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Chaos and Pain



Ed Shanks

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?

Pain Report

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.

Doctor Follow-Up

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.

Strength Update

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

What’s Next?

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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