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ACDF C5-6 : 3 years later and concerned something is wrong

Has anyone more than one ACDF surgery to further repair your spine. Your opinion and experiences would be appreciated.

Three years ago I had an ACDF C5-C6. I healed quickly and felt 100 times better, my husband and I considered it a huge success.
I do take Lyrica for pain management and have started to notice it really wasn't easing the pain. I starting experiencing a little discomfort on the left side of my neck.
Then two weeks ago, I woke up and was unable to get up or get out of bed, I looked like a turtle stuck on its back. I slowly and painfully managed to flip onto my stomach and then had to slide to the edge of my bed and move my legs over the edge and drag my sorry butt off the bed because the pain in my neck and left arm was so intense, that the slightest movement had me in tears.
I found relief once, when I had to get something off my side table and I leaned over and put my forehead on the arm of the couch, I stopped and for a moment the pain was gone. This makes me wonder if it's my neck.

The pain feels like someone is stabing me with a hot knife and twisting it. I took a percocet , which I never do but the pain was just too much. We went to the walk in clinic and the doctor gave me pain meds and muscle relaxers, when I told her my history about neck surgery, she said to follow up with my doctor.

At home I've been doing stretches, using my tens machine, along with heat and ice treatments.

Thankfully I am able to move my arm now but the pain in my neck never goes away and it's intense, my range of motion is limited. I can't find a position (laying down or sitting up) that is comfortable and just want to hide under my covers until it goes away. But as you know, life isn't like that. I missed 4 days of work last week because of the pain. I'm back to work this week but it's killing me.

Saw my family doctor and he thinks it's just a muscle spasm, because he felt my neck and said it's very tight. He increased my lyrica dosage and told me to keep doing what I'm doing. If it doesn't improve in two weeks to come back and we can try something else. He mentionted botox injections as an option.

Here's my concern - I've never had a muscle spasm that lasted this long, nor with the pain not subsiding. After my ACDF, the surgeon said I most likely will see him again in 5-10 years to repair further deteriorating discs. So now, I keep wondering and worrying that this pain in my neck is because of further disc damage.

I would appreciate your thoughts about my neck pain.


  • shortfuse5691sshortfuse5691 Posts: 407
    edited 03/11/2015 - 5:28 PM
    Anything is possible, I've been there! I had 3 levels operated on. I wear a soft cervical all day. I'm on the same drus you are and experiencing the same symptoms. I'm waiting on a 2nd opinion for more treatments on my neck. 1st doctor says I need another fusion below and above my previous fusion.
    2005-ACDF with Corpectomy at C3-C-5.
    2006-L4-L5 diskectomy.
    2009-Cervical laminectomy at C3.
    Steroid injections series x 4.
  • I had acdf in September for C5/C6. For approx. 3 yrs. I had issues with my neck and shoulder spasms. I would go for a week or 2 without being able to use my arm, turn my head. The muscle spasms would be agonizing. I saw the doctor for it but they just blew it off as a pinched nerve, gave me muscle relaxers and anti-inflamatories and send me on my way. I would go through these cycles of having these flare ups in my neck frequently, I lost the curve in my neck because it was so bad. I started seeing a chiropractor last year, He tried helping me but the adjustments maybe worked for a day or two and then it was back. He tried so many things. I would go from normal to completely seized up with one wrong turn of my head. Since surgery, the flare ups hadn't been as bad. I have had 3-4 flare ups with one going on now again. With these come with cervicogenic headaches with migraine like tendencies. These are caused by the degradation of the cervical nerves.
    Have you noticed anything consistent with these episodes? Is it possible to try physical therapy? Some practice dry needling in the nerves that seem to cause the problem. It does work for some people but it doesn't work for me. Most of the physical therapy has been lying on the bed/cot while the PT works on the trigger points. With all of the medications I take for the pain just to control the pain and lessen the nerve issues, it barely controls it.
    Tracie C
  • I am new to this site but not to the conditions you mentioned above. I had ACDF with bone graft but without hardware in 2009. I was an active marathon runner training for my 6th marathon, when one day I woke up with neck pain. l was living a health style with a good diet and exercise program in place, so when the situation arose I was in denial. Needless to say traditional therapies did not work, and I saw many different surgeons, until i found the one for me. My first MRI revealed serve arthritis with degenerative disc disease and herniated discs from minimal affect to mass affect on spinal cord. One herniated disc barley had any cartilage left between leaving bone on bone. Our bodies are amazing because to make up for the loss of cartilage bone spurs formed placing extreme pressure on my spine. My surgeon recommended ACDF with a recovery of approximately 6-8 weeks, but when he tried to place the plate into my neck, my esophagus rubbed, leaving him with the choice not to use hardware. The recovery was long and draining at times. I was in a hard collar for 3 months and a soft collar for 3 more months. I was told after recovery I could continue to run, but no marathons. I was ecstatic with the news and to be out of pain with the prognosis of a full recovery my life was going to begin again.
    Fast forward to 2014, it was like dejavu, I woke up out of no where with the same pain in the neck and uncannily at the same time of year as before. I also approached it with total denial and went the route of traditional therapies. Things have changed in five years and I did try epidural injections, branch blocks and even radio frequency abrasion only to return to my surgeon to schedule yet another ACDF surgery.
    On March 5 , 2015, I had my second ACDF with hardware and I am in recovery about 7 weeks. I still am in pain but not the same pre-surgery. I was told this is common with fusion to have the other disc weaken from the stress of the fused disc. I was definitely hoping for longer time frame but with my active lifestyle and genetics, it is what it is. I have been in a hard collar for 6 weeks and just was placed in a soft collar for another six weeks. I began PT yesterday and I am in pain.
    My suggestion to you is definitely go to your surgeon for a follow up of your symptoms. Do not wait like I have putting yourself in a place of suffering. Your condition may be easily resolved with traditional therapies. My only regret is waiting to get help. I took a year and extreme pain to come to terms with what my body was telling me. Moving forward I am concerned with adjacent disc disease happening again, but I vowed to myself, I will do everything I can to prevent this from happening again.
    Good Luck !
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