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Monday, December 7, 2015

3 weeks post-op

Tomorrow, 12/8, I'll be 3 weeks post-op so I figured it's probably time for an update, so here we go. I'm going to take the lazy writing route this morning though and bullet this thing out.

My surgery recovery is going well. I have no surgical pain left - that actually ended just a few days after surgery. I do have a numbness through the left side of my scalp and this weird sensation that can only be described by the feeling that you've slept with your hair up tight and then taken it out (not painful, just weird). But that's not the big question...

Yes, I do still have my headache. At face value, that seems disappointing (obviously complete and immediate resolution of my headache would have been best case scenario), but apparently not totally unexpected or a reason to be discouraged. For starters, there's still a lot of inflammation and swelling going on (though it has improved quite a bit in the least few weeks). When I got my stitches out last Thursday, we could feel a pretty a pretty knotty band of swelling right along my incision. I've been trying to bring that inflammation down with heat packs for now, and once I transition to a soft collar on 12/29, I'll be able to start some other manual therapy like scraping, etc. I've also been having a lot of tightness through my upper traps and shoulders, which I feel pretty confidently is contributing to my head pain. I'm going to be starting some light massage this week (and possibly some needling) to try to get those muscles relaxed. Although I need to be in the hard collar right now to limit mobility and allow the fusion to heal, the collar is also likely contributing to the surrounding tightness. So I guess the greatest challenge over the last few weeks has been more mental than anything else...trying to stay positive and believe that there are headache-free days ahead. I told Craig a few days ago, after someone asked about my progress and I told them that it really shouldn't be discouraging that I'm still in pain because blah blah blah and then they complimented my "positive attitude", that I just don't want my optimism to be the reason for the answer I'm giving...I just want it to be true.

Until we go back to Dr. Franck's for my follow-up on 12/29, the collar stays on 24/7, including sleeping, showering, etc. and I wear a bone stimulator device that sits around my neck for 4 hours per day. This collar is actually a lot more comfortable than the one I was in for 6 weeks earlier this fall while doing the prolotherapy and PRP and it really doesn't bother me at all any more. It just comes off for a few minutes in the morning or evening when Craig (or my mom) changes my bandages. Because all the stitches out out, I don't have to wear a bandage anymore but have found it to be much more comfortable than having my incision touch the brace all day. Craig's taken pictures on most days so we can see the progress in swelling (and of course measure how fast my amazing buzz cut is growing).

Thankfully, I did get the go-ahead to start some "light" exercise. Having not been able to do much of anything but walk over the last few weeks has made me appreciate just how much working out helps me mentally deal with my headache. So it felt pretty damn good to at least break a sweat this morning. With Craig's help, I've started with some real basic bodyweight and air resistance stuff, including a little Pilates work. The biggest priority right now, aside from obviously not moving my neck, is to keep tension out of my traps and shoulders. Instead of a traditional spin-style stationary bike, I'm finding that a Keiser arm bike (similar to an Airdyne) is actually more comfortable because I can maintain a much more upright position.

I'll plan to post an update again once I've started with some manual therapy and hopefully give the swelling a chance to subside. Thanks again for all of the well wishes over these last few weeks!


  1. Katie,
    Want you to know that I am thinking of you and ending you positive energy and healing thoughts in your recovery! I hope that one day, very very soon, maybe tomorrow, the inflammation from the surgery will reduce and you will wake up headache-free!
    All the best,

  2. Hi Katie,

    Thank you for documenting your journey with pain and sharing it with us. You have truly been an inspiration to those of us who can relate to your challenges. If you have some time and are feeling up to it, can you please contact me at twaite754@gmail.com? I am having the same surgery next week and I would sincerely appreciate the opportunity to speak with you. I wish you a successful recovery and continued improvement.

    Warm regards,


  3. Hi Katie- I've read all of your posts. You are an astonishing person, and could teach the world about bravery and persistence. My son has chronic pain and severe cervical instability, and one doc has advised that we go to Dr Franck. I would be very appreciative if you could email me at wfagan@swbell.net, and advise whether you are pleased or not pleased with your results, at this stage. Thank you so much, and keep hanging in there. You've made it this far, and with your personality and Craig's devotion, you will find your solution eventually. Bill