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Posterior/Anterior Cervical Fusion Repair Still in Pain

edited 06/11/2012 - 8:43 AM in Neck Pain: Cervical
I had 3 level fusion c4/c7 and the last one failed so 3 years later I had repair with anterior/posterior approach with my own bone. It's been 4.5 months and I was also braced 15 weeks with Miami J Collar. I have had a terrible time getting out of the brace because I felt like I pulled every muscle in my neck but PT and acupunture has helped with that but now I feel like all my old pain prior to surgery is here. Which is like a knife in my shoulder blade at all times and pain all the way down my arm on the top and also muscle spasms. I am in PT 3 times a week, acupunture 1 a week and TENS unit every day. I take oxy and soma's and my pain is so bad I cannot work more then 2 days a week if I am lucky. I am frustrated and not sure where to turn to figure out what is still wrong. I assume they thought that since my screws were loose and I had a failed fusion by fixing that my pain would go away but it has not. I cannot tell if it's because I was braced for so long or maybe I have something else wrong besides that which nobody seems to be looking at they all say it's too soon to tell if surgery worked or not. I want my life back and eating pills all day and holding a remote is not my life but it's about all I manage these days. I am 51 and realize I do not heal as quick as I used to and I have had so many spinal surgeries but never hurt at the same level after an op. Can anyone tell me if this has happened to you and what did you do to help yourself so I can help myself. I keep flipping between just retiring on disability or just keep trying to go in when I can and hope my boss stays understanding.


  • I certainly understand the feelings of wanting your life back! I am 57 and retired on disability at 42. No doctor would take my neck pain seriously 15 years ago, so I stopped complaining. Til last summer when a new primary care doc was being oh so thorough with history. It took 6 mos to see the neurosurgeon and then on surgery schedule right away for 'life-time trauma to my neck'. He said I would become paralyzed without it. I'll never get my life back, but have come to terms with what it is. Good luck to you.
  • Keep trying as long as you can stand it. Most likely what you are feeling is a combination of wasted muscle that will rebuild with time and work and learned pain. It will take quite a bit of time to strenghten your muscles and get your confidence back. It's natural to expect pain and weakness. The learned pain is another aspect. Even though our brain knows we are OK sometimes the body is so used to saying something hurts it convinces the brain that it hurts. It's kind of like looking at a flame. Your brain expects it to be hot so you stay away from it. But you are really reacting to your experience not necessarily the actual heat.

    Give it time and dont give up. You have a much better chance of recovering if you remain positive and active.
  • jlrfryejjlrfrye ohioPosts: 1,110
    I also am recovering from the exact same surgery. Ill tell you what my surgeon told me even before the surgery. IT IS A BIG SURGERY with a very long recovery.
    I am 6 weeks out from the horrible surgery and I took the advice of another member here" make sure I use my arms alot to keep from getting frozen shoulder" I have done exactly that and I swear it made a difference, although I still take daily pain medication I knew going into this surgery it was not going to be a piece of cake. Try to at least walk and get exercise and hopefully things will get better for you.
    Good luck
  • I have to agree you had a very large surgery and the worst being the posterior surgery. Now one thing to always watch for is your pain getting better or is worse than you had the first few days following surgery. I can tell you one of the most important aspects is to keep walking and be sure to drink plenty of water. With that being said have you looked into massage therapy? That may be a alternative to see if it helps you out. Also I am not sure what dose of muscle relaxer you are taking but you may want to see if you can up the dose any? If you have been on it for a long time you may try a switch on the meds and see if it makes a difference, of course that is something to talk with your doctors. At this point and time one thing to do is also journal the pain you are having. Try to get down to when and what times of the day it is worse. Keep track of your activities that you are doing. I also found that making sure I do things in close to my body, not over head also helps.

