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  1. #1
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    Cervical Fusion Recovery TImes?

    I had a C5-C6-C7 cervical fusion on Monday. For those of you who think this has something to do with female anatomy, it doesn't! I had two ruptured disks in my spine pressing against the nerve roots, causing numbness and pain.

    I went to Moab two weeks ago and had a great time. I never fell, never had any hard hits at all. I drove back straight through on Sunday night (alone), and Monday morning I woke to what I thought was a stiff neck. It gradually got worse, and long story short, I lost all tricep strength in my left arm, had numb fingers in my left hand, and had so much pain I couldn't stand it. I muddled through the week, had a massage, and finally couldn't take the pain.

    I went to the ER, thinking I might be having a heart attack. They ruled out the heart and did an MRI and I was immediately recommended for surgery to remove the offending disks and fuse my spine together in my neck! WTF??? I freaked and decided to get a second and third opinion. The opinions kept getting more pessimistic, and the pain and numbness kept getting worse. I finally scheduled surgery last Friday, and had it Monday AM. Trust me, there are few people more averse to surgery than I, due to a staph infection I had from one ten years ago, but this was too far gone for therapy.

    The surgery consists of cutting open your neck from the front, dissecting out the bad disks, putting solid spacers in place of the disks, and using a permanent titanium plate to hold it in place while the spine fuses together. They have some very recently approved replacement disks, but I didn't feel like using my spine for a beta test of someone's bright idea.

    Yes, it hurts right now.

    So in the span of a little over two weeks I have gone from Porcupine Rim to the couch.

    I get completely conflicting readings about when I can ride again. The surgeon says six weeks and I can be doing easy road riding, three months for MTB. His assistant says three months for road riding ,six months for MTB. One of the docs I went to before surgery said he wouldn't ride MTB for a year!!!! I also am looking for someone who can tell me how the limited range of motion has affected their riding, and everything else.

    As tempting as it is to go with the three month number, I'm trying to find people who have had this kind of surgery who were aggressive mountain bikers to see how long they waited. Six months blows the whole season, and that, well, blows.

    As for how this happened? No one can say. I have worked at computer terminals for almost 30 years, so that is definitely a factor. I probably injured my neck sometime in the past, and either driving six hours in a bad position, or sleeping on it poorly when I got home was the final straw.

  2. #2
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    Bummer

    Sorry to hear about your neck problems. It sounds like having surgery was the prudent thing to do. It seems that your surgery was pretty complex, and it would be wise to err on the conservative side regarding return to mountain biking. It takes time for bone healing to ensure a good fixation of the fusion hardware. The potential for crashing and disrupting the hardware is probably higher if the bone is not completely healed. I would not ride until the surgeon says ok, based on xrays that show adequate healing. Another thing to consider is your position on the bike. A more upright position will put less stress on your neck. A friend of mine had a similar surgery and eventually decided that a recumbant bike was best for his neck. It might be a good idea to consult a physical therapist who rides and is an experienced bike fitter. GOOD LUCK!

  3. #3
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    Cervical Spine Fusion - Two Weeks Later

    I am going to use this thread like a diary to help anyone else who may go through cervical fusion in the future. There are 150,000 of these done a year, so someone else on here will need this someday.

    I went to the doctor today. My C5-C6-C7 fusion surgery was 15 days ago. He said everything is looking good, and now I start physical therapy next week.

    The first week was hell. Little sleep, lots of pain. Gradually, I have been sleeping and moving a little more each day. I have pretty severe pain and numbness in my left arm when I extend it. This is supposed to disappear over time. I have a soft collar I wear when driving or walking around. Today, I was given a "PEMF" collar. This is a Pulsed Electro Magnetic Field collar. Really. Talk about wacky stuff. I am supposed to wear it for four hours a day for three to six months to enhance the fusion of the vertebrae by pulsing an electromagnetic field into the spine.

    I work a desk job, and I am going back to work next week. The doctor said I can ride a stationary trainer at six weeks, and a road bike when I feel like it after that. MTB is three months at the earliest. They would like to see the bone fusion begin before I start riding anything aggressively. That can take anywhere from 3 to 9 months. They use X-Rays to determine the fusion.

    I am walking 2-3 miles a day. I also saw an acupuncture doc and am going to have weekly treatments there. Anything to get back to something like normal.

    I can't lift more than 20 pounds for three months. 10 pounds over my head. Talk about muscle atrophy. I just have to live with this aspect. Of course, with this restriction, any kind of climbing on the bike will be next to impossible, even if I am on it before then.

    I am cleared to hike as much as I want/can tolerate. That will be most of my summer exercise I guess.

  4. #4
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    Almost 4 weeks....

    I want to continue this thread to help anyone in the future who might have the same surgery.

    I am two days short of four weeks since my surgery. The past week I made good progress. Much less pain and numbness in my left arm, and I am sleeping much better. No pain meds at all. I think I did take one Tylenol this week. I still pretty much sleep flat on my back. I wear the soft collar while working at the PC, and while driving.

    I still fatigue easily. I started back to work half time this week, and will go full time next week. It is amazing how tired you can get from sitting in front of a screen all day.

    I started physical therapy this week. They did an eval, said I was doing great, and gave me some simple exercises. The goals will be to regain upper body strength and work on posture. Talk about stick arms.

    One weird fallout from the surgery is when I have my neck in a stretched position with my chin out, I can feel the titanium plate pushing against the back of my throat. I have to be careful or the plate will wear through my esophagus. That would suck.

    I am looking at possibly doing some short, easy road riding beginning in July, which would be six weeks. I will have to be really upright. I doubt I will ever be able to ride a road bike in a normal position again.

    Mountain biking is a long way off.

  5. #5
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    Seven Weeks...

    Today it has been seven weeks since my fusion.

    I have much more motion than I had a few weeks ago. I would say 70% of what I used to have, which means about 90% of what I am going to end up with.

    I can now sleep on my side, and I generally sleep all night. If I sleep in a jacked up position, I pay for it the next day. I have to be careful about the exact position of my neck while sleeping.

    PT has been progressing with various stretching exercises and a little very low resistance Theraband (big rubber bands). I still cannot lift anything. As soon as I pick up something over about 10 pounds, my neck screams. I only wear my soft collar occasionally when I drive now. I did wear it all the way to Moab and back (6 hours each way) this weekend.

    I have done four very easy bikes rides. MTB on bike path, five miles or so. I can't tilt my head to look forward unless my torso is very upright. I also can't strain or climb. Getting back to where I can ride with any kind of intensity, even on the road, is going to take at least another six to eight weeks. The couple of times I have jogged a little (like scooting across an intersection on foot, for example), it has hurt very badly. I won't be able to run at any intensity for months.

    I am working my desk job full time. I still get fatigued more easily than I am used to, a combination of healing and just being out of shape.

  6. #6
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    One Year Ago Today

    My surgery was one year ago today. I am posting to give other people who might have this surgery a little more hope.

    Immediately after my surgery, I felt like my mountain biking was done for a long time. I was off the bike pretty much until fall. I did some riding, but any jostling was painful. My PT and acupuncture helped.

    I basically rode weenie trails and the road bike, no more than two hours, through the winter, about once a week. Starting in January, I also started riding the velodrome in Boulder, which was a huge step up for me. The head position was tough, but I found at that point that the harder I worked it, the faster I progressed. I also did quite a bit of downhill skiing, right up to last weekend.

    Now, one year later, I am ready to go unlimited. I'm signed up for Leadville, and progressing toward that. I'm tuning up the DH bikes, and I plan on doing more of that this year. I'm not holding back. I can't give up what I like to do just because of the possibility I might hurt myself again. I might hurt myself driving to work, or walking down the stairs, too.

    The doctor says I'm free to do whatever, but minimize running. I am a little bummed out about that, because I always wanted to do a marathon, but maybe I'll just walk one...enough people do that these days, right?

    Anyone with the same issue, feel free to PM me for support. Ironically, a coworker had the exact same surgery in February, but only one level. This is not as uncommon as I thought.

  7. #7
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    My uncle had this surgery around 10 years ago. The doctors screwed him up though. They somehow made the mistake of severing the nerve endings going to his legs and now he cant stand or walk for long periods of time and he is in pain pretty much all the time. Im glad you were able to make a recovery!

  8. #8
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    Honkinunit,

    Your story has given me a tremendous boost of hope.

    I have had two fusions. The first was due to a herniated disc at C5/C6. The surgery was in 1992 and employed a bone graft. I actually began mtn biking a few months later to stay in shape. I had absolutely no issues with my fusion from cycling and mtn biking eventually became the center of my universe and I couldn't imagine a life without a mtn bike.

    On November 6, 2008, I broke my neck while going through an inflatable obstacle course. My head snapped foward upon landing after jumping over a wall, which caused C4 to disengage from C5 (it shifted foward 8mm). This movement bruised the nerve that goes to my right deltoid/bicep area. My Dr says that I was extremely fortunate because he has seen similar injuries that resulted in permanent nerve damage and paralysis.

    Unlike the first fusion, which was anterior, this one was posterior. Now, C4 has joined C5 and C6 as a single unit by 2 rods and 6 screws. My Dr does not recommend any type of offroad riding at all, ever! This was devastating news.

