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Posterior neck surgery

Neck of Steel CindyNNeck of Steel Cindy Posts: 1,064
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:44 AM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
I don't post often anymore, so first I want to say hello to all the members. I read the posts all the time, and once in a while I feel like I can contribute something and will post a comment. But usually I stay quietly in the background, hoping that all of you continue with your recovery. For anyone with neck problems, please know that you can PM me any time for support. I think I've been through about as much as anyone on these boards when it comes to our necks.

That leads me to my question. For those who have had posterior surgery on your neck:
1--Do you have a problem holding your head up without something to lean against? For instance when sitting with no back support, how long before your neck tires out.
2--Do you spasm in your shoulders and neck?
3--Do you have difficulty holding your shoulders back for good posture?

I am now 2 years post op for my ACDF revision, anterior and posterior, with major reconstruction. I still struggle. My biggest complaint is the inability to hold my head up. Everything I do, everywhere I go, I always make sure there is something to lean my head against when sitting. Otherwise my neck stiffens even more, I get intense pain at different trigger points, and then it will lead to a headache and I have to lay down and get my shoulders flat before I can get any relief.

I don't think this is normal, and I'm tired of the same old story of "This is just the way it is. You'll have ups and downs. There isn't anything we can do." bla bla bla.

When massaging my neck, the muscles feel more like ligaments, and they roll under my fingers. They seem to snap and crackle, just feel different than previously. My physical therapist (new) just told me he has never seen a neck like mine and that it is not normal. He said the muscles have basically stopped working and he doesn't know if we can build them back up. He has seen how my neck responds when it gets tired and he said "something's not right".

Well duh, that's what I've been telling my docs for 2 years. But no one seems to know what to do.

So my question is do any of you have problems like this? I'd love to hear your story.
Surviving chronic pain one day at a time, praying for a reprieve because living another 40 years like this doesn't sound too fun!


  • jlrfryejjlrfrye ohioPosts: 1,110
    I am currently recovering from the dreaded posterior surgery. I was having no issues until I started walking last week. My right shoulder is killing me. The burning and spasms are enough to bring you to your knees. I know exactly what you are talking about when you say you have to lean your head on something. For me its almost like my head is now to heavy. I find myself while sitting in a chair that my shoulders seem to roll forward and my head tilts forward. Ive been told over and over again its a long recovery from the posterior approach so I dont even mention my issues to my surgeon anymore.
  • MetalneckMetalneck Island of Misfit toysPosts: 1,364
    Yes Cindy ... There is no "sanity clause".

    Or what I really mean to say is that everything you are reporting, I am also am feeling-sufffering from ... In addition to a couple of other funky chicken tings.

    PM me? we can catch up? Please?

    Warmest Regards,

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

  • Dave, I've only (!) had the anterior surgery, but with my graft not fusing completely and forming some stress fractures, I'll most likely be having posterior surgery to stabilize things.

    Just wanted to say that I do understand and have the same issues. I think all the rest, bracing, and immobility leads to weakness of the back and neck muscles, our major supports. Yes, I'm talking about everyone's favorite P word (posture). Some people didn't have the best to begin with, and post surgery, without a lot of work, it just gets worst.

    I know from my personal experience (personal trainer, massage therapist, surgical RN) that a lot of those issues can be overcome. I too had the "heavy" head, crackley neck muscles, sore shoulders. Sometimes my neck and back remind me that they're in need of help -- just wish they didn't use a brick bat to communicate that.

    If I can be of any help, please PM me. You're not alone, not by a long shot.
  • We're in it together...

    Susan, in the beginning I found that when walking if I really concentrated on keeping my shoulders back and also clipped my thumbs on my waistband of pants to prevent them from hanging, it did take some of pain away from my shoulders when walking. Unfortunately even that doesn't help now. I so hope that you don't end up with permanent stuff like this. I would advise you to really work on posture and once you are okayed by your doc to strengthen, really concentrate on shoulder strength because that is what supports your neck muscles. That being said, I did that very faithfully and here I am.

    Dave, thanks for the kind words, and the PM we exchanged. You are always here when I need you. I'll try to keep in touch. It sounds as if we are about in the same boat.

    babybubbles, believe me I have worked hard trying to overcome this. Physical therapy, home exercises, constant work, and a positive attitude (until recently), I still ended up in this position. However, I did overcome partial paralysis and worked my way out of a wheelchair. I have an injury to my cord, and I have a syrinx inside my cord, among other things. I wish this were as simple as working on posture. I'm once again in physical therapy because of progession of leg weakness and other symptoms.

