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Severe Muscle Spasm at 12 weeks

MBMMB Posts: 13
edited 06/11/2012 - 9:01 AM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
I know I still have a while to go in my recovery since my c5-6 ACDF surgery 12 weeks ago, (I continue to get a lot of muscle aches and nerve "showers" down my rib cage, upper back, and upper arms after activity), but this morning while I was brushing my teeth my upper back just "went" again, into a severe muscle spasm down the left of my spine on the inside of my scapula. I had these types of episodes before my surgery in the upper rt trap muscle, along with ones early post recovery, but was incapacitated by this one today and suprised by it happening now. Is this a sign the surgery hasn't worked, to have this start happening again?Or still part of the typical recovery for this surgery?
Any help or similar experiences would be greatly appreciated!


  • I had the same surgery a year ago. Have you started PT? I am a true believer in physical therapy. Having said that, I do not know you diagnosis before surgery and what type of symptoms you had.

    My recovery has not been textbook and I still battle with symptoms. I've had great periods when I was very physically active. Once I rested too much, my pain would escalate. I will tell you that keeping your muscles strong is important. Once your muscles atrophy, it can take a while to regain use. This is only from my own personal experience. Always consult with your doctor. Good luck!
    2011 ACDF C5-6 for Spondylosis with Myleopathy
    2012 L4-5 herniated disc and hernated disc at C4/5 2013 Taking Amitriptyline for headaches
  • Hi,
    Thanks for replying, yes I have been in PT since my 6 week post op appt, but we have mostly been doing ultrasound and massage, with very light stretches. I just traveled for Easter break and was the most active I have been yet, walking 20-30 min and swimming a little, with a decrease in pain. But then I rode in car on friday, flew in a plane that night, and went grocery shopping on sat. Sun am woke and had the horrible muscle spasms. I had herneated c5-6 20 years ago and also have DDD in disc above and below but discogram showed c5-6 to be the pain generator. So he took that one out and said it basically disenegrated. Shaved the osteophytes. Before surgery I had episodes of severe muscles spasms that would have me bed bound that started to become more intense and more frequent, along with daily aching upper back pain. I still have the aching pain, have added more nerve pain since the surgery, and now having the severe muscle spasms again that the stability of the hardware and then fusion would hopefully alleviate. (if it was successful for me, which they always said i wasn't the ideal candidate but it was worth a try). So I guess it just feels like I am the same (and actually a little worse off) since before the surgery at 12 weeks. I thought perhaps I wouldn't have these anymore and maybe just had to deal with the daily aching. I see my surgeon's assistant on wed and have another xray to check the fusion, do you think I should call the surgeon to be involved or its not that big of a deal?
    SO CONFUSED. This recovery is such an emotional roller coaster.
  • Yes those spasms can be very incapacitating and are indescribable! I found that inactivity just makes it worse. I have to keep the muscles as conditioned as possible to reduce the frequency and intensity of them. The pain doc has actually showed me how inflammation builds up and he did some trigger point injections that broke the spasms up for me. Between activity, moist heat and Flector Patches, I am able to keep them down to a more infrequent occurrence or at least reduce the intensity.

    Unfortunately recovery is a very long process. A lot of it has to do with learning to live with our new body and how to keep it as comfortable as possible.

    Let us know what the surgeon's assistant has to say.

  • I do agree with the inactivity. If I rested too much then the pain would be worse. That's why I started going to the gym and taking cardio classes. I did not have worse pain from these classes and would get pain relief for hours. It is a constant battle. If you feel something is not right, then you should contact the surgeon.
    2011 ACDF C5-6 for Spondylosis with Myleopathy
    2012 L4-5 herniated disc and hernated disc at C4/5 2013 Taking Amitriptyline for headaches
  • Hi All,

    Read all of your comments. Somewhat different than my experience. After a bone spur was removed in 2008, I could not tollerate PT. Pain level went straight to 10+ after every session. Struggle with chronic pain and some spasms for about a year. Meds helped a little. 2009 MRI indicated changes that resulted in 2 level ACDF at C5/6 &C6/7. Again pain & spasms. Eventually got onto a med schedule including pain med and muscle relaxer, both X 3 daily, every 8 hours. This is an effort to maintain a consistant level in my body. My cervical range of motion is limited. Don't know if you are taking a muscle relaxer. I would surely discuss what you are going through with your doc. He/she may want to change some things with your recovery plan. Yes, you are right. The whole ride is a roller coaster! Let us know how you progress.