    I am now nearly 8 months post surgery. I began hiking once a week up to 6 miles each hike in March. In May I begain doing road rides on my mtn bike and have ridden nearly 75 miles total. I installed a longer travel fork, shorter and taller stem, and high-rise bar to help get me in a more upright position. I know that I will return to the dirt someday, but I have committed to myself and family to avoid any offroad riding until the Spring of 2010.

    Thanks again for your story and updates. It is great therapy to hear from other mtn bikers that have lived through this to ride again.

    Rich

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by honkinunit
    Today it has been seven weeks since my fusion.

    I have much more motion than I had a few weeks ago. I would say 70% of what I used to have, which means about 90% of what I am going to end up with.

    I can now sleep on my side, and I generally sleep all night. If I sleep in a jacked up position, I pay for it the next day. I have to be careful about the exact position of my neck while sleeping.

    PT has been progressing with various stretching exercises and a little very low resistance Theraband (big rubber bands). I still cannot lift anything. As soon as I pick up something over about 10 pounds, my neck screams. I only wear my soft collar occasionally when I drive now. I did wear it all the way to Moab and back (6 hours each way) this weekend.

    I have done four very easy bikes rides. MTB on bike path, five miles or so. I can't tilt my head to look forward unless my torso is very upright. I also can't strain or climb. Getting back to where I can ride with any kind of intensity, even on the road, is going to take at least another six to eight weeks. The couple of times I have jogged a little (like scooting across an intersection on foot, for example), it has hurt very badly. I won't be able to run at any intensity for months.

    I am working my desk job full time. I still get fatigued more easily than I am used to, a combination of healing and just being out of shape.
    Do you still wear the collar sometimes,and how long did you wear the collar after surgery,and Have you rode with the collar on? My fusion was done on June 2nd and the Collar they gave me is a Babe magnet
    My oem parts 14 screws 3 plates and two hip replacement.I hope that's enough upgrades.

  10. #10
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    I win!!

    Actually I wish I didn't win...

    eatcake and spongstick hopefully all is well. As you can see form my lovely xrays I have been down that road and then some but I wanted to mention something specific to be aware of. In April 2006 I endoed and landed flush on the top of my helmet (somehow ) which resulted in 2 dislocated vertebrae and a small crack in a third plus a nice learjet ride from Moab back to Denver.

    The first surgery was a posterior fusion from c5 to t2 and I should have been all good but the docs put me in an Aspen collar after the surgery and said wear it all the time which I did religiously. What I didn't realize for a couple of months afterwards was that the dang collar was actually a little small for me and had my head resting forward a bit so 2 of the vertebrae actually healed at the wrong angle with 2 screws pulling out of the bone just a bit. Unfortunately I rolled for 2 years with head and neck in a forward position that was quite uncomfortable and really jacked up the rest of my back.

    So anyway I found a surgeon who said she could get me back to a more normal spine shape (seriously) but she had to do it by performing 4 wedge osteotomies and cranking a bunch of vertebrae back a few degrees at each level and locking it all down with those screws. I'm sure you guys are probably fine by now or you would definitely know but be aware that the damn hardware does pull out sometimes and cause significant issues.

    Sort of an understatement I guess...
    Attached Images Attached Images
    Last edited by bulletbob; 07-01-2009 at 02:05 PM. Reason: hopefully that image isn't quite as large...
    Sorry what?

  11. #11
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    Holy Sh*t! That is a lot of hardware in there! Mine looks just like the outer six screws in the upper neck area.

    Thanks for the information. Although my Dr and PT says that everything is solid, I do see the Dr every six months to check the hardware in my neck. He also wants an annual MRI to catch any future problems early.

  12. #12
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    Couple of follow-up questions:

    What is your range of motion (side-to-side, up and down, etc)?

    Do you still ride?

  13. #13
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    These questions were for bulletbob.

  14. #14
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    yea mostly ok...

    Howdy Fellas,

    Yes I am biking a lot now although I've still had some back muscle issues since the whopper surgery in November when the doc put in all that posterior hardware. My last followup visit was in April and the doc said it would probably take several months for all the back muscles to figure what they're supposed to be doing now that they reshaped my spine, basically muscles that weren't working before have to be working now and a few that were working don't really have much to do now that the spine is mostly immobile in some areas.

    I don't mtn. bike as much anymore partly because my friends aren't as much either but I'm a wee bit punchy on rocky trails anymore so I get off and walk some sections that I never thought twice about in the past. I have been riding a lot on the road bike to get back in shape and get stronger on both bikes, in fact, I did the MS150 last weekend and think I rode about 400 miles in June. The only significant annoyance I have are the sub-occipital muscles up the back of my head sometimes give me a headache after being on the bike for several hours but I can knock it out with acetaminophen. By the way did your docs tell you not to take ibuprofen and stick with acetaminophen only?? I had 2 surgeons at 2 different hospitals tell me that.

    I definitely have lost maybe 20% side to side range of motion and maybe 25-30 looking down as well. I have to either hold my shirt up or check the mirror tro see if I dribbled food on it sometimes (haha). The important part for me is that I can hold my head up for an extended period and actually see out from under my helmet visor now!

    By the way sorry that image was so big, it's darn near lifesize!
    Sorry what?

  15. #15
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    I hear you about the muscle pain. I can only be on the bike of 1.5 to 2 hours before my neck pain becomes uncomfortable. I had severe muscle atrophy on my right side from my neck to my bicep due to nerve damage. My bicep and deltoid have recovered to about 90%. There is still a significant difference between left and right trapezius muscles, which is the source of pain. The fact that it hurts after each ride tells me that I am working it, so it should recover with each ride as long as I don't over do it.

    I am amazed that you are back on the bike so soon. Your surgery was about the same time as mine and I can only ride about 20 miles at a time.

    Regarding the ibuprofen vs acetaminophen, I don't take ibuprofen due to allergies so it was never an issue.

  16. #16
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    I'm having a C5-T1 three level fusion next week. My doc says that I should be back to normal in about 3 weeks and should be back to biking in 4 weeks. I''ve talked to a couple of his patients and all of them have had zero issues and been pain free within 2 weeks. I'm really looking forward to being able bike again. I've been fighting pain for the last year while biking but kept putting the surgery off.

  17. #17
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    Voodoosix,

    That's great news that you will be back on the bike so soon. What is the reason for the fusion?

  18. #18
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    Back in November of 2006, I crashed striking a tree. The impact on the top of my head ruptured 3 discs and paralyzed me from the neck down for about an hour. After a few months of neuropathy, i was able to start riding again and I've been riding, but the pain has recently gotten worse and the doc says with my cord compressed as much as it is, one wrong fall would end it for me. I've been riding in a high risk condition for a while and I think now it's time to fix it.

  19. #19
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    excellent!

    Quote Originally Posted by Voodoosix
    I'm having a C5-T1 three level fusion next week. My doc says that I should be back to normal in about 3 weeks and should be back to biking in 4 weeks. I''ve talked to a couple of his patients and all of them have had zero issues and been pain free within 2 weeks. I'm really looking forward to being able bike again. I've been fighting pain for the last year while biking but kept putting the surgery off.
    You'll be in good shape I'm sure! I'm not sure whether you'll actually feel that good that quickly or not but really even I was in decent shape after my first surgery, it was just the screws that moved later in my recovery where things went off track.

    Actually I can't believe you were riding like that but your mileage may vary

    That paralysis you mentioned scares the hell out of me just reading about it!! When I crashed my hands and forearms went numb for a few minutes which is mostly how I knew something unpleasant happened... That and the pain from the cracked vertebrae between my shoulders.

    Good luck!
    Sorry what?

  20. #20
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    I had my surgery yesterday. I was extremely nervous as this was my first surgery. I'm amazed at how good I feel. All of my numbness and pain in my hands and lower legs is gone. I have some minor pain around the incision site and some muscle pain around the neck shoulders and chest but other than that I feel good. I left the hospital at 9am, went by Target, grocery shopped and got my meds filled. Now I'm kicking back at home waiting for it to get worse. So far though its been a walk in the park. I'll keep updating here.

  21. #21
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    Damn dude don't get to racy yet!! Seriously! Trust me!

    It's great that all that weird numbness and pain is gone, it's pretty frustrating to have things you can do anything about!!

    Heal quick!
    Sorry what?

  22. #22
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    Another update. I've been downhilling, racing short track, riding a lot. I've crashed a few times with no issues. I'm riding until I can't.

    At this point, sleeping is more of a problem than riding. I still get screwed up sometimes overnight and have a sore neck in the morning.

    Yes, you 'win', bulletbob. Yikes.

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    I had my post surgical checkup appointment today. Doc says the neck looks good and cleared me to ride or do whatever else I want. I'm pretty much pain free now. I can't believe that I had spinal fusion surgery just 1 week ago and already feel like I did before I got hurt. I am planning to do some cross country racing starting in August. I asked the doc if I should hold off on it and he said if I feel like I can do it, it's okay. He says my neck is far stronger now than it was before the surgery so "hop to it".



  24. #24
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    is it me or does it say yeti on the last x-ray

  25. #25
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    LOL..yep it does..its photochopped...

  26. #26
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    Ah yea I didn't know you were having an anterior fusion.

    It's pretty amazing how many of those are being done on people with assorted disc issues and how much it helps relieve the pain.

    Great to hear you are doing so well!
    Sorry what?

