How long does it take to heal whiplash and cervical fusion surgery?

by Lori Alexander
(Carlsbad, CA)

I had surgery on my neck last April...C3-C4 fusion.

I have been in pain on and off since then but it got very severe at the beginning of Dec.

I started icing and wiggling a week ago and it feels a lot better but I was just wondering, in your experience, how long it takes to get completely well?

I was in a bad car crash 20 years ago and have suffered with neck pain all these years.

I'm very faithful with the icing and wiggling and am just wondering if it could take weeks or even month of doing this to get well.

Thank you so much, Lori


Joshua Answers:

Hi Lori.

I really wish I could have worked on you a few times before your surgery appointment....

But on to your questions.

How long does it take to heal from cervical fusion surgery?

Well, that just all depends. The problem really isn't the fusion healing, it's the muscles that were already TOO TIGHT, the shrunk wrapped connective tissue, the Process of Inflammation that's been around the last 20 years and is still in place.

Let's just assume the surgery was sucessful and did what it was supposed to do. I'm not sure what it was supposed to do, what did they tell you?

And let's assume that the fused cervical vertebrae aren't going to irritate anything or cause any problems.

It's a great sign that the icing and wiggling has been helping. I would continue that, with modification.

1. Start ice massaging with a small water bottle. Start digging into the muscle, gently at first don't hurt yourself.

You can massage with your fingers too, but ice will give you all the benefits of icing.

Gently dig in and start exploring, flipping around and into bands of muscle. You'll find some interesting/tender/painful/dense geography in there.

2. Keep wiggling. Maybe go a little slower and a little farther. Start exploring your range in ever direction and every possible pivot point.

slow, pay attention. Wiggle bigger when it's appropriate after you explore your range and make sure your body will let you go there.

I don't really have an answer to your 'how long' question. There are MANY variables/factors.

It could be 'never'. It could be 'never unless you keep working on it'. It depends on your scenario and how you go about trying to address the core problem(s).

Perhaps the doctors advertised the surgery as a 'fix', but from where I sit, it's unlikely that you'll get to a pain free, happy neck state without doing some work on it to reverse the past 20 years of progressive tightness/shortness.

I do know that if you keep working on it, especially if you start doing the (ice) massage to help the dry crunchy half squeezed sponge turn into soft squishy relaxed sponge, it -will- get better.

As a general rule, the more you do, the better it will get.

If you do that diligently for a month, I expect your results will continue to progress, and accelerate as you go along.

If you don't do the work....remember what the past 20 years were and what it led up to? That's predictably how things go if you just let the neck do it's thing.

More questions, more answers. Keep me updated.

Please reply using the comment link below. Do not submit a new submission to answer/reply, it's too hard for me to find where it's supposed to go.

And, comments have a 3,000 character limit so you may have to comment twice.

Joshua Tucker, B.A., C.M.T.
The Tendonitis Expert

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Reversing Whiplash Tendonitis ebook cover

Comments for How long does it take to heal whiplash and cervical fusion surgery?

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May 21, 2010
Dr B
by: Anonymous

It tales about one year for a cervical fusion to completely heal. Smokers have a higher incidence of the fusion failing.


Joshua Comments:

Thanks Dr. B.

Seeing your answer had me realize that I didn't actually answer the poster's specific question.

Sep 02, 2010
Upset about cervical fusion and whiplash
by: Anonymous

I had cervical fusion in June and Dec of 2007. I had managed though therapy and careful living, not to irritate and let healing take its course. After 3 years, I was able to control what pain I did still have with medication. Was able to work 1 full time job and even add a part time job. 5 months ago on an average Wednesday Afternoon, I was hit from behind form someone not paying attention. I was sent to Hosp, they diagnosed me with Whiplash and back strain.

I have been in therapy for over 4 months at 3 times a week. I am still having issues with my lower back, ans well as upper.. severe shoulder pain.. I am so upset that this has put my life on hold.. Not sure where to go from here.. cant seem to get any dr to tell me an answer..

I have had 3 MRI and all they can tell me is inflammation and strain.. Mentally I need more to justify the pain.. any suggestions??



Joshua Comments:

Hi Anonymous.

I do indeed have lots of suggestions.

1. Get my Reversing Whiplash ebook. You don't need a couple tips, you need a complete plan, and an explanation of why you still hurt.

2. Get these two books:

A. 'Healing Back Pain' by Dr. John Sarno
B. '7 Steps To A Pain Free Life' by Dr. Robin McKenzie (horrible title, but an invaluable book).

3. What was going on that you had a fusion done?

4. What are you doing now to help with the pain?

5. Any symptoms of numbness, tingling, headaches, etc? Or just tightness and pain?

First things first, let's shoot for 50% pain reduction.

Feb 21, 2012
Neck Fusion Surgery and how long the fusion lasts
by: Anonymous

No comment just a question.

