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Neck and shoulder pain after acdf

rachsandrrachsand Posts: 3
edited 06/11/2012 - 9:02 AM in Neck Pain: Cervical
Hi I am after some advice as I don't know anyone that has had this surgery!

I am 12 weeks post acdf surgery on c5 and c6. All was well until last week when I noticed some general neck stiffness when turning my head to either side. Over the past week have been getting increased shoulder pain and a return of tingling of my left hand and loss of grip on my left hand. I'm frequently taking tramadol to ease the pain and I am still on 30mg of amitryptyline at night - my follow up is not for a month - anyone have any ideas? Should I go and see my gp before my follow up appointment ?


  • I had an ACDF on C5/6 in 2009. I had my doctor on speed dial! lol :-) I called if I had any questions/concerns and they were totally fine with that.

    Everyone has a unique body/situation. Something that is normal healing for you may not be for me.

    Just to ease your mind, I would give your doctor a call and voice your concerns.

    Take care!
  • thank you i think i will - im only concerned as after my post op recovery i was amazed i had no pain, no stiffness and no tingling and after suffering with it for nearly 4 years was so relieved it was all over.

    Now the symptoms seem to be creeping back and im wondering now if it has worked after all!

    Did you suffer any post op problems or has your op been a sucess?

    Many Thanks
  • Hey, have you looked around in the "Back/Neck Surgery" portion of SH?

    If not, you may want to give it a look. There are a ton of others that either have had surgery, or are facing having it soon. You may be able to find a lot of good info in that particular section.

    This site is very helpful. We cannot give you professional medical advice, but we can share our stories and hope to help you through your healing process. :-)
  • Well... When I woke from my surgery ALL of my pre-op pain was gone. I seriously thought it was a joke :-) but it wasn't. I did have aches and pains for quite some time though, but the original arm pain/tingling/weakness/numbness, did not return. I had a lot of nerve and shoulder blade pain.
    Now I am having issues from multiple levels above my fusion, so that's a whole other ballgame.

    Have you had an x-ray to check your fusion? It can take all the up to a year to fuse...

    When you say "loss of grip" are you dropping things, or is it more weakness?

    It NEVER hurts to call your doc. That is what they are there for. Write down all of your pains/issues and what you are doing when it happens, i.e., if you are sitting, laying, doing nothing, etc. That way when the doc calls back, you have it all written down and are ready to rock. It is always a good idea to have a journal after surgery. I have an entire binder that has surgeries, docs, meds (what worked, what didn't), mri's, x-rays, treatments, etc.

    I'll be online for a bit!

  • Thank you - that's a great help - hope ur problems can be resolved soon :-)

    I made an appt for tomorrow - this site is great - it makes me realise im not alone :-)
  • I did develop some additional neck but more shoulder blade pain and down my right arm after my 4 level ACDF. My surgeon evaluated and he said it was inflammation of the nerves going into the shoulder, which I addressed with anti-inflammatories and muscle relaxants.

    Good luck
    4 level ACDF C4-C7 5-2-11, laminectomy & discectomy L4-L5 1/26/12, ALIF L4-5, L5-S1 12/10/12.
  • Did anyone find that the collar may have caused some shoulder issues? After not having to wear it anymore they went away?
    ACDF C4-5/5-6 - 04-09-2012
  • Hey Hii friens I am mack white and I am also going through this cronic neck problem.. my Treatment is going on and as per doctor its not serious but i want to thank all of you for such a useful information about ACDF...
  • :''(

    Hi rachsand,

    I saw your post and had to respond ..

    I am 24 weeks post acdf surgery on C4/C5, C5/C6 and C6/C7 ...All was ok until a couple of months ago ...since then I have been getting increased shoulder / neck pain and a return of tingling of my Right hand and loss of grip in my Right hand. I wasnt due to see my NS again till August, 2012 , however, I have asked to see him sooner ( on June 25th ) .

    I will let you know what he says.

    Chin up ( well as much as you can anyway ) ...