  27. #27
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    Voodoosix - I had the exact same surgery (shifted one level down) a week and a half ago. I can't believe you are ready for full activity already. My body still has a way to go as the anesthesia really wiped me out (7 hr surgery!). My first post op is at two weeks. Ill see what the doc says I can do. I just want to get back to work.

  28. #28
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    Wow thats a long surgery! I think mine took around 4. I was cleared to start riding a week later. I was cautious but since I never had any pain afterward or anything I gradually felt more confident and went back to normal.

    My brother had his surgery a couple of months ago. Same levels, as me. Less than an hour after he was out of recovery he was eating and walking around. He went back to work (he's a cop - training and tactical officer) about a week later and resumed full duties. He was stunned at how fast recovery was as well. Before surgery I had heard from everyone but my doctor that I would probably not be able to bike or do any heavy excercise for at least 3 months. I never dreamed that less than 2 weeks later I'd be jumping the bike again.

    Quote Originally Posted by jleslie246
    Voodoosix - I had the exact same surgery (shifted one level down) a week and a half ago. I can't believe you are ready for full activity already. My body still has a way to go as the anesthesia really wiped me out (7 hr surgery!). My first post op is at two weeks. Ill see what the doc says I can do. I just want to get back to work.

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    That is great! I am twelve days and still cannot do a push up. But I am trying! Ill post my xray when I get it this Thursday.

  30. #30
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    Some good links for fusion / spine information

    I was looking about ankles on the rider down section and came across the Fusion thread. HonkinUnit used a product that I carry (PEMF bone growth stimulator) so I continued to read.


    I wanted to post some links that may be helpful to people that had / will have fusion surgery. Your surgeon is the best person to ask specific questions but you'll find a lot of information on the websites below. You can find animated videos, real videos, forums, x-rays / mri's, general information, etc.

    http://www.knowyourback.org

    http://www.spine-health.com/

    http://www.spineuniversity.com/

    http://www.spineuniverse.com/

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    I think I'm lucky to have one of the best surgeons in the business. I put my surgery off for 3 years after my crash and dealt with horrible pain because I'd read the horror stories about spinal fusion. My doctor kept telling me that he'd never had a complication in the six thousand surgeries he'd done and that I'd be back to doing everything I wanted in a couple of weeks. Finally when my symptoms were bad enough I gave in to surgery. In one morning, had the surgery, felt fine afterwards but stayed the night. Next day i went home. Not so much as a neck brace needed. A week later I was cleared to ride again. I'm probably going to have to have another level done at some point, but so far so good.

  32. #32
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    Im at 4 months C5-6. I started riding at 4 weeks and recently flipped my stem to make it a little better. I deal with pain fairly well as Ive have 7 knee surgeries as well too.
    just dont FALL!!!!
    Push thru it, be safe

  33. #33
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    DO NOT have fusion done until checking out this doctor...saved me!

    Man-o-man can I relate to back issues!
    Going back to the mid 90's I would intermit. have extreme sharp pain in my upper back, shoulder and neck that my chiropractor could sometimes help. Sometimes when biking and looking up my right hand and tricep would go numb. It wasn't until 2004 that when lifting weights I felt a pain worse than ever. Within a couple of days I lost approx 80% of my strength in my right tricep and pec. I finally went to a back pain clinic were the doc had me get an MRI (my 1st).
    There was a large bone spur pushing against my spinal cord along with other spurs flattening the nerve roots in my C-5, C-6 and C-7 levels. I received an epideral and was told I would need fusion. Not liking the negative issues with fusion I surfed the web and prayed to find another answer. I had a total of 4 specialists in my area (S.E. Wisconsin) tell me the same thing...disk fusion is the only answer.
    I then found a thread about a successful alternative to fusion. It was a procedure developed by a Dr. Jho. were he would remove the spur through a small hole in the vert. that had the spurs and remove them. All done in a minimally invasive procedure. Requiring no therapy, no collars and no hardware in the body. Almost to good to be true!
    Well it wasn't!! I had issues on both my left and right side. Dr. Jho will only operate on one side during a visit. If surgery is needed on the other, one must wait a minimum of 4-5 weeks do the second side. By this time I had severe atrophy in my right pectoral and tricep. I met Dr. Jho on a Monday to discuss my mri's and what he planned to do. Remove the spur against my spine and the spurs damgaing my nerve roots on the right side causing the atrophy.
    My surgey was Tuesday and I flew home on Wed. I did not need one pain pill! By Friday of that same week I was grocery shopping!! All I had was a small bandage on my neck were he made the 1.5" long incision. Didn't need any therapy or anything. I started lifting weights about 4 weeks later (could have started earlier but didn't want my neck wound to heal improperly). It took about a year to get my 90% of my strength back and my pec and tricep looking normal ( my pec was totally dished in and the tricep withered to next to nothing)
    I started having some numbness in my left side in 2009 and went back to Dr. Jho March of this year to have the have the left side spurs removed before any nerve damage occurred. The same result of the 1st time. The day after the surgery I flew home and felt great. I was riding my atv that following weekend! No pain and I had full range of motion.
    I have recommended Dr. Jho to a family member that was told he could not have surgery due to the location of his back injury to his heart (?) and would have to deal with the pain with medication! ( he is in his 20's). After his surgery he is now pain free and able to hike, bike, snowboard like he used to before he injured his back!
    Dr. Jho is a miracle worker.
    If you are told you need fusion or if your fusion is still creating pain he can probably help. Dr. Jho operated on 5 people including me on my first trip out there. One of the other patients was there because his 2nd fusion surgery had complications and he was in extreme pain. He cannot reverse fusion but he can help reduce pain by releiving nerve compression and damage.
    Sorry for the long post. Just for the record I am not employed by Dr. Jho or recieve any compensation from him (although it probably sounds like I do
    His site is www.DRJHO.com
    He has his own wing at the Allegheny General Hosp. in Pittsburg PA.
    If anyone would like more details I would be happy to talk or email to help.

  34. #34
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    Finally got 6 week post op xrays (showing fusion has started). Still to weak to ride due to the nerve damage sustained prior to surgery. Doc says by spring I should be able to ride.

    Looking at Dr Jho's work sounds exciting but my disk was 90% destroyed. Fusion was my only option.
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails Cervical Fusion Recovery TImes?-metalp.jpg  


  35. #35
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    Anterior Cervical Fusion - Another Recovery Log

    Following honkinunit's lead here is my log. I had surgery last Monday: Dec 20, 2010.

    Surgery
    Procedure: Anterior Cervical Discectomy and Fusion, C4-C5/C5-6/C6-7 (3 level) with BMP.
    Surgery Duration: 4 hours.

    I went into surgery in with a pretty bad cough prior to surgery and the fear they would postpone it to the following year; at which time my Insurance deductible would reset. Pre-op, the anesthesiologist reported that“strong narcotics make for a great cough suppressant. Post-op, he joked: “[We saw] one angry throat in there”. All went well.

    Post Surgery Medical Guidance
    1. Don’t lift over 10lbs for 6 weeks
    2. Walk
    3. Wear the cervical collar as often as possible for 6 weeks
    4. Physical Therapy after 3 weeks
    5. No MTBing for at least 6 months (sigh). I gave details of the terrain and activities involved so there wouldn't be confusion. .

    Night after Surgery
    1. Catheter and drainage tube for the incision kept me tethered to the bed. Morphine made everything okay.
    2. Arbitrary Health Index: 50% (so I thought at the time)
    3. Immediate relief of the original symptoms which were complete right-arm numbness and severe shoulder pain. Only slight numbness and pain. Due to pain killers, I was skeptical of long-term.
    4. Could only eat soft foods (soups, banana) due to soreness caused by breathing tube.

    End of Week 1
    1. Arbitrary Health Index: 40%. Post-surgery blahs, pain, difficulty swallowing
    2. Medical Guidance (Surgeon, Physical Assistant, Physical Therapist, etc.)
    a. Wear cervical collar as much as possible. I wear it except when showering or eating. The latter due to too many soup stains.
    b. Walk. I’ve walked everyday after the surgery. Day 1 down the hall. After returning home, it varies each day, working up to 3 miles per day.
    c. Don’t lift over 10 lbs
    3. Can:
    a. Shower
    b. Dress myself
    c. Walk
    d. Grab a beer w/ friends at a bar
    4. Can’t:
    a. Eat tacos and other “rough” food due to breathing tube soreness and application of BMP during surgery. BMP promotes bone fusion but causes swollen throat, preventing swallowing
    b. Drive
    c. Become regular. I stopped the pain killers on day 2 due to constipation and the threat of hemorrhoids. My strongest advice so far: Take stool softeners w/ your Hydrocodone.
    d. Mountain Bike!

    Questions:
    The surgeon reported that “I could do very little to mess up the surgery”. He went on to say he had a man go through a vehicle’s windsheld post-op with no damage to the site. Then why the 10lb limit and the cervical collar? The plate is supposed to keep everything in place for proper growth - having my head slumped down shouldn't matter. Confused.
    Last edited by cramsay3; 12-28-2010 at 04:06 PM.

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    End of 3 months


    The 3 "cages" between the 4 screws denote the BMP bone material that promotes the vertebrae fusion.

