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Newbie facing cervical fusion

LeaRNLLeaRN Posts: 19
edited 01/16/2016 - 5:56 AM in Neck Pain: Cervical
Hi, I'm new here, so I will give a bit about me and my path to here.

I'm a 54 (for now - that seems to change annually) yr old woman with a quirky sense of humor and who has a hard time writing succinctly. So pre-apologies for the novel ;-). I've lived with chronic pain of various sorts (I grew up with "ear" pain that now I think was mostly TMJ, possibly some geniculate neuralgia - not really sure when that started as I assumed it was TMJ.) I was first dx'd with TMJ when I was a teen, back in the 1970s. So over the years, I have learned to tune out a lot, focus on more interesting things, that sort of thing.

I have had shoulder problems for years. I saw a massage therapist who helped a bit - but it always reverted back. (At one point, it was a band of pain between my shoulder blades. So relief from that was a good thing.) But finally, I get referred to the local shoulder clinic - the doc there everyone said was the best. And I had impingement, on both sides, and had two acromioplasties done in 2011, one in Jan. and the other in Aug. Kept trying to be patient, but I still had pain, and finally in 2012, they took x-rays and saw calcifications on both sides. Removed the right side, then the left about 9 months later. Healed - only my right side, I never could sleep on. I was told to give it more time.

Fast forward 2 years. Plenty of time, I had a trip to my folks planned, so figured I would call and see if they could figure out what was going on with my shoulder and sleep when I got back. A few days before my trip, I woke up and my shoulder was horrible. All day. And the next. I wasn't going to let it stop my trip, though - it just firmed my resolve to call as soon as I returned.

Got in to see the PA there (she is awesome) in October. (2015) I was 99.9999999 (repeating) % sure they would see calcification again or something. Nope. X-ray was good. They did an MRI with contrast. Showed some minor stuff, nothing that needed taking care of, so they sent me to get trigger point injections.

The doc who did those said he wondered if there was neck involvement. I have always had some pain in the neck - but we had been assuming it was radiating from my shoulder. But he did the injections. They helped a wee little amount. Very little. He sent me back to the shoulder clinic.

Saw the doc, who went over the MRI in person with me. Showed why sleeping is probably a problem (a leaky bursa) and said it is possible I may never be able to sleep on that side. (I, of course, am hoping he is wrong on that score!) I mentioned what the anesthesiologist said about the neck. He said that he is a good diagnostician, and sent me off for an MRI of my neck.

And then referred me to a neurosurgeon. Which kind of scared the crap out of me.

I saw the ns in December. Like him, but he isn't very expansive with explaining. He did say his job was to try to avoid surgery, and sent me to PT, and gave me a prescription for Relafen. (NSAID - strong.) The NSAID did nada, and the physical therapist tried a bit, then told me that he didn't want to keep going, that I wasn't making enough progress, and I should save my money. (I heard the implied "insurance approved sessions", though.) That was discouraging. But I continue to do the exercises he had me start during my time there.

Went back to the ns, who asked me about the pain down my arm (didn't mention the shoulder or neck at all - really not a lot of time at all) , so I showed him where it sometimes is (I am nit or miss), and he asked if I wanted to fix this.


I told him that was why I was there, and that I really wanted to be able to sleep a decent amount most nights. (Currently, it is hit or miss. The neck - and now that I know it isn't from my shoulder, I am more aware of the neck problems/pain - tuning out is a great strategy, unless you need to describe things to a doctor! -has been interfering with my sleep most nights.) So he told me it would take about a half hour and need a night in the hospital, he would have Kristin (in the office) set it up, and was gone. He never even said the word fusion to me. (It was in the paperwork, though, that they sent home with me, a pamphlet on cervical fusion.)

That will be done on February 1.

I am both nervous (hey, screw up there, and you have big problems!) and excited (hey, maybe a solution to all this pain!) and nervous (hey, what if it doesn't really take care of it?)

Reading things here, I am learning a lot about recovery. I never even would have considered a sore throat, for instance. Fortunately, I make good soup, and have some in the freezer already. I'll make some more to fully stock things. Mmm. Winter, I like soup.

But I appreciate all the tips for post-op. I plan on making sure there is some ice cream in the freezer. (I try to eat low carb, so make low-carb version of ice cream. Or lower carb, anyway.)

