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IS muscle atrophy permanent

grandmesamomggrandmesamom Posts: 181
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:22 AM in Neck Pain: Cervical
I am facing another cervical surgery soon due to severe C7 root compression. My xrays show a solid fusion after a successful C6 C7 ACDF some 18 months ago. I now have severe weakness and my tricep muscle has atrophied or wasted away. Has anyone had this happen to them? Also will I be able to get the muscle bulk back? I think this is a result of the nerve being damaged.
Any thoughts would be appreciated.


  • I've had muscle atrophy in several areas including both arms and my chest muscles. They just don't seem to be coming back at all. If I lose anymore in my arms all I'll have left are "Bingo Wings"...you know, those old lady arms that flap in the wind LOL

    Seriously, I thought that I'd see some improvement by now. I used to be pretty muscular for a woman and maybe I'm just expecting too much. The pectorals seem to be the worst and I've seen no increase in those muscles at all. I can feel all my ribs and I've never been able to do that. I'm using my body as much as possible and am going back to PT yet again to see if that helps (it hasn't made any difference in the past).

    Every person is different and my muscle loss was pretty dramatic and happened fast. Get that diagnosis before you worry yourself into the ground!



  • look horrible....I weight 110 pounds and use to be an avid gym person before all of my neck surgeries.....it has been 18 month since my surgery and I do have nerve damage coming from C5C6.....I know how to work out but when I try the pain is too much. I am now in PT for what was thought to be rotator cuff problem but they now have decided it is coming from my neck. I use to have great looking arms, very toned and now they look like bat wings.....I wear quarter length sleeves so they don't show. Will it get better??? I don't think so in my case. Everyone is different....hope this is not your case.

  • Bethy,

    This is actually a good question on a subject that is near and dear to my heart.

    Atrophy can be caused by many things, all of which basically "cut off" the nerves signal to the muscle. As long as the nerve does not die or suffer irrepairable damage, the muscle can generally be restored.

    Some muscles will atrophy completely and others only partially. If a muscle begins to atrophy it will reach peak or full atrophy usually within 6 months.

    Some causes are; nerve compression due to spine injury or disease, tumors, cut nerves and loss of blood supply to a nerve.

    Posterior C-spine surgery is known to have a higher risk of muscle atrophy due to denervation.

    There are specialized surgeons that will do nerve and muscle grafts. This in of itself can bring on more potential problems than it is meant to solve.

    It's quite possible that your muscle atrophy is not permanent and can be very easily verified with an EMG.

    I hope this helps.

  • I'm not a doctor but I believe it all depends on what the cause of the atrophy is. Seeing that you are here and with your Hx, I'm going to assume that it is nerve related. The recovery will depend on how damaged the nerves are. It may and then again it may not be permanent. If the cause is nutrition or some other cause it will be easier to recover.
  • so i have nerve compression, myelopathy, stenosis, and 2 herniations c6-7. i've been to 4 surgeons. only one said don't do the surgery yet. let's watch it.

    i have pain in my arm, weakness in leg, t-spine arthritis type pain but the only pain that is almost everyday is my forearm-but i think it's from typing.if i lie down too much which i've been doing since i don't have a job, it's alot worse.

    i lost my job in march 2008 and need a job badly. i was hoping to postpone the surgery, get a job, and take a few weeks off maybe a year later to do the surgery.

    the point is-should i even do the surgery? it's more of a comfort of living emotional pain not so much physical pain, but both can be tiring as i am sleeping 12 hours a day. i have no more sex drive and this is causing issues with my husband. i feel so guilty, but who the hell wants to have sex when you're not feeling great? i can't workout anymore except swimming. that's been helpful, and now i have this pain under my rib cage for 3 months and noone knows what it is. i've had a HIDA scan, and ultrasound and rib series-all negative. my doc thinks it may be from a herniated disk in my T-spine. if i get cerviacal surgery and it doesn't work, i will be SO PISSED. so far my EMG of my legs and arms are normal, and i go for an EEMG this week. but so far no problem. only that one doc who told me not to do it thinks the leg weakness is coming from my lumbar L-5 herniation not the cervical, but all the other doc's think it's from the cervical. so you can see why i'm not getting the exact answers i need to think this surgery is really going to fix all my issues.

    what do you guys think?

  • C, I did have an emg that showed severe active denervation. Not sure what that means exactly but i am to have a cervical myleogram soon. The Dr who did the EMG said it was my C7 nerve root is involved. My atrophy and arm weakness happened suddenly and has not shown signs of getting better.The NS wants to do surgery posterior but in my state of shock I didn't even ask what he wanted to do. I am going to seek another opinion after myleogram.