    1. Arbitrary Health Index: 80%. I sometimes have to swallow food twice as it gets stuck in my throat. This is a side effect of the BMP.

    2. Medical Guidance
    a. To play it safe, lift only 10lbs 1st month, 20lbs the second up until 6 months
    b. Too early for PT yet. PT will start at 6 months

    3. Can:
    a. I feel like could be 80% fully active but do still have a slight stiffness in my neck
    b. I have limited range of motion in neck in shoulders (hence the 80%)
    c. I have a slight pain behind my shoulder blade. They think PT may fix this but it may have come from permanent damage. Time will tell.

    d. I got the okay to rode bike! They stress no jostling as it may loosen the screws. He basically said MTB is the definition of this. :-(

    4. Can’t:

    a. Mountain Bike!
    b. Turn my neck at 90 degree angles left/right.

  37. #37
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    Thats crazy Cramsay. At one week my doc gave me the all clear to start back to mountain biking, lift weights, etc basically anything I felt like doing. I played it safe for about a week but then got on the bike and started riding again. i've had no issues since and I don't seem to notice any loss of flexibility. At 6 months the doc said my fusion was complete. I asked him early on if biking or working out was going to affect the fusion or was dangerous and he told me that the hardware wasn't going ANYWHERE and that activity would in no way affect fusion. I was amazed that I went into the hospital in pain, but left the next day with zero pain. They gave me a neck brace to wear home, but the doc told me it was just for comfort and I wasn't required to wear it. I took it off halfway home. I never had any difficulties swallowing and I think the only real pain I had afterwards were muscle soreness in my neck/shoulder muscles that had been moved around during surgery.

  38. #38
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    Man, you guys are lucky. Well, I suppose lucky isn't really the word. I have a thread a bit down on my fusion. My fusion was trauma induced so I was under strict orders. They went in through the back of my neck and fused C5 and C6. I had to wear the neck brace for 3 months religiously, also couldn't drive for 3 months or even think about mountain biking. That **** sucked.

  39. #39
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    Quote Originally Posted by cramsay3
    End of 3 months


    The 3 "cages" between the 4 screws denote the BMP bone material that promotes the vertebrae fusion.

    1. Arbitrary Health Index: 80%. I sometimes have to swallow food twice as it gets stuck in my throat. This is a side effect of the BMP.

    2. Medical Guidance
    a. To play it safe, lift only 10lbs 1st month, 20lbs the second up until 6 months
    b. Too early for PT yet. PT will start at 6 months

    3. Can:
    a. I feel like could be 80% fully active but do still have a slight stiffness in my neck
    b. I have limited range of motion in neck in shoulders (hence the 80%)
    c. I have a slight pain behind my shoulder blade. They think PT may fix this but it may have come from permanent damage. Time will tell.

    d. I got the okay to rode bike! They stress no jostling as it may loosen the screws. He basically said MTB is the definition of this. :-(

    4. Can’t:

    a. Mountain Bike!
    b. Turn my neck at 90 degree angles left/right.
    Cramsay3 and anyone else in a similar situation-

    A couple of quick things to keep an eye out for-

    "I sometimes have to swallow food twice as it gets stuck in my throat. This is a side effect of the BMP." At this point post operative, this is not the BMP, it is the plate profile against your esophagus. The issues with BMP are within 3-5 days post operative with is also a reason why BMP is only used off-label in the cervical spine.

    The next time you're in the office with your doctor, I'd scrutinize your fusion with him. Make sure the gaps between your interbody devices and the vertebrae don't grow any larger and make surethe screws don't change on your films. (i.e.- angles, heads of screws moving past the plate towards your esophagus.

    I only tell you this to be cautious and make sure your aware of your recovery. Multilevel constructs are much more complicated and if your films are 3 months out, I would stay on top of this.

  40. #40
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    Very well spoken, mbell. Do you work in spine? You can PM me if you don't want it public. Just curious as it sounds like you either work in an office or have experience in them. I actually got the forum subscription update on my phone while in a surgeon's office!

  41. #41
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    3 months

    mbell, thanks for the clarifications - really good info.I'll be sure and follow up / press my surgeon.

    Voodoosix - can't explain the delta. Maybe I'm just a much more delicate lil' flower than most. ;-). And I feel like I can ride, just haven't been given the the green light to do so. Also, my arm pain and numbness (complete loss of use in right arm) was 90% gone the day after the surgery, just a slight ghost pain left. Maybe your guy can call mine and tell him to let me go out?.

  42. #42
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    I also just had this surgery, C-5 C-6 only, back on Feb. 2 of this year. I had the collar off the next day and only wore it when i slept. I was driving 3 days later although i wasn't supposed to. I stopped taking the pain meds after 3 days as I was feeling much better and didn't like the side effects. I go back for a check up next week and im curious what the outcome will be. Did anyone else have numbness on the side of their head from the clamps during surgery? If so did the feeling return? or is this something i have to live with. Doc says it will return, not to worry. But i have other spots that i have lost feeling due to injuries and its never returned. How likely is it that the side of my head will stay numb forever?

    I have been MTBing this past weekend, I will not be going again for a little while. Although i managed ok i definitely felt some pain.

  43. #43
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    Its been about 6 months for me now, see my post up above. I have my 6 month xrays/follow up very soon to check fusion.

    I have pretty good movement but the muscles in my neck, tops of my shoulders and bewteen my shoulder blades are sore daily. Still uncomfortable to sleep. Not nerve pain like before serg. just muscle soreness. My job is extremely physical and requires constant bending of my neck so I am sure this has something to do with the prolonged soreness.

    I hope to get the 'all clear' to mtn bike in april after my 6 month check up!

    Anyone else have the prolonged muscle soreness?

  44. #44
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    Every day.

  45. #45
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    I had C 5, 6 & 7 fused in 2003 when I was 43 years old. I struggle with muscular shoulder/neck pain almost every day. After my fusion I didn't sleep lying down for about a month. The pain between the shoulder blades was wicked.

    At 8 years post surgery I have lost some side to side range of motion as well.

    The ONLY reason I can still mountain bike is because of how good full suspension bike's have become.

  46. #46
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    I am still having muscle soreness. It has only been 2 months and i have just started PT. My job is also physical but i have not returned yet. I should be soon though but am worried that these sore muscles will escalate to something else. I find myself favoring positions that i shouldn't which then leads to more pain somewhere else. It's never easy is it?

  47. #47
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    @ fishercaliber, You sound like you had a very similar fusion to mine. I experienced the same constant pain you mentioned, for years. I finally had an MRI after 9 yrs. Turns out that I now have bulged discs above and below the fusion. Sorry to burst anyones bubble, but this fate may be many of yours as well, as the fusion puts increased stress on the "joints" that have to take up the slack of the lost motion in the fused section. A good regimen of physical therapy has helped me tremendously, and I am now back on a FS mountain bike after years of Drs telling me I would never ride again. I even did a gnarly endo friday and my neck stayed together!! Anyone know anything about badly sprained wrists????.................

  48. #48
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    Took me about 6 months to able to exercise hard after my fusion, pretty much exactly like yours but one disk up, but in one year I was able to run and bike, shouldn't have run as this caused a relapse, key is to take it slow and don't overdo. Definitely sucks, as far as recovery, I still have some trouble swallowing four years after and I can pop my esophagus around, but it's all good.
    "Don't go around saying the world owes you a living. The world owes you nothing. It was here first." - Mark Twain
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  49. #49
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    Keep Working

    I am 51 and recovering from a C6/C7 fusion (5 weeks) Everything went extremely well. I think one of the keys to surviving this deal is not to go couch potato if you don't have to and to get on your feet as soon as you can after being cut. I went about six months of conservative treatment prior to surgery. The pain kept me off my bikes but I walked and hiked like a madman. I was allowed in the gym, but was kept at a 15lb weight limit. After surgery I was put in a hard collar for a month, but I could walk all I could tolerate. I went at least an hour everyday starting two days after the surgery and ended up maxing at 7 miles. I just started PT and I am back in the gym with weight limitations. I feel pretty good, although I do get tired after two of three hours of activity. I am being pretty careful because I don't want to loosen and of my new hardware.

    My doctor is pleased with my progress, but says the bike is a ways away. Due to earlier neck problems I switched from a cross country to a more upright "all-mtn" bike a few years ago. I am a little worried about my road bike though. It is a relaxed framed Trek Madone with a taller head tube. Is there anybody out there who has had my level fusion who can tell me how the are doing on their bike? I can't even conceive not riding and a recumbent....well.......

  50. #50
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    Mountain bike is perfectly fine for me, on some of the techy stuff it gets sore afterwards (fully rigid), but on the single track I'm fine. Personally, I had a C5/C6 fusion and drops are now a thing of the past, but now I have bullhorns, which are a godsend. Puts you in a more normal position where you don't have to put as much strain on your neck (I can't look up all the way), but still a very comfy and aerodynamic (woah, long word) riding position.

    Just my .02 cents.

  51. #51
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    I am 1 1/2 weeks post surgery (C5,6,7 fusion with titanium plate), and feel pretty good so far. My question is, if the plate keeps everything in place, then why all the restrictions on driving, lifting, going to work etc? My surgeon scheduled my first follow up one month from surgery. I feel like I could drive the 40 min. to work and work all day.

