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I found your story very interesting. I went to a wonderful surgeon in Madison Wisconsin (I live just south of there). I also had an Anterior corpectomy with fusion of C5.(C4, C5 discs removed) Fusion is with a titanium cage. Right now I’m 12 weeks out from surgery and I’m doing OK but the reason I had surgery to begin with was because I was having trouble walking all of a sudden. I never had much for arm problems or shoulder problems but it was always my legs. Did you have any trouble with your legs and walking? And if you did did it take a long time to get that back….your ability to walk? I am very frustrated because every day is different some days I have fairly good days where I’m only minimally numb and my legs aren’t swollen ….other days It seems very difficult for me to even walk. I also have bulging disc in my lumbar but from the EMG I had that says that that’s not causing any problems. I will find out next week with an x-ray of my neck to see if that’s doing well… I had one done at six weeks and it looked like it was doing well. Again my problem is my legs and my walking ability. Am I being too impatient to think that some of that should’ve come back already after 12 weeks ??How long did it take you to feel like your spinal cord/nerves healed? I would be interested in any information you could give me at this point. Thank you in advance in case you do write me. Sincerely, Connie

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Replies to "I found your story very interesting. I went to a wonderful surgeon in Madison Wisconsin (I..."

@constancebabe Thank you for your question, Connie. I presume that you are able to walk, but with a lot of difficulty from your question. Yes, I did have trouble walking when I had cervical spinal cord compression. I walked like I had a limp with an uneven gait. Before my spine surgery, muscle spasms were moving my vertebrae around and would twist or tilt them which effectively made the spinal canal smaller. My physical therapist would work on the spasms and get my neck realigned, and I walked normally again. It was an intermittent problem that happened when more pressure was put on the spinal cord from misalignment. It was never a permanent situation. I had tracked the progress of my spine related symptoms and pains for several months, so I knew which symptoms were caused by cord compression, and unfortunately several surgeons discredited that information. I knew that when I had a pain could be turned on or off simply by changing the position or bend in my neck, it absolutely was caused by that specific position. The spinal cord floats in the spinal fluid like a rope inside a bendable tube. It has to move to allow your body to move, and the problems happen when something pins the spinal cord in place. Later on, as the bone spurs progressed putting more pressure on my cord, I got to where I could not turn off pain by changing position, but it did sometimes change where the pain was. It also got to where I could bend my neck forward and send an electrical shock down my entire body. I did loose muscle on the back of my upper arms and shoulders (about half the muscle mass) and since surgery 4 years ago, about half of what I lost has come back. Immediately after surgery when I woke up, all of the pain I had previously was gone. The pain I had was from the surgery itself, but there was no more leg pain and I walked normally. It got more painful from inflammation for about 2 weeks and there were some neck muscle spasms during healing, but by 6 weeks, I felt pretty good, but still tired from healing. I was in a neck brace for 3 months which creates muscle weakness, so when that came off, I had to do physical therapy. I agreed to 3 months in a brace to avoid having hardware placed on my spine and only had a bone spacer. My neck complained a lot about having to hold up the weight of my head, but by 6 months, I was doing well. My MRI images never showed any damage to the spinal cord itself and a patient can have mild myelopathy that does not show on imaging. That is why it is important to have decompression surgery before permanent damage happens. If you have your MRI imaging, look for a whitish diffuse area in the spinal cord. That is what damage looks like, and of course, you need a medical opinion to diagnose your case. Your surgeon should explain what your imaging shows. Another possible diagnosis could be an issue with the brain related to difficulty walking. I am not saying that to scare you, but if this hasn't been ruled out with brain imaging, your doctor doesn't know. I worked with a lady who developed brain cancer, and this was her first symptom with difficulty walking. A neurologist should be questioning this if a patient presents with a sudden difficulty in walking. A spine surgeon naturally thinks about it being a possible spine problem. They have to rule out issues in the entire spine too. I had an MRI of my complete spine before my spine surgery.

I would suggest getting a second opinion about the lumbar bulging disc in relation to issues with walking. I also have a lumbar bulging disc. Mine will crack and is sometimes slightly rotated and I have had sciatic pain that I could stop by rotating my spine. Other things that can affect the lumbar spine can be overly tight hip flexor muscles. That happens when we sit too much and since you have difficulty walking, you must be sitting a lot. ( I spent the last year healing a broken ankle and sitting too much, and I'm working on this now.) I get tight and have to stretch my legs and hips to relieve aching in my low back. There are places that create nerve compression points between overly tight hip muscles and can create symptoms similar to a lumbar spine problem. My surgeon told me the best way to prevent spine problems is to maintain good core strength. This link explains issues that can be confused as spine related, but are caused by pelvis misalignment and tight hip and leg muscles. It is technical and covers a lot of different issues and was written for physical therapists.
Has your doctor given you an opinion about why you have leg swelling? Do you have circulation issues? One possible cause of leg swelling is blood clots and that is a risk after any surgery for maybe about a month. From your post, it sounds like you had leg swelling prior to spine surgery. I think you should question that until you get some answers. If there is a circulatory problem in your legs, that could be a reason for difficulty walking and pain. There can be multiple things going on causing similar symptoms at the same time and it may be or may not be related to the spine issues. An EMG test shows a doctor if your nerves are working correctly and delivering impulses to activate the specific muscle it serves. Those tests find damage, but also are done to rule out inflammatory nerve issues like MS. They also have to consider the physical aspect of a damaged disc and if the bulge from it begins to press on something like a nerve root exiting the spine. If that progresses to a herniation and the disc begins to collapse, the vertebrae will get closer together closing down the space between them ( called the foramen) where those nerves exit the spine. That inflammation also causes bones spurs and arthritic changes that also close down that space. The uneven pressure on the end plates of the vertebrae causes the bone to remodel that can create spurs. I did not have nerve root compression, only spinal cord compression in my case, so when that was resolved, all the pain was gone when I woke up from surgery and it was done before permanent damage happened. Perhaps the slight muscle loss in my shoulder and arms is a bit of permanent damage. I was getting sharp pains in my arms and shoulders for a year before surgery, and they continued for abut a year after to a lesser degree which I presume were then healing pains which can happen as peripheral nerves heal. I would have done this surgery sooner, but I couldn't find a surgeon willing to help for 2 years. Then I came to Mayo and got help right away.

You also mentioned numbness. Is that in your legs? I would definitely tell your surgeon about that. Did your doctor say if the fusion process has begun yet? Some patients fail to fuse, so that would be something to ask about. I was fusing at 3 months time, but we are all different. The inflammation from the healing process also increases inflammation in the rest of the body and can affect other issues you may have. For me that was thoracic outlet syndrome which got worse for awhile and I couldn't move or stretch my neck to work on it. I just had to endure the discomfort an pain for a few months before my surgeon would let me do therapy. A physical therapy evaluation may be helpful, but only if your surgeon clears it for you as it is still pretty early in the healing process and you had more than one cervical level involved. I hope this helps. I certainly understand. Healing takes a lot of patience and giving yourself permission to just rest.

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