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C4-5 Artificial Disc Replacement 6 years ago, still in pain.

Here's my story...
I'm a 31 year old fairly healthy female. In July 2008, after failed attempts at injections and physical therapy for a herniated disc at the C4-5 level (result from a car accident years before), my neurosurgeon suggested surgery. He said that the "new" thing was to use an artificial disc instead of the typical fusion. He told me the advantages would be more range of motion, mobility, less chance of future need for more replacements, etc. I was in a lot of pain, so I proceeded with the surgery.

For the first few years things seemed alright. I still had some localized pain on the left side of my spine in my shoulder, but had no issues with mobility, range of motion, lifting things, basically no restrictions to physical activity at all. The last couple of years though, there has been increasing chronic pain on the left side of my spine. It's hard to describe, except to say it is a constant dull ache. I saw someone on a forum once describe it as though there was a bruise in a certain spot deep below the surface of the skin, and that fit quite nicely. I can put my finger on the exact spot where the ache is. Pushing down doesn't hurt, not in a painful way, but in a way that a good massage hurts. Like I'm trying to loosen something up.

Anyway, I've tried lots of things to help this pain. I take ibuprofen regularly for inflammation. I do neck stretches. I have found that traction helps tremendously, even if it is only temporary. I try to get a massage at least every other week (if I can afford it) to help with some of the muscular issues. My whole back seems to be affected by this. Most of the pain, as I said, is centralized on the spot to the left of my spine, but my entire left shoulder generally aches. I have many trigger spots that are painful to the touch when I get massages. I occasionally get numbness and tingling in my hands, but it isn't as bad as it used to be.

I saw my neurosurgeon last year, thinking maybe I had another herniated disc due to the pain I was having. After two failed MRIs (apparently whatever disc he used distorts them), and a myelogram that didn't take, he basically said that nothing was wrong with me. I haven't been back to him and don't plan to. My primary physician referred me to pain management at one point a couple of years ago, after she didn't feel comfortable writing me a long term script of pain killers for this issue (which I understand...but, for the record, I have never had any tendencies towards addiction of any medication, and I've taken pain killers a lot over the years for this and other chronic pain issues; at present time my only pain medications are ibuprofen and acetaminophen and have been for a year). The pain management doctor was a complete asshole, saying that for someone my age and with "only" having a cervical disc replacement, I should not be having pain and basically called me a wuss and referred me to the "addiction specialist" in the pain clinic, which infuriated me. I am not a drug seeker. That's the thing about being young with chronic pain--any time you tell someone you know what works for you, they automatically think you're just looking for a fix. If I have spasms in my neck that are bad enough to go to the ER and tell the nurse on duty that Dilaudid and Flexeril help, I'm immediately red-flagged as a junkie. But I could go on for a long time about that.

Anyway, here I am today, sitting at my work desk, doing neck stretches, using a "theracane" for self-massage purposes (I work with people with disabilities, so we have a lot of therapy type devices around the office). Right now the pain is at about a 7, at least. The spot to the left of my spine is aching and throbbing, and the pain seems to be from under my ear, down the side of my neck, to the end of my shoulder, and then radiating down the back, but definitely comes from that one spot. I feel like if I could lay down and have someone do traction on me, i.e. pull my head away from my body to stretch my neck and take the pressure off of it, that it would help tremendously, but how do you approach a coworker for something like that? I've tried rigging homemade cervical traction devices that do not help. I lay on my bed at night with a towel under my neck and it hanging off, to try and relieve pressure. My masseuse also does some traction along with working the knots out. I've accepted the fact that this pain will be here forever. I've been exercising a lot more lately, stretching, yoga, etc., but physical activity does not seem to aggravate or relieve the pain on any level. Weather definitely affects it. On a rainy day like today, it's in full force.

Apparently when I had the surgery in 2008, it had recently been approved by the FDA. I am curious as to if anyone else had an artificial disc replacement this far back, and are experiencing any symptoms like this years after the surgery. I can't imagine what a day without the constant sometimes-dull, sometimes-throbbing pain would be like.

Any advice would be useful. Thanks for reading.
He felt as though his life was a dream, and he sometimes wondered whose it was and if they were enjoying it.


  • ChuckRoastChuckRoast Posts: 37
    edited 02/20/2014 - 8:49 PM
    I'm talking to a surgeon about disk replacement and currently the the only disk I would consider that is used in the US is the Bryan Disc. The Bryan disk is shock absorbing and motion constraining whereas all the other disks used in the US are pretty much ball and socket. That's very stupid design and BTW I am an engineer. One of the most disks it the Prestige disk by Medtronic. The Bryan disk is sold by Medtronic but they didn't design it.

    Real disks are motion constrained meaning that like a real disk they can't over rotate. To the best of my knowledge the only motion constraining disk used in the US is the Bryan disk. The rest of the disks used in the US are unconstrained and do not absorb shock.

    The other problem with the ball and socket design is that they shed metal and that leads to metal poisoning. Maybe things were OK for a few years after the implant but then the toxic metal load is creating inflammation.