  52. #52
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    My surgeon gave me one week after surgery to recuperate then I had my post surgical follow-up. At that 1 week follow-up, he cleared me to resume whatever activity I felt like doing. His explanation was that the hardware would hold everything together and as long as I was not experiencing pain, i was fine. I started mountain biking again immediately. My brother has had the same surgery and he's on the SWAT team and he returned to work immediately as well.

  53. #53
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    What the docs told me was they don't want you to take the chance of being rearended in your car or get in some other accident while all that stuff is fresh and the the hardware hasn't really been locked in yet.

    After my last, final last surgery where they fused the 10 levels, and because of the previous failure, the docs didn't even want me to ride my road bike on the trainer because of the angle of my neck and body or do anything else for 6 months until they were REALLY sure the screws had been locked in by the bone growth around them. At the end of 6 months they said knock yourself out which I'm really trying to avoid...
    Sorry what?

  54. #54
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    When I had my fusion done. C 5 6 7 in 2003. I was told that the hardware doesn't hold everything 100% in place. The healing/fusing of the bone does that. And, that takes time. I was out of action for 6 weeks.

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    Weird. I asked my doc because I was worried about crashing and he told me that any impact that could pull the hardware apart would be severe enough that the hardware in my neck would be the least of my worries. Basically he said the natural parts that are holding your neck together are about 1/5rd as strong as the hardware and I would break my spine somewhere else before the surgical hardware would be affected.

  56. #56
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    Here are a couple of quick notes to answer some of the recent posts:

    1. Your hardware is only meant to stabilize your spine while it builds the fusion.
    2. Depending on how many levels you are having fused, the post op protocols will vary. Especially with multilevel fusions. They have a higher rate of non-union, therefore they will be more cautious with your recovery.
    3. Your hardware is not meant to "strengthen" your spine or be something that acts as a structural compliment to your spine. Once you've fused, which takes a while depending on your: age, health issues (diabetic?, smoker?, etc) your fusion will be stronger than any implant. Implants are only meant to be strong enough to support your spine. If you do not fuse, they will break or back out.
    4. Many doctors are good at surgery, therefore the impact on your body is far less than it used to be. Don't be fooled into thinking that you're ready to get back to work, ride your bike, go for a jog, etc. You aren't ready, because you haven't healed. You may feel great on the outside, but keep in mind that the whole reason why you let someone explore you body was to make it better from the inside out. Do your self a favor and be a compliant patient. The last thing you want to do is have another surgery because you thought you were smarter than the nerd who spent most of their live in school to do these things.

    Good luck to you all and be smart. Just chill out and heal. You'll be really pissed at yourself if you crash and feel that cervical plate pushing against your esophagus.

  57. #57
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    I had C4,5, and 6 fused three years with titanium rods. It took two years to fully recover due to some nerver damage but I am back to mtn biking without any issues. It's true that the hardware keeps everythng in place, but you need to be aware of the extra stresses now placed above and below the fusion. Your C4 and C8 are now doing more work whenever you move your neck. This will increase the possibility of injury to these areas if they are put under stresses that would not normally affect them.

  58. #58
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    Quote Originally Posted by mbell View Post
    Here are a couple of quick notes to answer some of the recent posts:

    1. Your hardware is only meant to stabilize your spine while it builds the fusion.
    2. Depending on how many levels you are having fused, the post op protocols will vary. Especially with multilevel fusions. They have a higher rate of non-union, therefore they will be more cautious with your recovery.
    3. Your hardware is not meant to "strengthen" your spine or be something that acts as a structural compliment to your spine. Once you've fused, which takes a while depending on your: age, health issues (diabetic?, smoker?, etc) your fusion will be stronger than any implant. Implants are only meant to be strong enough to support your spine. If you do not fuse, they will break or back out.
    4. Many doctors are good at surgery, therefore the impact on your body is far less than it used to be. Don't be fooled into thinking that you're ready to get back to work, ride your bike, go for a jog, etc. You aren't ready, because you haven't healed. You may feel great on the outside, but keep in mind that the whole reason why you let someone explore you body was to make it better from the inside out. Do your self a favor and be a compliant patient. The last thing you want to do is have another surgery because you thought you were smarter than the nerd who spent most of their live in school to do these things.

    Good luck to you all and be smart. Just chill out and heal. You'll be really pissed at yourself if you crash and feel that cervical plate pushing against your esophagus.
    What an incredibly correct post!! Outstanding!!

  59. #59
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    acdf

    I cannot thank you enough for posting your "road to recovery" diary. I have been researching this procedure for over a year now with paralyzing fear! (not a pun) Until recently there has been majority negative feedback out there. Im am so happy for you to be returning to your passion! I unfortunately will not be so lucky. I believe that you will help many people (including myself) to make the right choice in to have or not to have a spine fusion. I was lead to this forum by a google search but I do not bike. I had to express my gratefulness to you for posting your progress! I was advised last year to have acdf done but couldnt bring myself to give up jiujitsu. I still cry when I think about it. I have folded my Gi and tied it with my belt and said good bye to ever earning a bluebelt. Maybe I will take up biking. THANK YOU AGAIN!

  60. #60
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    I am the OP on this thread and I thought I would update my situation.

    It will be four years in May since my fusion. I have almost no side effects at this point, other than I still need to sleep in one of just a few positions to be comfortable, and I am careful to have my computer monitor in a position where I don't strain my neck.

    I am riding MTB and road, including Leadville three times since the fusion, and downhill.

    I do wear a Leatt-type brace when I ride DH, and it has saved me a couple of times. I highly recommend one to anyone riding DH, even if you do not (yet) have neck problems.

    I can't get as low on my road bike as I used to, but my road racing days are over anyway. I have ridden several road centuries and a couple of 200km rides with no neck issues.

    So, the cervical fusion is not an end to your cycling career. I do feel sorry for you ilovejujitsu, because that would not be possible after this surgery for me either. It must feel terrible to be forced to give up your passion due to a neck injury.

  61. #61
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    I had my c5-6 fused 2.7 years ago, I have a severe degenerating cervical spine as well everywhere else. I had to give up riding on the road, as I cant assume the crouched position. Its a total bummer as I really got into it while living in Europe. Now I suit up and ride DH, I of course wear a Leat brace, but its definetly a different style of riding. Best wishes in everyones recovery.

  62. #62
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    Quote Originally Posted by SlickOne View Post
    I had my c5-6 fused 2.7 years ago, I have a severe degenerating cervical spine as well everywhere else. I had to give up riding on the road, as I cant assume the crouched position. Its a total bummer as I really got into it while living in Europe. Now I suit up and ride DH, I of course wear a Leat brace, but its definetly a different style of riding. Best wishes in everyones recovery.
    Have you tried raising your bars with a riser stem? That worked for me. I'd even ride a recumbent before giving up road riding.
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails Cervical Fusion Recovery TImes?-mini-img_0718.jpg  

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    Quote Originally Posted by Zignzag View Post
    Have you tried raising your bars with a riser stem? That worked for me. I'd even ride a recumbent before giving up road riding.

    Yes I tried everything, I had a really great surgeon, but my neck gets really really sore after just a mile or so. Its actually even an issue if I wear to heavy of a jacket. If I could keep my neck in a neutral position it would be bearable. by neutral, consider in the tucked position looking at your front hub for the majority of the ride. (not safe)

    As for giving up road riding, its a major major downer for me. Im pretty stubborn, I even rode the bike with my TENS unit hooked to me. (those electrical shockers to interupt nerve pain signals). I was sure I could beat the pain, however being 33, medically retired out of Military after 9 different surgeries I am forced to accept some limitations. Limitations is the hard part of the acceptance.

  64. #64
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    I am new here and have found all of this info very helpful.
    I had ACDF 4 level fusion C3 to C7 in Ferbuary 2012.
    I learned this week that the c6/c7 fusion did not happen.
    I am going back in 6 weeks to find out my options, but my doc said to go live life for now.
    I am still sore in my traps and neck. I can ride for a max of 2 hours and don't even think about riding the MTB bike right now.
    I started riding at 3 months easy on the road.

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    Wow. Just Wow, after reading through this thread. I've had more blunt-force trauma to my head, (and hence my C-spine) than you can shake a stick at, including one that caused three bulging discs in my neck. Numb fingers, etc. as I'm sure you all know. With daily traction, and frequent acupuncture, followed a few months later with very good PT and strength training, I've been fine for over 20 years.

    But recently, I OTB'ed on a trail I ride 100 times a year at 17mph, and thanks to my eggbeaters there was NO ROLLING allowed....I had to faceplant. Aside from the sutures, and a Grade 1 A/C separation, there was no evidence of serious damage, but considering my history, they did a full C-Spine Xray series on me...holy crap. That was disturbing to see. I'm not ready to join yer fusion club just yet, but it might be in my future.

    Anyways, I feel for all you folks who have posted up here on your cervical injuries and surgeries. Here's to hoping that you all heal up well.

  66. #66
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    Another cervical fusion story - Posterior C1-C2-C3

    Thanks to all for sharing their story. It was really interesting to read. It gave me some hope. So I decided to share mine too.

