C5-C6 Spinal Fusion: Ten Months Later

In September, 2012, I had a spinal fusion and laminectomy of the C5 and C6 vertebrae to resolve pain, a herniation and numbness in my hands. It's been several months since I've updated my progress and since there have been some developments of late, figured it is time to place it on the blog.


My pain has been greatly reduced. Prior to surgery, most days were around a 6 on a 1-10 pain scale, with the few months immediately preceding the fusion at regular 7, 8, or 9s for me-and I have a very high pain threshold. Now, I spend most days at a 2, some at 3 and a rare day at a 5 or above.

One thing that has gotten worse is back spasms. I have medication for them, but it makes me incredibly sleepy, so I do my best to avoid using it by using heat packs and stretching when I seem to be headed for one. Part of this is because I sit at my desk all day, then tend to sit doing schoolwork many nights. I'm waiting for a clearance for exercise, because I think it would be helpful to do some modified yoga.

Mobility and Flexibility:

I have pretty much learned that if I drop something, I cannot tilt my head to the side to see where it went. Basically, instead of leaning down and trying to grab a dropped pencil, I need to push my chair back and get on my knees and feel around for it.

Though it has always bothered Ed, I am a neck cracker. It is suspected that many of us with Chiari do this to relieve some of the pressure caused by the brain in what should be empty space. I do still have to crack, but it's different: I tend to bring my shoulders forward and up to crack the shoulders and a slight press on the top of my head while leaned to the left gives a little relief. The pop is different and I no longer can crack both sides-only the right. Yes-I know it's weird, but my physical therapist years ago told me if it helped, keep doing it.

I still get a knot in my right shoulder blade. It used to be lemon-sized, now it is equal to a grape.


There have been changes. I have experienced numbness in both hands, but the right hand has become much colder than the left and experiences many more episodes of twitchiness. Earlier this month, I mentioned that I appear to have developed RSD in this limb. Today, I had confirmation of that when I tried to play piano at Sam Ash.

Within a minute, the hand protested in the form of nerve pain, tingling, and numbness. In a couple of minutes, I had a frozen hand, too. Yes, this is most definitely RSD-and the bad part about this episode is that I'm still affected 8 hours later.

I'd been warned by others I know with RSD that any surgery can trigger a spread of RSD, even if yours is stable. So, I knew it was a possibility. Then factor in that my surgery was for neurological issues and RSD is a neurological disorder, my surgeon and I probably should have discussed this possibility more. I understand why we didn't-but if I need further neurological surgery, this will be the first topic of discussion.

That said, if I knew then what I know now, I would still do the surgery. My quality of life now as compared to a year ago is much better. I am not pain free, but I wasn't expecting that. My mobility is better, my pain is mostly better and I am able to get out and do more.

Next up is a visit to the neuor in the next few weeks to see what my options are for treating the RSD...


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