    It is really early to say much about the pain itself, as i know you are still recovering having been through posterior surgery twice myself. How are the fusions setting up themself? Once you fuse the hardware is no longer needed and that maybe a option to remove it if it is the culprit but I believe it way to early to tell. Hang in there is does take time. My best guess on time is about the one year mark, I know it that seems like forever but just think of the time that has passed. If I can be of any assistance don't hesitate to pm me. Take care.
  • Hello,
    I can relate to your surgeries and still in pain. I had my first surgery 12-8-08 C4-7 w/cage, plate & 8 screws. It took them 9 months to tell me my post pain was due to a loose plate and did not fuse. The first surgeon sent me out of town for my 2nd surgery 12-3-09 this time C4-7 posterior with rods, screws and my hip bone. I was in the hard neck brace for 15 weeks and I am doing some light PT now. My new surgeon warned me that this surgery was to stabilize my neck, not to fix my pain, he gave me a 50% chance my pain would improve. Well sorry to say it got worse, I had to applied for SSDI and retire from my job, I am 60 and had a great job with near 70,000 per year. I am on pain pills 24/7 which helps some but my quantity of life isn't anywhere near what it was 22 months ago. I have accepted where I am and most days I am involved with wife, family and friends. I hope you find peace and will improve more as time goes on.
  • But this is real pain and not fake pain. I did try to think positive and pretend the surgery worked. I went to PT faithfully 3 times a week, acupuncture, and massage therapy and now I am worse or just as bad as before surgery. As a matter of fact the other day I lost complete use of my arm. That my friend is a scary moment. My surgeon believes that I have blown the disc below my 3 level fusion I have had 6 spinal surgeries and all but the neck were fairly sucessful so I just don't buy in to the brain used to the pain aspect because I have been living this for 15 years which was my first surgery. I do however respect everyone to have their own opinion and thank you for taking time to reach out to me. God Bless
  • I was working part-time and doing PT 3 times a week and acupuncture and what all that did was help my neck muscles from being braced because now they don't feel like I pulled every muscle in my neck BUT 4.5 months post op here I am off work again, in pain again same place as before surgery between neck and shoulder like a knife is in me at all times and my shoulder and all the way down my arm is killing me and I have my last 3 fingers tingling. But the other night I woke up and could not move, lift my right arm which is where all my trauma has been including all the lumbar surgeries. I was scared to death and went to my surgeon and he thinks I may have blown the disc below my 3 level fusion...OMG I have lots of people praying for me that I don't have to have another surgery....So now I had to cancel work, PT, massage, acupuncture and lay around doing nothing. HOw are you feeling these days I want to hear from people that do well even though I know they probably leave the boards when they get well. My 2 brothers both had cervical and lumbar fusions just like me and they are living life to the fullest but I have had 4 more surgeries then they have. I get an MRI today at noon and find results friday and will post what is going on........ God Bless
  • I have that right now and I am just disgusted because I want no more surgeries and nothing is helping me, meds, PT, acupuncuter, massage, blah blah
    What if I may ask has the dr's said about your pre-surgery pain returning? Just wondering for my own pathetic case. God Bless.
  • MetalneckMetalneck Island of Misfit toysPosts: 1,368
    Welcome to our forums. Unfortunately I have obsevrved a disturbing increase in the incidence of "failed" fusions duing my couple of years on the forum. Whether the culprit is loose or misplaced hardware or adjacent disk disease, this is becomming a disturbing "trend".

    I can relate 100% to your story. I had a third level anterior about three years ago. I had immeadiate relief of my hand symptoms but within 6 - 8 weeks I knew there was something very wrong. It took me over 1 year of chasing other neurologists - pain specialists etc. before an orthopedic surgeon tossed my MRI's up on the screen and basically said "we will have to do the whole shabang. Believe it or not it was music to my ears. FInally someone "beleived" me and saw how and why things were "soing south".