    Dave and I both have major reconstructs to our necks with nothing more surgically to be done. We both have vertebrectomies which are complete removal of the vertebrae vs a corpectomy which is partial removal, Titanium strut grafts, rods, pins, screws, plates, yada yada yada. I hope that you don't end up with the same thing. It isn't promising. Hopefully you can avoid further surgery.

    Anyway, thanks for the encouragement. I am seeing both my pain doctor and my neurosurgeon on Tuesday to make some decisions on either a scs or a pain pump. I have finally been approved for the SCS, but now the doctor brought up the suggestion of the pain pump. Geez this all gets confusing. I don't know which way to go.

    Surviving chronic pain one day at a time, praying for a reprieve because living another 40 years like this doesn't sound too fun!
  • Neck, I in no way mean to imply to a good attitude alone, or posture alone, or stretching alone, etc. etc. will always get everyone over the hump. I know my neck surgery was not as all-encompassing as yours; I'm holding off until my lumbar issues are under "control" before I can address the additional cervical and probably thoracic surgeries I will need. I also have a syrinx, mine is in my thoracic cord, and I sometimes struggle with that and what it may or may not become or contribute to.

    I simply try to hold out a word of hope to people who read this forum and work themselves into a state of desperation. They will cross the roads that you, Dave, I, and so many others have crossed, if and when it comes to that. If we can still have hope, then maybe so can they.

    I hope and pray for an answer to your questions and relief to your symptoms. If I can ever offer any help or even just a shoulder to lean on, I'm here for you.
  • SpineAZSpineAZ WiscPosts: 1,084
    I had a posterior cervical foraminotomy in 2008. I find that I get neck fatigue and ongoing minor neck muscle type pain. I can't survive without a muscle relaxer at least 2x a day. I often get an "arthritic" type pain in my neck but not sure if that's a result of the ACDF, the posterior surgery, or just both. May be headed for adding C4 to my ACDF this year. Then I'll really see how the cumulative effect works.
    2 ACDFs, 2 PCDF, 3 LIFs; Rt TKR; Rt thumb fusion ; Lt thumb arthroplasty; Ehlers Danlos 
  • MetalneckMetalneck Island of Misfit toysPosts: 1,364
    I had that congenitially slender cervical canal comment also which believe it or not was really a good thing. If I hadn't been "congentially slender"
    I would have had much more mylopathy than I wound up with. My kicker for me were ostepythes all over the place causing foraminal stenosis and resulting nerve impingements and near complete loss of c5 due to desication (drying out). I don't exactallly how much was "cleaned up" during my 8 days in the big house, But the last Cat Scan about a year ago showed facet arthropathy at C7 - T1 ... more adjacent disk (facet joint) disease. Just a matter of time before I blow the disk between C7 - T1 ... the elusive C8. As I attempt to protect my neck from further damage I find myself rotating with m ylow back ... and guess what? The pain and fatigue is beginning down south.(lumbar). For me neck movement = increased pain - I wear a soft collar most of the time to remind me to limit R.O.M. I am down to 5% rotation left - Right - up and down. I have NO cervical lordosis and never will again. I have severe atrophy of my sternocleidomastoid. I just pasted my two year major surgery "anniversary" and find things are still progressing poorly. Thus the term degenerative disk disease. Golly and I have really so few actual disks left !! Sleep can be difficult to achieve .... but it IS the only time that I am pain free.

    God Bless us - Everyone!

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

  • I had posterior foraminotomy c5-6,c6-7 in 04/09
    The shoulder muscle burning lasted about 4mos, that caused the shoulder muscles, ligaments, tendons to lock/freeze, thus shorten & lasted about 5 mos, and now the pain is stiffness & spasms. I had spasms for the last 13 mos & still going with them. I bought a "backbuddy" online to work on the trigger points, thus releasing adhesions as well. Moist heating pad does wonders. Now they have me strectching with neck exercises as often as possible so the muscles can to return to normal lengths. So having said that, 11-35mos for a complete recovery is spot on.
    It is very frustrating, to say the least.
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