How long does neck fusion surgery last for? Not the operation itself but the fusion. Is there a time table for how many years? I had the surgery done in 2001 and have had very few problems but i'm starting to experience some neck and arm pain like i had before having the surgery and was wondering if the fusion could fail after certain amount of time?


Joshua Comments:

Hi Anonymous.

That's a really good question.

Fusions last forever once the bone grows together.

Your actual question is, how long do the benefits of a cervical fusion surgery last?

It sounds like you got good temporary benefit from a cervical fusion procedure - no pain. Great!

But, muscles and connective tissue, by default, over time, for a variety of reasons, get shorter and shorter and tighter and tighter and eventually, more and more painful.

Less range of motion due to cervical fusion means less range of motion for the muscles structures. That's not great, over time.

The problem with neck fusion surgery, is that, while it may be necessary (depending on the situation - traumatic injury can quite possibly require it, but pain without any traumatic injury...not so much), it doesn't fix the physical factors that were causing pain and problem in the first place.

See: Pain Causing Dynamic

If you're having a resurgence of neck and arm symptoms, I highly suggest that you get my Reversing Whiplash ebook. It can unfuse a cervical spine, but it can show you how to take care of the neck and arm pain and numbness.

More questions, more answers.

Jun 09, 2012
Try Yoga for pain and tendon pain and tendonitis pain
by: Anonymous

I had a cervical fusion in January of this year. I am just now getting somewhat back to normal.

I still have a lot of discomfort and tension in my neck and stress really aggravates it. My doctor did absolutely no follow up and acted as though I would be completely back to normal within a few weeks of my surgery. That's what I expected and hoped for as the single mother of three year old.

I am relatively young and have been very active through the years, so I thought recovery would be a snap. It wasn't. I researched and came up with the only solution to my pain, Yoga! I can't tell you how much better I feel and if I miss a day I can really tell it.

I would first discuss this with your physician just to make sure you are not at risk of greater injury.


Joshua Comments:

I totally agree. (semi) daily stretching is awesome for everything.

Also, see: Magnesium for Tendonitis

Jul 20, 2015
Bulging discs in back and chronic neck pain, please help
by: Debbie C

Hello Joshua.

I turned 49 this month and it seems like I'm falling apart. ( Please excuse the punctuation-my phone has a language problem)

About an hour ago my wrist started hurting really bad and I wasn't even doing anything. So of course I grabbed my phone to do a search hoping to find some useful information besides the usual RICE.

And I found your website.

I believe in your ice dipping / massage therapy which I will start doing immediately. I use ICE on my skin when it gets irritated and it works wonderfully.

I have a question & would like your advice. 3 years ago I was in an automobile accident and injured my lower back.

Prior to that I had chronic neck pain from a few injuries I ignored & now arthritis.

MRI says spondylosis/ bulging discs.

I have trouble walking for any distance. And it's difficult for me to stand up straight. it is very painful if I try to do leg lifts. I walk like The Hunchback of Notre Dame.

I cannot enjoy the activities that I did prior.

Instead of being active I am like a couch potato because the pain. I really don't want to continue living like this. I know you're not at orthopedic surgeon but you seem to have knowledge of the way the body works and how it feels pain caused by inflammation.

The doctors I have seen just want to give me pills. I want to fix the problem not cover it up. I'm afraid to have back surgery because I hear so many horror stories.

I want to go back to work but the pain causes me not to and I have no income. I've been seeking help but not getting anywhere. Any advice or referral would be so much appreciated.

First things first, I need to fix my wrist. I will follow your 7 day plan and let you know.
I have faith that it will work.

Thank you very much for sharing your information in advance.

( Sorry for such a long message)

I hope to hear from you soon.

Debbie C


Joshua Comments:

Hi Debbie.

1. I'm not worried about the wrist pain. Wrists are easy to deal with.

2. I put this comment/response here on a whiplash page for the 'chronic neck pain and now arthritis'.

Whiplash type issue is fairly easy to deal with. It's likely the arthritis (and very likely the chronic neck pain) can be reversed.

That's an issue of chronic tightness and compression.

3. The bulging discs etc in the low back are also due to chronic tightness and compression.

You have to deal with the tightness/compression somehow.

A. See the 'Magnesium For Tendonitis' link in this thread. That is vital.

B. Hot/cold/hot/cold on the back.

C. Reach on your sides, between the top of the hip and bottom of the ribs, and massage/dig in there. That's super tight and is part of the compression.

D. Finish hot showers with cold on the back.

E. Like a horse rubbing on a fence post, find something that you can lean up against and rub/grind on your low back.

Be gentle at first, but you have to start opening up all the too tight muscle and connective tissue that is the expanse of your low back. (Same thing as everywhere else one has soft tissue pain, but while the neck is easy to reach, the back, not so much.)

Wrist, neck, and back, they all share a Tendonitis dynamic.

See: What Is Tendonitis?

My go to for disc issues in neck and/or back is The ARPwave System, though good news/bad news it could be considered to be pricey (but incredibly quickly effective).

See Related: Longtime Whiplash Injury Still Reversible?

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