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Radiofrequency medial branch C3-C7, severe increased pain 2 weeks

imachildagainiimachildagain Posts: 32
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:48 AM in Neck Pain: Cervical
I tried finding something similar and so many were outdated, so thought I would try a new thread.

21+ years neck/back pain

Fusions C4-C5, C5-C6, L4-S1
5 Epidural injections (never worked)
Heat/ice/exercises/massive pain meds/chiropractic/relaxation techniques/massage, etc.

Finally after massive pain after lower back fusion, had a Medtronics spinal cord stimulator implanted. I can walk again, do housework, etc. Truly wonderful.

BUT, neck has always been the worst, after 4 RF (nerve cuttings) with a block first which each worked 6 months, then a 5th one on right cervical that didn't work at all even though the block worked. One more fusion that only helped 6 months. Another epidural, nothing, then a test block of C3-C7 which was wonderful for 48 hours, had RF done 2 weeks ago. Doc didn't inform me that with higher block I could have increased pain, but have had at least double the pain for 2 weeks with disabling headaches, neck, shoulder, mid back pain. I can't function, wear dark sunglasses all day and even at night to watch t.v. I'm taking Norco, Neurontin, Valium, Ativan, Tramadol, Excedrin Headache (Tylenol & caffeine), and recently found some relief after drinking 4 cups of real coffee (drink decaf).

I realize everyone's body reacts differently, but I'm at a pain level that isn't allowing me to sleep, think, concentrate, and is disabling my entire life. No driving (especially with the drugs), and pretty desperate right now.

Have others had this much pain after RF, the 1st 5 RF were lumbar and starting at C4 down and never had increased pain, just extreme sunburn type pain in my scalp, and intense skin itching for a year after nerves regenerated once?

I know I'm not alone, but desperately need to know what is going on. Doc just says wait for 6 weeks for relief. At first the referral from the Neurosurgeon suggested RF, but the spine specialist hesitated and said "it didn't work before", but then resorted to it again.

I may contact Medtronics as the rep told me about it that implant can also be used for the cervical problems. Just at wits end with also 3 knee surgeries, ending up with replacement, ankle surgery, and many more, total of 33 procedures and I'm only 58. Enough is enough and I can't work at all. This is not life, can't enjoy grand kids, kids, family, fun.

Suggestions, or any input gratefully appreciated.


  • Have you contacted the doctor since the RF procedure?

    I had a significant increase in pain after one of my lumbar RF procedures, and my doctor told me sometimes the nerves are very cranky until they die. But I wouldn't want a more serious condition to go unnoticed, so I'd definitely contact the doctor!

  • Yes, I contacted doc, nurse told me to have meds refilled which consisted of 18 ES-Vicodin and to see them in 6 weeks. She didn't seem to be interested in increased pain, I learned about it from the internet. Previous 5 RF didn't have increased pain. This pain began 2 days after procedure. Also 1st 4 procedures began considerable relief after 2 weeks, but now doc's office is saying 6 weeks. Not cooperative office, and told if no localized injection pain, redness, swelling, fever, just to come in for scheduled appointment. I went through 3 employees.
  • I've had two RFAs done, one on each side of my neck. The second was at the end of June, and still am experiencing extreme tenderness and some itchiness. About 2 days after, my skin turned red, all the way into my hairline, and down into my shoulder blade area. It was so swollen, itchy, and so painful to the touch, I could not lay on that side, or even stand to have a shirt touching it. I popped in to see my PM (who did the procedure) and he looked at my neck, saw how red it was, and said it was neuralgia from the procedure, and it should go away within about 6 weeks. The redness did go away, it's not as itchy, and the area has decreased, but I do have a little area that is still numb and painful to the touch.

    He said that it was because the frequency may have been set too high for me in that area, and although it doesn't happen too often, it does happen. He told me he wanted to try it again, but at a lower frequency, I told him I'd have to think about that one long and hard, lol. So, all I can say, is what he told me, and they told you, it just takes time. It has got much better for me, but it has taken more than 6 weeks!!
    APROUD CANADIANveteranButNOTa doctor, my thoughts are my own
  • I had the sunburn effect once out of 6 RF, the itchy once with a test, once after RF 6 months, lasted over a year, horrible. My doc just dismisses me and tells me to live with it. But only 2 docs on my insurance, and other is inept.

    for some reason I get up by 7:00, headache despite all the meds continue until around 5:00-6:00 p.m. and seems better until midnight. Doesn't make sense. But by then I'm so exhausted from the pain and laying down I can't seem to work, but it does allow me to cook dinner and clean up.
  • Oh, pleeeease don't tell me this could last over a year!!! lol. It is much better, than what it was though. My pm doc said the same, unfortunately there's nothing to do for it. At least he explained it to me though, and is genuinely sorry it worked out that way for me! He apologizes every appointment!

