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"Recovering" from c3-c7 fusion. Pain worse.

DaveDDDaveD Posts: 21
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:59 AM in Neck Pain: Cervical
Thought I'd jump in here and start logging my "recovery". I had a c3-c7 fusion with instrumentation "post" on 12-19. My this is my second surgey, had a decompression of the nerve root at c5-c6 in '09 to relieve pain in the right arm upper/front which was successful.

I've had continuing issues with right shoulder pain (mainly in the upper right back between the blade and right arm pain. All started in 2007 with a work related injury and from there we discovered the bulging disc, ddd and stenosis. I've had at least 6 shots and a 3 level discogram.

Finally, the doctor wc sent me to recommended this 4 level fusion and I went with his recommendation. So I'm recovering at home and hoping the pain in my upper right shoulder and down my arm is going to get better with time as he says it should. I'm not convinced though as I know which pain is gone and which is not. It is actually worse now than it ever was.

So we'll just have to wait and see but I'm pretty discouraged at the moment as I feel this was a mistake.


  • and welcome to Spine Health.
    I'm so sorry to hear that you are still in pain.
    4 level cervical fusion is a big surgery, but there are others here who have had that much fused.

    Hopefully they will arrive here and share their experiences with you. I know that nerves do take a long time to heal and can still improve up to 2 years later.

    Did your surgeon give you any information as to why he felt you were still in pain. I wonder if he thinks you have permanent nerve damage.

    I am being 'watched' at the moment to see how things progress, but I also have issues from C3 to C7. I suspect that I will end up having surgery, but your story makes me think that it is probably just as well that they aren't in a hurry to do surgery. I do have symptoms of cord compression though, so that worries me that if they leave it too long I may end up with permanent cord or nerve damage.

    I think you will find this a great place to get information about your spinal problem and also get support from others who are experiencing similar problems and know how frustrating being in chronic pain is.

  • i am 4 weeks post ALIF and feel the same way ! i will tell you what everyone telling me just stick with it and it will get better ..i know its words and living it is so much harder trust me dave i understand how you are feeling .my head is all over the place and i don't know about you .but my body is shot too even shaving is an effort .take care dave and just do what you can as you can
    1997 laminectomy
    2007 repeat laminectomy and discectomy L4/L5
    2011 ALIF {L4/L5/S1}
    2012 ? bowel problems .still under investigation
    2014 bladder operation may 19th 2014
  • Hi Dave,

    I understand your frustration. I had ACDF 3-7 last May. My surgeon told me that by having surgery the damage would not get worse, and my symptoms were very likely to improve. Before the surgery I had radiating pain down both arms (right worse than left), pain in my neck and across my shoulders. Four level is a major surgery. Have you been in a neck brace? Still in one?

    Over time (a couple of months) my right arm got somewhat better and my left worse. Over more time they continued to get somewhat better. I still have some pain down my arms. I have a lot of pain down my back. When I asked my surgeon about that he evaluated it and it is muscular and osteo.

    It's tough to hear, but it takes time to see how much you will heal. Although I felt better almost each day, it wasn't until about 3 months out that I felt like I was "recovered".

    Now I've gone through laminectomy and discectomy at L4-L5 - I knew this would be coming up before I had the ACDF, but cervical "trumps" lumbar.

    Feel free to PM me if you want.

    4 level ACDF C4-C7 5-2-11, laminectomy & discectomy L4-L5 1/26/12, ALIF L4-5, L5-S1 12/10/12.
  • Hi Dave,

    Let me join the rest and say that I too know your frustration. I have fought with my cervical pain for about 6 years now. Gone through pain management with drugs and procedures like cervical facet blocks, epidurals, trigger points, discogram and had a bone spur removed at C7-T1 and a 2 level fusion at C5-6 & C6-7 a year apart. Since the fusion, my issues are with the other discs and with the inflamation, pinched nerves, buldging, and bone protrusions from the other 2 procedures. I am back to pain management and medications simply because I hesitate to go through any more surgery and I need relief from this pain. Feel like a Mack truck hit me & then back up to get what he missed! I just take it slow and easy and one day at a time. Here if you want to talk. God Bless.