The pre/post-op lists on the pinned post are interesting - a number of things I wouldn't have thought of, but I recognize that probably not all apply, as people in the site are probably often having things done lower than the neck.

Anyway, I appreciate this site, and want to thank all the people who have posted so much interesting material!


  • LizLiz Posts: 7,832
    Please take the time to read this post and refer to it when you have questions

    I am sure that you will find your time on Spine-Health very rewarding. This site is a powerful and integrated system that is dynamic and growing.
    Here are just some of the highlights that are available as tabs on the main Spine-Health menu bar

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    Conditions Detailed medical libraries of articles and videos that address almost every spinal condition.
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    As a bonus, Spine-Health provides these patient forums. Here you can meet thousands of people who understand and can relate to your situation. You will soon become part of the Spiney family[/u] who provide comfort and the advantages of a support system. You are now part of this family that is approximately 27,00 international members and growing daily.


    - It is very important to understand the Forum Rules to make sure all of your posts[u] do not violate any of the rules.[/u]

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    I am positive any member, new or old will find this Chroinc Pain - Step by Step thread very valuable.

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    Liz, Spine-health Moderator

    Liz, Spine-health Moderator

    Spinal stenosis since 1995
    Lumber decompression surgery S1 L5-L3[1996]
    Cervical stenosis, so far avoided surgery
  • PlumbTuckeredOutPlumbTuckeredOut Philadelphia, PAPosts: 325
    edited 01/17/2016 - 3:10 PM
    I had always had loads of lower back issues since I had a diving injury when I was 8. About 8 years ago- they do fly by after a while- I noticed I couldn't see well to back up. I thought it was the new car but, move forward 5 years and I realize that my neck was a mess. Initially I thought it was my shoulder too but it's a herniated disk. I've been in pain management, had the epidural injections, physical therapy, TENS Unit, good pain meds, but I continue to lose sensation in my left arm/hand.

    Still, my biggest issue is just wanting to sleep through the night all comfy like! I tried all those expensive memory foam pillows and cervical pillows. What has been wonderful for me has been those "U" shaped pillows for sleeping on planes? Yeah, I lay that flat on a regular pillow and then I arrange my head in the "U" so it doesn't slip to one side or another. This little trick has helped me sleep better through the nights. I also have an array of those aromatic lavender scented rice pillows which I also use to wedge my head and neck into comfortable positions.

    I'm really trying to avoid more surgery unless I know I will see improvement. My 2 back surgeries helped some but they don't seem to be a permanent fix. The amount of pain I used to experience is much less though. But you're right! I'm not sure I want docs messing around in my neck!

    Keep us updated!

    Two roads diverged in a wood, and I took the one less traveled by...... (Robert Frost)
    I still don't know if I should have taken the one that said, "Caution! Dead End" (Me)
  • I'm glad you found a way to sleep reasonably well, Sheila! I tried my U-shaped plane pillow (which, sadly, doesn't even work well on a plane for me), and it was a flop. C'est la vie. I've tried different pillows and orientations, thought about pushing for a new mattress, but based on your experience with a memory foam one not helping, glad I wasn't pinning my hopes on that!

    It's funny, some nights, for no discernible reason (or maybe because I'm so exhausted!) I sleep well, and feel like, "Maybe I'm just imagining this, and the daytime pain is livable..."

    Then I get a night like last night, with very little sleep, no comfortable position. (And more of the nights are somewhere in-between.)

    Last night I was thinking, "Okay, I guess I was wrong about imagining this, and yeah, I guess I really do need this surgery."

    From what I have read, the one night in the hospital won't be very relaxing, either. Couldn't they maybe approve a pre-surgery night there, so I could relax by myself without the post-op pain and nausea? (Prescription pain meds - stronger than NSAIDs - and I don't get along great.)

    I'm sorry, btw, that your back hasn't been a permanent fix. Bummer.

  • PlumbTuckeredOutPlumbTuckeredOut Philadelphia, PAPosts: 325
    Memory foam pillows are not worth it BUT I bought a cheap $200 8 inch thick memory foam "mattress" from world's largest online store and that has been magical! I've had that for 2 years and it has helped SO much! I'll get you the exact link if you're interested.



    Two roads diverged in a wood, and I took the one less traveled by...... (Robert Frost)
    I still don't know if I should have taken the one that said, "Caution! Dead End" (Me)
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