    I always have a headache, I can't remember a headache free day in about 1 1/2 years, since my surgery. I don't take any other NSAIDs, so I just take 2 xtra strength Advil liquid gels, and they do help with mine, unless it gets really bad. Are yours tension headaches? I also find that having the heating pad under the base of my skull and half way up my skull helps with the tension headaches, too. It's the pre-migraine and migraines that kill me!!
    APROUD CANADIANveteranButNOTa doctor, my thoughts are my own
  • My 1st time with the itching started 6 months after RF when the nerves regenerated, it did last a good year and drove me crazy, but didn't happen the other 4 RF's. Then when I had the test block this time for 2 weeks I scratched non-stop for 2 weeks, but is gone now.

    I really believe my headaches are a combination of discs, nerves, tension, stress, and surgeries. I don't see signs of migraines, but my husband gets them and thinks mine are every bit as severe as migraines, but it never goes away. This time has been since March.

    I also use an incredible RX topical pain killer for my neck muscles twice a day, it does give me at least a couple of hours relief, I have a heated mechanical massager I use, and yes, I noticed that up into the skull area really helps. I also dabble with acupressure, very strong hold with a simple tool for about 20 seconds. I think it disrupts the knots in the muscles.

    I'm so thankful today to find this site and found a good chat area that made me feel no so alone. Mentally is was a real help.

    NSAIDS don't touch the pain, I have to start the day with 2 Norco, chew the nasty things and melt under my tongue to get them to work in 10 minutes instead of 30-40. Without it, I can barely move or think.

    Hoping for a day when I find a compassionate doctor like yours. Moved from CA to NV a year ago, and still have medical in CA, so it's a 14 hour drive, so am looking at alternative insurance and hoping to find someone competent here, although it will be much harder than CA.
  • I'm so glad you found it too!!! It's a great place to come for info, comfort and to talk to others who are completely understanding of what you're going through.

    I am soooo lucky with my pm. Actually, my mom is a retired nurse, and they used to work together! He absolutely loves her, and I know I get the best possible care from him, but then again, he treats everyone that way! I actually had an appointment with the PA at my pcp office today, and he even said he'd been to some of my pm's lectures, and that he was one of the best around. I wish that everyone could have a doc like him, and wish you luck with your insurance and search for one!!

    There actually is a doctor search tool by city/area here on the site, I think it's right on the homepage, maybe you could check that out.

    Is there a website or anything that you use for acupressure? I would love it if you could send it to me thru private message!! As well as the name of the topical pain reliever. I've tried all the otc stuff, but none of them help at all, I might as well be putting hand lotion on, lol.

    Anyways, nice to meet you, welcome to S-H! Have a good night and rest, talk soon, and take care!
    APROUD CANADIANveteranButNOTa doctor, my thoughts are my own
  • Finally figured out how to send you a pm. As to insurance, if we switch it will probably still be Blue Shield which uses WebMD as a tool that I log in daily for personal info, so I should be able to find someone possibly in Reno which isn't too far for me.
  • My experience with cervical RFA procedures, is that they cause a lot of tension issues in the neck and as a result create really nasty headaches that mimic a migraine in some respects. My PM doc told me that the attitude among that specific group of physicians, is not to repeat any RFA, because it seems that it is more and more being linked to Chronic Regional Pain Syndrome, or previously known as RSD. I have had nerves regenerate after RFA and they seem to come back meaner and far more painful.

    I have a cervical SCS and it is a huge plus!

  • Yes, my painful RFA didn't pop up until a few days after. He said it's all par for the course and gave me extra pain relievers. The good news was I did get a couple of months of relief, but only a couple. They are back with a vengence.

    Well, I don't know if they are back, my back is so messed up it could be anything.

  • I had a radiofrequency facet rhizotomy done from C3 to C7 in 2007, and it was very successful for me. My pain levels never did return to the original levels in that area, though segments of my thoracic and lumbar spine have been very painful, and I have just had another rhizotomy to try and ease those symptoms.

    This last rhizotomy was done with pulsed heat, and the pain on waking was reduced immensely; not sure if that is something that would have made a difference for some of you.

  • Wow, that scares me with the info about repeating these procedures. I was very unhappy when he chose to do the right cervical again when the last time (5th RF) did not work at all, but also have never had the increased pain after the surgery.

    what is cervical SCS?? I'm ready to try anything to help.
  • Well, I guess I feel better that others experienced this increased pain and that's it's semi normal for it to start after several days. Just seems odd that it was fine the 1st 5 times, but a previous post on here now has me scared that continuing these cuttings can lead to another problem syndrome. My doc will only do one side at a time, so it's been more and more procedures.

    I just hope that now that it's been 2 weeks of extreme pain, hopefully it's coming to an end......haha, have read others on here that lasted 4 weeks. I'm going crazy. But if I get my usual 6 months, I'll be happy. And that's "if". Can't tell.

