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New member, having terrible headaches post op

AnonymousUserAAnonymousUser Posts: 49,671
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:19 AM in Neck Pain: Cervical
I had cervical discectomy & fusion surgery (levels 4-5, 5-6, 6-7 with hardware) 3 1/2 weeks ago and my surgeon says that a lot of the pain that I am experiencing is caused by the hard collar. I have excruciating muscle tension headaches that do not respond whatsoever to narcotic pain meds. I have experienced some relief from taking migraine medicine though the relief is very short lived and my health insurance will only allow me to fill a one month's prescription once a year. I'm also having a great deal of muscle pain in my shoulders and back - which he also says is the result of the collar.

I went back to work 2 weeks post op, which was probably a mistake but since my Dr said that was all the recovery time I needed it was all I was allowed to take. Right now I'm in a great deal more pain than I was before I had the surgery and more than a little bit discouraged because none of my symptoms have improved.

I'm wondering if anyone else has had a similar experience and if their symptoms and headaches did go away after taking off the collar? Any ideas on how to handle the pain until then?


  • Sounds like you went back to work awfully soon after your procedure! Yuck! Hope you are doing okay with that. As for the headaches, try this: 3 Advil and 2 Tylenol (or equivalent) at the same time. This worked for me and was prescribed by a doc, but not after surgery. The worst headache for me was months ago. I'm not positive you can take Advil after fusion so you better check, but it did kill the headache for me when even Vicodin wasn't touching it. Best to you.

  • OMG - For anyone reading this - DO NOT TAKE ADVIL or any Ibuprofin following fusion -ever. Ibuprofin inhibits fusion. (Don't take aspirin either) ONLY tylenol or prescribed paid meds. As for the headaches, there are a few possible reasons for them. Taking too many narcotics (the pain meds) CREATES headaches. It is commonly known as a rebound headache. Find 2 consecutive days that you can seclude yourself away from the world and go WITHOUT the meds. You WILL likely get a really powerful, suicidal type headache that will seemingly last forever. This is withdrawal. It WILL pass. The other cause of the headaches is the surgery itself and how it irritates the nerve roots. And with a 3-level fusion, you have many aggravated nerve roots that will take a bit of time to settle down. The more active you are (the more you use the muscles controlled by those nerves) the more spasms and headaches you are likely to get. Stress and even just trying to think hard and concentrate on something can cause the headaches. Take it easy on yourself, minimize and if possible eliminate the narcotics, and keep your collar on. Good luck.
  • Hello there!!

    I was just reading and I am sorry to hear of the headaches. I take it that you did not have headaches before surgery?

    My NS sent me to an Orth Surgeon to have a second. They are trying to decide whether to do ACDF on C 4-5 C 5-6 or to just do all three levels now! The same thre as you C 3-4 C 4-5 C 5-6.

    I think that what was stated about your going back to work after only 2 weeks was really soon. I think my NS said 4-6 or sooner depending on how I am doing. I would not be going back to work right away anyway because I am in College at the age of 38. I had a work injury to my arm before the neck injury so I have been going to college.

    If I were in your shoes I would try to see if there is some sort of way to reduce the hours at work maybe just for a week or two and see if you can rest some.

    It concerns me your surgeon just passes it off as the collar is the cause.

    Someone also mentioned that the nerves can get a little angry after being moved around and cut etc post op. I have also been told my surgeons that the nerves are slow to repair themselves and while doing so they can flare up before calming down. This may also be the casse for you, but I am no dacotor and everyones body is so different in the way it handles things.

    I certainly do hope that you will feel better soon. Please keep us posted and if you feel you need some added support please feel free to PM me anytime.

  • Excedrin tension headache/or migraine do help, and I think they only have acetometophin in them...Also add a strong muscle relaxer or in my case, clonopin...Dumb question, but does your scalp move? My headaches are caused by muscles spasms that go all the way through my scalp muscles...So get some one to give you a scalp massage to ease up the tension, if that is the problem! I hope you feel better!
  • I also get migraines and I put a bag of ice on my head. I am going today to have doctor put me on a preventative. So this is new to me as well.
    You just had surgery so go slow, but go. If doctor keeps telling you it is the brace continue to tell him you have headache. He/she is your doctor. Keep us posted.
    What migraine med did they put you on.
  • This is a very controversial subject. Some surgeons absolutely prohibit the use of any type of ibuprofen, others say there is no evidence that ibuprofen inhibits fusion. I for one avoid it because I am not taking any chances. But be sure to discuss this with your own physician if you are considering taking ibuprofen.

