born and bred Steeeler fan and know the story of how a Charlotee Crossfit box prepped him for his pro day.
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