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1 year Post Op C4-C6 Cervical Fusion - Still pain

BrendieleeBBrendielee Posts: 20
edited 06/11/2012 - 7:52 AM in Neck Pain: Cervical
Anyone else have cervical fusion and still have issues?

I'm one year post op. The pains in my neck, headaches, numbness in hands, tingling and pain across shoulders continue. After surgery I was better for 3-4 months and then it started back.

My doc says x-rays show fusion is good and doesn't know why I'm having pain. Suggested physical therapy.

I'm back to not sleeping all night due to pain, waking up with headaches and neck pain.

Anyone else ever have this kind of experience? Not sure were to turn if the doc says, don't know why everything looks good.



  • Your not alone there are many of us with the same issues. What test did they do to confirm your fusion is solid? If your fusion is not solid it could still becausing you issues. Also there is no guarantee that surgery will resolve the pain. Now in your case the fact that you got better for so long then got worse makes me wonder if something isn't going on. Have you had a emg study sense your surgery? What types of treatments have they tried or test to find the pain generator? You might consider getting a second opinion as to why your still in pain. But I wanted to let you know your not alone as there are some of us that surgery doesn't resolve the pain and the nerves have permanent damage. A emg study might confirm that or wether it is active damage. One other thing did you have a EMG study pre-surgery? If so it would be good to have it done on the same machine by the same person.
  • Like Metalneck and Tamtam, been there, done that, still doing that! I am set for new MRI's, blood work and full NCV/EMG's in the next few weeks, and if answers aren't complete, then he'll hit me with x-rays and CT for deeper status.

    Like Metalneck, the squeaky hinge gets the attention! My EMG studies before and 6 months after surgery where almost the same - so I am not holding out much change on the plus side is going to be there. I would keep pushing, and if needed, get another opinion. It is your body and pain, and not theirs. I hope you get answers soon. Please let us know how it goes.

    PCTF C4 - T2, Laminectomies C5, C6 & C7. Severe Palsy left arm/hand.
  • MetalneckMetalneck The Island of Misfit toysPosts: 1,675
    My short answer is YES

    You are not alone.

    I had a two level that failed 5 years ago and then had a revison anterior and posterior 1.5 years later with an additional level, corpectomy and posterior rods.

    It took me a year and 1/2 of telling MANY doctors that something was still wrong .... they finally figured it out and did my revision.

    I remain in chronic pain today, tomorrow, and the forseeable future.

    I currently have another level above the "works" that is progressing and will eventually need surgical intervention.

    Keep asking your docs questions - get opinions from other surgeons - orthopedic and neurologist(s).

    Just curious did an ortho or a neuro perform your surgery??

    Regards and understanding,

    Spine-Health Moderator
    Welcome to Spine-Health  Please read the linked guidelines!!  (Click on Welcome to Spine-Health)
    My Story  - Click below
    I am not a doctor nor have I ever played one on TV.  Therefore any comments made are based on my experience.
  • I'm 5 1/2 months post-op from a C4-C6 fusion with a plate and screws. All x-rays are normal,had a 2nd MRI and it's normal according to the surgeon but I got the radiology report and they mention a rather large bulging disc. The surgeon never mentioned that though he read the MRI on the same day it was taken, before the report was released. I got the feeling he felt he didn't need the report and could read the MRI just fine without it.
    I'm not sleeping, still wearing the collar though the surgeon wants me off of it. He just says he has no idea why I'm having pain and acts as if I'm his only patient who has symptoms at this stage. Very frustrating.....He's convinced I'm fine. I'm far from
    fine and not sure where to go next...

