Chiari Online Support Group

What can happen if you lift too much after surgery?

I was feeling really good and then I wasn’t thinking and I lifted about 20 lbs and my surgery was 3 months ago that included opening the dura and removing the C1. I did the lifting about 4 days ago and my head still hurts especially around the incision. Is there damage I could have caused inside when I lifted? Thanks

Hey Dragonfly,
In short ‘Yes, you COULD have caused damage’.
I say this because I did something similar. Post neurosurgery I pushed myself and ended up back in hospital requiring further surgery. My thoughts were ‘lifting a muscle thing, not a head thing’, but as it was explained to me, when we lift we use our arm muscles, which tightens our shoulder muscles, which tightens our neck muscles and pulls on our scalps and the base of the skull. So it’s not solely our arms involved in the actions. Then there’s our vascular system. Our brains tell our arms to move, but it also tells our heart we need more oxygen, more blood. But it doesn’t just pump more blood to our arm, but through our whole system, including our brain. Under normal circumstances our body copes with these adjustments fairly well, but post surgery our systems can be a little compromised, hence the need for ‘Rest and Recuperation’.

I had a shocking example of this the day I left hospital after my first surgery. I went to do the ‘normal’ thing and pick up my bag, it wasn’t heavy… …And OMG, I got a kick from a mule to the back of my head and projectile vomited all over the floor and the headache was HUGE and I collapsed. The nurses would let me leave until I’d seen the dr, he wasn’t available, so I had to wait. By the time he got there I was OK and he let me go with a word of caution ‘Don’t do it again’. The thing was I didn’t know what I wasn’t to do again, all I did was lift my bag. But even that was too much??

I found I REALLY had to slow down. Prior I had 2 speeds, full tilt and stop and I could work all day. After, I had to re-learn my body’s new limits and new signs. I had to think before I did anything. This was all very foreign. Before, I wanted to do and I did it. No thinking, just do it. Like I say, I used to be able to work all day, post surgery I was lucky to get 2hrs of decent work done before I was becoming symptomatic. I told my (pigheaded) self that by pushing I was building stamina, so I ignored symptoms and pushed myself harder. Hint, BIG HINT: Don’t do that. If your body is giving you signals, listen to them. Mine was telling me, “laydown or I’ll put you down” I didn’t listen and ended up back in hospital needing further surgery. It put me down HARD!!

Now, I am not a dr. I am not saying you have done damage. You simply may have pulled a muscle or it may be your body telling you its new limits. But, if you are concerned, get it checked out. Stress can also cause some profound issues and if your symptoms concern you, get it checked out, even if that is just to put your mind at ease that it’s nothing major.

Believe me (Because I’ve done it), you’ll be kicking yourself every day that ends with a ‘Y’ if you don’t follow it up and end up having a major issue that could/should have been dealt with earlier.

Merl from the Moderator Support Team.

Thank you for the response and needed advice! I will definitely try to slow down on what I do. I’m like you and I am active and do things without questioning. What was the 2nd surgery you had done? I don’t feel too terrible but it does hurt under the incision area and down my neck and shoulders, I have been putting ice on it a lot. How did they discover you needed the 2nd surgery? MRI?

I had or have a problem with CSF (Cerebral Spinal Fluid) flow and required the insertion of a shunt. There was a bit of a debate over the cause and treatment options, with each medico having their own opinion, which only confused the matter further.
And yes, it was an MRI that gave a more definitive idea to a course of action.

Merl from the Moderator Support Team.

Thank you for the support and answers. I hope you are doing better now!?

Better? That depends on whose measure is used. I hoped to be back to ‘normal’, but this has not been the case for me. My plan was, they’d operate, I’d recuperate and all would be fine. My initial surgery was back in '96 and it’s been a bit of a rollercoaster ever since. So far I’ve had 6 neurosurgeries in total with the last being '13. I’ve also required surgical procedures related to it all, just not neurosurgical.
I ‘try’ (not always successfully) to look at it this way:- If they didn’t operate I’d be dead and sure, things aren’t great, symptom wise, but it could be worse, a hell of a lot worse.
For many years I worked with people with disabilities and have seen some of the ‘worst case scenarios’ and (selfishly) I think of them and think ‘Well, at least I’m not in their position’ which I so easily could be. And for that I have to be thankful.

Merl from the Moderator Support Team.