    My brother and brother in law are both mechanical engineers and very bright. They and I can read doctor's books but most doctors would have a tough time reading our books. Some slick salesman talked your surgeon into believing the device he used was a good thing. If your surgeon was capable of understanding the mechanics of the human spine commonsense would have told him that ball and socket disk implants are a recipe for failure.

    Stryker, Depuy, Medtronic, J&J and many other orthopedic device companies have been sued for billions because of criminal negligence is the marketing, design and manufacture of their products. As an engineer it is hard for me to believe these device designs were even conceived of let alone gone into testing, clinical trials and then approved for use in patients.

    A lot of people were injured maimed for life by Stryker's Cervicore disk replacement. There is even a forum about it.
    Explanting a disk is tough and there are probably very few US surgeons with the skill or the interest to do it.

    Link removed, not permitted on forum
    Post Edited by Liz

  • I had C5-C6 replaced 5/2013 and although the pain is drastically improved, I still have a "stiff" neck, or a pain in my neck. Below are some links I found helpful. First keep going to pain doctors, until you find one that believes you. The one you went to obviously graduated at the bottom of his class. The first thing my surgeon suggested was that the pain was coming from the facet joints. The pain management Dr took a CT scan sent it to my surgeon for a consult to make sure nothing was wrong and I got facet joint injections; amazing! The injections will also be useful as a diagnosis tool. If the pain stays away, that's the problem. Otherwise you can try a different injection, in the office you can get a trigger point injection.

    I work at the computer and my neck hates it! I get massages but you have to find a "trigger point" massage therapist. It's hard to find one, and the massages feel much different, not a deep tissue sports massage and not a relaxing spa massage, but my therapist went at every vertebrael level in my neck and worked out the small stabilizing muscles (or something like that) whatever it was it is the best thing that takes the pain away. There was a hidden trigger point under my skull that only could be accessed when my chin was pressed to down and left to my chest. She followed that knot all the way down my collar bone to the end at my shoulder! She always has me move my neck around and if there's the slightest pinch or block in range she works it out. I also have a therapist that does the deep tissue/sports massage, no light touch here, to get the knots out from the rest of my back. And the larger neck muscles. Also, a physical therapist that will do a diagnosis and find out what is going on with the vertebrae, then traction, mobilization, and massage. This is only short term-6wks or so and then the massage therapist worked better. I went a little crazy after my surgery and felt so good I decided to paint my son's room. After 2 walls with 2 coats of paint-I messed up my neck muscles and they were immobilizing on one of the top discs which cascaded all down my neck into my shoulders and collor bone and arm. All muscle/trigger point related.

    Next is get Voltaren it's an ibuprofen gel, works when the pills don't anymore. AMAZINGLY good!
    Then I got a stronger muscle relaxer than flexeril (the dr said that it was anyway), it's an anti-anxiety med Lorazepam, perscribed by a psychiatrist. Might be an option if you hold your stress in your neck.

    Oh, in case any links are not allowed in posts I will tell you what to search on spine health:
    Degenerative Disc Disease
    What is Degenerative Disc Disease
    Degenerative Disc Disease Pain
    Degenerative Cascade a degenerating disc
    Facet Joint Problems
    Poor posture causes neck pain

    On a side note: ChuckRoast-You must be very passionate about the artificial disc industry, but leaking toxic metals? Really? a Titanium alloy, or a Cobalt Chromium alloy toxic? Are you sure? (BTW-I have the ProDisc-C because the Prestige wouldn't fit)
  • susabellssusabell Posts: 238
    edited 05/15/2014 - 6:20 PM
    I have had bi-lateral Facet Joint Injections c4-c7 and I was pain free for 4 days ZERO PAIN. I wish it had lasted longer but it is a Great diagnostic tool. I have also had trigger point injections with minimal relief. I just wanted to jump in and tell my experience with the injections. I had a 3 level acdf c4-c7 back on 5/13/10 and surgeon used off LABLE products I was not aware of this, well I ended up with failed fusion. I hope everyone can get some pain relief. I'm currently in physical therapy and it help me to loosen up the muscles, especially after having Posterior Fusion.
    ACDF C4-C7 5/13/2010. Synthetic Bone Graft Failed Fusion.
    PCF C4-C7 8/13/13. Rods and Screws Fused in 3 Months with Autograft.
    C6-C7 Spineous process Surgically Shaved Off 3/11/14.
  • I'd suggest a physio who really knows shoulder mechanics. The symptoms could be many things, but they suggest an element of Thoracic Outlet Syndrome, often caused be trauma to the neck resulting in incorrect muscle usage.

    I am in a similar position, but waiting on an operation for an artificial (Axiomed) cervical disk. After the operation, I expect to have to do much therapy to fix the muscle imbalances that have been caused by the nerve compression at the nerve root.

    My experience with many physios is that they have very varied backgrounds and expertise, but find one who is an expert on shoulder mechanics, as poor shoulder mechanics can cause alot of problems with the medial and ulnar nerves, giving pain at both the neck and arms.
  • NlacasseNNlacasse Montreal, Qc, CanadaPosts: 1
    We're you able to get the axiomed disc? Looks phenomenal in theory but can't find anywherea surgical time with experience with the cervical version of it
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