    Rassy's Story
    Under House Arrest Without the Ankle Bracelet :-)
    The remarks I make are strictly my own based on my personal experiences.
  • Thanks everyone so much for sharing your experiences with these painful muscle spasms. I did speak with the neurosurgeon's office this morning and the assistant basically said we will check the hardware and fusion tomorrow on xray and that these flare-ups are still normal at this point - but I am starting to think they are never really going to go away. With them being the main reason I had the surgery, along with that daily aching pain across the shoulder blades that gets worse over the course of the day, I am starting to question if I should have even had it. Hopefully over time they will diminish, or at least the daily pain will ease up a bit. I do have valium I can take when needed and vicodin, but try not to unless I have the muscle spasms, I don't take anything to prevent them at this point other than magnesium.
    And I agree the activity seems to make things better, last week I was walking and swimming (more like treading water) and felt better than ever, and then boom! got the severe muscle spasms....which I think were more from riding in a car, flying in a plane and then going grocery shopping. I guess like haglandc said, its about learning to live with this body and what makes it comfortable. But also figuring out a way to stay active. I don't think I could do any kind of cardio class yet, does anyone else know of other ways to be active besides walking that doesn't aggravate the cervical spine? I thought maybe even swimming laps with a snorkel on so I don't have to move my neck? Or a stationary bike, but we don't have one. I will be doing more at PT, 3x a week also.
    Its hard to figure out what works and what will trigger these spasms.
    Thanks so much to all of you for lending your support. It helps so much.
  • It's all trial and error. Everyone has a different situation, so even my physical therapist told me that I am my own therapist. Have you tried aquatherapy? Over the summer I did classes in the water and found it helpful. Also, swimming with a snorkel is an excellent idea. I was thinking of doing that too, but haven't gotten around to it. You are still earlier in your recovery, so be patient and try not to overdo it.
    2011 ACDF C5-6 for Spondylosis with Myleopathy
    2012 L4-5 herniated disc and hernated disc at C4/5 2013 Taking Amitriptyline for headaches
  • Just about everything we do will aggravate the cervical spine if we have an issue with it. I find that walking, hiking, riding a stationary bike, treading water and horse back riding help me the most with the least amount of aggravation. Gardening, cleaning stalls, mopping or riding a regular bicycle are terrible irritants. I just have to plan accordingly and make certain I have the time to resolve the spasms and strain on the days I do a lot of work in the yard or out at the barn. I also do walking lunges 3 days a week and have to focus hard on posture in order to keep from aggravating things too much.

    It took quite a while for me to figure out the way to minimize my discomfort and I still have good days and bad.

  • I was estatic to hear that horseback riding helps you out, C, as I have a horse that I was wondering if I was ever going to be able to ride again. Picking stalls actually put me into my last episode of muscle spasms before my surgery so I no longer do that. It would break my heart and my spirit to no longer be able to ride, so I was hoping to at least be able to trailride after all this. My second opinion dr told me to never trot again, and only walk on a gaited horse or my other disks will go. That was a tough day. As of now, I can't even pick his feet or put his saddle on but am hopeful to return to that level of activity to at least be able to walk on him.

    I have never tried aquatherapy but think it would really help. Water always seems to make me feel better. I will look for a place that does that locally, and maybe try light swimming with a snorkel when I get the go ahead from my Dr/PT.

    Thanks so much for all the suggestions, it certainly is a fine line, and I think I will probably still get the flareups from something as mundane as grocery shopping. Maybe I need to take that down a notch too, and try less driving and riding in the car.
  • I get the best core and upper body work out from riding. The concentration on grooming, tacking up and proper seat, really make a fantastic combination. I watched my niece who has Cerebral Palsy and has horrid spasticity get so much help from horse therapy programs I thought I would develop my own. After nearly 2 years I am now able to do everything from saddling to working on feet and all quite easily. I have a heavy reigning saddle and my horse is 15.3 hands so initially it was difficult. He also has problems with his feet that we are correcting, so I had to learn ways to work on his feet without hurting myself. He was untrained when I got him and I now have him trained where I can be on one knee and rest his hoof across my leg and work on his feet quite leisurely.