    Rassy's Story
    Under House Arrest Without the Ankle Bracelet :-)
    The remarks I make are strictly my own based on my personal experiences.
  • Hello Smileys, thanks for the reply. I agree I do like this site as there are so many people with the dame experiences. Right now I realize that since my surgery was less than 6 weeks ago there'll be pain coming and going during the healing process. My dr. simply says give it time, I've just recently seen him for my first check up so there wasn't much discussion from him.
    I may be expecting to much to soon and really need to see how things go over the long haul. I will say the pain does seem to move around from back of shoulder, neck, arm all of which I can tell is nerve pain.
    Thanks again for the reply and I hope things work out for you.
  • Hi folks,
    I feel terrible that there are so many folks in the same boat that I am (I had no idea!!!); but at the same time, I'm so grateful to have found this forum, this resource, and this support.
    Karen-do you mind if I ask how your healing is going? Were you able to return to work? In 8 days (not that I'm counting), I'm going to have C4-t2 fused with a posterior approach (maybe a level or two more or less, but this is the plan), and although I've had four fusions in the past, I'm being told (and read) that this one is much more invasive, and difficult to recover from.
    I really appreciate reading about everyone's experiences. Thank you!
  • Let me start by saying Hi. I'm Debbie a 45 year old women and I was in a very bad car accident on 11/27/11. Now because of my injury I need an ACDF. I am scared out of my mind it is from C3 - C7 with hardware. The surgery is scheduled for 2/21/12. Just joined this site for some encouragement and to talk with people who know what I'm going through. So, if any one has an suggestions please feel free to post them.
    Thanks Again for being here for me. :)))

  • Have you taken a look at the Useful items for post op list? It can be found at the top of the Back and Neck Surgery page. If you can't find it, let us know and we can give you a link to it. :)

    Are you in severe pain after your accident? What are your symptoms?

    C3/C7 is a big surgery, but others have had it. Hopefully they will post and share their experiences with you.

    I haven't had cervical surgery (yet!) but had a lumbar fusion. I really know and understand the nervousness before surgery. For me, and some others here, it was worse than the actual surgery. I hope that you will be able to say the same.

    I have seen lots of people come here to Spine Health, have their surgery, and they are no longer posting because they are back to their lives. The people who are long term members, in the main, are still having problems, or are fairly recent to surgery and want to support others who are about to face it.

    With so many levels being fused, your recovery is likely to be longer than some, but hopefully it will be the way to get your life back on track.

    I wish you well, and will look forward to hearing how you get on. I suspect that I will need to have surgery at some point in the future.

  • Hi Debbie,
    I'm 43, and I'm about to have my fifth fusion (c3-t2 is the plan, but maybe a level more or less).
    So far, I've had C4/C5, C5/C6, and C6/C7 fused, including two failed surgeries (three if you count this last one, which didn't help).
    I am so sorry to hear about your car accident. My problems all stemmed from a car accident in 2002.
    I'm terrified as well... but I have to say, having found this forum, and the folks here with all of their wisdom (there is nothing like hearing from folks who have honestly been there/done that), I feel I have found another huge support system.
    Finding this forum will be a huge help to you - a place to vent, a place to research, and a place to share. Good luck, and I'll look forward to hearing how you are doing.
  • I am almost 1 year post-op from a one-level cervical fusion and will tell you that based on my personal experience, no doctor or physical therapist can tell you what your post-op recovery will be like. Everyone recovers in a different way depending on your stress level, extent of nerve damage, etc.

    I had spinal cord compression and my symptoms progressed rapidly and that is why I opted for surgery. My NS said that my residual pain was muscular, but after my appointment with my physiatrist yesterday, she says that it is likely that my pain is a combination of nerve damage from the spinal cord as well as muscular. She doesn't know for sure and no one will really know for sure. The medical world just doesn't know enough about nerves and muscles to provide enough answers to us spine patients.

    I continue to heal and know that only time will tell if I will be stuck with this pain. My pain is definitely much better than before surgery. Physical therapy is the best therapy so far for me. Surgery is a success for me, because I am functioning and not laying on the couch. Take it easy and let yourself heal! :)
    2011 ACDF C5-6 for Spondylosis with Myleopathy
    2012 L4-5 herniated disc and hernated disc at C4/5 2013 Taking Amitriptyline for headaches
  • I would like to thank everyone for responding to my post and the encourging words. It's great to come here and talk to so many people who have and are going through the same to experience. Funny how the day I posted for the first time was probably one of my worst for the pain because the next day it was almost gone! The last 3 have been the best with the various pains either gone or getting better by the hour. I hope this trend continues and realize anything can happen but I'm far more encouraged now than ever. God works in many ways and I guess I just need to keep the faith. Thanks again to all for your support.
  • Hi Dave,
    so glad that you are doing better! The pain roller coaster gets old... but it sure does make you grateful for the good days!!!!
    thank you for sharing your recovery with us. My surgery is now in less than 3 days, and although I've had four cervical fusions before, this one will be much more extensive and through the posterior approach-I'm reading everything I can to prepare myself.
    Take care,
  • Hi Dave :H ,

    Anytime I see someone getting refief from pain, I have to jump on the wagon and throw a big >:D< their way!! Wonderful news. We all strive for any measure of relief we can get. At least on this site, we can all empathize with each other. I wouldn't wish chronic pain on anyone. I relish the good days I have and prepare for the next bad one. I have resigned myself to the fact that the bad ones will be there. Hopefully your good days far out-score the bad ones. Keep the faith and keep us posted. You can't win a million dollars here, but we can be your fourth lifeline :D . Take care and God Bless.

