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Shoulder pain after ACDF

karenkkkarenk Posts: 66
edited 06/11/2012 - 9:02 AM in Neck Pain: Cervical
Looking for anyones experience on how long the shoulder pain/issues last after surgery. Getting frustrated :(
ACDF C4-5/5-6 - 04-09-2012


  • Karen,

    I know how it can get frustrating but your not even a month out of surgery. I would look more towards the 2 month mark. What type of pain are you having, is it radicular in nature or muscular? Are you taking a good muscle relaxer? Sometimes a message can help by working on the muscles and getting the knots out and get it moving. Whatever you do be sure to keep moving the shoulder you don't want to end with frozen shoulder. But before you do anything be sure to check with your surgeon. Have you already had a post-op check up and what did he/she say? If not when is your check-up?
  • Thanks for responding.....its hard to explain the pain - I would describe it as more radicular....creepy....I seem a little shaky writing...almost wonder if it'd be better if it were muscular - wouldn't that make more sense? I usually only try to take one muscle relaxer per day....
    I did have my two week post op last week, he says its normal and takes time. I am maybe being a bit impatient... was just hoping to feel better by now. He also said I may experience some tingling in fingertips - which I do. Is all this normal?
    ACDF C4-5/5-6 - 04-09-2012
  • I had a 3 level ACDF 2 years ago and had to wear a hard collar 24/7 for 3 months. That thing made my shoulders hurt all the time. I used heating pads and ice and just tried to massage them.

    I hope yours gets better :)

  • It has been 9 months since my 3 level ACDF C4-7 surgery. I still have pain in my shoulder. If I do little to nothing, it is not too bad. As soon as I do basic things like dishes, laundry and change sheets on the bed...I pay for it the next day. I am learning to spread out my chores and do just one thing each day. I use ice mostly. I have found that if I put a soft ice pack around my neck then put my soft collar on top to hold it and relax, it helps a lot. I do not think it will ever get better. I think I am as good as I will ever be. My doctor stopped my PT, ordered an FCE and did not give me a next appointment. I saw him last on April 19, 2012 and he said it is up to me now to do my stretches, take meds as needed and figure out the best way for me to live after my surgery. God bless us all.
  • I certainly appreciate your responses.
    Connie, I too have the hard collar I have to wear for 3 months, and I'm only 3 weeks in! He said I could take it off for showering, and like an hour at night if watching TV. He said to just recline back and put a pillow under my head. I still wear it for showers, just worried about instinctively moving my head. Feel safer this way.

    Eva, what is a FCE?
    ACDF C4-5/5-6 - 04-09-2012
  • FCE is a "functional capacity evaluation". I have a very physical job. I was injured at work. This test was used to determine what my permanent work restrictions would be. I thought it was no lifting over 25 pounds and no more than 8 hours of work in one day. Right now the documents that my insurance got only mentioned the 25 pound limit. Even though the test results stated an 8 hour work day limit and the test was ordered by my insurance. I am working with my doctor to send them a note adding in the maximum 8 hour work day. The test was ordered once it seemed I was not getting any better or worse.
  • Got it, Eva - thanks for the reply! I sure hope things get better for you! :)

    Wondering if anyone has had a labral tear and if so what were those symptoms?

    ACDF C4-5/5-6 - 04-09-2012
  • I am 5 months post-op & still having residual shoulder blade pain, especially when I overdo, like Eva says. I have days where I feel really good & end up doing too much at one time.
    Doc says that it's normal & could last up to a year. However, my doctor said I am a slow healer & that my bone is not growing as fast as it should. I also remember him saying that he could not guarantee me being pain free, but I am a lot better off than I was before. I just have to learn to pace myself physically. I still rely on pain meds 2x day & muscle relaxers as needed. The only time I ever have to wear a collar (soft) is traveling. Doc says riding in a vehicle is the worst thing for my neck & to limit travel. Hard to do when u move 6x a year!
    I started walking everyday as suggested by my dr, & I think it's helping. It sure can't hurt.
    I use a small square pillow to sleep with every night. It's just the right size that it fits right behind my neck. I don't think it's good to wear a collar that much, IMO. I found when I wear mine for long periods, my neck gets very stiff & achy. My dr told me only wear it for an hour or two at a time.
    Since you just had the surgery, you have a long way to go. We're talking about bone growth here, & that takes a long time. Recovery from this is a very slow process. I told my doc that I'm an "impatient patient" & he totally understood.