    I was diagnosed with psudeoathrosis (non-union)(failed fusion) and that I had blown the disk directly above my 3 level (non)fusion. My revison procedure was a four level anterior - posterior with vertebrectomies - cage - posterior rods - bone from my hip (iliac crest) and 12 screws. I was in the ICU on a morophine drip for three days - total hospital stay of 8 days - 4 surgeries over a 3 day period.

    Today almost 2 years later, I am still in constant pain - neck - shoulders - and intermitant arm - finger - had. I need to take handfulls of meds I be able to function minimally. I have resolved myself to the fact that I will have these problems for the remainder of my life.

    I attempted to go back to work last year, but the physical limitations, constant pain meds, and demand of my job almost drove me to the edge of exsistence.
    I again stopped working January of this year and re-applied for SSD. (I had applied right after my second surgery but stupid me I accepted a job in efforts to save my house from foreclosure).

    I now spend my days hanging out on the forums here, preparing for the enevitable foreclosure of my home of 17 years, hiding from bill collectors, and bugging my SSD attorney. (there are other negative things that have happened such as a divorce thrown in for tickles and grins).

    My advise - observations .... be the squeeky wheel with your "healthcare" providers - demand better answers - as you are doing - seek advise and comrarderie from others that have been down this road. Seriously think about applying for SSD as it is a long process, and prepare to become mentally tougher than you ever - never wanted to be in your life. Consider that fact that at 51 ... you may need to allow yourself to cut your career short. It is a tough bitter pill to swallow .. I can relate as I am now only 48, and was at the top of my career.

    PM me any time if you would like, and again, Welcome to our forum.


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  • I was going to say I am hoping your MRI shows no further damage and then thought better of that. While it's still early in your recovery and that might be the whole reason for your pain if it isn't then it would be good to find the real problem.

    I'm already scheduled for a follow up ct June 1 and then to see the neurosurgeon so I figure I might as well hold out and see what happens. I keep trying to remember how I felt before surgery and compare that to now but I just can't remember clearly. I was on meds then and none now so I'm not sure if that is part of the difference. As I sit here now the back of my head right above my neck is throbbing. My forearm feels weird but I can use it. I have noticed a problem in my typing. I am choosing the wrong letters alot.My shoulder area hurts in diff spots - alot of it is toward the back and up my neck.

    In the back of my mind I am considering whether I should go back out for a few weeks if the doctor will approve it. I only work 30 hrs a week but I find that combined with PT, kids and house I am up early and still doing things late at night. I have begged my bosses to get me a laptop so I could work from home but they just won't do it. And if I am out I am not even allowed to check email so being out means risking my job. With my husband unemployed I don't feel comfortable doing this.

    The best we can do is take life one day at a time and hope today will be as good or better than yesterday.
  • I hate to say this but it feels so good talking to people who live my life. Because nobody in my life truly understands the H*!! I go through everyday. Oh I am very new to this and tried to PM you and it does not give me your address or whatever you call it as the field is blank? How does that work? Anyway I am so sorry you are going this alone with the divorce and all, as that really sucks been there done that when I was healthy and it sucked then. when you wrote "Today almost 2 years later, I am still in constant pain - neck - shoulders - and intermitant arm - finger - had. I need to take handfulls of meds I be able to function minimally. I have resolved myself to the fact that I will have these problems for the remainder of my life." THAT IS MY LIFE!!!!!!!!!!!! I stayed home from my last surgery for 12 weeks from my job and then went back because I was braced in my hard collar and thought I could because I am insecure and thought people may be trying to steal my job of 18 years. Long story short in that time I went back 2 days later I was a wreck with pain so took off a couple of days. Then I started PT so I only worked tues & thur which was the days that I did not have PT and on the days I had PT I worked from home. This lasted a month and then I realized I ate all my pain meds in 2 weeks because I was hurting so bad just to go in the office. Well in hindsight that was stupid if I was hurting too bad to go in I should have stayed home. So now I am eating 10 year old pain meds to get me through to my pain doc next thursday. I have never done that before. I am not one to over medicate but I was doing all I could do to go to the office. I live an hour away and work 9 hour days so I was pulling a 12 hour day which required lots of meds to get me through. I find out the results of my MRI tomorrow and I pray they tell me something that does not require surgery but explains my pain. I am trying to determine what to do. I have LTD and STD which I will have to go on short term in one week if I cannot make it back to work. Then after 8 weeks go long term. I hope my dr's will help me. I think gosh what if I can't work but my docs don't give me the paperwork :( I always think the worse. To apply for SSD don't you have to be unemployed?
  • All we want are answers and they are so hard to find.

