If you have been keeping up with my life (I mean, why wouldn’t you have, I’m sure you don’t have anything better to do) then you are aware that I had major surgery in January. In case you don’t know, the vertebra in my lower neck were messed up. Arthritic build-up in the disks between C7-C4 were putting pressure on my spinal cord and nerve roots. Well, I had surgery, the pain went away almost immediately, and I was able to start lifting weights again 11 weeks later. That was in early April. So how am I doing now?
After people find out about my surgery, they always seem to ask about my current pain level. Call me lucky, or whatever you want, but I have NO neck pain! Heck, looking back over the past several years, I believe that my neck issues were going on for a while. I remember having trap and scapula pain for years. I don’t have those pains anymore. My neck constantly felt like it needed to be adjusted or needed to "pop." Not anymore. I would be sore after a back workout for days. Not anymore. And what is the most important thing? I can pick-up my 4-year-old son without any pain.
When you have major neck surgery, you must go to the doctor a ton. I had four vertebrae fused together. So obviously, I must have x-rays taken every time I go for a follow-up. Since my surgery in late January, I have had three follow-up appointments. The first follow-up appointment was at five weeks. The second was at 11 weeks post-surgery. And my most recent follow-up appointment was 6 months after my 11-week appointment.
This last check-up was important because it was the first time my neck was examined since I started training again. And what type of lifts have I predominately been performing? Olympic and power lifts. Snatches, clean and jerks, squats, etc. And what did I find out? That the metal screws and plates in my neck have held up extremely well. My neck has continued to heal, and I have no limitations, except for it being difficult to hold my phone on my shoulder. Luckily, I am a huge blue-tooth advocate, so this limitation isn’t a big deal.
Besides the pain, the loss of strength and coordination in my left arm was the worst part about my condition. Even if I was able to tuff it out and deal with pain, I would have had permanent strength loss in my left arm. Immediately after I woke up from surgery, my pain was gone. However, the strength in my left arm was significantly less than what it was three months before that January afternoon.
Fast forward to nine months after my surgery, and the strength in my left arm is still not what it was a year ago. My doctor told me that generally the strength you regain within a year after your surgery is all that you will get back. Unfortunately, I still have some isolated pain in my left forearm and can only do 5 pullups (I was able to do 15+ easily before). However, I am not worried. My strength and coordination have steadily increased since I started lifting again, and I know that it will only be a matter of time before I am stronger than I was before I started to loss my strength.
I am extremely grateful that my neck was able to be fixed. As I was writing this article, I realized that it was a year ago that my pain started. What a difference a year can make. I am also reminded that life should be enjoyed, and you shouldn’t let small things stress you out. When you are in pain 24/7, you start to reevaluate what is important in life. I can tell you without a doubt that health is the most important thing in life. We often take our health for granted when we are younger. It is only as we age and start to show signs of wear and tear that we start to realize what a blessing being healthy really is.
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