    Rassy's Story
    Under House Arrest Without the Ankle Bracelet :-)
    The remarks I make are strictly my own based on my personal experiences.
  • Hi Heather :H ,

    Reading Dave's post and see that you are going in for another round with the surgeon soon. Just want to send my prayers and best wishes for safe and speedy recovery. As soon as you feel up to it, let us know how you are doing. Here's a >:D< to let you know that I'll be thinking of you. God Bless.

    Rassy's Story
    Under House Arrest Without the Ankle Bracelet :-)
    The remarks I make are strictly my own based on my personal experiences.
  • Hi Debbie :H ,

    Reading Dave's post and see that you are having a "date" with the surgeon this month. Just want to send my prayers and best wishes for speedy recovery. This is a great website with wonderful people with whom you can talk or just vent. I am soooo glad I found it. My activities are nill due to my chronic cervical pain. Seems like anything I do aggravates it. I really can't stay on the computer very long either. As soon as you feel up to it, let us know how you are doing. Sending you a >:D< to let you know that I'll be thinking of you. God Bless.


    Rassy's Story
    Under House Arrest Without the Ankle Bracelet :-)
    The remarks I make are strictly my own based on my personal experiences.
  • Hi all. Reading some of your post I thought I would give you all a update on mine ( C3-C7 dec 1,2011) I am doing pretty good, alot of stiffness, swallowing still a little sore, but for the most part my pain that I was having is gone. Like KarenD said,it takes time and as you are healing the pain comes and goes. We just have to be patient... I know its hard. I also had a bone spur that had dug into my spinal cord, but as of now I do not feel as I will have any permanent damage. I am glad that I decided not to put it off any longer, as the bone spur was pretty deep and could of caused paryalisis or worse, even my NS was surprised how lg and deep it was. Listen to your body is my best advice, and talk to your dr. about all you are feeling. I know it is scary but don't but yourself at a higher risk of permanent damage. I am glad my son.. a PTA said "mom you can not continue to put this off". My NS says things look good, so I am just taking it day by day... One section of the spine at a time. Good Luck and Prayers to all.
  • So very true! You will continue to heal because you're doing everything you should do. I still had symptoms at 1 year post-op that I no longer have today.
  • Hey Mom T :H !

    Sounds like you are coming along. Glad to hear it. I think sometimes we just want it to be all gone NOW. Our bodies just won't let that happen. As you said one day at a time. I keep trying to convince myself of that, too. For me right now, no surgeries. Just the Pain Game, but with this website and nice people like you to listen and talk to, it's a lot easier. Please take it easy. My doc says just because you have a few good days don't jump up and sign up for the Boston Marathon. Take care and keep us posted. God Bless. >:D<

    Rassy's Story
    Under House Arrest Without the Ankle Bracelet :-)
    The remarks I make are strictly my own based on my personal experiences.
  • I fell at work on February 21,2010,I had damaged my Rotator cuff and had a bicep tear. Surgery was on September 15,2010. Starting two months later I was telling my doctor I did not feel right. Test went on and no decision was made. Finally I asked if one of my nerves was torn. new tests performed and found a C4,5 was not right. The Workers comp insurance company told my lawyer that I would need to find a doctor that takes the I.E.B. rate... Cheapest rate. In Massachusetts it's $100.00. No Doctor in Ma. takes such a rate. I called just about every surgeon to find such a doctor just to look at me. I sent a nasty letter to my lawyer explaining the aggravation. She informed the insurance companies lawyer and I had an appointment on February 6 2012. After all this time my damage to my neck now goes from the C3 to C7.
    I plan to have it out with my lawyer this week. The Doctor plans to operate as soon as he gets the O.K. from the insurance company.
    Thanks for the posts but what about all the failures after surgery? How long will it take for recovery? Thank You.
  • I had c3/c7 spinal fusion 3.5 years ago and "Pain Worse" has been the case ever since my surgery. Truth is, it feels like there is a huge titanium pipe or bar lodged in my neck. Feels like a HUGE tooth ache with random sharp pains. Watching TV, reading, typing anytime I hold my neck in a position for 5 or greater minutes it hurts like the dickens. I stretch, walk, take 4 Perc 10's and 4 soma's daily (I dont like pain meds but they ease the pain a little) I think I feel best when I am walking, warmed up, loose, etc. I battle every day but know something will help someday. I am considering trigger point shots, I hope to share / find solutions so today I joined this website / forum. Everyone stay strong and hopeful and in prayer.
  • Thanks Bruce for chiming in its great and rare to hear from anyone with the extensive work we've had done.

