Often us broken neck survivors are left in the dark of what we can and cannot do after surgery. Take this guy for example, AdamG from the Spine-Health forum (an informative and supportive forum on which I have always lurked around but, to my shame, never contributed):

My problem is that I have a lack of direction in terms of what I can and cannot do by my neurosurgeon. Several attempts have been made to try and extract the additional detail from him via his secretary but this has proven fruitless. I have been doing research on the Internet for returning to the gym post-ACDF and there is a wealth of conflicting advice. Some say squats are fine some say squats should be avoid at all costs. The same is true for other exercises so now I’m more confused than ever. I need to know what exercises I am permitted to do and which ones should be avoided. Also if certain exercises should be avoided, are there any safer alternatives? As my injury occurred in the gym I just want to be careful when I return whilst being the best I can.

This is why I came fully prepared with my list of questions.

Disclaimer: All of our injuries are different and the responses here are true only for me. My advice: If you don’t know, JUST ASK YOUR DOCTOR. Seriously. When I was getting extremely anxious about my upcoming surgery, I just phoned his office and his assistant miraculously transferred me over to him. Given that he is one of the busiest and most sought-after neurosurgeons in Toronto, I was so happy that he could talk to me and answer my questions (more like “calm me down”) on the spot! WHAT IF YOUR DOCTOR DOESN’T RESPOND? I think it’s best to just err on the side of caution and wait until he does.

I shouldn’t have asked my dad to stop recording! We were getting to my most anticipated response! It was getting so awkward though.

Answered in the video:

  • What kind of therapy and exercises should I do for my neck?

The physical therapist will know. I am to do a lot more rehab for my shoulders, traps, deltoids, etc. though from being inactive for so long (this wasn’t said in the video, but much later during my appointment).

  • Can I have massages on my neck? To what extent?

Gentle massages are fine. NO NECK MANIPULATION WHATSOEVER (i.e., chiropractor-style… like I would ever go near one).

The rest of my questions:

  • Can I start exercising (strength, cardio) soon? How light can I go to start?

Strength: Less than 30 pounds for the next three months. Then no more restrictions thereafter. Pre-accident I regularly exercised with eight- to ten-pound dumbbells so let’s see if I can get back to that first. When I return to my job at the mine, I will need to lift a lot more. Those rocks can’t lift themselves!

Cardio: For the next three months, I am to avoid “repetitive, pounding movements.” I was like, Hey, that’s sounds a lot like what we got at the mine! So I obviously can’t go back to work yet. Not a lot of jumping allowed either. Zumba or whatever “dancercise” workout would be fine. No running, Insanity, or T25 just yet… maybe after three months. No skydiving, trampolining, or going on a pogo stick, Dr. A said (like I would even!).

  • Can I do yoga now?

Yes, but I must be careful with my neck. And I quote Dr. A, “But no headstands!”

  • When should I see you again?

In three months. In the meantime I should get a CT scan for us to review next time. The earliest appointment I got was in the second week of January.

  • When can I go back to work?

My neurosurgeon will reassess me at my next appointment and see if I can go back to work. So perhaps March 2016 at the earliest. I think he’s worried because I work in a remote location, without access to emergency medical services. In case something were to happen to me (I don’t even know what… fall?!?), I would need to be helicoptered or flown using a charter plane out of there to Thunder Bay, Ontario… only around 400 km away.

Summer 2016 at the latest, I would think.

  • Can you PLEASE prescribe me some narcotics for the pain?

Dr. A retorted, “Nice try.”

I wasn’t in that much pain, really. I can take Tylenol as needed.

  • Can I take the plane/train/car to New Brunswick and Québec to spend Christmas with my husband’s family?


  • Do I have to ride in the plane/train/car with the neck brace on?


  • Can I take public transit (train/bus) now?

“Wait, you weren’t doing that before?”

Darn it.

I won’t take any chances driving until my neck is fully mobile and I see my neurosurgeon at my next appointment.

  • Do I have to sleep with the neck brace on?

God, no!

“You can even burn it, if you want!”

I really had my list of questions with me

Hmmm, maybe not yet. I still have it. I don’t know, for emergencies?! It’s kind of like my security blanket.

Linus : security blanket; Dan : neck brace
  • Am I taking the right amount of Vitamin D and calcium in my supplements?

I don’t have to even take them. Apparently the North American diet is so fortified in vitamins and minerals that it’s not necessary. (But I’m still going to take some to be sure… LOL.)

  • Do I have to use the bone stimulator at exactly the same time everyday? Do I actually have to use it for six more months?

My neurosurgeon said no. Stupid chiropractor. I should use it for the next three more months until my neck appointment, at least.

YAY for my freedom! Thank you for the best Christmas present I could ever hope for, doc! See you in March!

Oh, but I forgot to ask if I can 1) skate this winter; and 2) carry a backpack. I guess there won’t be any of that for me for the next three months! (It’s okay, I think I’ll live.)

Showing off my *new and improved* neck to my husband