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Cervical spinal fusion?

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  • Cervical spinal fusion?

    It looks like I am going to end up having to get my neck operated on. This pain has been going on for well over a year and is seriously messing up my activity level. I guess degenerative disc disease isn't seen very often in the neck unless its as a result of trauma or repetitive concussion ie horseback riding. I was diagnosed with this is my lower back supposedly from riding horses while in my late teens, but it eventually fused itself and has been fine for 20 years or more. It doesn't sound like the wait and see if it fuses approach will work here but I am getting a 3rd opinion towards the end of the month.
    Is this really a riding thing? Are there lots of you that have problems with your neck as well? I did a search but the only thing that turned up was a fundraiser for a rider who was injured in a fall.
    McDowell Racing Stables

    Home Away From Home

  • #2
    Hiya Laurie. I have a couple doctors at Johns Hopkins wanting to do cervical fusion, possibly C1 and definitly C2-4, but I am trying alternative treatments. Sadly not much seems to work for me and it's been a few years of me dealing with this and all this time my riding activity has gone from a 6 day a week year round rider to someone who seems to only ride a few times a week in nice weather. I'm saddened and frustrated by it all and not sure what to do myself.

    I guess my point in writing this is to follow your story and beg for an update if you get the surgery done. Another reason I haven't gone through with it is because of the extensive recovery period. I really don't want to and can't afford to lose my job. I'd love to be able to talk to someone that has the surgery.

    Good luck with what you choose to do, I know it's a horrible situation to be in.
    Katie Ruppel & Yellow Rose Eventing *Website* & *Facebook*
    Email for Questions/Clinics/Sponsorship

    Comment

    • Original Poster

      #3
      Well they told me that I couldn't lift more than 5 pounds in each hand until it was fused which would be at least 3 months and possibly as much as six months. So I figure I could dump water buckets into the wheelbarrow and carry hay flakes at a time. I had pretty much made up my mind that if it was just a pain thing that I would continue to deal with it but they are already seeing abnormalities in my neuro exam ie reflexes and such and said that will just continue to get worse. I am having another MRI on Friday and then I go for a third opinion so we'll see. My initial reaction to hearing the news was to wait until the fall so I could ride during the nice weather, but in reality I can't ride very much as it is like you said so maybe its better to get it over with.
      McDowell Racing Stables

      Home Away From Home

      Comment


      • #4
        I have had both my thoracic and lumbar spine fused w/ metal rod implantation, and Im still riding. I was in a brace for a year. Just from that experience, I dont think I would want to be doing any barn chores after surgery if I were you, esp not buckets and such. Not so much because of pain, but it takes a good year for your fusion to be solid and you wouldnt want to mess that up from lifting and such. Regarding the pain issue, the pain management is excellant these days and really wasnt much of a problem for me. I would definately get a 2nd or even 3rd opinion before I went ahead with surgery though. Good luck!

        Comment


        • #5
          C5-6-7 fused

          Last March I had a Cervical Discectomy with fusion at C5-6-7 with a plate and screws. Previously The pain was horrible, left arm was practically useless and was starting to feel tingling in my left leg. The surgery was the easy part. Pain was diminished by 80%, had use of my arm.
          Post Op first few weeks couldnt lift any thing more that 10# and no riding for 3 months, no jumping for 1 year (it takes one year for the bone to completely fuse ). I was cleaning stalls (only have 1 horse right now) at about 3 weeks which I probaly shouldnt have done.

          At 1 year post op I am riding and looking forward to jumping next month. I am VERY carefull about how much I lift. I try not to lift more than 25# or so, otherwise my neck aches. You just have to be more cautious when doing lifting and twisting.

          I didnt have a choice on weather or not to do surgery because one of my discs was ruptured and the other was on its way, but am very pleased with the outcome.

          PM me if you need nore info
          Good Luck
          Pam
          Matinee Idol "BeeJay" Dressagemeister Imperial Gem "Ruby" Farewell my friend, forever in my Heart.

          Comment

          • Original Poster

            #6
            Immigene, did they attribute your neck problem to riding? I guess it really doesn't matter what the cause was but I am thinking if riding really caused this and I continue to ride afterwards, where is that concussion going to go next?
            I train race horses, or at least I try to, I woke up with severe pain at 4:15 this morning and ended up having to take so many meds that I couldn't drive to the track. Race training causes concussion on a horse's body, mainly the forelegs. That concussion eventually takes its toll on that horse's weakest link, usually knees or ankles but could be cannon bone or foot. Using this analogy my neck is apparently my weakest link. Where will it go once its fixed?
            McDowell Racing Stables

            Home Away From Home

            Comment


            • #7
              There's a bigger question involved in any spinal fusion. What are the risks of NOT having the surgery? What is your chance that your problem will progress to the point that you cannot function either because of pain or because of paralysis? That's the real question. TranS1