  • I wanted to post to give some hope for all you post acdf people out there- because this was the post I wanted to read a year ago. I am 16 months post a C6 C7 discectomy- I had a massive herniation with some spinal cord compression and extensive neurological- motor weakness in my left arm. It has taken a very long time but I am virtually pain free now and the motor weakness has almost completely gone. I had neck and shoulder muscle spasms for well over a year and additionally I had ulnar problems following the operation itself in both my forearms and hands. I spent a lot of time despairing and thinking I would never get better. I read a lot of very gloomy stuff on the internet. But I am much better- the nerves have healed very very slowly. Some days I could not move my head- now my ROM feels pretty normal. I still have a bit of ulnar stuff going on but I know it's getting better. These are the things that helped me: MOVEMENT. I walked and walked. Then I did physio and pilates. I lay on a swiss ball and stretched my arms out, to stretch my thoracic area. Every day for five minutes or so. I lay on my back with my knees up -a lot. I learned to meditate. Jon Kabat Zinn's book "Full catastrophe Living" really helped. I took sertraline (zoloft)...which helped the depression which descended. I felt much better in the new Year- psychologically. I gradually increased my exercise- cycling and swimming- being careful to keep aligned. I had massage every two weeks from a myofascial release therapist. Then I started zumba- which I did gently at first- but it made me feel great from the beginning- in my head and increasingly in my body. I started enjoying being in my body again. I worked really hard at my recovery. Oh I had acupuncture too- five element- not specifically to work on the pain but on my emotions surrounding the pain. I tried to look forward and be positive. I gradually got back to work (I'm a scriptwriter) which took my mind off the pain. I tried to meet the pain with interest, breathe with it, not panic. It has taken a long time like I say- and maybe I would be in the same place now if I hadn't done any of those things- and time was all it needed. BUt I had many moments when I didn't trust that I would get better and I would have welcomed a story of hope. I think I have learned a lot about myself- my tendency to panic, my tendency not to be kind to myself, my tendency to feel like a failure- and I have had to challenge those things and not believe everything I think. I have tried to look at my journey as a breakthrough and not a breakdown, to make friends with my body and what it is trying to tell me. I tried to diet too- and that was tough! but I found upping my protein made me feel better, taking fish oils, not giving myself a hard time about the meds I was taking. Still believing that I was a whole, good person with a future despite my injury. Not getting too caught up in the I will never be the same storyline. We are all different - I am a 43 mother of two, living in the UK- and our journeys will be different, but if I could go back now to the time after my operation I would tell myself: don't be afraid, the body is a miraculous thing and things will get better...rest, trust, move, listen to your body and be kind to yourself...
  • dgkddgk Posts: 1
    edited 06/24/2014 - 5:58 AM
    I had ACDF on C5,6 and C6,7 Jan 30th 2014. Left shoulder pain was always my major complaint. I have daily pain with no relief after surgery. Surgeon keeps telling me it can take up to a year before you know what you have to live with. In late April I asked the surgeon, do you think I could have a different problem with my shoulder? His said I could see a orthopedic doctor on that. So I found a orthopedic group and a xray was taken in the office and a Calcium deposit was shown in the xray. Diagnosis being Calcific Tendonitis. I received a cortisone shot in that area with no lasting result, physical therapy did not help, pain was getting worse with any usage of my arm. I am scheduled for arthroscopic surgery in 3 weeks. Will update after surgery. Long story short. If you have painful shoulder, ask for an xray of your shoulder. Simple/stupid.
  • http://www.spine-health.com/forum/announcements/spine-health-announcements/welcome-message-resource

