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Increase in pain after starting physical therapy

dbullwinkelddbullwinkel Posts: 224
edited 06/11/2012 - 7:22 AM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
July 31st I had an anterior cervical discectomy with instrumentation alograft fusion at C5-6

Symptoms began in 1991 when injured at work with subsequent injuries in following years. Worst injury 1/23/2008.. after years of PT, steriod injections, acupuncture, etc. right arm numbness and pain (emg document major change in nerve function from 1991- 2008) as well as neck pain and stiffness I had surgery.

At about 3 1/2 weeks post-op surgeon had me start PT..but only for my arms (biceps, triceps, wrists, interscapular muscles and posture. NO neck PT yet.

I have gone 2 times. Dr. has me on 5 lb weight limit, but I only used 2 lb weights at PT

After first session, I woke with terrible pain in my shoulder blades..so bad I couldn't move. Percocet helped.

After yesterday's session (PT decreased "workout" due to my pain..when resting in the evening I developed shooting pain in my right shoulder blade which made it impossible to move my neck. Took an additional percocet with little relief. Finally took a valium (which I had stopped taking based on dr recomendation. I realize this is a muscle spasm..causing the pain in my neck. He is using valium as muscle relaxer.

I am calling the doctor this morning to let him know how the PT is going. and find out if I should start valium again.

Looking for advice/experiences of anyone starting PT.

This is frustrating and very depressing.

Also, I have lumbar facet osteo-arthristis..prior to surgery had the right side treated with Radio-frequency ablation. never followed up with the left as pain wasn't so bad. NOW, the left side is hurting..

C4-5 small disc bulge
C5-6 Posterior disc osteophyte asymmetric to the right. Right greater than left uncovertebral spurring. Right greater than left foraminal stenosis.
C6-7 mild disc bulge


  • :) no pain no gain! you will have some pain after pt but it should work itself out as you progress. if you feel it is more than this you should contact your doctor or atleast tell your pt exactly what you are going through. perhaps you need to move at an even slower pace! don't suffer quietly! i see you are new to the forum and i want to welcome you here! :H i hope you find support and comfort to help you through this difficult time! good luck and i hope you are feeling the relief you need soon! Jenny :)
  • Physical therapy almost always makes people feel more pain at first....
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  • Hey there dbullwinkel,

    I am sorry to hear of the added pain with the PT. I am sure some pain is to be expected but at the same time you and the doc need to know what one anothers definition of "to much pain" is.
    So I am with Lulusheart on this. I think calling your surgeon and letting them know what is going on and how your pain is acting is the best thing.
    The valium thing as you have already talked about is up to the doc as to if he/she would like you to go back to taking it.

    Keep us posted and let us know how your doing!!

  • Hi..I am a successful fusion patient.....L4/5 and I had ALIF and PLIF a day apart...titanium gages in front with BMP and titanium screws with PEEK rods in the back.

    I just had those taken out yesterday....see my Hardware post for pictures.

    About PT. My surgeon who I consider to be a genius...perhaps the finest back guy on the West Coast ( Yeah, I know we all consider our surgeon the same way :) )........anyway, he forbade any kind of PT or exercising for a very long time. It was at least 9months before he allowed me to do stuff ...bike riding, going to the gym and initially he was totally adamant about no therapy at all. No bending, lifting, twisting, stooping etc etc etc. Only walking...not shuffling around...real walking, at a good clip and with correct posture.

    I asked him repeatedly about therapy, Pilates, Yoga etc and he said "NO!! They will hurt you!!"

    Even when I went for a QME medical exam my insurance requested, with another doctor, he told me "do NOT let him make you bend"

    I belabor this point and I am sorry to do so but I am on the no therapy side of things now. There is plenty of time for that. I believe in letting the surgery fully heal and getting into a routine after you are sure it is all good. Why rush, especially if it is causing pain that you cannot tell if it is good pain or not?

    No pain no gain is fine for people who have not just had a major surgery.

    Anyway, just my opinion and I am so far from being any sort of an expert that you should ignore it :))) Listen to your Doc but ask him about the pain. Maybe the procedure you had is one that will allow a bit more exercise sooner on.

    All the best.
  • It really does not take long to get into decent shape.....and if you add a healthy diet into the mix along with increased daily activity in general....you will be surprised at how soon you feel better.

    Remember too that you are using pain killers, so you might not realize the damage you are doing as the Percocet is masking it. Careful.

    Again, not an expert. :D
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  • dilaurodilauro ConnecticutPosts: 11,349
    I do not believe there is a person who first started physical therapy without experiencing initial pain. Most of the time, we go to therapy after surgery and its the first time we try to use the area that was affected. So in many regards its like starting at ground zero. And for the first number of sessions, there is bound to be some pain, at times alot of additional pain that you hadn't been experiencing. This is mostly normal HOWEVER you should always discuss this with your therapist and your doctor to make sure what is being done is the right thing for you.
    It is normal for that pain to start to diminish and some strength start to increase as the Physical therapy sessions continue.
    Ron DiLauro Veritas-Health Forums Manager
    I am not a medical professional. I comment on personal experiences
    You can email me at: rdilauro@veritashealth.com
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