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Is this normal 8 wks out from ACDF?????

MelWMMelW Posts: 427
edited 06/11/2012 - 7:30 AM in Neck Pain: Cervical
I am about eight weeks out from my ACDF (C5&6) and am still having pains. As of today my spine from the top of my neck to about half way down my back is at an eight out of ten pain wise. Is this normal? I want to call the doctor but I have called him several times for the last few weeks complaining of my pains and he seems to think most of my complaints are just healing and keeps telling me to hang in there. I unerstand he wants to hold off on any additional treatment if it is not necessary but I feel like I am falling apart right now!!! :( I have taken two and a half Norco and has not even touched the pain....


  • I'm also 8 weeks post op. I too, have severe pain and I'm back into pain management. I had an ESI done last week and I'm hoping to get another one soon. The ESI brought the pain down to a bearable level for about 2 days.
  • Hi again. Let me preface what I'm about to say with the fact that I'm NOT a doctor and didn't sleep in a Holiday Inn last night, so this is strictly my opinion.

    Eight weeks post op is still early in your recovery. What you're experiencing sounds like me still, six months later. The back of my neck aches like crazy and I still have wicked muscle spasms in my back. At my last appt with my surgeon in January, he pointed to all the places that could possibly hurt, and he pointed to the back of my neck, my left shoulder, and down the middle of my back. However, only you know if you should call your surgeon.

    As a reference, please see the link below:


  • this makes me feel sad and hopeless since your 29 like me...

    Im at a loss of words but I hope you feel better...
  • hi Mel,

    Sorry you are in so much pain. I really think you need to contact your doctor as i think something is wrong. That level of pain this far from surgery is not right. Your doctor can order some test and check things out. I have a three level fusion and have only had that type pain when something was going wrong with the hardware. I hope you start feeling better soon. But please call your doctor and get into see them. Everyone heals different but that level of pain at this time mark is not a good sign. Good luck and keep us posted.
  • It does take a long time to feel better after ACDF. I am wondering if you are taking any kind of a muscle relaxant, because this could be spasming. But if you are having that kind of pain, I do think you should follow up with your surgeon. My philosophy is he can't help you if he doesn't know what is going on. when you call I would suggest asking if they can squeeze you in for an appointment with the doctor. Sometimes we have to be pushy with this, and it sounds like that is not your nature, but I have found that sometimes the only way to get results is to be proactive in my own care. Call your doc and let them know how bad things are.

    Good luck!
    Surviving chronic pain one day at a time, praying for a reprieve because living another 40 years like this doesn't sound too fun!
  • Thanks everyone! I have an appt with the pain management doc on monday. He is going to give me some injections and discuss pain meds to help adjust them so I get more relief. And I have my followup on May 11th and will be getting more x-rays so we can see what is going on.

    And like I said before, I in no way regret having this surgery. I think back and I would still have it again if I had to, not that I want to. i have a lot of faith in my doc and his team and I know they will do whatever they can to get me back to bring able to function without so much pain.

    JKDE302 - I have read several of your posts and just want to let you know that things will get better and if you need anyone to talk to feel free to PM me. I thought some of the same things you did, still do sometimes, but you have to think it will get better for your own state of mind. I sit and think all the time that I can't believe I have had to go through half of the stuff I have and am only 29. I had my first son when I was very young, got married and had my second son when I was still pretty young, had my gallbladder removed when I was 17 due to 9 large stones, lost my brother in a car accident and a good friend of mine at the age of 18, and in the last year my mom moved away to AZ and my sis, who I am extremely close to moved away to Massachusetts. And on top of all of this I have had to deal with over the last year, I have a heart problem I have to deal with on a daily basis. I just keep telling myself that I am getting all of my health problems out of the way so when I am older I will either be fixed and as good as new and can enjoy retirement health-problem free or will be one cool a$s bionical, titanium-filled grandma :) LOL You have to try to stay positive to some extent or you will lose your mind. i am not telling you this to make anyone feel sorry for me, not at all, just want to let you know that crappy, horrible things happen and you have to see the positive or you will drive yourself insane.

    Oh and I am going to talk to the PM about muscle relaxers, i really hate taking them because they make me feel so blah but if they will help I am willing to. I will let you all know how it went when i get home Monday. thanks again for all of your responses!
  • I have great success with Zanaflex as a muscle relaxer. It is short acting, so it doesn't stay in your body as long. It doesn't give you the zombie foggy feeling.
  • MetalneckMetalneck The Island of Misfit toysPosts: 1,612
    I think you will find that there is little "Normal" after an ACDF (or two+). Your body as had insult added to injury and will take a considerable amount of time to heal.

    Don't make the dumb mistake I did after my first ACDF and jump back into work- life after 12 days like nuttin happened.

    Do that led toward the failure of the first surgery ... another year of pain and 4 surgeries to stabilise mucj up of the first.

    One word of advice .... CONVALESE!

    Prayers and good thoughts comming your way,

    Spine-Health Moderator
    Welcome to Spine-Health  Please read the linked guidelines!!  (Click on Welcome to Spine-Health)
    My Story  - Click below
    I am not a doctor nor have I ever played one on TV.  Therefore any comments made are based on my experience.
  • I think that is what my problem has been.... after the first two weeks I pretty much went right back into the swing of things and am paying for it now... I backed off at work and the doc cut how many hours he wants me to be in the office. We will see though, who knows. i guess if I messed something up there is not much I can do about it now other than hope I dont have to go through it all again. With the way insurance is now, i don't know how I would afford to have to do it again, which is one thing that really scares me, being screwed up still and not being able to afford to go for round two to fix it.