    Resulting of a XC mtb crash, I did break my C2 vertebra with a "bad" C1 to C2 atlantoaxial rotational dislocation (type 2, over 25°). 4 days later and few medical errors after, the fracture was identify. Before surgery I had to “survive” to around 12 hours of traction to undo the dislocation (Gardner-Wells they call that). The worst experience of my life, event morphine is not strong enough to smooth out the sensation of the 2 pointed setscrews pinning into your skull with such pressure that you are wondering if the skull bones will be able to handle such pressure or if they will just collapse. You also feel your teeth pressing each against the other because you jaw bone is so compress. Not to mention the 15 lbs, then 20 lbs, then 25 lbs weight attached to the 2 setscrews that is constantly pulling on your. I ended a week or so after my accident with a posterior C1-C2-C3 fusion. I also have broken a little chip on C6 and a thumb... but who cares.

    At they end I do not have any significant disability except huge head rotation limitation (roughly 50% of the rotation of the head is usually taken between C1 and C2).

    But the road of rehabilitation was (is) quite long for me. 3 months of 24h per day cervical collar and daily morphine, 3 other months of pain because I had an screw sticking out in the joint between C1 and the base of the skull (see picture), another surgery to remove the misplaced screw as well as all the hardware on my right side (the surgeon did not wanted to remove hardware on both side event if fuse bones were apparently strong enough) . Then pain slowly decreased, but I had to take some mild pain killer (like Tylenol) everyday for another 3 months. My first physiotherapist, specialized in spine issue (she use to remember me that I was the first patient she have seen alive with my kind of injury), was not able to make me progress so 11 months after my injury, I had very low neck, back and shoulder mobility so she humbly transfer my case to an really good osteopath. Since I started osteopathic and acupuncture treatment I'm making good progress.

    The fusion was done end of June 2011 and event if I Have stiff and sore neck muscles that require to take muscular relaxant every day, following a daily physio exercise routine, having weekly appointment to the osteopath and acupuncture and still experiencing some pain life is good with me. I'm still on the right side of the turf, walking, fully able to work ...and hopping to ride a mtb again despite my surgeon told me it was not a good idea.

    In bonus since we are on a mtb forum, I will share detail of the crash. I broke my neck riding XC alone, and so conservatively (20-25 km/h or 12-16 mph), on a trail I know by heart. I did not event badly bad crash. I only flip over the handle bar, was able to easily unclip, was rolling to land on my back, as I have done successfully in such occasion so many time, but this time my head hit a stump or a rock and all my body weight + movement force was apply on my head for a brief moment and that was it. Heard 2 short cracks then landed so well that I literal stopped standing up on my 2 foots... but in such pain.
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails Cervical Fusion Recovery TImes?-c%F4t%E9-droit-6-twist-.jpg  


  67. #67
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    As mentioned in another post the main risk after a fusion is to put strain on the non-fused vertebra next to those fused. In my case (C1 to C3 fusion), I’m mainly worried by the strain that would be resulting of another crashed, especially rotational wise. Does any of you have heard about custom made protective equipment or specialist in protective equipment that could custom tune off the shelf neck (Leatt) brace (eastern Canada, north-east USA) ?

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    Posterior C6-C7 fusion

    Read through all of these posts. At least I don't feel so alone. I'm a mtbr that cracked vertabrae at c6-c7 as a result of getting slammed by a wave while boogie boarding in Deleware on vacation. Wave was only a few feet high- and I'm 6'2".

    The accident required sugery to fuse the c6-c7 vertabrae together, but did not require removing the disc. They had to go in through the back of my neck (posterior) which I was told was a lot more painful and with a longer recovery time than if they had been able to go through the front. Sugery was 4 weeks ago and the muscles along my back still spasm and hurt quite a bit. I still can't lift over 10 lbs. I was told that I probably wouldn't be cleared to ride my mbt in the manner that I ride it (aggressive all-mountain) for a year. Ugh. That is of course secondary to not being able to pick up my 3 1/2 year old for a similar amount of time. I'm just hoping that I'll actually be able to do so at some ponit. Right now it doesn't seem possible.

    Anyone who has had sping surgery, please keep the posts coming. It's great to be able to read the experiences of others, especially those who love biking as much as I do and don't want to live without it.


    Do any of you have heard about custom made protective equipment or specialist in protective equipment that could custom tune off the shelf neck (Leatt) brace (eastern Canada, north-east USA) ?
    No replies yet to StiffNeck's question, I also would like to hear if anyone is using similar bracing devices after surgery.

  69. #69
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    I had 4 level ACDF in February. I have now been told that C6-C7 was a non-fusion.
    I have been riding my road bike for 4 months and went off-road twice. Still in pain and will most likely gave to go in for PCF C6-C7. (What you had)
    I have joined a Facebook group called Cervical Disc replacement surgery and it is a wealth of knowledge.
    I would recommend to go slow and don't push it. It it takes a year and you can be back at 100%, then take a year.
    I fear I rushed mine and that is the reason, I suspect, that mine did not fuse.
    Just my two cents.

    Also, invest in a Leatt brace or something similar.
    The neck is the epicenter and it needs protection.

  70. #70
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    Wow! I saw this looking for recovery time for a fusion surgery because I'm having a two level fusion of C5 & C6 on 3/4.

    A little over a year ago I woke up with numbness in my left arm and hand. I went the usual rout and tried a chiropractor and acupuncture. After nothing helped I had an MRI and found 5 herniated disks between C3 & C7. Went to a few Dr's and picked one who suggested a laminoplasty surgery to take the pressure off the spinal cord. I now have 16 screws and four plates in my neck and the numbness is still there.

    I went for a CT scan and the disks between C5 & C6 have completely disintegrated so I'm getting a fusion. The root nerves going to my arms are crushed and I have a ton of numbness and weakness. I'm really hoping this takes care of the problem. I haven't ridden in over a year and haven't worked either.
    You wouldn't be in so much pain if you didn't ride like a dork!

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    Quote Originally Posted by CPATCRASH View Post
    Wow! I saw this looking for recovery time for a fusion surgery because I'm having a two level fusion of C5 & C6 on 3/4.

    A little over a year ago I woke up with numbness in my left arm and hand. I went the usual rout and tried a chiropractor and acupuncture. After nothing helped I had an MRI and found 5 herniated disks between C3 & C7. Went to a few Dr's and picked one who suggested a laminoplasty surgery to take the pressure off the spinal cord. I now have 16 screws and four plates in my neck and the numbness is still there.

    I went for a CT scan and the disks between C5 & C6 have completely disintegrated so I'm getting a fusion. The root nerves going to my arms are crushed and I have a ton of numbness and weakness. I'm really hoping this takes care of the problem. I haven't ridden in over a year and haven't worked either.
    Best of luck on the procedure. Sounds like you really do need it, and at least you tried the less-invasive route first. Take your time to recover, too. Lot's of patients push it too much too soon. Time should be on your side, not your enemy.

  72. #72
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ray Raton View Post
    Best of luck on the procedure. Sounds like you really do need it, and at least you tried the less-invasive route first. Take your time to recover, too. Lot's of patients push it too much too soon. Time should be on your side, not your enemy.
    Thanks Ray. I just want it over with.
    You wouldn't be in so much pain if you didn't ride like a dork!

  73. #73
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    Here's the end result. Three level fusion and a four level laminoplasty.

    Cervical Fusion Recovery TImes?-scan.jpeg
    You wouldn't be in so much pain if you didn't ride like a dork!

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    Well - I found this thread/forum by googling 'neck surgery recovery cycling', and I have to say there is a lot of great info here...every neck surgeon should read this thread to help them answer their cyclist patient's questions.

    Anyway - I just had C5-C6-C7 done last week, and am still quite sore, but pretty happy with the recovery so far. I'm less of a mountain biker and more a roadie (don't hold that against me) but this information has really helped scale my expectations as to when I can expect to get on the bike again. I was just cleared to start driving already, and I'm only 11 days out.

    From what I've read, I'm a bit concerned about the future prognosis for riding my road bike...we'll see about the riding position in the drops. If not, I do also have a hybrid I can ride, and will definitely start with that one for a while.

    Thanks all - really appreciate your posts here.

    ColForbin

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    I had disk fusion on c4,c5 and c6 disks i'm on my 4th week of healing. I'm riding a off road bike on the street to avoud heavy bumps.i'm still wearing my neck brace. All my pain is now gone. Every one heals differently.there is no one answer.

  76. #76
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    I have C4-C5 and C6-C7-T1 fused, and I'm a roadie. I had to raise my bars some, and I can't really hold my head back enough to ride on the drops.

    Yeah, I know. It looks very Fredish, but I'm still riding.
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails Cervical Fusion Recovery TImes?-mini-img_0718.jpg  

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  77. #77
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    My 4 level ACDF was February 2, 2012.
    C3-C7 was done and I had a non-fusion at C6-C7.
    I am riding all bikes again and recently started riding my 29er SS on a very rough trail here.
    I have an ESI scheduled for today at C6-C7 and hope that helps.
    I have numb hands when I lay back for any length of time.
    I have had to raise my bars on all bikes and just ordered a Domane Trek for road riding.

    I have been in the gym trying to strengthen all the muscles around my neck and that has helped quite a bit with the pain.
    I do what I can, when I can and some days are good while some are bad.