    I am healing quite well but do had continued pain daily. I've been back to work for a couple of months and with my travel schedule it gets a bit uncomfortable at times, but it is bearable and getting better. No need for pain meds.

    I hope things get better for you going forward but after this much time who knows right? I think we may be left with the results we've got.

    Take care and this is a good place for support.
  • Hi Dave, sorry to hear that you are not doing as well as you expected. I am now at just about a year into recovery and doing very well with mine. I love my NS and his team of Dr's. I woke up with out all that other pain. I did however have several bouts of pain during recovery and wondered if it was worth it...but they diminished with time and not taking things to fast.. follow Dr orders and let it heal. I had to wear a bone stimulator for 3 months. I did use ice bags every now and then and even my heating pad..which ever was more helpful. I am currently awaiting a surgery date for my other main issue.. High grade 2 spondylolisthesis with pars defect at L4 L5 S1, and spinal stenosis along with some bone spurs. If anyone out there has some tips or advice for that surgery please PM me :) I will post what exactly I am having done when I find out next week. Keep hanging in there..each day gets better. Also the muscle relaxers helped me alot with the pain and relaxation from that surgery. God Bless all and take care
  • AlincaliforniaAAlincalifornia Posts: 1
    edited 10/08/2013 - 9:15 PM
    I had my C3 to C7 fusion in Dec. '09. I don't have too much pain but I can't walk without the use of a walker. My legs are stiff and I can move them, until I stand up. Then I can not move either leg. Prior to my surgery I lost all motor functions. I just want to know when I will be able to walk without the use of a walker?
  • jlrfryejjlrfrye ohioPosts: 1,110
    Huge surgery and it takes time t heal. I was told to give it a year. It took about 6 months before I was not hating life anymore and the pain began to let up. Walk as much as you can to get the blood flowing to the healing areas but do not over do it. Life is possible after a surgery like this. I am back to working a full time job but do need to continue to take meds.

  • Welcome to spine Health.

    C3 to C7 is a long fusion.
    I had C3/4/5 fused 11 months ago. My surgeon told me that I could continue to heal and improve up to the 12 month mark but by then, that was likely to be as good as I got.

    I still have most of my pains and symptoms, so I am wondering if this is it now.
    I get daily 'stiffening spasms' where both my legs go rigid and stiff for about ten seconds. I am unable to walk until they release off again. I also get this around my abdomen. It happens as I start to move as I wake in the morning in bed and also if I have been sitting for a long time, when I stand up. I have been told that this is spasticity.

    From the things I have read (and I have spent a lot of time trying to learn what is causing it) it seems to be related to spinal cord damage. Patients with spinal injury and stroke patients get it and so can patients with MS and cerebral palsy. I wonder if mine is due to permanent damage to my spinal cord where it was compressed for so long.

    What does your surgeon/spine specialist say about it?

    Can I suggest that you make another post of your own in the New Member section. That way existing members can meet you. Do tell us about your history and how you are now.

    I look forward to getting to know you better. :-)