    I found that trotting was initially a strain, but once Waylon and I developed good timing, that strain was eliminated. Now I have no problem riding at any pace. I have had surgery at C1 and C2 as well as L4-,L-5,S-1 and have my spinal cord stimulator too. My biggest worry when working with Waylon is falling on my generator and damaging my SCS. I decided not to live in a bubble and what ever is going to happen will just happen.

    Well it's way late and I'm pooped. Take care and chin up.

  • SO I went to the NS yesterday and she said that my xrays look good, fusing as expected, but that I should be feeling more relief by now. :( That said, she added that some people it does take longer but most feel better than before surgery by 12 weeks post op. She also said if I keep getting more muscle spasms I could do trigger point injections (I did these before with a homeopathic Traumeel anti-inflammatory for 8 mos that didn't work) and could do more massage. Then I went to the PT and he said, in his experience, especially with my myofascial problems, it takes more like 6-12 months for improvement of pain. He suggested we build me up from the bottom up, lower back and core strength and then go up to upper body and arm since I am so sensitive to muscle spasms in that area. Sounded like a good plan to me. (and a bit more optimistic than the NS so I'm focusing on that)
    C, I am glad you got back to a place to ride again, I am hoping to do the same after strengthening my muscles to support myself, i can't even really hold up my body sitting right now. At this point, I would be happy with a decrease in pain regardless of regaining ability to do things. That way I would be more myself, and able to cook dinner for my family without fighting through the agony of my back pain!!
    What are Flector patches? I haven't heard of those.
    Thanks again for all your responses, helps so much!
  • Not all trigger point injections are alike. The meds used make a huge difference in their effectiveness in fighting the spasms. What I never realized, is that spasms also cause inflammation, which compounds the pain and makes resolving the spasm more difficult. The last ones I had, were a cocktail of anesthetic and steroids. Never had I had a TPI work so well and so quickly.

    The Flector patches are a transdermal Diclofenac patch that is a NSAID and it works up to 12 hours. The patches work wonderfully for spot reducing inflammation that accompanies the spasms.

    Another thing I have had done, is Botox injections. After 7 lower back surgeries I was in constant spasm so the neurologist did a series of Botox injections into my mid and lower back every 3 months for over a year. It allowed me to heal and rebuild core strength without tearing apart the muscles and fighting the spasms.

    With my cervical issues, I also had to rebuild the strength in my arms and upper body. That took the longest for me and was very frustrating. I found that grooming my horse actually helped quite a bit. Most folks don't realize how much strength it takes to curry and brush a horse with a compromised upper body. I have also been learning Equine massage which takes strength and stamina.

    My horse is my therapy and he has done more for me than any PT program or therapist ever did!

    Hang in there,

  • I suffer from myofascial pain as well. My PT diagnosed my condition as myositis/myalgia. I still struggle with gaining strength on my left side. My spine muscles spasm and I was told that was due to the other large muscles of the trunk not working so well. :( My biggest downfall was when I stopped doing PT and rested too much. I'm still staying optimistic and believe there is a way of winning this battle. Mind you, I know that I will always have some pain, but would love to keep pain at a minimum.

    Try the trigger point injections. I agree that the ones with steroid and anesthesia work well. I'm considering going in for some myself! ;) Hang in there!
    2011 ACDF C5-6 for Spondylosis with Myleopathy
    2012 L4-5 herniated disc and hernated disc at C4/5 2013 Taking Amitriptyline for headaches
  • hi can you help me i have suffered for about 2 years with pain in my back i thought it was my ribs or lungs but last night the pain worse than it has ever been before i had taken 1 sequel 2 codine 2 paracetamol and 2 diclofenic to take away the pain and nothin had worked when i tried to sllep the pain would worsten everytime i would lye down its seemed to increase the pain i got to a walk in center and was given methocarbamol 750mg and was told to take them 3x a day 2 at a time the doctor didnt make much sense he mentioned pt and i had muscle spasms around or on my spine what type of treatment would i need if any and will i get rid of it or is it a life long thing thanx for reading and reply if you can help thanx again
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