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cervical arthritis pain

AnonymousUserAAnonymousUser Posts: 49,671
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:27 AM in Arthritis, Osteoarthritis
Just looking for anyone with similiar story....I had first ACDF one level 11/03, then needed 2 more levels done urgently 4/07 as the ligaments were so lax that bones were going in opposite directions with flexion and extension. I also had herniated 2 additional discs above the original ACDF. They refer to it as transitional effect.

So now it is 1-1/2 years later and for the past 3 months I have daily pain, esp. on awakening and later in the day. Pain is on both sides of the base of my head, down the spine bones and out to the shoulders. All the muscles in the area seem effected and most of the time I turn my whole body to see sides or back as range of motion decreases - other times I do okay.

From my research I figure this is just arthritis progressing (I am now 62) and Advil does seem to take the edge off during the day. But now I am at once a week needing a moist heating pad, Advil, 1/2 Percocet, Valium, just to break the pain cycle.

I know I do NOT want any injections! I really am resistant to go back to the doctors, even my internist, but I am beginning to think some PT might help.

Just wondering what others might have experienced and any 'home' hints, like traction......


  • Yep, sounds like the good old arthritis to me. But of course have it thoroughly checked out.
    Arthritis doesn't go away and just gets worse, so you would have to expect this in your case.
    I also have cervical arthritis, with the pain varying a lot in intensity and location.
    Can be the whole neck, the lower left or right skull, the shoulders, and even the top of the neck.
    So what you have sounds quite similar.
    But exercising can make it worse if you use the arms and shoulders. Swimming for instance gives me a flare-up. So I can only do walking as my exercise. Even then, my arms feel too heavy sometimes!
    The inflammation in your neck will cause nerve irritation, which gives you the pains.
    On top of that you will get a lot of muscle tension as your body tries to compensate for the restricted movements.
    Why are you so opposed to injections?
    My pain doctor told me that my options were:
    1. do nothing.
    2. take pain meds and NSAIDS
    3. cervical injections.
    4. nerve burning.
    5. surgery.
    I have the injections every 3-4 months and get 6-8 weeks relief, where I can do a lot more than my usual not much of anything.
    Sleep improves too.
    It is a bit of an uncomfortable procedure, but it is over in 5 minutes or so, and if you take some pain meds before it will be OK.
    I also suggest Mobic to reduce the inflammation.
    And muscle relaxants to put a stop to the sore muscles.
    Take a good dose at night initially to break the cycle.
    you should then be able to turn your head by itself.
    Take it all very carefully as your body is very sore and tensed up and prone to more injury.
    Keep off the COMPUTER!

  • Thanks PeterB......

    LOL 'stay off the computer.' I'm only on it for 30 min in the am before work and maybe 60 min in the evening.

    I think for now I will just stay with the Advil and stretching/strengthening exercises.

    Just was wondering if the 3 level fusion has accelerated the arthritis, but had no real problems until about 2-3 months ago and it has been non-stop. The cold winter air here in the NE seems to aggravate it (more bone pain than muscle.) Since I don't seem to have any nerve pain as a result, I think I will just toddle along. I know my job aggravates it but I do have to work and can't get the time off for doc appts except in emergency.

    Thanks for responding!
  • Hi classical, that computer time though is still 90 minutes a day, or nearly 11 hours a week. It might not be much in computer time, but it is 'poison' to your body.

    You have muscles that are really tense and very painful, and need some rest and relaxation to recover. So what do you do?
    You then subject them to 11 hours of extra strain every week.
    So you are building up the 'overdraft' of recovery time.
    You won't get away with it, there will be a catchup which may incapacitate you.
    Been there, done that.
    When I was working I had to use the PC all day, and I use the old hunt and peck so I'm inefficient.
    At the end I was so sore and inflamed that I could work for only about 1 hour a day. My arm and shoulder were just red hot, and painkillers were useless.
    It took me a good 6 months into retirement before it eased off.
    Computer work is very hard on the neck, shoulders, arms and wrists.
    The mouse is bad as you usually grip it with muscles tensed all the time.
    Try cutting your computer use back to say 10 minutes every second day. Try to have a full day without it.
    It can be done as I still over do it-once damaged like this you never really recover-and have to stay off the computer for days at a time.
  • I have the same thing only I'm 37yrs old. I get the injections, it sounds much worse than what the are
  • cassieh said:
    I have the same thing only I'm 37yrs old. I get the injections, it sounds much worse than what the are
  • Well, I finally gave in and went to a local ortho spine doc. X-rays showed significant arthritis at C1-2. For now he wants 'comfort measures' meaning switch to tylenol 1-2 gm daily and add motrin when pain is severe. Stop all ROM exercises, adjust body and chair at work (he knows what I do...)to limit motion as much as possible. He asked if I had RA and said 'not that I know of.' I think I'll ask him the next time I see him if a RA profile should be done.

    The pain is now worse at the base of the skull, but does travel down the cervical spine and more on the left side. He looked at the 1 yr. old MRI and felt my prior fusions (C3-6) looked just fine, so signs of DDD or osteophytes on MRI or today's X-rays. But I am to let him know immediately if I get worse - he didn't specify what 'worse' means, but googling gave me some idea.