  • xcaligurlxxcaligurl Posts: 3
    edited 07/19/2015 - 12:59 AM
    Hi Everyone!
    I know this is an older post but I wanted to chime in. I am a 42 yr old female. I have had no injuries. Aprox. 4 or 5 years ago I started having issues turning my head so I began seeing a Chiropractor. He discovered osteo arthritis and degeneration in my neck and lower back. I ended up going to a Orthopedic specialist when after 3 months visiting 3 times every week I showed no improvement with the Chiropractor. I was given anti-inflammatory and after a few months in went away. Every now and again it would flare up I would take the Mobic it would go away. In October 2014 I started having mad migraines. All right side centered. I would go to the doctors get an injection sleep it off then it would flare again. I was given a migraine preventative that seemed to have helped. At the time the Neurologist I was sent to did a MRI to rule out brain tumor but did not MRI the back. Fast forward to January we went on a cruise and the day before we got home my shoulder started with constant pain like I had never felt. Again right side centered. I realized it was my back and went to the Orthopedic specialist. Sure enough the xray showed a bulge at C5 and degeneration worse then it was previously. I was given a round of oral steroid no improvement, 6 weeks PT no improvement, actually got worse with arm tingling numbness, epidural injection no improvement. Between PT and injection I had a MRI of my neck. It was discovered that I had stenosis with major degeneration. Its believed to be hereditary since I have had no injuries and I am in my early 40s. The surgeon decided I would need a fusion from C3,4,5,6, and 7. I had surgery on June 25th I am now 3 weeks post op. The surgery itself was long. It was supposed to be a little under 4 hours it took 4 1/2 almost 5. It was discovered that I had a herniation at C3,4 that was not apparent on the MRI that took the surgeon a little longer. I woke up with the hard neck collar on. I had all over pain the day of the surgery. Thank God I had the magic button I could push every 15 minutes for pain control via IV. Also during surgery I had 2 IVs. When woke up they were using only 1 but left the 2nd port in. I would assume encase I needed more fluids they could utilize it again. The next morning after surgery they had me sitting on the edge of the bed. The doctor ordered the catheter removed. Thank GOD! By 10 am I was able to walk to the restroom with assistance. It was more like a shuffling of feet then walking. I had a bout of nausea, I am assuming from the pain rather than anything else as I have never had a reaction to anesthesia. They gave me some phenergan that cleared that right up. By that evening I had no problem getting up and walking to the restroom on my own. I still had the drain in my neck wound, and 1 IV. The doctor made rounds the next morning and asked if I was ready to go home. I jumped on that! I never sleep away from home. Every 2 hours I was up. I was admitted Thursday morning at 5:30 am and released 12 noon Saturday. All the original pain I had was/is gone. I do have shoulder neck stiffness and a sore throat both sometimes worse than others. It is nothing that a pain pill or muscle relaxer is not taken care. I am 3 weeks post op. The doctor allows me to take off my collar if I am watching TV, To help my neck muscles start holding my head up again. I am expected to return to work mid week. I will be at 4 weeks post op. So that's my story.

    Would I do it all again? I would. Honestly my C Spine was so bad I didn't have a choice. The chances of permanent damage without the surgery was to great. Honestly the pains I am dealing with now is hardly anything compared to what I was dealing with before. Personally I think if the pain was worse or the same as it was before surgery I would get a second opinion.

    Welcome to Spine-Health
    Please click on link for helpful information!
    June 25, 2015 C3, 4, 5, 6, & 7 Fusion
  • That is wonderful news. I have never heard anyone recover that fast. I had posterior 4
    Level. C3 to C 7. I was in hospital for 7 days. 3 months collar then about 2 more weeks to completely wean out, 3 months of physical therapy. Maybe we had something different done. Of course I was 59 at time, I suppose that could make some difference. Whatever you do Don't Rush or over do anything. You want to heal properly. Did an Ortho or Neuro do surgery. Keep up the positive attitude it goes a long way. I have become pretty bitter over the whole spine and arthritis situation.
  • damanzddamanz PennsylvaniaPosts: 1
    I had C3-C7 fusion done in Feb. 2013. I guess I wasn't aware so many people have had this done and like to see such support.

    I originally had disc herniation C5-C6 in 2006. It got a lot worse in 2008 after a deployment to Afghanistan where I was waking up every morning with numb hands, cramping and terrible pain in my right shoulder blade and right forearm areas.

    The treatment of Physical Therapy just wasn't doing anything. Well it got a lot worse once I started working out while in Kuwait at the end of 2012. After my right arm went totally numb, and after getting an MRI in Kuwait  I was air-evacuated to Landstuhl Hospital in Germany where they confirmed that I needed surgery.

    I was in the Hospital only 4 days and was up walking around which surprised the doctors. Overall I am pleased but still get numb hands once in awhile when waking up.

    My neck is still quite a bit stiff and the muscles cramp quite a bit randomly and when I yawn at night. Still having ROM issues and looking down issues which I guess is normal with 5 discs fused together.


  • thiltontthilton MissouriPosts: 1
    I had disc fusion done from back of my neck c3 through c7. The surgery was 6 years ago and the pain was there but not horrible for maybe 3 years following.  Pain gradually got worse and in the past year it's almost unbearable.  I can take pain medicine and muscle relaxers at night but have to work during the day. I have also had rotator cuff repairs done on both shoulders  3 times on the right. Neck is stiff all the time,  hurts to hold up my head. Do I accept as life?  Is it possible something has changed in 6 years? Help! 
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