    ACDF C5-C6 01/2002
    ACDF C6-C7 12/2011
    Prognosis: Permanent nerve damage in hands/arms, all treatment options exhausted-- lifetime CPP
  • I had to wear my hard collar for 3 months too. I kept it on in the shower also, just because I wasn't willing to take any chances.

    I know it's hard to wait. I'm a terrible patient, most docs & nurses are I think. We all want to be better now! Probably because alot of people put up with so much pain and mobility issues before surgery.

    I remember the appt. when my NS said I could take off my collar. I was afraid to move my neck, and he wanted to see how much range of motion I had. He had to keep reassuring me that it was OK to turn my head! lol

    It took several months for the nerve pain to completely resolve, as I would overdo as I felt better.

    I hope that given some more time your shoulder will feel better.

  • I laughed to myself reading where your Dr. told you you could turn your head and you were too afraid - I'm going to be EXACTLY the same way! Monday will be 4 weeks, so I still have 8 more to go! I'll probably have forgotten HOW to turn my head by that time. I have to tell all of you reading, I am SO thankful for coming upon this site. It has helped immensely! (Scary at times, too). Sometimes one feels alone and isolated dealing with this, and by coming here you can see that thats not the case at all. I'm beginning to think my shoulder issue is not related to my neck....that there is in fact a labral tear. Am now going to PT for it, crossing fingers it will help...
    Thank you!
    ACDF C4-5/5-6 - 04-09-2012
  • Hi Karen I can relate, I have shoulder pain still at 3 weeks post op c4-c7 3 level ACDF and I was told it is normal, My dr told me to take muscle relaxers 3X a day to combat that. I take them in am and at bedtime but I find that they help. I also have bursitis in my shoulder and that is a very different pain than anything my neck has done to me. I start PT this week and have alot of weekness in my arm from impingment so I am looking foward to hopefully getting my strength back. I think you need to take a load off yourself from worry and just heal, your body is recovering. I was so worried the first 2 weeks I did not want to move. Now I very seldom wear my collar doc says I dont need it, that is what the metal plates are for. I find that my body lets me know when I am doing too much, I actually danced a little listening to music the other night in my bedroom and I paid for that. So live and learn but worrying solves nothing stay in the now..my thoughts are with you.
    Kimberly Martin
  • My 3 level is next week, and was told to wear hard brace for 2 weeks, and soft after that (but only to advertise to others to be careful around me). I wonder why some, like you, need to wear it for 3 months. Also, if wearing it that long makes the shoulder pain, etc., last longer since movement is inhibited by the brace. Just a thought...
    - Vin

    3 level ACDF, c3/4, c5/6/7 in May 2012
  • Good luck next week! I can tell you the surgery itself wasn't bad at all, and I was SO nervous! My surgical pain level immediately upon waking up and for the first week or so was never above a 2-3. As I stated, I am still having the shoulder pain on the right and am beginning to think its not neck related.

    All Dr.'s are different in their approach to the collar. Mine requires 3 months and I know there are some who have never had to wear one....it boils down to the Dr.'s preference. Wish I could graduate to a soft collar!

    ACDF C4-5/5-6 - 04-09-2012
  • I had two level C4/C5 C5/C6 in January 2011 and while most of my neck pain went away, my shoulder pain got worse. I have a burning feeling in my shoulder muscles. I'm not sure if thats what you have too.

    The surgeon doesn't want to do C3/C4 which is what he thinks is causing it, but he will if I feel that I have no other options. Neurontin/gabapentin helps a little and I have just started trying lyrica in small doses that helps a little. I'm going to ask for a higher dose and hope that it works for me even though it is expensive and I don't have insurance. If it works I'm going to try to get it from manufacturer's assistance program as I took all of last year off from work and made no income.

    You might want to try lyrica too if you're having similar shoulder muscle burning pain. 200mg is what works for me at a minimum.

    Sometimes I feel so depressed and upset at my surgeon for not fusing C3/C4 when I got the two other levels fused. He told me that C3/C4 was iffy, but not as bad as the other two levels and only wanted to do the two.

    If I could do it all over again I would've said do it all since you'll be opening me up anyway. Now I will have to go through the whole process again if I choose to have it done and I probably will. Medication only helps a little and I am willing to take the risks and money to get my pain reduced by a lot more.
  • Blakedfw32BBlakedfw32 Posts: 6
    edited 02/21/2014 - 1:07 PM
    I just posted a concern on same topic, different thread.

    Eva, Juniper, I have the exact same symptoms as yall. Any updates to share?

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