    Sorry about the unrelenting headaches. This is probably something you have already tried, but I find that icing the base of my neck helps somewhat. Also, going into a dark, quiet room is a good thing to try. If you can do this at onset of the headache, you will likely be able to get it under control easier. I have had headaches that last for days and nothing will touch take them away, so I feel for you. I have a friend who gets migraines really bad, and she would often go to the ER for a "cocktail" that would knock the headache. I think it had demerol, phenergren, and something else in it, can't remember what. She has since had an ACDF and her headaches are more manageable now.

    Surviving chronic pain one day at a time, praying for a reprieve because living another 40 years like this doesn't sound too fun!
  • My Surgeon just prescribed DayPro which is a NSAID, so I think you need to contact your doctor and ask him or his PA what to take for your pain.
  • i had headaches post op as well.i had the same sections as you did and had a hard collar but was told just to wear it when i was up moving around for the first three weeks.but i got the headaches almost every single day for the first three months.they've finally subsided though.nothing i took seemed to help them,ice helped for a bit but i found myself icing a lot. the best thing that i found most days was just to lay down and take the pressure off my neck and shoulders. hope this helps,my surgeon also said no anti inflammatories.
  • I haven't had fusion surgery yet, but one of my original neck symptoms was a headache to the back of my head. This is from a nerve which is being pinched. The only medication that has worked for this for me is Neurotin. Funny thing, dr didn't give it to me for the headache, but for the nerve pain that goes down my right shoulder and arm. But it works so well, that I have temporarily put the ACDF surgery on hold. (I was originally scheduled for Jan '08.) Neurotin isn't a narcotic and I believe it only works on nerve pain. Before the Neurotin, I took tramadol, or vicodin (when I had it) with a muscle relaxer and ice on my neck. I hope you get some relief soon. Marti

  • i also take neurotin,well at least you know whats causing your headaches.i guess if it helps you then thats good but i would wonder whats happening to that nerve thats being compressed.If it stays compressed too long you may end up with more problems and end up having to take neurotin forever.did your surgeon agree with you when you postponed the surgery?
  • It was my PCP dr who originally wanted me to postpone the fusion, and the second opinion neuro surgeon. My PCP wanted me to try the nerve pain meds first. And the second opinion dr wanted me to see a headache specialist first. Neither of them warned me about further damage, but I guess that it could. My PCP just thought it was too soon. And I was glad to get out of it, temporarily. Of course the problem is still there. And at some point in the not too distant future, I will have to go ahead with it.

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  • Hi my name is jenni, 10 days ago I had spinal surgery to remove a fragmented disc L4/L5. Everything was going great. My pain was relieved and the wound healed well. Then I got this headache, like no headache I have ever experienced. It was a feeling of my brain being crushed. I ended up in accident and emergency. I was given high doses of diazipam to relax all the muscles in my neck. Doctors said I have post operative headache. Uuum then gave me loads of pain relief including 10mg diazipam 4 tines a day, diclofenac and volterol gel, codine, paracetomol and increased my pregabalin to the max dose of 600mg a day. I felt so sedated and didn't know what day it was. I reseached the net to find that it could be a number of things 1) a leakage of spinal fluid 2) dehydration of fluid in my brain from the anasthetic. My symptoms were a stiff neck, pain at the base of my neck, a headache which was debilitating, tight muscles around my neck area.
    I researched that caffine can dialate the vessels reducing the pressure. So I thought ok, drink tea and coffee, only a small help. I decided to buy high energy drinks, like lucozade and ones with caffine. I continued to to take the pain killers but reduced the diazipam to 5mg when needed. Following a gentle massage at the base of my neck and drinking the energy drinks the headache became a feeling of a hangover with a dramatic reduction in pain. Just wanted to share this as it worked for me and if it would help others then why keep it to myself.
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