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Had Posterior neck surgery C4-6 anyone else have neck pain with arm movement?

candle99ccandle99 Posts: 279
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:43 AM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
I'm 3 1/2 weeks postop from Posterior cervical fusion with hardware to stabilize non-union after having two separate ACDF's on C5/6, then C4-6. My screws had wallowed around and I hadn't fused at all.

Everything has healed on the outside, still have that sunburned X 10 feeling across my whole neck and upper shoulders, tightness in the neck muscles/spasms. Pain is manageable, except for when I reach out to get something from the cabine with my left arm or reach back to get the seatbelt or try to scratch with my left arm bending the elbow and going up a bit or when putting on my shirt to get my left arm in the arm hole...I get this very sharp kniving pain like I'm being hacksawed almost in my neck on the left side. My incision is about 6 to 7 inches long and numb on the left side to the touch and scratch. It lets off after just a few seconds but is very intense.

Just wondering if anyone else that's had Posterior neck surgery has experienced this with arm movement. I know I still have a little swelling and my incision is lumpy and it's early. But this pain brings tears to my eyes and once it happens, it happens anytime the rest of the day that I use my left arm. After sleeping the night, the next day it's less as long as I keep my arm down and don't raise it. I also have more burning pain after this happens the rest of the day too. Could I be pulling an internal stitch on the muscles or pinching a nerve? It has an electric pins and needle feel to it. I called the nurse, but she just said to act like I'm in an upper body cast and it's just too early unless my incision opens up. I go back in two more weeks, but this is really bothering me. I'm panicking that this isn't normal.

They used BMP and my bone marrow mixed together and put it between the back of the vertebras after making them bleed (this is what I was told)???? And then added the screws and I guess a rod. I had 10 day checkup xrays (front and side), but I didn't really see too much...since I still have the plate in the front and those screws. It all looked like just a bunch of screws everywhere to me.

I've had nothing but bad luck with my spine and it continues to degenerate. I still have one more surgery planned after this all heals up to add C6/7 to the mess but he couldn't do it until I'd fused and he has somewhere to put more screws in. I have swiss cheese already. Scarey to me! My C6/7 has no disc, so I'm wondering if that's what is making the left arm neck pain deal, but the nurse wasn't helpful and just brushed me off. ARGH! I know, if it hurts, don't do it!! knocking myself in the head if I could. :)



  • Hi Melisa

    I had posterior surgery for a t1/2 herniation about 3 months ago. Hopefully they warned you about all the muscles that had to be "lifted" to go in from the back. If not consider yourself told. lol

    The reason posterior surgery is considered a harder recovery is because they have to go through and around tons of muscles that hold your neck together. Even though they try to not cut or irritate it happens and the muscles love to scream. So you will feel this for probably another month and then it should get better.

    You don't mention PT. Call your doc and ask it you could do some PT just for massage and a few exercises. After my surgery I had alot of swelling at the incision and the massage helps to break up the fluid.

    Good Luck and let us know how you are feeling
  • Yes I experienced that for several months after posterior cervical surgery. It never hurts to mention it to your surgeon at your follow up appointment.

  • MetalneckMetalneck Island of Misfit toysPosts: 1,364
    I have neck pain when moving my Left arm and arm pain when moving my neck.

    I likened my post posterior pain to being hit by a baseball bat across the top of my shoulders and neck.
    Completely different than an Anterior only.

    Mel, Might I ask how many years young you are??
    You can PM me the answer if you don't want it to be public knowlege. Or just ignore my question!

    Hoping for a swift and complete recovery for you!!

    Spine-health Moderator
    Welcome to Spine-Health  Please read the linked guidelines!!

  • Hi everyone....thanks for your replies. I really appreciate the feedback. I'm 45. Been through two Neurosurgeons and now with an ortho spine surgeon. I have high hopes that he's at least more inclined to do the most for me to get my neck fused. I'm still facing another surgery for C6/7 after this posterior surgery all heals and I'm fused. So I trying to remain positive.

    Right now I'm trying to figure out whether to go back to my pain management doctor or ask the surgeon for more pain meds. I'm on a fentanyl patch 25mcg/hr and two hydrocodones a day 7.5. from the pain mgmt doc, but just 4 weeks postop. I had some extra at first from the surgeon and tried to get back to what the pain mgmt doc prescribed this week and I just can't make it. The pain is just over that much still. They have the 6 weeks window for the surgeon to handle my meds, but seems neither place is really in tune with each other. I've been open and keep reminding both places what's going on and what each has given me.

    Did you all take quite a bit of pain meds to make it through the posterior healing?? When did it start to drop off some? I have the most in the mornings and the evenings, unless I've overdone in the middle of the day.

    I've started making myself walk everyday and that's helped with my energy a bit. It's so hard after a string of surgeries to get your umpf back. I've been taken off my celebrex and my arthritis pain is horrible other places too.

    Thanks again for your responses. Melisa
  • Melissia,

    It is true that posterior surgery is much harder to recovery from and will take some time. I would look at the video here on cervical radiculopathy and also at a dermatone map. Look at the paths and see if the pain you are feeling follows the the paths of the c6-c7 level that is out. If you had a hardware issue with the anterior plate I guess i question why they left that plate there. If they have to address the c6-c7 level I sure hope they are not leaving the hardware in. How long has it been sense that hardware was put in place. After some time the hardware will grow bone around it. Make sure your surgeon is aware of the pain you are dealing with. For myself the muscle relaxers were a life saver.
  • He said when I'm fused up on C4-6, then he wants to go in the front and take out anterior plate and screws and add C6/7 from the front. He's afraid I won't have any good bone left to put new screws into at C6 vertebra. I didn't know it, but he said that holes in the bones don't really fill in, they are there for life. The plate that I have has stayed in place (I guess?), but the screws showed space around them like they were allowing movement.

    I think some of my pain is coming from C6/7 now, cause it's shoulder blades and between, although I'm still really stiff and sore across the tops of my shoulders and across. I've tried to gently stretch some, but that's making me more sore.

    Thanks for your reply. I'm calling my surgeon today to talk about the pain and see what they will do. I was given flexeril, but it grogs me out. I have Zanaflex too and it seems to help for a short time. I wonder how soon before you can use a tens unit? I will ask the nurse today and see. Maybe that will help.
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