    I sympathize with you and so many others, back, neck, spinal problems, seems like one thing gets resolved and another pops up. Never ending.
  • I'm not familiar with the term "rhizotomy", unless as I understand it is simply the pulsing rather than the cutting?? Gives me something to talk to the doctor about, although he's so bull-headed, he doesn't want any input. If I try to say anything, he asks me if I'm theorizing. It's my body, and I pay attention to my reactions. I am going to jot down the info I've found on here and question him (if by 11/22 when I see him) I haven't had good relief. I'm sure he'll love it.

    I'm getting close to finishing off with medical insurance through CA and starting in NV. We lived back and forth between the 2 states, and am ready to sell in CA and then change insurance to NV, but then that means finding someone good here. I have been very interested in talking to Medtronics about having a 2nd implant in my neck. Have one in my hip and has given my lower body the most incredible pain relief and able to walk again. Now if I could only get rid of this intense neck/shoulder/headache pain so I could think, I could be a real person again.
  • Ouch, thought I would check this site for a doctor in Nevada. What it came to was one clinic in Reno, and then all the rest in California. That's what I was afraid of and have been holding off changing our insurance and doctors.
  • ...is sometimes referred to in articles as "cutting" or "severing" the nerve, but in some situations, such as facet rhizotomies, it is actually "stunning" the nerve by using heat. My neurosurgeon refers to it as percutaneous radiofrequency facet rhizotomy.

    I've also had a couple of specialists who don't like to be "questioned", even though I'm just trying to clarify information. I agree with you, though - it IS our bodies, so do we not have the right to ask questions?

    Glad to hear you're getting relief with the stim. They are very difficult to get in the province I live in, but I have discovered that there are a few that have been approved and I now know where to get the information on them.

    Take care, and good luck with the insurance...that's always a treat.

  • All of my nerves have been cut, and then regenerated after about 6 months. This just has been the 1st time I have been in such extreme pain starting several days after the procedure. Well, guess I'm at a wait and see stage, and just have to go day by day and hope. This doc seems to only do this procedure as well as the spinal cord stimulator and epidurals. I have a lot of information to try to go through and be more knowledgeable before anything else is done.

    As the Medtronics implant has been so successful for me, I'm hoping it might be the answer for my neck too. I think I'll make another appointment with the Neurosurgeon and discuss with him as he recommended it for my waist down, and maybe a recommendation from him can accomplish the neck/shoulder/cervical problems another implant as it last 9 years before it has to be replaced.
  • imachild-When you say the nerves regenerate after about 6 months, does that mean they return to pre-nerve ablation/rhiz/cutting? I am wondering becz I had a nerve ablation, rt side c3-c7 and have been in worse pain ever since (going on 5 mo now)Can I hope to feel better in a month or so? Thanks
  • Everyone is different. Docs say nerves regenerate (grown back together in 6-18 months or so). My 1st 4 times worked in several weeks and pain returned after 6 months to about the same intensity as before. the 5th time it did not help at all. This was the 6th time, but now it included c3-c4 and c6-c7. I'm reading that the higher up cervically, there seems to be a larger chance of increased pain. Mine increased 2x-3x what it had been for 17 miserable days, unable to function at all, then started decreasing. Unlike the 1st 4 I'm not seeing an improvement, but docs and people on her say benefits start to show 3-4 weeks estimated. I have read that some end up with increased pain, and I haven't heard anything about what happens. I don't know if you increased pain when the nerves regenerate will calm down to the pre-surgical pain. some people say the pain never comes back....I wish.

    I certainly feel for you and hope that this additional pain decreases. I apparently is not an exact science by any means. I don't know why my doc did this again as the 5th one didn't work, however I had an additional cervical fusion in between and now it was 2 additional discs causing problems.

    I'm very unhappy with it right now. When I start to feel better, I start working and then get myself into such extreme pain.

    I'm not a doc, and even I doubt they can tell you anything concrete, but it doesn't sound good that you've had this increased pain for 5 months. I can assuming that if they regenerate in 6-18 months or whatever different experts say, you may be back to the pain prior to the ablation.

    Right now, at 3 weeks I'm hoping to just be back to pre-surgical pain, although that alone was miserable, not only the neck for 21 years, but now the mid-back. I have to work hard to stay positive and be thankful that I have an implant in my lower back that takes care of all the lower pain and can walk again.

    But the biggest problem I see in neck pain, is the constant tension and headaches that keep me from light, sound and inability to concentrate on anything.

    feel free to PM me, I'm curious as to whether your increased pain does subside. I'm so mixed as to all these "cures" which I recently told my doc that they are 6 months bandaids, that was prior to this horrible increased pain which they had no answer and I had to find it on here.
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