Herniated c5-c6 disk. You had surgery. How did it go?
November 3, 2015 7:13 PM   Subscribe

The run-down: * 45 yo male. Very active (hiking, basketball, lifting weights). I AM HIGHLY DETERMINED TO CONTINUE THIS LIFESTYLE. * Bulge is off to the right. Some numbness and tingling in right arm * Mostly continuous pain. I've dealt with the for a year or so. PT helped at first, but the problem has gotten worse.

I've seen a Neurosurgeon who seems very competent. We discussed fusion, disk replacement and "minimally invasive micro-discectomy."

If you had this or something similar, can you let me know how it went? Results, recovery time, etc. etc. I'd really appreciate it.
posted by Alaska Jack to Health & Fitness (4 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I had a fusion c5-c6-c7-c8. Very happy with the results. I was pain free within a day or two. Numbness took a few months and I still occasionally have some tingling in my fingers. I was in a pretty rigid neck brace for several or three weeks. Recovery from surgery took longer than I expected, but that is my fault in that my expectations were miss informed.

I play softball, ice hockey, basketball and ride my bike. My biggest issue is turning my head to reverse out of a parking spot.

My big fear and the leading reason I had the fusion was that between my doctor, my best friend growing up the neurosurgeon and what I read, I was concerned that the loss of strength in my right arm might become permanent if I did not take action.

Sleeping on my side can, sometimes, excuse the pun, be a pain in my neck. Went in through the front and the scar is along a line in my neck anyway so it is not noticeable at all. I am in my early 50s. Was 49 or 50 when I had the procedure. I have no restrictions on what I am allowed to do which is why I play hockey. I am not sure if I was a weightlifter if I could still do it, but I also do not see why not.
posted by AugustWest at 10:27 PM on November 3, 2015

Best answer: Pasting my memail response here for posterity's sake.

I had a herniation at C6/7 from getting hit by a car. 2 surgeons told me I needed a fusion, but luckily I found a 3rd who still performs the microdiscectomy surgery. He didn't consider a fusion to be a good course because of my age (early 30s) and the fact that I still had enough disc material left to leave a "healthy" space between my vertebrae. Also, the location of the herniated material was mostly central and to the rear which made the discectomy easier

Apparently fusion is just the default because it's an easier surgery. And my surgeon was in an accident that required a fusion when he was in his 20s--so he doesn't consider them to be the best answer for all patients

The trade off is that they have to cut thru the muscles in the back of your neck--so the short term recovery is painful while the muscles heal. But I imagine it has nothing on a fusion. I was back working (desk job) in a week

My dad had the same surgery 25 years ago, which also influenced my decision. Some of the disc material damaged nerves in his arm, so he has a swath of skin all the way down the top of his arm that has no sensation. Nerves are weird.

My main issue that I'm still dealing with is muscle weakness / loss of feedback (part of my triceps) from nerve damage. But I'm working on regaining that with targeted weight lifting. I doubt I'd even notice if I didn't study a martial art--I can tell the difference when switching from right to left on some techniques

The nerve pain I had pre-surgery is completely gone (like I was holding an ice cube in my left hand, and sometimes like I had a hot bolt of metal in my shoulder blade). Haven't felt any of that since April 2014

I'm even back doing martial arts. My back muscles are still touchy and prone to spasm if I'm not careful, but I already had issues with that before the accident

P.S. Look up muscle trigger points, too. Self massage has helped me tremendously with the muscle pain issues that come along with the disc problems

P.P.S. Another reason I didn't want the fusion is the loss of flexibility, and also the added risk of transferring the stress to the discs above and below the fusion. I also had a bulging disc at C5/6 that I imagine wouldn't take long to herniate after C6/7 was fused.
posted by tace at 9:15 AM on November 4, 2015

Best answer: I'm about seven weeks out from a microdiscectomy in the lumbar regions, and spent about two solid months agonising over the decision. First NS suggested a fusion, but for me that was just too invasive to consider. Recovery time is months, and as someone who is similarly active (but in their mid 30's) I didn't want to wait that long to return to my lifestyle.

Full recovery is still months with a microdiscectomy, and fusion is very much a last resort for me and many other spinal surgery candidates, particularly for the points that Tace made above.

I would suggest checking out the spine-health forums and ensuring you get multiple opinions from various Neurosurgeons.

Also, take everything you read on the internet *especially* around this subject with a grain of salt. It took me a long time to realise the truth in this - but the majority of people who have spinal surgery are not posting success stories on the internet.

That said, I feel my procedure was a roaring success, and so glad I had it done and that it's not behind me. Good luck!
posted by LongDrive at 2:50 AM on November 5, 2015

Response by poster: Thank you everyone. For posterity, I'm going to write what happened, in case it helps anyone.

I'd gone to an ortho who looked at my scans and said my options were fusion, and disk replacement.

Strictly because it seemed like a good idea, I then took my scans to a Neurosurgeon. He seemed very competent, and in addition to the previous two options, talked about a minimally invasive micro-discectomy. I asked him, based on my scans, what he recommended, and said the latter. I ended up going with him for surgery, and accepting his recommendation for the Micro-D.

That was about two weeks ago, and the operation has been very much a success. My neck was sore at the incision point for about a week, but I could tell as soon as I woke up that the nerve pain was gone.

Due to pain, I had been living an almost entirely couchbound existence. I am happy to report that I am getting my life back. I am starting to do neck exercises, and will be gradually easing back into my overall fitness routine.

Hope this helps someone!
posted by Alaska Jack at 4:52 PM on December 4, 2015 [3 favorites]

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