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c5 palsy/arm drop?

BrokebackBobBBrokebackBob Posts: 26
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:54 AM in Neck Pain: Cervical
Developed c5 palsy a few days after surgery last week of ACDF OF 4 5 6. Left arm now in a sling and very painful. not much on this wonderful malady on internet. It might also be call arm drop syndrome.....so this is major set back ...Dr. says it should disappear in maybe 4 or 6 weeks...but then maybe not. Anyone hear of this complication? Arm is useless but hand can grip. And another source of level 6 or 7 pain
Any feedback appreciated


  • Bob,

    I can tell you it happened to me as well. It did take a lot of work to get it to come back and while not perfect and still some weakness in it, it is more useable. Not sure how bad you got it, but it was useless to me in the beginning when it happened, and very hard to deal with. So be patient and possible try one of those gripper balls to work on hand strength. The one thing you should know is it takes a long time for nerves to heal, and I do mean a long time. My surgeon said it can take up to two years for it to come back, and with lots of work was around that time frame I started getting more movement back.
  • Tam
    I feel like I just got punched in the stomach. Frankly I am speechless.I cant seem to find any info on this condition except casual mention on websites. Did you clinical name for this malady? Thank God this is my left arm and I am right handed. I have first post op follow up with surgeon Friday. Neck feels good. Right arm and hands are almost painfree and 95% functional. Left hand has good strength. But nothing between wrist and shoulder works. The only way I can move arm is with assistance from my right arm or to swing it by moving my shoulder or body first. Now I starting to get sharp needle like pains in arm and shoulder. Gotta keep head up but this is low blow. Thanks for information.
  • I'm going through exactly the same thing. I had my surgery 6 June. The pain today has been unbearable, from my shoulder right down into my hand. I woke up from surgery with this problem, and my surgeon had no idea why. They did an MRI while I was still in the hospital, and he said he didn't see anything that would show why. I just had a 2nd MRI done last night, see a neurologist on the 7th and back to see the surgeon on the 12th for follow-up. I've heard from Tammy and others who have had this, that it takes time. I'm sure that's exactly what the neuro and the ns are going to tell me. I'll be starting physio in the next couple of weeks. Do you find that your bicep is very painful, as well as on the side of your shoulder? I'm also having the worse spasms in my traps. I'm just thankful that at least my hand is still working, so I can at least move my arm with the good one and place my hand where I need to use it.

    Anyways, if I get any answers, I'll let you know, and if you could do the same, I'd appreciate it!! Hope we both heal quickly.
    APROUD CANADIANveteranButNOTa doctor, my thoughts are my own
  • Today is three weeks post op from ACDF c3-4-5. Neck seems to be healing well as no direct pain in neck. A little stiffness. One week since first follow up and c5 palsy is no better in anyway and is still quite painful in clavicle shoulder area and biceps. Muscle is gone from arm and I hold it in a claw shape close to body. The arm is totally useless and just hangs. I going to get Dr to prescribe more oxycodone, maybe PT to stop it form atrophy and a sling. Pain is worse than any presurgical pain. Hoping it will slowly disappear but it is disheartening. Dr said it will go away. I gotta believe. ALternative is not positive. Im 59 I dont understand lack of information ie c5 on internet. No specific PT for it? Just wait is not an option. Bob
  • FYI C5 palsy is still unresolved. I guess thats a good word for it. It has not changed and pain is consistent 7/8 down to 4/5 lowered only slightly when I take gabapentin, baclofen and oxycodone every 4 hours. Added discomfort of having arm just hanging in unnatural position, find body compensating and arm is pulled towards stomach, hand has assumed a claw shape. I keep it in a sling or in my pocket. Free swinging arm is painful and it gets in the way when I try simple chores.
  • Hi Bob;

    Well, I was to see the neuro last week, and he did an EMG. Turns out it is my C6 nerve causing all the problems. I have severe stenosis at C6/7, which had progressed from the time of my MRI prior to surgery, to the surgery. He didn't operate at that level (was C4/5 5/6) so he didn't see it. Looks like I'm going back for another surgery quickly, my ns said he doesn't want to wait too long, as the nerve damage could become permanent.

    My movement has improved slightly though. Are you going to pt for it? You have to keep that arm moving and bending it, and twisting your arm so the palms of your hands are facing up to keep the muscles from completely spasming. Like you, my pain levels have gone down a little as well.

    Have you gone for any testing, like EMG or another MRI? It would be a good idea to ask for an EMG, they might be able to pinpoint if it is C5 or your C6 that is causing it (or both). They know that mine is mainly C6 because of the little function I do have, are the muscles that C5 follows. I'll pm you the exercises that my pt gave to me to do.

    What did the surgeon say at your follow-up? Keep at 'em to get answers, and a proper action plan, you don't want to leave this for too long without doing anything for it. Good luck, keep us updated!
    APROUD CANADIANveteranButNOTa doctor, my thoughts are my own
  • Bob,

    I have to agree with Kelly, at this point and time they should be doing a emg study and some films to see what is going on. I would stay on your surgeon letting him/her know this needs to be resolved. The longer it goes on the harder it will be to get function back. The emg study will show the obvious if a nerve was damaged in surgery. Typically if that happens the surgeon knows when it happens.
  • Good luck with the pt Bob, I hope it helps and you start seeing improvement soon. Don't give up hope! I'm not sure if I mentioned it earlier, but a friend of mine didn't have any movement until about 3 months after, so it could just take more time for your arm to come back. Keep working hard, and don't give up!

