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Posterior micro-discectomy at C7-T1 cured symptoms but....

JHollyBJJHollyB Posts: 8
edited 06/11/2012 - 9:02 AM in Neck Pain: Cervical
Greetings! I am now 6 weeks post op from the Posterior micro-discectomy at C7-T1. Prior to the surgery I had severe pain between my scapula and spine, that radiated down the back of my right arm. I had numbness in my ring and little finger as well as significant loss of strength in my tricep muscle -- all on the right side.

My neurosurgeon and his partner (with a combined 60 years surgical experience) both reported that they had never seen a herniated disc as large as mine. Even the anesthesiologist who frequently works with them reported to me after the surgery that she had never seen anything like it.

I am happy to report that the surgery completely eradicated all of the pre-op symptoms -- no radiating pain, muscle strength significantly improved and numbness in fingers is slowly diminishing.

However, I am now suffering mightily from an all new set of symptoms. I have intense pain between the vertebrae at C7-T1, the best way I can describe it is like a searing hot ice pick stabbing me in between the vertebrae. I also get very painful muscle spasms in my shoulders. On days that I do nothing but rest, I am nearly pain free, but with any normal activity such as looking down to prepare or eat a meal, and any activity that uses a lot of arm movement like scrubbing the sink or doing light yard work, the pain ramps up very quickly and intensely.

I am waiting to get an MRI (insurance hoops to jump through first) but I'm wondering why the pain is so intense. It was suggested that since the nerve root was so severely compressed that the nerve is still healing. It seems to me that if it were the nerve root, I'd still have radiating pain. Since the pain is so localized, and I know that a great deal of disc material was removed, I have to wonder if the pain is due to not having much disc left in the space.

I fear I'm heading for a second surgery for the ACDF, but maybe I'm just getting worked up over nothing. From everything that my surgeon and chiropractor said prior to surgery, I expected to be back to normal life by now, so obviously I'm an exception to the expected outcome. But then, the herniation was far larger than expected.

I thought I'd ask what other's experience is with this kind of post-op pain. Will time heal the pain? How much time should I spend on a "wait and see" approach? Right now my quality of life is very low. I was very athletic and now I'm a couch potato. I WANT MY LIFE BACK!!!



  • jlrfryejjlrfrye ohioPosts: 1,110
    The posterior cervical surgery really infuriates all the muscles in the back of neck and shoulders. Myself, surgery pain did not go away for a few months. Could it be the nerve is irritated where it was compressed? I know my docs told me that nerve healing is a very slow process ( my arm pain was also gone upon waking) but also had residual pain at the surgery sight that I can only explain as nerve pain. You are still so early in recovery so hopefully with tie these issues will go away. Keep us posted
  • That is helpful information, and yes, I know hat the nerve was compressed for a long time so I hope this is "normal" for as severely as the disc was herniated. My shoulder muscles are VERY cranky right now and I'm sure that is not uncommon. Also, there is one nerve in the muscle about a centimeter to the left of the incision that just SCREAMS at me. Again, I just attribute that to the nerve recovering from the surgery.

    I am sincerely hoping that the searing, knife-like stabbing (and non-radiating) pain in between the disc space is something that will resolve with time, but I have a suspicion (fear?) that its more of a bone-on-bone kind of pain. That's why I wanted to see what other's experience is. I hate trying to figure out if I just need time or if I'm heading to the full ACDF.
  • It does take a longer time to heal from a posterior approach. Mine originally was done 30 years ago, but I remember that recovery was a lot more difficult than the ACDF 2yrs ago.(different injury, different level)

    Nerves are especially slow to recover, and I had lots of muscle spasms and nerve pain from my incision too. It just took several months to finally heal.

    I know the hardest part of recovery is wanting our lives back. After my 1st surgery I did. I snow & water skied,hiked,biked and kayaked. I was fortunate.

    This time after a much more serious overall injury, I have a lot of restrictions yet.(not from my neck) But I swim with a kick board and take yoga, and walk. A lot. But it's taken 2 yrs to get here. Give your body more time and hopefully there won't be an ACDF in your future.

    If there is, it too can be recovered from. Keep those positive thoughts flowing.


  • I guess the pain is not as bad as it was a week ago (now heading into week 8) but I'm not sure if that is because I'm actively trying to avoid pain or because it is better. I just tried to put some dishes away in the cabinet and the pain in the disk area reminded me that pretty much anything I do with my arms that requires lifting and anything that requires me to look down for very long like cooking still hurts terribly.

    I start physical therapy on Wednesday, so we shall see.
  • I am scheduled for a anterior discetomy middle of July at C7-T1 level. I was told a cadaver disc will be placed in the space that is thicker than the removed disc so that it will open up the foramen and free the C8 nerve roots that are being pinched. Little nervous because I am aware of surrounding nerves and blood vessels. Anyone have this surgery recently? what experience did you haave post op?
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