Welcome, Friend!

It looks like you're new here. If you want to get involved, click one of these buttons!

Veritas-Health LLC has recently released patient forums to our Arthritis-Health web site.

Please visit http://www.arthritis-health.com/forum

There are several patient story videos on Spine-Health that talk about Arthritis. Search on Patient stories
Protect anonymity
We strongly suggest that members do not include their email addresses. Once that is published , your email address is available to anyone on the internet , including hackers.

All discussions and comments that contain an external URL will be automatically moved to the spam queue. No external URL pointing to a medical web site is permitted. Forum rules also indicate that you need prior moderator approval. If you are going to post an external URL, contact one of the moderators to get their approval.
Attention New Members
Your initial discussion or comment automatically is sent to a moderator's approval queue before it can be published.
There are no medical professionals on this forum side of the site. Therefore, no one is capable or permitted to provide any type of medical advice.
This includes any analysis, interpretation, or advice based on any diagnostic test

Pain after ACDF C6-C7….Please somebody help me?

David-ItalyDDavid-Italy Posts: 10
edited 11/28/2014 - 4:47 AM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
I'm new…And new to cervical spine surgery.
I had ACDF C6/7 4 weeks ago. The first two weeks I had no pain.
Now, going into week 3 and 4, pain is coming back.
No neck pain, but aching pain in the left shoulder, armpit, left arm…Just as before the operation, it really hurts if I cough.
But this "new" pain is hard to understand…

Is it because the nerves are waking up…? How long might this take…? It seems a little worse each day.
I take a walk every day, wear soft collar.

Please, can somebody enlighten me with their wisdom. After the first two weeks of being pain-free I thought "YES!"…But now I'm a little depressed and unsure what is going on. I can't see a NS for a good few weeks. I'm dependent on the Italian State Health system. I can't just pick up a phone and talk to someone…

So please, don't wanna sound pathetic but would really appreciate some good, honest feedback on this post-op pain.

Many thanks,


  • Doug HellDoug Hell Posts: 335
    edited 11/25/2014 - 6:40 AM
    Don't sweat it... There will be ups and downs throughout your journey. This is all just part of it.... Give yourself some time...It isn't a bad idea to read up on the procedure you had. Knowledge is power! Good luck.
    Realize that FEAR is our worst enemy. Get up & get out in that stormy weather of the real world & kick fear in the teeth. Stare at it dead in the eyes & walk right through it into the storm; because once you're wet, you won’t fear the rain anymore
  • Interesting surname!
    Thanks so much for writing.
    I hear what you say. It's a journey….
    I did a ton of research on the procedure before I went into hospital…And spent hours reading forum posts. Heard good and bad stories, but decided to go ahead.
    I didn't realize the psychological side of post-op recovery…I put all my trust and hope into the operation, hoping it would do the trick…and so when there are doubts, new pain, a lack of information etc…it can get to you.

    I just feel there is a great lack of information regarding the post-op pain, recovery etc…It's like, Ok, you've had the operation. I feel like there is a real "compassion fatigue" amongst doctors, even people I know. I understand it…It's just so frustrating and depressing at times. The pain is still there…People just don't understand that this pain is a constant companion….They don't see it, they don't want to see it, but it's there, it's personal…
    Just want my life back….

    Enough for now…
    ACDF C6-C7
  • My first 3 weeks following c5-6 were awesome. Week 4 starts tomorrow and I'm in a tremendous amount more pain and I dont know why. All I can do is try to move forward and think that we just need to give it time. I think mentally we need to have a positive attitude. I'm hoping in a week or 2 I will be feeling much better. Keep us posted on your recovery.
  • David-ItalyDDavid-Italy Posts: 10
    edited 12/09/2014 - 12:07 AM
    Thanks guys for responding…Sorry for the delay in writing.
    You sure put things into perspective Doug. I'm really hoping things improve for you…In all aspects of your life.
    Can I ask what exactly was your surgery?
    Hi yogarunski. How are you feeling now?? I'm pretty much the same, although I think the cold weather is not helping the muscles! I'm using my soft collar much less, and don't have any neck pain…It's just this weird shoulder and arm pain that persists…
    Someone said recovery should be measured not in days, or even weeks, but months. Perspective is everything I guess…

    Take care guys.
    ACDF C6-C7
  • With every surgery comes every story under the sun... The procedure is the same, yet we all have our own unique set of circumstances, hence the recovery process is very different for each individual....