  • :SS I had ACDF C/4/5/6 in September 2010 and am still suffering spasms and severe pain in neck and shoulders. On 4th August 2011 I had neck injections of 2 either side and within no time at all the pain had gone and spasms stopped. These injections were diagnostic in addition to pain relief but unfortunately some 3 weeks later pain/spasms returned with a vengeance. I saw my Spinal Surgeon on 6th September 2011 and I now have to undergo posterior cervical surgery to fuse numerous facet joints which are causing the problems. My balance also has been very unstable and I have to use a walking stick to prevent me toppling over!! I cannot get this operation until probably January 2012 due to huge waiting list on NHS UK however they are trying to organise further injections until that time. I also had PLIF plus rebuild ( 7 hrs ) operation in December 2008 as spine was crumbling!
    Believe my spine problems are caused by being exposed to massive doses of ionising radiation when a young Naval officer present at UK Atomic Tests at Christmas Island, Pacific in 1958. Have also had both knees replaced with right one being revised due to faulty replacement. I find sleeping easier if I use a 'butterfly' pillow and I take 2 Amitryptyline tablets before going to bed. Hope this helps you. Hugs from across the water in UK.
  • April 15 Fusion to c5c6. c4c5 still herniated As Surgeon stated he wouldn't fuse do to DDD. Here it is the end of October I feel like my neck can't hold my head up and the headaches are terrible. Arms and hands feel like they are swollen but there not. I go back to surgeon on Nov 2 wants another CT or MRI will see whats going on.
    Tried the PT only made me worst with pain.
    When I saw the Surgeon for the first time he stated your neck is a mess.
    Hang In There
  • Hi Bill,

    Welcome to spine-health. As you can see there are many others in your situation. Hopefully your surgeon will get to the bottom of what is causing your issues. While I am sure you don't want another surgery, that is one of the risk of having surgery, that adjacent disc disease will set in and cause other levels to fail. Good luck at the surgeon and let us know how it goes. It might help for you to start a thread of your own, so people can get to know you and follow your progress and lend some support. Take care.

  • I see that you were going to see your surgeon today. How did you get on?
    I have also been toldl that my neck is a mess. :S

    Interesting that they only fused C5/6 because of your DDD. My neurosurgeon is putting off fusinf my neck as long as possible, because of the state of the rest of my neck. His registrar advised a 2 level ACDF but once he spoke to the consultant, came back and said they would wait. He didn't actually give a reason, but my physio spoke to a different doctor, and they viewed my MRI scan and he said the doctor said that it was probably due to the condition of the whole of my neck, as to why they were proposing to hold off the surgery.

    I do physiotherapy every week to try to keep my neck mobility. I do think that it helps, but I am not getting better, just trying to hold things as they are. I do think that my symptoms are slowly getting worse. Today for instance, I woke with numbness in the ring, middle and pointer fingers of my right hand which lasted for several hours. I also get all sorts of pains, shocking and shooting pains in my legs and feet as well as cramping in the feet and tightening spasms in my legs and abdomen right up to my neck. These are starting to affect my right arm now too.

    I just hope that they don't put of surgery so long that I am left with permanent nerve damage.

  • Well I did see the surgeons nurse practitioner (surgeon out of town) and no mention of a MRI or CT so the same old thing asked how I have been feeling. Told her still lots of headaches and arms and hands still feel the same but did tell her my feet have been going numb and tingling feeling and that some off the headaches are lasting 12 to 14 hours with a upset stomach. She stated that that is not caused from the neck and that I should go back to the pain management doctor to see what they say. Made and appointment Nov. 11 and back to see the surgeon Dec.14.
    All this because the garage door at work rolled down on my head.

    Thanks for the invite TamTam
  • On Jan 21, 2012 it will be 2 years post surgery and I still have chronic pain. I had a herniated disc at c/7 and had hardware inserted to hold my neck in place. I have had many xrays, MRI's, CAT Scans, ect. and they still can't find why I am still in pain. The doctors say I get to be one of the many people that has to live with pain for the rest of my life. I am on Gabapentin and Loritab daily to control the pain.
    The surgery did nothing to relieve my pain, but I hope you get some kind of relief soon.
    Best of luck.
  • Anybody help?
    Last visit to surg with c/o numbness in fingers,hands and arms, r side of face and ear go numb and feel like it is frozen. He said might be a residual pinch and wants another mri. Mind you his offie/hosp is 60 miles away. Have not gone.
    Now have been told lower spine is eat up with osteo arthritis and disc are turning to jelly,(have lost 2 inches in height). No back surgeon will see me let alone do surgery.
    Now the question: is it normal to have the numbness,tingling ect, 1 yr post op? And if there is in deed a resid pinch, could it be the procedure he did was just done wrong or incomplete? Now with the other dx do I dare go through anymore surg at all?