  • grandmesamom said:
    I am facing another cervical surgery soon due to severe C7 root compression. My xrays show a solid fusion after a successful C6 C7 ACDF some 18 months ago. I now have severe weakness and my tricep muscle has atrophied or wasted away. Has anyone had this happen to them? Also will I be able to get the muscle bulk back? I think this is a result of the nerve being damaged.
    Any thoughts would be appreciated.
  • Panther1 said:
    grandmesamom said:
    I am facing another cervical surgery soon due to severe C7 root compression. My xrays show a solid fusion after a successful C6 C7 ACDF some 18 months ago. I now have severe weakness and my tricep muscle has atrophied or wasted away. Has anyone had this happen to them? Also will I be able to get the muscle bulk back? I think this is a result of the nerve being damaged.
    Any thoughts would be appreciated.
  • Hi new member here. I had my surgery on April 21 and am now back at work on limited duties. I still have slight tingling in my left thumb and index fingers which is no big deal. My only concern is the muscle atrophy caused by the disc cutting nerve signal to the muscle, specifically my left bicep and shoulder. This occurred rather quickly, within 2 months. Luckly I was able to get surgery ASAP. My question is what is the rate of recovery for those muscles. I know that if severe nerve damage caused by a disc is left for a long time, than that damage may be permanent. I know I'm probably rushing things, but I can hardly curl 10lbs, and can only bring arm full out to side and front with no weight. Any thoughts would be appreciated.
  • sandisandi Posts: 6,448
    edited 06/05/2014 - 5:36 AM

    The muscle wasting can be recovered, assuming that the nerve recovers. It takes time and some work on your part, but the muscle can recover. Are you in physical therapy? They can work with you to help increase your range of motion and strengthening over time. Hang in there, it is still early days .
  • Thanks Sandi for the quick reply. My surgeon has told I could start PT if I want, the only thing is should I be looking for a specific physiotherapist? Could I do PT on my own? He did tell me to start strength training to a maximum of no more that 20lbs.
  • I would at least start your rehab with a trained physical therapist. They can direct your recovery, give you specific excercises so as not to cause injury while you recover the strength and mobility of the muscles. After you get your range of motion back and you can work on the strengthening yourself, then you can continue what you were taught on your own.
  • So it has been nearly 8 months since my ACDF surgery on my C5 C6. I have full range of motion back on my left arm but considerable amount of atrophy still in shoulder, bicep at upper forearm. Surgeon is being vary vague in my diagnosis and recovery time, only saying "time will tell". What bothers me is what he said before surgery which was that some professional athletes (football players, etc) are back playing after only 6 months after similar condition and surgery. I was a very athletic and fit individual, so he said that would help me a lot in the recovery. Well I don't know why it's taking so long, I think I have recovered 10-15% so far and am now plateaued, not gaining any more strength. This is very frustrating and leading me to believe that either my surgeon is not being 100% with me regarding how badly my compression of the nerve was, or these athletes are receiving "different" forms of treatment for nerve regeneration. I have heard of Human Growth Hormone used for nerve regeneration...any thoughts???
  • My first doctor also told me that he's done my surgery on football players & they were back to playing football by now. My response to him was - Show me a 53 yr old football player out there playing football everyday. I want to shake their hand! I was very upset that he com paired me to them! I don't have access to professional therapists & trainers! They most defitetly have the advantage over us "regular" people. He didn't want to hear my problems so I found a new doctor & he discovered that my neck didn't fuse. So I had to have another surgery.
  • and the therapies have to be directed at increasing use, and building the muscle, while not endangering the muscles to further injury. Have you talked to your doctor about using an occupational and rehab therapist to aid you in your progress? That's what I did when I lost the use of my arm , hand, fingers, etc due to RSD in my shoulder, arm and hand.
  • LarryH0218LLarryH0218 Posts: 2
    edited 03/26/2015 - 9:39 AM
    Hell everyone! I am Larry from NYC. I am new here. Trying to get some info on this topic. Maybe other people have went through or are going through the same thing as me? I am 42 years old and in very good shape. I was a High School athlete and College athlete. I also used to compete in bodybuilding from age 27 - 32. In 2004 I was diagnosed with Myasthenia Gravis. Which pretty much ruined my chance to take bodybuilding to a pro level. I lost the ability to contract certain muscles like my chest and triceps and the got very weak. I lost 50% of my pushing strength but this disease has never affected my legs. My muscles performance started coming back with treatment from my neurologist. But not 100%. I have always worked out the same. Like a bodybuilder/crossfitter.

    Then in 2006 I was riding my motorcycle to work at 8:30am and was nearly killed by a wreckless car driver who cut me off on the highway, clipping my front tire. They never ever stopped. Just kept going. I was in the hospital for 5 weeks before being released. I had a right fractured scapula, right fractured clavicle, and neck injury. The Doctors thought my neck was broken. I had a brace on for a 4 weeks. For 2 months it hurt to turn my head left to right. Come to find out my neck wasn't broken but I think something in my neck was fractured. I had damage to my C7. Since 2003 I have had herniated disk to my L4 and L5 from my bodybuilding days of deadlifting and squatting too much weight.

    Well since the motorcycle crash in 2006 my right shoulder, both triceps and the very center of my chest have atrophied about 70%. And my triceps are very weak! I am so embarrassed I will never take my shirt off in the gym locker room and I always wear long sleeves. I still have good strong biceps and great bicep strength but my triceps look like a Starbucks drinking teen and my right shoulder is nothing like the left. In my younger days I had shoulders that looked like melons. Now nothing on my right side. It gets me very depressed because no matter how much I workout or what I do they don't respond of come back. What can I do??
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