    I understand the mental aspect that goes along with the physical pain. We all understand that here, so we need to band together and support one another through our hour of need..... It still "gets to me" 11 months later! I too just want my life back, yet my GP and my NS just advised me recently that I'm not ready to return to work physically or mentally... So here I am with a young family trying to make ends meet....

    Your surgery is relatively new, my Friend. This is the acute phase, with much healing to still to come so hang in there....In a week or two, things will more likely than not change yet again. My journey has been a Roller Coaster ride to say the least. You are still healing from your surgery and it is just way too soon to fall into that hopeless mind frame. When you are feeling this way, deflect. Force yourself to think and/or do something else and you will find that it works. Find an outlet and utilize it.

    Don't put your trust in people that haven't gone through it and/or are not going through it. They just don't understand it and you really can't hold them accountable for it either. If you don't expect anything, you will never be disappointed, so expect nothing! What you need to do is focus on getting better. FOCUS on YOU. Give your mind a break and give your body some time to heal!

    If you need to talk, I'm a private message away. Wishing you all the best in your recovery.


    Realize that FEAR is our worst enemy. Get up & get out in that stormy weather of the real world & kick fear in the teeth. Stare at it dead in the eyes & walk right through it into the storm; because once you're wet, you won’t fear the rain anymore
  • Hi David

    I'm glad I could put SOME things into perspective for you, but at the end of the day, remember it is up to YOU. I don't care what kind of support system you have. YOU call the shots and YOU make it happen or not happen. YOU can be miserable or YOU can push to enjoy the things that are still enjoyable. Hanging onto yesterday is a losing battle. Your quality of life hangs in the balance. Hold those reigns and fight to enjoy life! Wishing everyone the best as always....



    4 level posterior instrumented fusion w/ radiculopathy + compression (C5 - T2). Essentially, I broke my neck and my back. I had fractures, a burst fracture and dislocations....
    Realize that FEAR is our worst enemy. Get up & get out in that stormy weather of the real world & kick fear in the teeth. Stare at it dead in the eyes & walk right through it into the storm; because once you're wet, you won’t fear the rain anymore
  • David -

    I am 4 weeks post-op for C6-C7 ACDF too. My first week was obviously painful, but the next two weeks were much better (except for fatigue). I was off of work for three weeks and now am back (computer work). Ever since returning to sitting at a computer all day, I have burning/aching at the base of my neck and right side upper back. My left arm pain is gone, but now I have painful muscles. I'm worried too that this will just be the way it is from now on. I also get the sympathy fatigue. My coworkers and family were supportive of my struggles pre op, but now I feel like I can't really mention that I'm still in pain. I just grin and bare it and watch the clock until I can get home, take some meds and rest. I know this is going to be a long journey and that 4 weeks is still early in recovery...I was just caught off guard that I felt so good and now I'm back to pain...different pain than before :(
  • Hi Sarahk.