    Need help and advise.
  • Sorry am new at this and didn't realize it would post to you.
  • I am looking at cervical and lumbar surgical options after a bad car accident.I found
    EDIT apparently the best neurosurgeon in the world he is pay per use in germany.But if money is no object he is the man.I sent him all my mri and x rays on line he has told me i need single level adr in my lumbar spine and is gonna do a complete exam of my neck when i get there.As i have 2 buldging discs at c5 c6 and c7 i have bone spurs. And bone fragments floating around in my neck.I was qouted almost 24,000 euros for the single level lumbar and my neck is up in the air.the thing is the adr surgery has alot faster recovery time for lumbar you are up and walking the next day in no pain except your incision piont.And from what i can find on the internet you tube mostly for cervical adr you are able to go home the same day symptom free.Except for the incision pain in as little as 3 weeks you can go back to work pain free yeh pain free.No symptoms what so ever.check it out.

    Dr's name/website link removed
    Post Edited by Authority Member Liz

  • She is 8 days post op C-4-5-6 anterior fusion with plate and screws. I have a hospital bed for her here at home. She seems to be in good shape as far as the right arm pains and numbness go. They have decreased which is heartening.

    She has the usual trouble with difficulty swallowing, and lateral neck movement, and there is some swelling at the surgical site. Dressings changed and wound looks fine, melting steri-stips were used. The grafts were a surgical epoxy.

    We have read some of these posts, and optimism is deflating fast. Are there any success stories out there?
  • No pain after surgery other than at the incision site? I wish!! What about the pain from the nerve compression? You are possibly misguided if you think that magically disappears instantly! For some lucky few, it seems to, but for most people, it takes months and months of healing for those compressed nerves to stop being painful, and sometimes they never stop hurting--which nobody seems to be able to explain.


    Standards agreement and posting rules
    Please note that Spine-Health reserves the right to edit any messages posted or submitted that violate established rules or forum standards

    Post Edited by Moderator haglandc
  • who is "she?"
  • I'm sorry but 'she' is my fiancee and we have been together for five years. She's Irish and redheaded and has horses...thus her moniker. Her photo shows her with one of her mares Jazz, and she has found a sweet spot which makes Jazz smile.

    She is just ten days post op so I've started these strings and she will pick them up when she is stronger. We are pleased with her recovery so far and look forward to her regaining her active lifestyle. dm
  • now it makes sense. Gosh, I hope she has better luck than me with recovery. I had 2 level acdf six months ago. The first two weeks were really hellish. Lots more pain than before surgery. I thought for sure the doctor had done something wrong.I have less burning arm pain now, but still have burning aching shoulder pain, sometimes so bad I just have to stop what I'm doing to go lie down with an ice bag on it for a little partial pain relief. It really stinks not knowing if I'll be one of the "unlucky" ones who doesn't get complete pain relief, or if I just have to be patient and endure it until full healing. One tip if I may. If her doctor hasn't prescribed her a bone stimulator, tell her to ask about one. Not all doctors recommend them, and it's unclear why.Better to use one early on than six months later, after the doc finally admits to himself that the patient isn't healing as fast as desired.

  • I wonder if this applicable to a fusion using medical grade epoxy?
  • Yes I still have problems post op... Is it true that after a year post op then the chances of getting better are no longer possible???? I know I can take meds and everything but...
  • She is having a remarkable recovery and will have her four week follow up Friday next.

    Re: epoxy, it was used with a mesh as a mold at two levels.

    Her cervical rotation and up/down motions are exceptional.
  • Great that she is better!!!!
  • After my surgery, It took six months before I even thought it was successful. So for a year and a half I have made progress. Now though two years down the road I'm beginning to get some neck pain, headaches and rotator cuff issues.
  • this sounds like my story
    I have the use of my arm back. Thats a very good thing. But I am still in pain. I try very hard to appear pain free at my job, but I'm not. People don't really understand what we are going through
  • I am currently 2 years out after having 2 anterior and 1 posterior surgeries done on the c5,6,&7, my pain, numbness in both hands and shooting pain across my shoulders is getting worse. I sleep approximately 2 hours a day, therefore making my "awake" day 20 plus hours. I was told after I had the Posterior Mesh "cage" put in that I would never be a candidate for a Cervical Stimulator. I have since moved, and my current pain management Dr. is insisting to try using on me. I have had 2 surgeons and another pain mgmt Dr. advise this won't work, and my cost $1300.00. I am willing to try anything, however throwing $1300.00 into his office kitty isn't one of them, and of course NOTHING IS GUARANTEED. I am lost, I am losing my mind from lack of sleep and the pain in brutal. I just detoxed myself thru the hospital off of all opiates, and am in tears during all moments that I am awake. Suggestions?
  • I had the exact same levels done last january and while my neck pain is mostly gone, I picked up shoulder pain that alternated between both shoulders and is now mostly in my left shoulder and has been getting worse every month. Every doctor I have seen thinks that C3/C4 now needs fusing. C3/C4 was iffy to begin with and now it looks worse on the MRI according the doctors. I wish they went ahead and fused it the first time if it was almost bad enough. Now I have to get another surgery because I have to take that chance again. My pain is not manageable with meds or PT.