    I will let you all know how tomorrow goes with the PM doc. Have a good one. :)
  • MelW - I am almost 4 months Post op from a 3 level ACDF and I really did not begin to feel "better" till about 3 months after surgery. And right now I am pretty much pain free. I just started Physical Therapy Friday and I am still a little sore from that!!

    So hang in there relief should be there soon!!
  • So I went and had the epidural on Monday. He said it would take 7-14 days to know whether the steriods were going to help or not, which still leaves me in pain until they decided to work (or not). But I have been having a really bad couple of days. Waking up all hours of the night and feeling just really crappy to say the least. The PM doc did not do anything with my meds, other than right me a script for what I am already on, Norco 5mg/325mg and I keep taking them because it takes the edge off but they really do not do much AT ALL. And like Neck of Steel said, I am not a pushy person when it comes to stuff like this, and I need to be. I mentioned how tense my neck muscles have been and he said thatdoes tend to happen with this type of surgery and left it at that.

    So I thought screw it and I called the PM doc just now and talked to his secretary, which I really like the PM doc, my NS, and all of the staff, but it seems like when I call she almost seems annoyed with me, maybe I am just crazy and in pain and think everyone is being mean and annoyed with me, like I should suck it up or I am insane for calling the office so much, this is what always makes me back down when it comes to doctors. They make me feel like this is normal and that I should live with it! And I always feel horrible, like a darn drug addict when I say "these pain meds are not working can the doc give me something else" and then I get the call back that says "well he thinks you are just healing still, it takes a while for everything to heal and he would rather not go to anything stronger" It is so frustrating!!!! I have not dealt with the PM doc other than going in for my epidural, but apparently they have the same secretary, so I guess we will see what they say when I get a call back. I just needed to vent for a sec. X-(
  • I am at almost nine weeks post op and the pain I had before in my arm and shoulder are gone and the pain I have in my neck and trap muscle and down my right shoulder blade are as bad, now my pain is just somewhere other than my arm. I never really had neck pain before ACDF, only when i tried to look up and it was still pretty minimal.

    I finally talked to my PM docs nurse today and she wanted to put me on Neurontin, which is used for epilepsy and nerve problems. My husband was epileptic when he was younger and he said he would not wish this medication on anyone because of the side effects but I guess everyone reacts to medications differently.

    She said the epidural should start working by Monday at the latest and if things are not better by then we will start playing around with meds. The pain is so constant that I have trouble concentrating half of the time, i am a totally different person because of the pain. After being in pain for almost a year has really changed me. I am glad they are not doping me up more than I need to be, but at the same time I think there has to be something out their that can help me. Another thing that scares me to death is that at my first follow up they found more bone spurs but this time on C3&4 and I just pray this is not what is causing me pain still.

    It is good to hear you are doing well after your surgery though. It is great to hear the sucess stories. And I know there are plenty of sucess stories, and I honestly consider myself one still, even though I am still having pain, it did take away all of the pain I was having postop. I just wissh I could say I do not have any pain anymore. i feel like my life has revolved around pain for way too long.
  • I hope you find relief soon! I have the same pain as before surgery. I'm still praying for a miracle that the pain will subside. After my last pm appointment, he wasn't sure if it will. He said it's still too early to tell, but it's not normal to be in this much pain this far out from surgery.
  • Just wondering if the epidural is working today. Your posts interest me because I am 6 weeks post op and wondering if/when my shoulder/arm/elbow pain will subside.

    I didn't experience pain before surgery because I had spinal cord compression w/o pain. I just couldn't walk right and am still having difficulty. (It's better but not what it used to be.)

    I'm curious if the pain is inflammation from surgery or the sign of something else. Also, I'd like to know how others with spinal cord compression are doing post op.
  • Nope. I have not felt any relief as of yet and the nurse told me Friday that if I haven't felt any relief by now then it probably did not take. The burning in the side of my neck and trap muscle is actually worse, it is constant now. And the lower back pain is still there.

    And I had pain preop in my arm and shoulder and a lot of numbness and tingling in my hand and that was totally gone when I woke from surgery so it is hard to say when your will subside.

    As of last month when I went for my first followup, the doc thought it was just inflammation from the surgery but the thing is, the pain/burning in my trap muscle, that is pain I had preop and it is just worse now. And I wonder the same thing myself, whether it is something else because I had several more bone spurs on my last x-ray but they are on C3&4.

    I have been having quite a bit of tingling in my neck, right around where the surgery was done. I am assuming this is just healing but am going to talk with the NS about it today because the first thing that comes to mind is that those new (or newly discovered) bone spurs are pressing on another nerve, or several, and are now causing this.
  • ^let us know what the doc said...
  • I absolutely love my NS! ;-) I was so comfortable talking to him today, actually the most I have ever been with any doctor. he seemed pretty concerned about the intense pain I am having but said the x-ray is looking good. He said he wants to wait out doing any more testing or poking and proding on me till at least my next followup, which is in a month. He said if things get worse call him he does not want me to be in pain if he can do anything to help it, and that if I have to call everyday to give him an update to please do so. He still seems to think this is all just healing but said that if it did not get better in the next month or so he wants to do some testing to check and see if something else may be going on.

    He put me back on the percocet, which relieves the pain much better, not toally but better than the Norco does and also put me on a muscle relaxer. he almost sounded tempted to to tell me to take fulltime medical leave again for a while to see if it helped and I told him there was really no way. I told him i would start watching everything I am doing and really, really be good and not do things I am not supposed to but that I HAVE to work.

    As crappy as I feel, he made me feel better in a way. Like he is not going to just leave me hanging and he will figure this out no matter what. :)
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