              Comment

              • Original Poster

                #8
                Originally posted by jeffreyfrog View Post
                There's a bigger question involved in any spinal fusion. What are the risks of NOT having the surgery? What is your chance that your problem will progress to the point that you cannot function either because of pain or because of paralysis? That's the real question. TranS1
                That is another very good question. Your link is irrelevant though as its can not be used on the cervical spine. I hope that wasn't a spam attempt.
                McDowell Racing Stables

                Home Away From Home

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by the_other_mother View Post
                  I have had both my thoracic and lumbar spine fused w/ metal rod implantation, and Im still riding. I was in a brace for a year. Just from that experience, I dont think I would want to be doing any barn chores after surgery if I were you, esp not buckets and such. Not so much because of pain, but it takes a good year for your fusion to be solid and you wouldnt want to mess that up from lifting and such. Regarding the pain issue, the pain management is excellant these days and really wasnt much of a problem for me. I would definately get a 2nd or even 3rd opinion before I went ahead with surgery though. Good luck!
                  Not to hijack, but my daughter is looking at fusion of T11 -> L3. We are still at the point of this info sinking in. Would you mind lending some insight to this surgery. I will PM if you agree.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    I am dealing with the same thing, but C3-C6. I went from being a professional to hacking a horse now and then and no jumping since my car accident. Latest MRI showed dessicated disks and advanced DJD (no arthritis at all in the MRI right after my accident, Dr compared latest MRI to an arthritic 70-year-old ). I was told it might be a year until it fused on its own, and opted not to have fusion surgery. Three to six months? Personally I'd wait. The surgery is not without risk, and I would imagine the down time after surgery would be even longer than the time for it to fuse naturally. I can totally relate - it really sucks!

                    My issue is, I can't just stop lifting buckets/hay/etc. I own a farm with 22 horses and cannot afford enough outside assistance to stop working myself, so if I don't do it, who will? I stopped riding because my hands could literally not grip the reins after 15 minutes or so. Not long after my accident, I tried showing 3 horses in one day, and the next day I couldn't even make it out of bed. It took me a while to accept the fact that it was riding/jumping that was causing the pain and making the neuro symptoms worse; since I stopped riding I have been relatively pain-free unless I do a lot of lifting. My sympathies to everyone else who is going through this.
                    Ristra Ranch Equestrian Jewelry

                    Comment

                    • Original Poster

                      #11
                      This has been going on well over a year and it hasn't fused naturally yet. Maybe the new MRI will show it is getting close to fusing and then I can wait out the last part of it. I know 3-6 months sucks but the way it is now could last forever and that would be even worse. Here's hoping the MRI brings good news!
                      McDowell Racing Stables

                      Home Away From Home

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Not riding related

                        Laurierace...My neck issues were not stemmed from riding at all. My neurosurgeon told me it was lifting to a large extent. I'm a Licensed Veterinarian Tech and I used to lift large squirmy dogs all the time. After 30 years of that my neck took the brunt. I know it seems like a long time to be out of riding but it really goes remarkably fast.

                        Although heavy water buckets and wheelbarrows are not a good thing for the first 6 months or so. The NS also told me if I waited too long my leg function and bladder control would be an issue. I'm 50 years old and dont need any more bladder control issues

                        Once the vertrebrae are fused they will be stronger then the ones above and below the fusion. You just have to be mind full of that because you can injure them more easily.

                        Honestly when I ride I dont have any pain at all. Its more looking over my shoulder type movement that bothers me.

                        Hope this helps

                        Pam
                        Matinee Idol "BeeJay" Dressagemeister Imperial Gem "Ruby" Farewell my friend, forever in my Heart.

                        Comment

                        • Original Poster

                          #13
                          Well I went for a second opinion and like this doctor/practice a lot better than the first so we'll switch to him for now anyway. He did not want to jump straight to surgery and is instead prescribing 2 months of physical therapy as well as injections into the affected area.
                          Surgery I can deal with because I would be asleep. The idea of them sticking needles into my spine while I am awake scares the life out of me! Have any of you had these? Can you walk me through the process? They did say I can't eat or drink for 6 hours ahead of time and need someone to drive me home which leads me to believe there will be some sort of anesthesia involved. I hope that is correct. I told them before we inject horse's joints we tranq the crap out of them so they don't kill us and they may want to take that strategy in my case.
                          This whole thing is sort of weird because I have found it I do nothing as in sit on my ass all day long my neck doesn't hurt at all. Yesterday I had my first therapy session and they asked me how much my neck was hurting and I said not at all. She looked at me like you're cured, go home, but I told her doing nothing for the rest of my life isn't a pain management strategy I am willing to accept. Then I went to the barn and rode so they next time she asks me I can say it hurts like hell....
                          McDowell Racing Stables

                          Home Away From Home

                          Comment

                          • Original Poster

                            #14
                            Ok I am answering my own question but thought I would share the information I found in case there are others suffering the same problem as I am.