    Are the other disks fine? I'd probably get another MRI to see if the problem is from above or below the levels you fused.
  • Good Evening everyone, I see that I'm not the only one that has had problems. Can someone shine some light on this for me?
    I had a C5-C6 fusion Nov 09' had horrible pain shortly after the surgery/healing time. I had a great Doc but he didn't believe me when I told him that I was having problems again. I was getting the blinding headaches again and my arms weren't working right. They put me through PT and they made it worse. After that they did an EMG on both my arms (because he said that there was no way that the surgery could be at fault, "his" work was flawless") they found severe Carpal tunnel...so I had that surgery Nov 10' Well that didn't take the "NECK" pain away. I've had x-rays and an MRI and it shows nothing...at least that is what the doc says.
    My concern is that the pain in my neck is getting so bad that I can't turn my head again, and the pain in my arms and the weird numbness on the back of my hands (my fingers still don't have feeling) is making me worry.
    I'm not sure what to do...I've seen my PCP and he just pushes Narcs on me and I'm getting tired of living on pain meds. They've tried steroid injections and countless other things...I've even tried chiro, and outta deperation acupuncture....I've also tried yoga, excersize and everything else in between.. Anyone out there that can give some advice?

    Thank you in advance!!
  • Welcome to Spine Health! Sorry you are still in pain and no one seems to know why. I am also still in pain, but pain is better than before surgery. Don't believe that PT is always the answer. Do you have nerve or muscular pain or both? Most of my nerve pain has gotten better, but I get terrible muscular pain and was diagnosed by my physical therapist with myotitis and myalgia. I also did everything from acupuncture, yoga, PT, exercise, pilates, swimming, etc. One thing I learned is that if you have muscular pain, self massage can really help. I use a special tool shaped like a cane to reach the upper back and neck. It doesn't eliminate the pain, but helps.

    I agree that the headaches are the worst. If it wasn't for the headaches, I would be functioning normally. Feel free to PM me if you want to know the name of the massage tool. :)
    2011 ACDF C5-6 for Spondylosis with Myleopathy
    2012 L4-5 herniated disc and hernated disc at C4/5 2013 Taking Amitriptyline for headaches
  • Joan, the Irishmare, is 5 months post op and just coming in the door from letting her 3 horses out of the barn and mucking stalls. She lugs full roofing pails of water, hay and grains and yes, she is in pain. She learned from a similar back problem that you must work through the pain and grow your muscles. She earned a belt in Tai quon do (sp) when her back was so bad fifteen years ago.

    Her present surgeon (Portland Maine) was awesome and highly experienced having just come out of the Navy and Bethesda Hospital with vast experience with returning GI's from the war zone. He fused her with the epoxy method.

    Good luck all. Horsense, her sig-other.
  • I had a c4-c6 fusion in May 2004. Titanium plate and bone grafts from right side of hip. I have had further surgery in left side of hip to relieve pressure on nerve causing chronic pain in left thigh. The hip surgery failed and the surgeon has said further operation is pointless due to scar tissue. I had a nerve impulse test which revealed that the surgery failed. Back to the neck. After surgery I was in hospital for 8 days in bed with custom made neck brace. Home for one day and I just moved my head to one side and there was an almighty crack sound from my neck the pain increased. I was readmitted for scans and X-rays. The surgeon said there was nothing wrong, it was just the surgery "settling down". It did settle down but I can still hear/feel smaller cracking sounds every time my head moves side to side. I still have numb patches on left arm and hand and pain in shoulder and upper left arm. Major pain in hip and groin. Currently reducing morphine (MST) intake from 320mgs per day to 220 mgs per day. Sleep is disturbed everyday I can not recall sleeping more than 3-4 hours per night. The pain is fairly continuous and depression is pretty rife( good days are rare ) Pain clinic is superb but other departments seem very slow to respond. Waiting for x-rays and scans before finalising which way to go.
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