    I've got a little more movement in my forearm, I can bring my hand up to my face with a bit of a struggle, but I can do it. I'm starting to work on lifting it up with a little bit of resistance using my other hand. It's tiring, and hurts, but I keep at it. I'm also able to flex my bicep and tricep a little now, too, but still can't move my upper arm. All in time I guess. Good luck, and hope the pt helps you!
    APROUD CANADIANveteranButNOTa doctor, my thoughts are my own
  • I think I feel better after writing about this experience. Today is 5 months from surgery which means the palsy will be 5 months old next week. An EMG 6 weeks showed 30% of bicep nerve is working and 50% of tricep nerve working. Same test today showed no improvement and doc said probably 4 to 6 months before nerve begins to show improvement. Biceps and triceps are totally wasted. Research says they will reach peak atrophy in 6 months but as long as they are moved and have blood I can rebuild them. I exercise them daily and have a EMS for low voltage muscle stimulation. MRI one month ago shows clear spine. The extent of the palsy is worrysome for the docs and myself. I am hoping to see some improvement after the Holidays.
  • Hello all,
    48 yrs old. Had ACDF C4-C6 almost 5 months ago. Woke up in recovery with no use of right arm except hand. Still no bicep or shoulder muscles at this time. My surgeons said not to bother with an EMG because it is obvious the C5 nerve is not working. Post surgery MRI shows there is still "tightness" in the foramin and that a foraminotomy is an option. I am told this option would be painful, carries its own risks and does not guarantee any results.

    I have thankfully been able to go back to my job but it is quite physical work and I am always in pain. Just as before the surgery the pain keeps me awake at night. I have just started to realize that I am going to be living with this for a long time if not permanently .

    So my question to anyone is.. How to live with C5 Palsy? Because of my job my shoulder and elbow get quite sore so I have been thinking of getting an elbow brace that restricts hyperextension and a shoulder brace for support. Has anyone tried this? Has it helped? Any product recommendations? Any suggestions for helpful exercises or exercises to avoid? Any other suggestions?

    Thank you
  • LizLiz Posts: 7,832
    edited 05/21/2014 - 11:05 AM
    This is an old thread, for the best responses and support I suggest you make a new post, you can do this by clicking on 'Create forum post' on the left column.

    Welcome to Spine-Health and how to get started here

    Liz, Spine-health Moderator

    Spinal stenosis since 1995
    Lumber decompression surgery S1 L5-L3[1996]
    Cervical stenosis, so far avoided surgery
  • I have excruciating shoulder pain from delayed c5 palsy that happened 2 days after posterior fusion fr pm c3 to t1. Will this pain go away and what pain medication works for this. I think it is nerve pain.
  • LizLiz Posts: 7,832
    This is a old thread, for best support and information I suggest you make a new thread in introductions, you can do this by clicking on 'create forum post' on the left column.


    Liz, Spine-health Moderator

    Spinal stenosis since 1995
    Lumber decompression surgery S1 L5-L3[1996]
    Cervical stenosis, so far avoided surgery
  • I am a female 60 years of age. I have been diagnosed with C-5 palsy (left arm).
    The palsy started before my actual surgery. The shoulder to the elbow first lost use. After surgery the elbow to the wrist lost use. I am 4 weeks post op with very little improvement. I am not sure of what my exact procedure was. However I did have 4 disks that were herniated after a visit to the chiropractor. With in 45 minutes I was in excruciating pain!! The pain radiated not down my neck, but from the left side base of neck over the top of the shoulder down the arm!
    After a horrible experience at the ER with nothing to relieve the pain they sent me home after 7 hours! with no pain meds! My blood pressure on the high number over 230! On a normal day my blood pressure is perfect! The ER doc had written pain med prescriptions, but we don't have a 24 hour pharmacy here, so I had to wait till the next day to get it filled. While at the ER there were no blood tests, no xrays, no tests of any kind!
    The next day went to reg md he too adjusted my neck and no tests, xrays, etc.. sent me home. ??
    Two days later woke up left arm paralyzed shoulder to elbow. Even with pain meds they were keeping the pain to bearable. Thinking I was having a stroke went to different ER, gave me something for the pain (Dylotin) , took me in for MRI, found 4 herniated disks and was diagnosed with Degenerative Disk Disease. Took a week to get into Neurosurgeon. He then scheduled me for emergency surgery the next day. I don't' know the name of procedure he did. I just know disks 3,4,5,6 and 4 hours in surgery. When I woke after surgery my left arm from elbow to wrist is paralyzed. Still in horrible excruciating pain, from the C-5 Root Nerve being compressed! The C-5 Root Nerve was compressed for 10 days! I had that pain for 33 days!
    I am 4 weeks post op., minimal improvement of left arm.. I am keeping the joints loose with pulley and seeing a Physical Therapist.. at this point PT really can't do anything, cause my arm just doesn't work. I still have lots of pain in the arm itself. Nerves are still pretty angry I think.. Some days the pain is bearable, other days unbearable! Sleeping is a challenge, seems pain is worse at night.
    My husband I are avid fisher people and RV'er. This has put a halt to everything!
    I am looking into a personal injury lawyer. The first hospital I went to dropped the ball and did NOTHING for me. If they had at least done and xray or MRI I might not be paralyzed today. As for the chiropractor? Yes he is the one that started this.. however neither of us knew I had degenerative disk disease.. I have been going to this Chiropractor for 11 years and never had any problems with my neck!
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