  78. #78
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    I had posterior fusion of c6-c7 following a body surfing accident where I fractured both vertebrae. It's been 1 year and 4 months since my surgery. I'm happy to say that I'm back to riding my mountain bike again as if nothing happened. I'm on a Yeti 575 and ride very aggressively.
    I also ride a road bike pretty often and that's where I really notice a change. My neck and shoulders do get a little sore after riding for a while. It's likely due to the hunched over position.
    I did lose a little loss of mobility in how far I can turn my neck and my shoulders ache a little fairly constantly, but over all my recovery has been very good and I can do most of what I did before my accident.

    For those of you who are struggling with recovery, I wish you all the best. It was a life changing event mentally for me, as well as physically.

  79. #79
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    OP here. I saw this thread pop up again. Wow, I can't believe my surgery was 5 1/2 years ago.

    The neck doesn't hold me back generally. I just have to be careful about how I sleep, or it will be sore. My range of motion is actually better than the average person, but less than it was, of course. I don't even think about it anymore except when I sleep on it wrong.

    This is not to say there have been zero changes. I had to alter my position on a road bike, as several others have mentioned. Higher bars aren't that bad, they just make your butt hurt more. I was warned not to do overhead presses with weights, and if I try to do that I feel a lot of pressure on my neck. Not a big deal, I very rarely have to lift anything heavy over my head in normal life.

    Hopefully I am past this physically, for the rest of my life. As someone else mentioned, mentally it does grind on you at first, but once you are able to forget about it day to day, you simply adapt, and you are what you are.

  80. #80
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    I had my ACDF C3-C7 Feb 2012.
    I am back riding my single speed 29er on some rough trails.
    Still have a non-fusion at C6-C7, but the doc is helping me manage my pain.
    I had an ESI three weeks ago and expect to have more in the future at C6-C7.

    Life goes on so enjoy it while you can.

  81. #81
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    I had C-7 T-1 fusion done on January 17, 2014. I am doing great, cleared by doc to start back to gym and exercise bike. He doesn't want me on the road for six weeks so it's coming soon. What I want to ask is related to having a sore throat. My voice was hoarse for a couple weeks but got better. However, in the last week it has gotten worse and has actually become really painful, especially when swallowing. So, anybody else had this situation.

  82. #82
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    Any change in your recovery is a great reason to talk to your MD. The hardware that they implanted in your spine is right next to your esophagus. If it is "rubbing" on your esophagus, it may need to be addressed.

  83. #83
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    Hi Amnimar, I had similar swallowing issue. I choked big time before I started taking smaller bite. The solution was as simple as that for me. Then it took a good year for the swallowing muscles to rehab. Now I feel it is as before or at least I don’t feel the difference. Time and physiotherapy can fix a lot of things!
    My surgeon told me that it was unrelated to fusion (C1-C2-C3) but my therapist told me that it could be linked with swelling related to a small fracture on C6 instead (close to the area of your fusion).
    Never had issue with my voice, and with the pain and pain killer I was taking could not notice if my throat was sore.
    However, I'm not a doctor and everyone is different so it worth mentioning to medical staff.
    I wish you a good rehab and nice mtb ride when you’re ready.

  84. #84
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    I'm almost exactly one year out from C5-C7 fusion and phygen plate install. One of the first warning I received from my Nuerosurgeon PRIOR to surgery was that my voice might be affected, albeit temporary, and it may hurt to swallow for some time after surgery. Fortunately, I had absolutely neither of these issues but as somebody mentioned above, if you're experiencing a change or setback in your recovery progress, go see your surgeon asap.

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    Broken neck but want to ride!

    Quote Originally Posted by Zignzag View Post
    I have C4-C5 and C6-C7-T1 fused, and I'm a roadie. I had to raise my bars some, and I can't really hold my head back enough to ride on the drops.

    Yeah, I know. It looks very Fredish, but I'm still riding.
    On Dec 7, 2013 a rookie cycling move (took my eye off the road in front of me) caused my front tire to get locked into a storm grate & I was instantly thrown over the handle bars. It happened so fast I had no time to adjust for the roll & hit head first. Smashed my helmet (which kept me from having brain trauma) and fractured my C1 front & rear (called a Jefferson Burst). Emergency surgery at my local hospital that was luckily right around the corner to perform a Posterior Cervical Laminectomy with fusion/Occipital Cervical Fusion (6 titanium screws from my skull into my C2 – bypassing my blown C1) Had a cadaver bone implanted in the middle of that hardware to bridge the C1 fractures. My final lateral range of motion unknown right now but could be reduced by as much as 50%. PT began last week with ROM at a depressing 9%. On disability leave from work and trying to slow down while this old bod heals. Doctor said my months of gym work to build my upper body & core for long distance cycling paid off as my ‘traps’, etc. protected (cushioned) my neck which otherwise might have sustained a spinal cord injury (think Christopher Reeves). I'm blessed that this wasn't more serious.
    It's 10 weeks post surgery & I'm having shooting pain in a small strip at the back of my neck where I believe one of my construct arms runs. I'm hoping that I won't have to have my hardware removed but the doctor said next weeks MRI and/or CAT scan will tell if there's a complication causing some nerve tweaking. Anyone experience either this sort of recurring pain and/or have their hardware removed?

  86. #86
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jomama View Post
    Anyone experience either this sort of recurring pain and/or have their hardware removed?
    Hi Jomama, I will share with you parts of my story that are relevant to your issue and desire to ride again.

    I had left side of hardware removed because a screw tip was stinking out of C1 and grinding my occipital bone. It was known since day 1 after the surgery but I refused the offer to go for another surgery the same day to try to realign screw (I don't have good average when trying that in wood so I was worries that surgeon face the same difficulty 1/4 of inch of my spinal cord). I took the other option; wait and see. It went unnoticeable until I got out of neck brace. Then, it was causing pain as soon as I was nodding, like when walking, and it never went away. I had to wait 6 month for proper bone fusion before surgeon could take half of the hardware out.

    Recovery time from the 2nd surgery was quite shorter if you wonder. I was back to work after 1 month and full time after 2.

    I would say that I have lost about 40-50% of lateral range motion. It took me a lot of effort to get to that point; nearly 2 year. However I was bike riding mtb after 1½ year. As Zignzag, I raised my handle bar because I also lost quite of bit of neck extension range.

    In my experience, aside of hardware rubbing somewhere, long lasting pain is often cause by ligament damage. It goes away with time and rehab.

    I wish you a good rehab and nice mtb ride when you’re ready. However, keep in mind that cervical fusion increases the risk of serious injury in case of crash.

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    Quote Originally Posted by StiffNeck View Post
    Hi Jomama, I will share with you parts of my story that are relevant to your issue and desire to ride again.

    I had left side of hardware removed because a screw tip was stinking out of C1 and grinding my occipital bone. It was known since day 1 after the surgery but I refused the offer to go for another surgery the same day to try to realign screw (I don't have good average when trying that in wood so I was worries that surgeon face the same difficulty 1/4 of inch of my spinal cord). I took the other option; wait and see. It went unnoticeable until I got out of neck brace. Then, it was causing pain as soon as I was nodding, like when walking, and it never went away. I had to wait 6 month for proper bone fusion before surgeon could take half of the hardware out.

    Recovery time from the 2nd surgery was quite shorter if you wonder. I was back to work after 1 month and full time after 2.

    I would say that I have lost about 40-50% of lateral range motion. It took me a lot of effort to get to that point; nearly 2 year. However I was bike riding mtb after 1½ year. As Zignzag, I raised my handle bar because I also lost quite of bit of neck extension range.

    In my experience, aside of hardware rubbing somewhere, long lasting pain is often cause by ligament damage. It goes away with time and rehab.

    I wish you a good rehab and nice mtb ride when you’re ready. However, keep in mind that cervical fusion increases the risk of serious injury in case of crash.
    Thanks StiffNeck, Those are words I needed to hear in order to put a time table on my recovery. I fully realize that what I can or can't do at 10 wks is going to change by my 1 yr anniversary. That I need to practice something I'm really short on - patient. I do have a positive attitude & that thread runs through many of the blog writings I've seen since searching them out. I do believe our bodies 'listen' to our minds to some degree. I will continue my PT exercises religiously & hopefully, my hardware issue isn't a pinched nerve. Even today, after taking ibuprofen to reduce inflammation in that sore area has helped. I've weaned off the vicodin like a good ex-addict must do and that's important since the effort to regain 50% range of motion sounds like it could take 2 yrs. I've installed a large clip on rear view mirror & did a test drive to determine if I'm a danger to myself & others. I found that lane changing isn't the issue as I thought it would be but rather the left & right looks at an intersection. I have to turn my body a bit to see if there are oncoming cars but I think that after my bone graft is deemed to have fully stabilized my C1, I will drive again (with less of that rear-end accident fear). I have full intentions of raising the neck on my bike & getting on with that as soon as my neck has healed better. I'm afraid that I may not be able to keep up with my "big dog" cycling friends but they've said they want me along on their 'easy' rides. Time will tell. In the mean time, it's great having some blog friends to bounce stuff off of. Thanks all!
    Last edited by Jomama; 02-27-2014 at 11:23 PM.
    Ride safe,
    Jomama

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    Staying positive is hard but necessary for you and those around you. Sounds like you have the perfect attitude. Best of luck on your rehab!!

