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6 months post 3 level fusion still in pain

sabinadssabinad Posts: 10
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:51 AM in Neck Pain: Cervical
Hi. I had c4-c7 fusion in late Sept. 2010. I wore a hard collar faithfully for 8 weeks. The day after I took off the collar, the pain returned. My NS told me to take it easy for a while until it felt better. I am still not feeling any better and I am still experiencing numbness in my right hand, pain in my shoulder blades,collar bone,arms and have a lot of muscle spasms. I started physical therapy last week. I am able to do all the exercises but the pain that follows is worse. NS now says I should lay off the PT, take four muscle relaxers a day and wear a soft collar when I do anything that causes pain. That would mean wearing the soft collar all the time. Has anyone else had these issues? If so, when did you start to feel better?


  • I wonder if some of your pain comes from wearing the collar and your muscle tone being lost?
  • Sabinad, my surgery was not as extensive as yours was, but I've had a somewhat similar experience. I had a C6/C7 fusion a little over one month ago. I still have many of the same symptoms that I had before the surgery, and some that are new. Until yesterday, I was not sure how much of it was normal post-op pain and how much was pain due to a still-existing abnormality. I had an x-ray immediately prior to my follow-up appointment yesterday. The surgeon looked at the x-ray and was very pleased with the position of the screws and fusion material. As he and his intern were admiring his handiwork, I asked him how the C7/T1 disc looked. He focused his attention on it and nonchalantly said it is "degenerative", "collapsed", and would probably "autofuse". What?! Collapsed?! I was so shocked I did not have the presence of mind to ask any further questions. I have a lot of questions now that I wish I had thought of before I left his office. What's disturbing is that I am certain that if I had not asked the surgeon about that disc he would not have said anything about it, would have attributed my pain to post-op healing, and I would have left his office still wondering why I was having pain.

    Anyway, my point is, have you directly asked your NS if he has any idea why you are still having so much pain? Has he offered any explanations of why your pain returned? I assume you've had a follow-up x-ray. If so, what did the NS say about it? Did he mention whether or not there has been any bone growth? You wrote that your pain returned the day after you stopped wearing the collar. That implies that you had relief from the symptoms after the surgery and while you were wearing the collar? Is that the case? How long did you suffer from pain and numbness before you had the surgery? Have you considered taking your post-op x-rays to another doctor for a second opinion?

    I've learned from experience that some surgeons do not like to acknowledge when their work is not perfect or that they missed something. After a previous surgery, I continued having pain. The NS kept telling me I had to "give it more time", and referred me to a neurologist for pain management. The neuro prescribed PT. After I consistently complained of the same pain for many months the NS *finally* sent me for a myelogram/CT scan and determined that there really was something pinching the nerve. Who would have thought?
  • Hi Honeysmom,
    I have the strength but have a lot of muscle spasms. My therapist is putting me on Aqua therapy for now to see if that helps the muscles relax a little and helps with the pain. I am most concerned about the numbness in my hands, that is a new sypmtom since the surgery. I am calling my NS this week to schedule an appt to get that checked out. After what I have gone through with my neck I am not taking any chances!
  • Hi CM,
    I have been calling my NS since the day after I took off the collar, probably weekly. They seem to think it is "normal" to have this much pain and keep telling me to take it easy. I have been taking it easy for the last 6 months! Still I have spasms and any activity increases my pain level.
    I had minor pain in my neck and then I was hit from behind by a car going 55 mph while stopped for a school bus. Although my MRI didn't change, the pain got worse. I tried all the conservative measures, therapy, injections, for about 9 or 10 months, but the pain was so bad so I opted for the surgery. Felt great with the collar but as soon as I took it off, the pain started again.
    I did have an xray done two months after the surgery and they said everything was ok.
    The numbness in my hands is worse and more severe than before the surgery. Doc's office thinks it's a compressed nerve. I would think that is something I should have checked out. I am calling them AGAIN to let them know that I want an appt. I think sometimes that they think I am just complaining.
  • You are more patient than I am. I think I would have seen another doctor sooner for a second opinion if my surgeon was unresponsive (I am in that situation now). If you do see another doctor be sure to take your x-rays and any other films and reports with you.

    Pain is bad, but numbness scares me even more. I am really sorry to hear the pain in your hands is worse now than before surgery. I know exactly about how they think you are just complaining. I just had the same experience with my doctor. That is why I am going elsewhere.
  • i had the same surgury 4 to 7 plate in front rods and screws in back the numbness is worse than before the surgury you say compressed nerve?
  • I am wearing the soft collar and amazingly have little or no pain. I took it off for about an hour and the pain returned, but not as bad. Maybe I just need the support until the bones are fused. I am very active and I'm probably doing too much. I am going to continue to wear it when necessary and see how I feel.Tomorrow, I am starting aqua therapy so I hoping that helps with the muscle spasms.
    The numbess happens after I bend my elbow and hold something, like the phone, after about 10 minutes. That I want to have checked out.
    Thanks for listening!
  • The numbess happens if I bend my elbow and hold something after 10 minutes. The PA at the NS office said it may be a compressed nerve. I don't know if that is something I should really worry about. The PA didn't sound too concerned about it. It's not painful, just numb.
    I have learned, after this surgery, not to do things that cause pain or discomfort.
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