    Administrative and/or "computer" work is probably one of the worst things for someone with a fusion PERIOD. It will absolutely cause increased pain along with potential for future problems. It doesn't surprise me in the least that you are suffering significantly with the symptoms you have explained. Think about a fusion and then think about bending your head up and down all day long while in a seated position. My recommendation would be to sit down with your NS and clearly ask him what he thinks about it.
    Realize that FEAR is our worst enemy. Get up & get out in that stormy weather of the real world & kick fear in the teeth. Stare at it dead in the eyes & walk right through it into the storm; because once you're wet, you won’t fear the rain anymore
  • Hi Sarahk,
    First, thanks for replying. It's kinda cool to know there is another person having has the same op at the same time. We must must must compare notes..!
    But I'm in agreement with Doug there. I'm still at home 6 weeks post op. The thought of sitting at a computer all day just 4 weeks after the fusion.... Man.. I take my hat off to you, and I'm sure you had the "ok" from your doctor...
    ACDF C6-C7
  • .. Sorry, using smartphone, doesn't give me enough space to finish.
    Anyway, please take it easy, take breaks and change positions etc. Even those without having had ACDF get fatigued and sore in an office environment.
    Stay in touch Sarahk... I'm anxious to know how you proceed.
    I'm scheduled to return after Xmas, but my vocal cord paralysis isn't improving. Not good as I'm a teacher!
    Take care you guys, from cold and sunny Northern Italy. :-)
    ACDF C6-C7
  • Hi guys!

    Thanks for your inputs. I have my six week follow up with my orthopaedic surgeon Christmas Eve morning. I will talk to him about what's going on. He didn't seem to be concerned that I have a desk job and cleared me to return just shy of three weeks. I honestly didn't think it would be an issue...but then again I didn't know what to expect about any of this. I think I was overly optimistic with feeling pretty much pain free at 2 weeks post op. Heck, I didn't even need to take my pain meds. at that point. Now I'm taking at least one Norco (7.5/325) a day plus 4 mg of Zanaflex at night. I feel great in the morning after a good night's rest. And when I'm feeling sore during the day standing/walking provides relief.

    There are a couple of people in my office that have ball balance chairs (chairs that fit one of those big exercise balls) that helps with posture. I'll ask my ortho if that might help too. Not sure what to do about the looking up and down though. Maybe wear my hard brace again? I stopped wearing it less than a week post op because it was pressing on trigger points at the base of my skull and sparking some pretty bad headaches. Ugh.

    I have found that resting on a heating pad on my neck and upper back provides relief from the achy and burning muscle pain. I found an extra large, soft and flexible one on Amazon.com.

    David - yes, we should compare notes!

    I'm 40, and was in a car accident 11 years ago where I sustained whiplash (I had unbuckled my seat belt to get out of the car and was reaching for my laptop when we were rear ended). I never had any issues until April 2014. The pain started with muscle pain in my trap. area so I chalked it up to muscle tension. Then I started getting pain down my left arm. I went to a chiropractor thinking a good adjustment would help. He took x-rays, and that's when I found out I had degenerative disc disease. I traced it back to the accident because he said it looked like the injury was 10-15 years old based on the extent of arthritis.

    I went to a spine pain management doctor and got an MRI which showed disc herniation at C5-C6 and C6-C7 with significant foraminal narrowing at C6-C7. In addition to seeing my chiro 3x a week, and PT, I tried two rounds of steroid injections. The first provided relief for about three weeks. The second make the pain worse (from a 6/7 to an 8/9 pain level). It was at that point that I consulted an orthopaedic surgeon. About a month later, I had my C6-C7 ACDF. It's been a tough road and looks like it might be rocky for a bit yet to come.