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    Thanks rjames. I had some cycling friends over last month & enjoyed the good fellowship. I don't want this accident to define me or be viewed as the guy who broke his neck cycling so I downplay the seriousness of what happened. I only want them to see me as a guy who had an accident that may have been avoided had he paid more attention to the road in front of him & that may keep them more alert when they're out there enjoying life.
    Ride safe,
    Jomama

  90. #90
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    Any updates from Honkinunit or Rdy357?

    I'm about to get my c3-c7 fusion in December, with many of the same symptoms as the OP. The surgeon is adamant about me NOT riding MTB after the surgery but thinks roadbikes will be okay. This thread is giving me much hope but I would love to see how you are doing now that its been years after your fusions.
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    I am nearly 6 years post c4-c6 fusion following a fractured neck injury with accompanying nerve damage to my right bicep and deltoid. I was told not to MTB by my neurosurgeon and took up road cycling two years post surgery. I found that the lower position on the road bike actually hurt my neck after 30 minutes or more on the bike. I've returned the MTBing, knowing the risks, and feel that I am riding just as well, if not better than pre-surgery. I don't do crazy sh*t, keeping the tires on the dirt and never get out of my comfort zone. I can keep up with all my riding buddies and actually enjoy it much more now knowing how close I came to losing MTBing forever.

    Good Luck with your surgery!

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    4 years and riding more than ever

    It's been almost 4 years since I got 3-7 fused like you.

    (Cervical Fusion Recovery TImes? - Page 2- Mtbr.com).

    I ride more now then I every have. I have zero issues. I can't imagine trying to ride w/ the pain. You made the right decision.

  93. #93
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    Quote Originally Posted by NRSguy View Post
    Any updates from Honkinunit or Rdy357?

    I'm about to get my c3-c7 fusion in December, with many of the same symptoms as the OP. The surgeon is adamant about me NOT riding MTB after the surgery but thinks roadbikes will be okay. This thread is giving me much hope but I would love to see how you are doing now that its been years after your fusions.
    Interesting. I'm now 20 months post-surgery C5-C7 fusion and plate install. I asked my surgeon what he thought about MTB as a means of recovery. He suggested that after a couple months of healing that I "go for it!" I might have mentioned that road riding wasn't a big interest for me and he was more concerned that I would continue to ride my sport/tour motorcycle. He suggested that I stick with a full suspension bike but I couldn't get him to follow through with a prescription for a nice Carbon StumpJumper Evo.

    It's because of mountain biking that my level of fitness and my health have qualified my as "animal" on the trail among my 45-55 y/o peers. I'm hefting boulders and cutting trails as of recent, as well. Bottom line, as my Chiropractor tells me, you gotta keep moving and using your body or those joints will start to seize up. I'm in complete agreement.

    Go do it!

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    It’s been 3 year now since C1-C3 fusion. I'm ridding stronger than ever; event leading the pack regularly, but not on step downhill parts. Position on the bike is critical for avoiding pain. Dual suspension is a most. I have raise my handle bar went from a large frame to a medium one.
    Cervical Fusion Recovery TImes?-img_3773-3-.jpg

    I event started road biking this year. I still find it boring but it's an excellent cross-training. Like for Mtb, position is critical for avoiding pain. My friends are calling me the Plywood because the draft is excellent behind. But as long I'm able to follow I'm happy. See pic.
    Cervical Fusion Recovery TImes?-ride-2014-53156-2-.jpg

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    Quote Originally Posted by StiffNeck View Post
    It’s been 3 year now since C1-C3 fusion. I'm ridding stronger than ever; event leading the pack regularly, but not on step downhill parts. Position on the bike is critical for avoiding pain. Dual suspension is a most. I have raise my handle bar went from a large frame to a medium one.
    Click image for larger version. 

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    I event started road biking this year. I still find it boring but it's an excellent cross-training. Like for Mtb, position is critical for avoiding pain. My friends are calling me the Plywood because the draft is excellent behind. But as long I'm able to follow I'm happy. See pic.
    Click image for larger version. 

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    That's awesome. Keep up the good work, you are setting a good example for everybody.

    And I'm totally with you on the downhills....take yer time descending, and make the climbs where you really pour it on. Better for your heart, lungs, leg muscles, and way less risk of falling.

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    First of all I'd like to thank everyone who has contributed to this thread! I'm scheduled for a C4-5-6 anterior discectomy and fusion on 12/2/14 and this thread has done a lot to keep me hopeful. I've had my share of fear and anxiety over this and you've all helped a lot.

    I had a posterior partial discectomy and foramenotomy at C4-5 on the left side 4 years ago after which the surgeon commented that I've got the spine of an 80 year old and would have more trouble in the future. I've had gradually increasing neck pain and painful radiculopathy on the right side intermittently for a couple years now, but it hit hard last June and hasn't let up despite a couple rounds of PT and injections. I haven't ridden in 5 months! I've been riding since 1986 and have never been off a bike this long.

    The surgeon said that because of the work already done on the left side and the worsening disks and bone spurs, the only remaining option is fusion. He's been deeply involved in the development of minimally invasive spine surgery, so I have full confidence in his ability to give me my life back again.

    One of my biggest concerns was being able to return to mountain biking, however long it took. I realize that it's possible that I won't be able to that, and could live on without it (not happily), but I'm determined to approach the recovery with the idea that I'll be riding again. At a meeting with the surgeon's PA a couple weeks ago she told me that she sees no reason why I shouldn't be able to return to sensible trail riding (it's not like I can ride like I used to anyway), but it might not be until next fall because she would want to make sure the fusion was well along before giving the ok. I can live with that! After being off a bike for over a year it'll be like starting all over again, but if it means I get to ride again, I'm prepared to do whatever it takes. Once I'm past the painful part of the post-surgery, the most difficult thing for me will be maintaining the self discipline to *not* do more than I'm supposed to do.

    My goal will be to get at least one ride in before I turn 63 in mid October, even if it's on a fairly tame trail. I haven't been able to ride since before I turned 62 last October and I want to get at least one ride in while I'm 62. Our first grandkid is due next May and I want to still be riding with him or her when they're old enough to drive us to the trailhead.

    There's one thing I was wondering about fusion surgery. If they're going to combine C4 C5 and C6, will the resulting one be referred to as C15?
    We don't stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.

  97. #97
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    Ric426, You've got the right attitude. Best of luck with the procedures and the recovery. Don't rush the recovery. Listen to your body and your doctor. I tried to rush mine doing more than I should have and it set me back several months.
    Keep positive!

  98. #98
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    Ric426-
    Good luck with your surgery and recovery. Sounds like you have a great plan. You are an inspiration. I look forward to riding when I grow up too. :-)

    Charles "50 something"
    PS my neck still is good and I've faceplanted at least 5 times since recovery. My surgeon told me my neck would prob break before the fusion would. Nice.

  99. #99
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    Re: Cervical Fusion Recovery TImes?

    Quote Originally Posted by ric426 View Post
    First of all I'd like to thank everyone who has contributed to this thread! I'm scheduled for a C4-5-6 anterior discectomy and fusion on 12/2/14 and this thread has done a lot to keep me hopeful. I've had my share of fear and anxiety over this and you've all helped a lot.

    I had a posterior partial discectomy and foramenotomy at C4-5 on the left side 4 years ago after which the surgeon commented that I've got the spine of an 80 year old and would have more trouble in the future. I've had gradually increasing neck pain and painful radiculopathy on the right side intermittently for a couple years now, but it hit hard last June and hasn't let up despite a couple rounds of PT and injections. I haven't ridden in 5 months! I've been riding since 1986 and have never been off a bike this long.

    The surgeon said that because of the work already done on the left side and the worsening disks and bone spurs, the only remaining option is fusion. He's been deeply involved in the development of minimally invasive spine surgery, so I have full confidence in his ability to give me my life back again.

    One of my biggest concerns was being able to return to mountain biking, however long it took. I realize that it's possible that I won't be able to that, and could live on without it (not happily), but I'm determined to approach the recovery with the idea that I'll be riding again. At a meeting with the surgeon's PA a couple weeks ago she told me that she sees no reason why I shouldn't be able to return to sensible trail riding (it's not like I can ride like I used to anyway), but it might not be until next fall because she would want to make sure the fusion was well along before giving the ok. I can live with that! After being off a bike for over a year it'll be like starting all over again, but if it means I get to ride again, I'm prepared to do whatever it takes. Once I'm past the painful part of the post-surgery, the most difficult thing for me will be maintaining the self discipline to *not* do more than I'm supposed to do.

    My goal will be to get at least one ride in before I turn 63 in mid October, even if it's on a fairly tame trail. I haven't been able to ride since before I turned 62 last October and I want to get at least one ride in while I'm 62. Our first grandkid is due next May and I want to still be riding with him or her when they're old enough to drive us to the trailhead.

    There's one thing I was wondering about fusion surgery. If they're going to combine C4 C5 and C6, will the resulting one be referred to as C15?
    Good luck with your surgery and a speedy recovery! I will be following you by a few days as my c3-c7 fusion will take place on 12/9/14

    Sent from my SCH-I545 using Tapatalk
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  100. #100
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    If you have had spinal fusion, make sure you don't engage in to heavy of activities since fusion reduces the flexibility of your spine which will cause adjacent healthy discs to degenerate prematurely. This will eventually cause the same issues in those adjacent discs that required you to get fusion in the others.

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