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In a lot of pain and freaking out - post ACDF

jben55jjben55 Posts: 35
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:50 AM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery

I posted in the neck pain section, but I don't think I was as clear as I could have been. Need some guidance and help in understanding what I am going through right now.

I had C5-C7 ACDF on 8/31/09. I had 2 bulging discs into spinal cord, no arm pain but excruciating neck pain. It took me 5 months to feel good after the surgery. I struggled mightily with getting the inflammation and muscle spasms to alleviate. I had a lot of pain in spinous processes at the C7 area. In January 2010, I had a facet block injection. I did not feel good initially from it, but 3 weeks later all of a sudden my neck pain went away completely and stayed away for a year.

I last saw my NS on 3/26/10, he gave me a full bill of health with no limitations. I believe I have taken that too far and have caused dire consequences. After a year of running and lifting weights without any discomfort, 2 weeks ago it appears I have re-injured the area and then some. I am experiencing the pre-surgery issues and this sucks. It feels like I have a swollen C7-T1, painful to the touch and radiates burning, searing pain across upper back. I am having severe muscles spasms in neck and my neck feels "stuck" as if I can't turn it properly, it's pulling my skull back, I feel out of alignment. Bending my neck forward is often the worse pain.

I haven't gone back to NS yet as I am presently in Physical Therapy. Only 2 sessions there and PT thinks I just irritated the area, but my concern is the neck "sticking" and the level of discomfort not allowing me to sleep or hardly get through day. I had an NS appointment on Friday, but canceled because I was hoping that PT would be my answer with massage therapy, heat and stim. Looks like I need to schedule tomorrow because I'm freaking out.

Has anyone had this experience? As well, could irritation/inflammation be this bad or did I do something to further injure the fusion and/or adjacent area. Please your comments are welcome.



  • My best opinion is always better to error on the side of caution. I would make a appointment with the surgeon to get a exam and his/her professional opinion as to what is going on. It could be anything from pulled muscle, hardware issues or another level gone out. Who order the physical therapy? What was the diagnoses they made for ordering the therapy?

    I, myself have gone through adjacent level failure and while at first I dismissed it thinking it was just some irritations, it was obvious my guess work was very wrong. So my answer is to always error on the side of caution and be safe rather than sorry.

    Keep us posted on what the NS has to say.
  • What did your adjacent level failure feel like?

    My pain level has diminished a good bit today. I used a lidoderm patch last night applied on my C7 and got a solid night of sleep. I have an appointment with my NS on 2/16 but I am going tomorrow to get a consultation with a MD who performs prolotherapy. I would prefer to try to treat this much more holistically and not pay a bunch of money out of pocket for whole new batch films only to confirm I have an irritated joint in my neck and I'm prescribed another facet joint block that may or may not work this time. Plus hearing that anti-inflammatory and steriod injections are pretty bad long-term.

    Very interested in your adjacent failure symptoms and I'll also post on what I find out tomorrow.

  • SpineAZSpineAZ WiscPosts: 1,084
    I had a C5-C6-C7 ACDF in 2006. I had some relief but some nagging nerve pain remained. In 2008, nearly 2 yr to the day, after my surgeon saying I might have slight stenosis per the MRI, he agreed to do a posterior foraminotomy. When I woke up he was telling my hubby the stenosis was amazingly bad and he was surprised I wasn't in tears. Ummmm, yes I was, I was the one who begged you to do something in tears.

    Anyway, that did help with the specific nerve that was involved but I've now found out the C6 area has movement. I never felt comfortable with that surgeon in that he wanted everyone to be a success. Even hubby said "funny, no one ever comes in here looking like there are in as much pain as you are".

    Found a new orthopedic spine surgeon and he's doing a work up to figure out where my pain is coming from the cervical spine. I'm betting C4 and C6. So it's wise to get other opinions if you feel you aren't being heard. My MRI showed barely perceptible stenosis but my new orth spine surgeon says with the hardware in there it made it harder to see. I found a OSS who listens and investigates, best doc I've found in YEARS.
    2 ACDFs, 2 PCDF, 3 LIFs; Rt TKR; Rt thumb fusion ; Lt thumb arthroplasty; Ehlers Danlos 
  • And I think we spoke about a year ago before I was able to enjoy a full-year of being pain-free. So it looks like you had some initial success and then things kind of fell apart. Like me, 1 year good now miserable again. I hope you succeed.

    I'm day to day, today I am experiencing excruciating pain at my C7 and I can hardly touch the skin in the area. Also neck pain keeps jumping from side to side and at various times through day the range of motion changes from OK to not OK. My head feels stuck sometimes when I'm looking ahead and I feel an opposing pull.

    At any rate, no doubt I will continue to pursue this to the end of the earth. I have to as I have a beautiful family and a good job. Plus I have a very good quality of life when I feel good.

    Today I'm going to see an Orthopedist/Sports Medicine MD who performs prolotherapy as well as Chiropractic care. Not looking to get adjusted, but his overall understanding of the spine and what I've read of prolotherapy may be the answer.

    I have a good NS but I don't want to be cut again if I can help it. I'm avoiding him because I know how this goes, drugs, films, shots or additonal surgery. So I am very interested and eager to see what this new guy says today and I sincerely hope he is my answer.

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