    First and easiest is the PM. You can either enter the name of the person you want to send a message to. Or if you add them as a buddy and they accept it automatically fills it in for you. Kinda strange. Then watch the top of your screen. It will tell you when you have a buddy request or a PM.

    Let's hope you get some good info tomorrow which will help you make decisions. I'm in the same boat wondering if I should be taking it slower. Also when you talk to the doc tomorrow tell him about the meds. If this is the first time you ran out early he should be willing to listen. Better to get the right meds.

    Good luck and let us know what happens.
  • Freaked, the best way to send a PM to someone is to click on their blue name at the top left of their post (above the avitar) and this will take you to their home page, of sorts. Then, once there, scroll down and there will be blue text that says Write private message. Click on that and then you'll have the person's name in the top and all you have to do is put in a title to the PM, fill in the message area and then press Send private message below the message area.

  • MetalneckMetalneck Island of Misfit toysPosts: 1,368
    We are now in your life. And many (most to some degree or another) DO understand what you are going through.

    As you will read via many threads and via our "mountains of strength here" (aka PapaRon, Tamtam, Jeauxbert, Cath111, haglandc, Z06, Neck of Steel)Having a positive outlook will do wonders to help us through our darkest and most painfull minutes, hours, days ++?.

    There is a wealth of information here via the search tools and more importantly there are people that have managed to work through all sorts of "issues".

    If issues were tissues - I'd have a box full! But I also have many new and caring people who I have had the pleasure of typing, chating, emailing and struggling with. Many virtual "Hugs" fly aroung here!! And yes ... untill they finally declare that you can not do any work at all ... you can not work. Once they have determined that you can not work at all ... you are allowed to work and earn a small amount of money in addition to the SSD. Yeah it makes no sense ... and even less "cents".

    Now cheer up, learn how to PM, Chat with us, and turn your frown ): ... upsidedown. (:

    Warmest Regards,


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  • I have been dealing with spine issues for 15 years but the last 3 have been the worst and the last surgery giving me PTSD and I am in just as much pain as I was before. But my doc said he was stabilizing my neck and had no guarantees on the pain relief and he was right I got NONE!!!!!!!!!! I have been with the same company for 18 years and now I feel in my heart no matter how much I love it or want it - it's going away. I need to reinvent myself, I am a mom of 21 yr old twin girls who were gone off to college for the last 3 years but one came home to finish her degree here this semester. I think we both need each other at this point in our lives. I pray that I stay strong and hoping the transition will go smoothly at least in the legalities (sp) aspect of it all. I bought a brand new Harley last year and it sits in my garage gathering dust. So much has changed this year. Hugs to all my new friends and by the way my name is Rose and I am not "freaked out" anymore I created that when I was pending my posterior/anterior but I guess it still fits :)
  • Welcome to Spine-Health.

    I'm glad you're feeling better about thinsg, albeit not the pain. These forums can be a god-send to many who feel alone out there in the world with spine problems and all of us understand them. That's what makes this site so special.

    Spine-Health also offers a wealth of information via articles and videos so in addition to support, you can gather information as well. And as you know, knowledge is wealth and support is more valuable than most things to us spineys.

    Enjoy your stay here and I'm glad I don't have to call you "Freaked" any more. Rose is a much nicer name, in fact it was my mother's middle name.

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