    This is not a common location for OA, but much more info on RA via google.....so at least now I have an answer. But the rest of today I have found myself teary-eyed at intervals.

    I did have 2 accupuncture treatments for muscle spasm brought on by a dental visit with head turned to side for 45 min. That week was brutal but after 2nd treatment (3 days apart) the spasms did resolve.

    As my ortho shoulder doc once said to me 'you never present in the normal way!'
  • Hi classical, so you are now getting some good analysis and hopefully, treatment. It can take a while to get these long standing things resolved.
    The pain you have down the left side sounds a bit like one of the pains I get. There is a muscle that runs down the side of the neck and into the shoulder. Mine on the left is very tight and sore to the touch. The docs think that it is causing a lot of my pain. Off to a new physio dr to day to have it looked at.
    Muscles play a bigger role in causing pain that we realise, as they tighten up to protect the spine.
  • Peter B - yes I learned how tight muscles can really increase the overall pain! But once the spasms were relieved, the bone pain became the overriding source.

    I tried the Tylenol last night and today and couldn't wait to get to my car after work and take 3 Advil. The pain today was horrible (9). Once home I put my soft collar on to just rest my head.

    Everyone is different and for me the Tylenol didn't touch the pain at all! Two of my coworkers said the same thing.

    Hope you are feeling better yourself and that your new physio Dr. does a thorough evaluation and finds the best modalities for you.

    thanks for posting!
  • Some occipital type headaches just don't respond to conventional pain meds, and it can be a battle to find something that works.
    One of the best is Panadeine Forte, which would be like a very strong Tylenol with extra codeine.
    My GP gave me some Neurontin to try, but I'm still undecided about it. As you say, there is both muscle, nerve and bone pain, and each seems to need a different treatment.
    I had my first remedial massage yesterday, and she found that I had muscle knots in both shoulders, in the muscle that joins the neck to the shoulders. Trapezius?
    Had a 40 minute gentle loosening up, and I must say I do feel better. The constant neck, low grade pain has gone. Still get the occipital one, but it's under control.
    So I'll continue long term with the massages as it will take a long time to get my muscle right again.
    I'd recommend it for you as well, but keep it up.
    I almost feel good enough to start my exercise and stretching routine. Maybe tomorrow?
  • I have cervical arthritis but didn't find that out till I had an injury at any rate if you find a good doctor to give you injectons it's worth it (to me) I had some really bad ones that actually made matters worst. Three weeks ago I went to yet another doctor had the epidural injection in my c5 c6 and it gave me pretty good relief he is the best I found and going to keep him even though it costs me 120.00 more because of insurance related problems if it's done in office it's only 30 co-pay surgery center costs me more but worth it if it relieves my pain
    yes the computer does cause pain to increase
    sorry to all in pain wish you all well
  • Saw my PC and she put me on Mobic. Most days/evenings need to add tylenot or Advil (I know you aren't supposed to take advil and mobic but the mobic alone is not enough....have been on prilisec for a year for gerd.) All the current lab work-up tests for RA were negative, but that can be even in the presense of clinical RA or variant.

    Am seeing a Rheumotolgist in June. Partly because I want a second opinion of the neck films, and partly because of the morning stiffness, swollen knuckles, etc. My neck has been doing better but have had 2 recent events which wretched my left side neck. Immediate ice pack and rest for 24 hrs. has resolved it so far....

    I still wish I could find some information about C1-2, OA vs. RA, and if this is transitional syndrome (am fused C3-6.) I specifically asked this local ortho spine if he saw any indication of a disc or osteophyte problem and he said no.

  • Just thought I would add an update - one never knows when 'arthritis' can take a detour....

    About 6 weeks ago I noticed I would just slightly lose my balance when turning (like getting milk out of refrig and turning to counter.) Then I would have it 1-2x week. I could be walking down a hallway and find myself tilting to the right and putting my hand on the wall to stabilize myself. Silly and just annoying. Then it progressed to 1-2x a day. Last week at a dinner meeting, I got up from the table (even had my soft collar on) walked about 4 steps and suddenly stumbled so much I had to spread my feet apart and stop in place before I felt steady enough to proceed. That episode kind of scared me. So next day reported progression to doc. So MRI is now being scheduled.

    The past 1-2 weeks I find I am walking a little funny as right leg feels like it has a stocking on it and I have to lift and swing it forward which makes me walk with a slight limp. It reminds me of seeing someone with one artificial leg. Not all the time does it feel this way. No real weakness per se, no nerve pain anywhere....

    I continue to have neck pain, had one more accupuncture treatment with a stimulator but this time it did nothing.

    So will just have to see what the MRI shows. I wonder if the next level above my fusion (so that would be C2-3) is bulging or doing some cord compression. Hadn't thought of that until the balance issue as I was so focused on the C1-2 arthritis.

    I'll post back when I get the MRI results. I can't find any info about transition syndrome C2-3 and how to treat it in light of a 3 level fusion already. I'd be really scared to be told C2-3 disc is shot AND I should also have C1-2 fused too!!!
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