                            http://www.spine-health.com/video/ce...njection-video
                            McDowell Racing Stables

                            Home Away From Home

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Going through the same thing

                              Laurierace - my heart goes out to you as I have been facing many of the same problems and decisions recently. I wrote a really, really long reply detailing my experiences and the specifics of the epidural steroid injections (which were amazingly, magically helpful for me, by the way), but this seems to have gotten lost when the COTH system timed me out. I do not have the energy to rewrite it (neck is bothered by computer work!) but I would be happy to tell you all about the neck injections if you like. I think you are on the right track by exploring the non-surgical options first. This is also my approach. I strongly recommend that you do this under the care of a physiatrist, an MD specializing in rehabilitation medicine and pain management. They have many tricks up their sleeve, but will also be quick to say if/when surgery is your best option. These are the only people I would allow to do the injections, and you should also check that they do the injections under fluoroscopic guidance. Very important! The surgery is tempting because it seems to offer a one-shot solution to your pain and loss of full function, BUT the surgeons are rarely forthcoming about the fact that lots of people are not in fact helped, and many end up worse off. If you do go for the surgery, the restrictions on lifting and such afterward MUST be strictly observed; you are totally f**d if the vertebrae do not fuse properly. Please do not take any chances with that, even if it seems your profession doesn't give you a choice.

                              I wouldn't worry too much about what caused the problem, as you may never know. Contrary to your original posting, a large percentage of people with cervical disc disease and arthritis in their necks have never injured their necks. This is the case for me - although I had about a million horse-related injuries before I became a vet (wipeouts while breaking babies, galloping crazies on the track, flips in the gate, etc.), to the best of my knowledge I never specifically injured my neck. My symptoms did not come on abruptly in concert with an injury, but gradually over the last 10 years or so, getting much worse in the last couple of years. I think the important thing is finding a way to reduce pain, maximize your quality of life, and stay as active as possible. This is very important for preventing the neck problem from getting worse! If there is anything I can do to help, please just say the word!

                              Take care,
                              Christie in MN

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                Originally posted by Laurierace View Post
                                Ok I am answering my own question but thought I would share the information I found in case there are others suffering the same problem as I am.

                                http://www.spine-health.com/video/ce...njection-video
                                Thank you for this very informative site!!!!

                                Comment

                                • Original Poster

                                  #17
                                  I thought I was having the epidural injections on Friday but I was wrong. I had something called a facet block or something along those lines. It wasn't comfortable by any stretch but wasn't awful either. So far it has been absolutely miraculous. I had forgotten what pain free actually felt like. I had my physical therapy today and am starting to have little twinges of pain in that same area. I hope its just muscle soreness and not an indication that the effects are wearing off already.
                                  I am going back in two weeks to have the epidural done. They said if I am pain free at that time I can just cancel the appointment. One can hope....
                                  McDowell Racing Stables

                                  Home Away From Home

                                  Comment


                                  • #18
                                    Happy your feeling better

                                    Laurierace, I so glad the injections helped you. I didnt have any choice in the matter since one of my discs had totally ruptured and was pressing on my spinal cord. I'm jingling for you, that the injections is all you need.

                                    I totally agaree with Visorvet. You may never know exactly put you over the top. I dont know exactly what triggered mine, but my guess is lifting. I think is very important not to lift at all if you possibly can The worst part is feeling so helpless and unable to do the things you need to i.e. Cleaning stalls, water buckets etc.

                                    If you have any questions at all, dont hesitate to ask

                                    Good luck

                                    Pam
                                    Matinee Idol "BeeJay" Dressagemeister Imperial Gem "Ruby" Farewell my friend, forever in my Heart.

                                    Comment


                                    • #19
                                      I know a microscopist who had to have a neck fusion surgery. She's quite tall and the constant bent position of her neck caused the problem.

                                      I haven't seen her for years but the last time I saw her she was over a year post op and doing very well. No pain at all at that time.
                                      "Some people are born on third base and go through life thinking they hit a triple” – Barry Switzer

                                      Comment


                                      • #20
                                        Facet blocks

                                        The facet blocks (medial branch block) do not last very long, as their purpose is primarily diagnostic rather than therapeutic - just like a nerve block performed as part of a lameness exam. The goal of the block is to determine whether a significant portion of your pain arises from the facet joints between the vertebrae. If the block relieves your pain, and especially if they can demonstrate this over and over with several blocks, a "nerve burn" procedure to may be warranted to provide longer-term relief. For more info on that procedure, which is also done with a needle in the doctor's office (e.g. not a surgery), go to the Spine-Health website you linked to earlier and search on the terms "radiofrequency rhizotomy" and "radiofrequency neurotomy". These nerves don't serve much useful purpose aside from carrying pain signals from the facets, so frying them can provide pain relief for a year or more until the fibers regenerate. Basically a long-term block, and it can be repeated when the effects wear off. The fact that the block essentially eliminated your pain seems to suggest that the facets are your major source of pain, so perhaps that procedure will be helpful for you! I am getting the same kind of block later this month, and hope that my response is as good as yours. Take care.

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