    Take care guys!
  • Hi Sarah,
    Thanks for writing…
    Hope you're feeling a bit better? I guess no matter if we say 5 / 6 weeks post-op, or feeling great on some occasions (as I do) - disguises the reality that we are still SO fresh relatively speaking from having a pretty major operation…even though at one level.
    You are relatively young I think, and so if you continue to do the right things, stay positive etc, I think you'll be OK.
    It's kinda comforting to know there's someone else who's in a lost the same boat.
    I'm 46, and although I didn't have any specific accident, was diagnosed with DDD. My mum has had spine issues all her life - or at least since I can remember…perhaps I inherited her "bone" genes!?
    But curiously I too started having pain in March/April of this year, and just put it down to too much stress on my shoulders (where the pain started). I ride a motorcycle, and would always have a heavy backpack going to and from work.
    However, the pain spread down my arm, and would culminate in horrible neck pain. I did exactly as you did…tried meds, physiotherapy, cortisone injections (which worked the 1st time……but 2nd and 3rd rounds had much less effect).
    In the meantime, X-Ray and MRI clearly showed a number of problems. Funnily the technicians who did my MRI asked me "Wow, when did you have your accident?!"…at which I said I hadn't been in an accident.
    For some reason my NS only wanted to do only single-level C6-C7 ACDF. I questioned whether it wasn't a good idea to do the level above too, as there was a herniation there also, but he was evasive. I personally think the state system here will try to "do the minimum" in non-emergency cases. He also questioned the probability of the other discs nearby suffering.
    In any case, although I attempted to avoid surgery, I knew in my heart it was necessary.
    I'm glad I did it. It's not the miracle cure some people have been fortunate enough to experience, but let's see…In time…eh? My dream is to get back on my motorcycle and go for a blast, and come home with no pain.!!
    The throat has become another "issue". It's quite uncommon, but it's called "vocal chord paralysis". I'm seeing an ENT doctor this week. It's really really frustrating at times…because when I speak, people have problems understanding me, and because my Italian is poor, the reverse is true! Not an ideal situation….But, I'm confident in time this will resolve.

    OK, I've written too much! Good luck Sarah on Xmas Eve check-up….And to the other guys on this thread, I wish you a good week. !! :-)
    ACDF C6-C7
  • I've had a ACDF at c3 to c5 and wii be adding c6 & c7 soon. The previous comments by others is right on the money. It's way too soon to be 100 % pain free if that's possible for any of us. Once you open up the spine to fix a problem (fusion) it takes several months to fuse, longer then mending a broken bone. Your nerves are Unhappy too. Inflammation is building in response to the healing process. Taking anti inflams will ruin a fusion so until the inflammation calms down there will be some side effects. Let your pain be your guide. I also wear a soft collar at least half a day so my neck and shoulders get a break. I lay down when I have to. I soak a lot in my hot tub. I do a few mental things to keep my mind busy. If the pain is severe I go to sleep. You heal and have less pain when you sleep.
    2005-ACDF with Corpectomy at C3-C-5.
    2006-L4-L5 diskectomy.
    2009-Cervical laminectomy at C3.
    Steroid injections series x 4.
  • ... No significant improvement since week 2. Glad I had the op. Just hoping the summer brings better news.
    ACDF C6-C7
  • Do you still have the vocal cord paralysis? Are you back to work? Sorry you're still in such pain.
    I can sympathize somewhat - I'm almost 10 weeks out from a 3 level fusion, and the neuro signs still persist. Ahhh, this is such a lesson in patience I could do without.

    ACDF w/Corpectomy C3-6 12/8/14 ; Laminectomy C3-6  5/19/2016

  • .. Oh yeah, I almost forgot! Magically over the Christmas period, my voice returned to full strength. Best gift from Santa! We take so much for granted. Yes, back to work but it's not easy. Adrenaline seems to mask the reality. So so exhausted after each day, base of neck burns, upper back/shoulders always very uncomfortable. If there is progress, it's very slow. Take care and stay positive.
    ACDF C6-C7
  • Burning at the base of your neck and shoulders? All symptoms of nerve pain. I'm willing to bet that returning to work too soon is the reason you have not seen ANY significant improvement. I hate to say it, but this is in the textbook for what not to do. Sorry to pick on you, David, but you should have taken more time to heal! A gradual return to the work force makes more sense! Taking the money root is not in anyone's better interest! Most people cannot jump back into FT and sustain it. That's the problem here. It just isn't realistic and if it becomes their reality, living with more pain becomes part of that reality as well. Please people, don't take the financial route, take the time to fully heal first and then make a gradual transition back into the work force. Like the old saying goes --- those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.

    I wish you all the best though, David!

    Realize that FEAR is our worst enemy. Get up & get out in that stormy weather of the real world & kick fear in the teeth. Stare at it dead in the eyes & walk right through it into the storm; because once you're wet, you won’t fear the rain anymore
Sign In or Register to comment.