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Sudden return of pain 1 year after ACDF


I had C5/6 fusion 13 months ago. I had a pretty smooth recovery and was doing terrific. Five weeks ago, on the anniversary of my surgery, I marveled at how great I felt. And then ...

My shoulder started to hurt again. It's been hurting for two weeks and I'm trying to will the pain away. I've been doing my best to pretend it isn't there, so I haven't tried to ice it or soak it or take meds or anything at all, but it doesn't seem to be going away. I'm afraid I'm going to have to call my NS on Monday.

Wondering if anyone else has had a similar experience.

The pain isn't nearly as bad as it was pre-surgery and more localized to just my upper arm. (Pre-surgery I had nerve pain that usually reached my elbow and sometimes went all the way down to my thumb.) The pain now seems kind of close to what I felt that first couple months AFTER surgery. Some trigger point pain but also some hand and wrist weakness, and also occasional jolts of electric type pain. (Ugh, as I'm typing this I realize I am probably describing nerve pain. And that is not good.) Feeling grouchy.

Giving in and going for the ice and Tylenol now ...

Please send advice, support and commiseration.
C5/6 herniation, type 2 diabetes, generalized anxiety disorder


  • Hi. I'm really sorry to hear that you're experiencing pain again. I hope by the time you read this your NS was able to clarify your situation...
    I had c6-c7 done exactly a year ago, and until about a month ago was feeling great..Riding my motorcycle in the mountains for weekends, working, everything really with zero problems (not overdoing anything to be honest).
    Then the pain returned... First a kind of heaviness in left arm, then shoulder pain, then finally nerve pain in neck.
    I'm awaiting what the specialist says about a new MRI I did yesterday. I'm praying it's a temporary hitch...
    But that feeling of having almost forgotten the nightmare of pre-surgery life, and then suddenly it comes back... It's awful, it's demoralising. What's more, my new partner of 6 months is talking about leaving me if it gets worse (I guess if I lose her over ill-health, I've lost nothing in the end, but it has all come as a sudden bitter twist of life).
    Anyway, please let me know how you get on.? For me, I find waking at least an hour a day helps somewhat. Physical therapy did nothing unfortunately.. If I could give advice to anyone pre or post acdf surgery, it's to stay as fit as possible. I don't regret the operation, but I do regret stopping that daily workout which the body needs!
    I'm trying to be positive too... You do the same. It's tough, but we are tougher!
    Take it easy :-)
    ACDF C6-C7
  • NewsgirlNNewsgirl Posts: 60
    edited 10/28/2015 - 1:37 AM
    Soundslike we are going through the same thing at the same time. Ugh. I hope I don't need an MRI. I don't mind them but my wallet does. Ouch!

    Maybe I should get back to walking too. I did a LOT of that during recovery while I was off work. Kept track using a phone app. My first day (2 days after surgery) I did .2 miles at a speed of 1.6mph! Very, very quickly improved speed and distance, walking 3-5 miles every day. But once I went back to work it was hard to find the time so I stopped. Will try to get back to it at least a little.

    I did find that PT helped, so I'm trying to do that again, too, what I can remember of it. I didn't keep up wit it at all.

    Sorry your partner isn't being more supportive. Not fair that you have to worry about how you pain is is inconveniencing her. That's sort of a classic narcissistic reaction. Google narcissism for actual clinical symptoms. It's a thing. My dad is a textbook narcissist and when I was growing up life would get extra miserable if any illness/ injury of mine affected him in any way. If your partner is a narcissist get away fast! ... Oops, this forum is about spine health not mental health. Sorry for the tangent.

    Thanks for the support. Pls let me know the results of your MRI.
    C5/6 herniation, type 2 diabetes, generalized anxiety disorder
  • NewsgirlNNewsgirl Posts: 60
    edited 10/30/2015 - 3:00 AM
    I talked to the neuro's PA. She told me to take a prescription-strength anti- inflammatory twice a day (forget the name) and if I'm not better she'll send me for an MRI and we'll go from there. Took the first dose last night and It did seem to help. Fingers crossed! Still curious about why this is happening. I didn't really get to ask because our convo was via e-mail.
    C5/6 herniation, type 2 diabetes, generalized anxiety disorder
  • Hi....That sounds like a good strategy for now... And if it generally works, then I think it's a good sign. I also take anti-inflammatory meds (diclofenac injections, self-administered) as well as muscle relaxant meds....but I know what you mean. We want to understand why the pain comes back when it had stayed away for months.
    I feel kind of guilty that here in Europe, we have state-assistance for the the cost of MRI etc. I paid 39 euros last time (don't know in USD)... so i understand the problems in getting scans in the states if you don't have coverage.
    I'll let you know what the specialist says in relation to my MRI. I'm hoping it's just a case of delayed postoperative healing pains.... But I'm also aware that the disc above c6-c7 could be causing problems, or issues with incomplete or non-fusion.
    Time will tell.... In the meantime I hope the anti-inflammatory meds do the job and calm things down. I read that 90% of disc herniations tend to be absorbed into the body and don't require surgery.
    Here's hoping...!
    ACDF C6-C7
  • NewsgirlNNewsgirl Posts: 60
    edited 01/16/2016 - 3:25 AM
    I'm remiss in not posting an update. I followed by surgeons instructions to take anti-inflammatories for two weeks. (I'm fully fused now so I can take NSAIDs.) That did the trick. I don't know what caused the pain but I am back to normal now.
    C5/6 herniation, type 2 diabetes, generalized anxiety disorder
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