Getting Out of My Neck Brace

I visited my doctor today, and I finally got permission to stop using my neck brace. Until you have had your neck constricted for almost two months and then released, you don’t know how good you can feel. I think that the resident described by expression as “beaming”.
I’ve been working with the incredible staff at the UW Sports Medicine clinic.

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Not only does UW have some of the best doctors in the world, but their sports medicine clinic on science drive has a fantastic state of the art indoor gym where people can go to rehab and work one on one with therapists and trainers, or even just sign up for a membership for and work out there just like they can at the YMCA.

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My doctor said that the X-ray looked good. Honestly, I think that he was a little surprised, because a majority of the anterior cervical diskectomy and fusion procedures that he performs are on less than ideal surgical candidates, who often times have degenerative disk or bone diseases that need to be treated with a fusion.

Taking my neck brace off for the first time was a little scary. I was excited, but I was also a little nervous that I would do something to hurt myself if I moved too much, or really moved at all.

20130220-174146.jpg Right now, my neck is noticeably skinnier than it was before I had the neck brace on, because I haven’t really used the muscles at all for 6 weeks. In the coming days, I’ll of course become more comfortable, and increase my range of motion much more.

So there you have it. The doctors put in 4 screws and a plate, of which you can see the X-ray below:

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To be honest, I’m not sure yet if I’ll set off metal detectors, but I’m not quite sure what will happen if I do. I guess a trip down to my local courthouse is in order to test that out (kidding, kidding. Don’t worry, I would never waste the time of the bailiffs, who already have a vital role in the speed, efficiency, and safety of our judicial system).

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Starting Physical Therapy

Starting physical therapy is both daunting and exciting. It signals a level of well being such that you are again able to exercise and work on increasing your strength, but also signals that you must begin to work hard to become as strong and as independent as you hope to be. Not all of your recovery will be easy. There will be times when you’re hurting, or stretching farther than you’d like to, or unable to lift something that you thought you could. But don’t give up. By giving up, you forsake your inner spirit that drives you onward and pushes you to succeed. By focusing, pushing through your misgivings, and working as hard as you can you can do all that you set out to.

You must, must, must do what your physical therapist tells you to do. Starting physical therapy is no easy thing, but finishing it can be even more difficult if you don’t give your exercises 110% effort. If you skimp and cheat, and tell yourself that “You’ll just do it tomorrow” or “It’s ok, I’ve already gotten so far”, you aren’t only cheating yourself. Remember that your trainer, your family, and your friends all want you to do well and all want you to become as healthy as you can be, and that by slacking off you’re denying yourself a level of health that you could have achieved along with contributing to the stress of others who want the best for you. Don’t give up. You’re strong, you’re capable, and you’re able to push through whatever life throws at you.

When I broke my spine, I shattered my C7 vertebrae. Small slivers of bone exploded outwards, and some of them stabbed into a large nerve that runs down my left arm. For weeks I could barely feel my hand, and could barely lift my arm. I started physical therapy as soon as I could by simply squeezing a stress ball and playing with something called air putty. By doing these exercises, I was able to strengthen my hand much quicker than I could have had I just left my body to heal itself without any help from me.

Now after just 6 weeks, I have full feeling in my hand and most of my grip has returned. I’m getting stronger every day, and I believe that starting physical therapy had a major impact on the speed of my recovery. Although I still have issues raising my left arm much past parallel to the ground, as soon as my doctor clears me to do exercises to improve my strength, mobility, and range of motion I will exercise with a passion.

Remember: You are the one with ultimate control over your recovery. Starting physical therapy is one of the best ways to improve your health, your independence, and your motivation level. One of my most potent motivators has been seeing my successes and my improvements every day, which are all thanks to starting physical therapy.