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New arm pain and weakness after ACDF

AnonymousUserAAnonymousUser Posts: 49,670
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:34 AM in Neck Pain: Cervical

I am 9 days post surgery - 3 level ACDF on C3-C6. Immediately after surgery, it was clear that my right arm wasn't working right -- cannot lift my upper arm to shoulder height. Lower arm works fine, and I have no sensory loss - just motor loss. Then after a few days, the pain began - I have daily pain in my right arm, focused at the shoulder but it spreads down through my upper arm. It is worse than the neck pain I am still having from the surgery, and is barely controlled with 1.5-2 percocet every 4-5 hours.

Several conversations with the neurosurgeon's office and one office visit to see the nurse practitioner lead me to believe there is some sort of nerve damage, but no one is saying much. They seem unconcerned, or perhaps just don't want to say much... I guess it is wait and see to see how much of the motion comes back. I know that could take months potentially.

Does anyone have any experience with this? I am expected to go back to work in about 4 more weeks (6 weeks post surgery), and was already concerned about working before this arm problem surfaced. I have a desk job, and looking down at my desk and keyboard all day every day is what caused all this disk degeneration in the first place.


  • jlrfryejjlrfrye ohioPosts: 1,110
    Hi, I am 5 weeks post-op from c4-7 fusion,and all the hardware. When I woke up from surgery I had severe pain left arm and shoulder. (I did not have this prior to surgery) My doc also did not seem concerned. Within 3 weeks the pain had stopped. Perhaps mine was positional pain from the surgery. who knows? Hopefully your issue will resolve itself in time. You are still very early in your recovery and as Paul stated a very serious surgery, Good luck with your recovery.
  • Most surgeons wait 6 months to a year from surgery to diagnose nerve damage. It really does take that long for the nerves to heal. I know it's hard but give it time. Keep in touch, venting about this can really help you while you wait. I know your pain must be terrible, hang in there!
    Faith M
  • I just had two level C5 - C7 ACDF on Monday and am having left arm pain between my shoulder and shoulder blade. Before the surgery, I had left arm numbness but not pain. I called my surgeon yesterday and he said that abou 15-20% of patients call to complain of this symptom. He said that my hardware spacers may be causing pressure/swelling and put me on prednisone for five days. The pain isn't responding to pain killers but I'll see if the prednisone works and will let you all know. Lying down relieves the pain somewhat.
  • My arm pain seems to be worst in the mornings, although it is a problem to some degree almost all the time. Right now is it building up again, and I see that it is time to take some more percocet. My doc put me on a 6 day steroid pack just after surgery, but that is complete now. When I saw the NP on Thursday, she gave me a script for gabapentin (neurontin) which is good for nerve pain. But it made me so sleepy I slept all through yesterday. So I am going to try just taking it an night. It hasn't helped yet, but may take awhile to kick in.

    I hope this pain quiets down soon, as I'm pretty useless - seems like I can't do anything except moan and watch TV! Lying down with a heating pad seems to help it somewhat.
  • When I spoke with a physician's assistant at the hospital, she said there can sometimes be nerve pain in the arm for up to four weeks. So I hope you will feel relief soon.

    Mine is also worse when I first wake up and especially just before I go to bed. Today it seems a little better now that I'm on Prednisone. I'm trying to cut back on the Oxycodone and take Tylenol when needed since neither seems to help much with the arm pain anyway.
  • I still have a lot of pain, one month out. I had a crushed nerve and pinched nerve in there. One doc said permanent nerve damage but it's a waiting game for me.

    Good Luck and if you don't feel good, stay home and don't rush to work. I ran back after my cts surgery and hurt my hand braking up a fight. It's just not worth it.
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