    Unfortunately, the symptoms could be related or unrelated to your spine condition. Or they could be combined/mixed up together, and you may not notice improvement in symptoms that are unrelated, which is where you are......that doesn't necessarily mean that the surgery for your cervical problems was unnecessary but the problem with your shoulder may have been masked by the cervical issues.
    At least now, you are getting it treated.......hopefully, once you are done, the shoulder pain will disappear and you will be back to your old self.
  • Having c5 c6 on right side on left side c6 c7 and doing c7 and t1.really verity scared please give me anything u know the good bad and ugly! At this time in the worst pain ever on meds getting me just barely by till surgey, so far 3 hours or more on how long it will take but I am getting so much done going in through throat area, how Lon did u guys stay in hospital think they said me - 2-5 days just depends , everyone is different.
    Tamara Cullop
  • Bamagal26092609BBamagal26092609 Posts: 5
    edited 07/06/2014 - 5:03 PM
    Can anyone see my text just let me know I am doing this right ?
    Tamara Cullop
  • Thank u atleast I know I am doing rite just haven't got any comments back, thanks!
    Tamara Cullop
  • Reason I ask is you said right side on one level and left side on another. I had a 3 level, c4-7 ACDF in January. They used cadaver bone and a plate with 8 screws. My surgery was first thing in the morning, it lasted just short of 4 hours and was in recovery less than an hour. I stayed in the hospital only overnight and did okay at home sleeping in a recliner until I got the brace off at 3 months. after 6 weeks I was allowed to drive without the brace but had to wear it when I got to work so I was only out of work the initial six weeks.
    I still have significant muscle and neck pain, some as bad as before surgery, but the numbness in my hands and the pain in my arms is gone.
    Good luck on your surgery, Sandi gave you links to a lot of good information.
    laminectomy c4/c5 2008, ACDF c4-c7 Jan 20 2014 sched
  • Hi all I'm 14wks post op two level acdf 4-6. All was going well up to wk 11 walking , exercise bike and stretchy bands.
    Went back to work overdid it and now wk 14 loads of problems. Numbness after lifting doesn't arm to little fingers, which then spreads across back and down other arm. This can be relieved with Physio massage. Also pain either side of spine in shoulder blade area brought on shoulder rotation and stretching. This worries me most but can go away completely.
    Physio says rest for a few wks and try not to activate pain.
    Any advice welcome, taking 10mg amitriptyline / night codeine and paracetamol in day and trams doll at night.
  • When are you supposed to return to see your surgeon? You may want to schedule an appointment to let him check you out to make sure that nothing else is going on.
  • Hi CharliJ
    I very much agree with you.Our recovery process is different from person to person..My Neurologist checked my after surgery MRI and said,the surgery is successful and exceptional ,all you need is patience lots of patience and expect the recovery to take 6 to 18 months.So for the last two months I am doing daily exercises of my arms and body in the pool.Doing the best you can for your body and mind will greatly help the recovery .So my message to all those experiencing discomfort and pain is patience and exercise and appreciation to any improvement
  • Hang in there. The pain will subside, eventually.... Take care of your neck, shoulder, and back muscles. Yoga, pilates, whatever exercise you can get. Chriopractic, massage therapy, ANYTHING to get your body to working normally again. The key is to not give up. The docs don't tell you that this pain can be overbearing and that exercise is the key to retraining and regaining muscle strength and control. I had one doc say, "It's always the near misses that complain the most" instead of telling me that I would have to be responsible to help my body heal by stretching and re-building the muscles affected by the surgeries. I encourage you to find yoga videos on youtube for neck, rhomboid, trapezius, triceps, biceps and low back. Stay away from the pain meds unless absolutely necessary because they have a rebound effect that just makes the pain that much worse. Try over the counter pain relievers and treat yourself to a hot tub or shower when the pain gets too much. I've cried with severe pain, I've sworn at the Docs that want to treat me with pain meds and I've pleaded with Docs to just make it stop hurting. I still get the pain of an "ax" stuck in the middle of my back several times a week but the pain is getting less and less and I'm training the neck, shoulder and back muscles more each week. Just hang in there and start moving as soon as you can. I'm 18 months post op and I was terrified I would have to file for disability at one year out. My left arm still curls up from spasms once a week but I'm not giving up. One thing that's happened to me is that my T11-12, L3,4,5 discs have herniated. I'm certain its from the neck either being put back into alignment or something along those lines. Another month of pain and loss of work to heal. It's a long journey for some of us but it sure beats parapalegia. That alternative was much worse. My neck still hurts, I still get pain into my arms and hands and that ever resourceful "ax" in my back shows up often. Just keep moving. It will get better.
    I know God won't give me more than I can handle. I just wish He didn't trust me so much. (Mother Theresa)
  • This can happen up to a year after surgery. Especially if your nerves were pinched or compressed for a long time. They have a memory as do the muscles. So even though they are compressed any more, they remember being compressed and decide to randomly start hurting again. That is the explanation my NS gave me. I am 8 weeks post op and same thing happens to me. I go from completely pain free some days to other days hurting and having burning nerve pain, especially on days when I day way too much. It takes a full year to recover from this surgery. And spinal surgery is a beast of its own.
    Flare ups are very common until you are completely fused. Try to be patient and take it easy.
  • I know your surgery was years ago, how are you now ? I am 4 weeks out and having weird pains between my shoulders .
  • LizLiz Posts: 7,832
    Hello Rhondanorris69

    This is an old discussion created by a member no longer on the forum so I am closing it. Most members haven't been on the forum for some time

    You can search for articles on this subject or I suggest you create a new discussion.

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    Liz, Spine-health Moderator

    Spinal stenosis since 1995
    Lumber decompression surgery S1 L5-L3[1996]
    Cervical stenosis, so far avoided surgery
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