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Questions concerning muscle spasms and pressure in throat

kathalkkathal Posts: 19
edited 06/11/2012 - 7:24 AM in Neck Pain: Cervical
I have been reading here for a while but have not really posted. I am 12 weeks post-op from a level 2 ACDF and have a couple of questions. I sure hope someone can help because this is driving me crazy!

My first question concerns muscle spasms. I have a severe muscle spasm on the right side of my neck in the trapezius muscle. Most of the time the muscle is so tight if I bend my head forward it looks like a cord in my neck. I also have a knot where the most severe pain is located. I'm in physical therapy and wearing a TENS unit but it does not seem to be getting any better. I also do stretching exercises at home and at the office. It seems to be tight 95% of the time. Does anyone know how long it takes for this to get better? I have been going to the PT for about 5 weeks and I really cannot tell any change in the pain.

Also, can the muscle spasm pull on your esophagus? I have read a lot of your posts concerning pressure in the throat. Mine went away about a week and a half after surgery but once the muscle problems started the pressure in my throat came back. I can eat fine but feel like I'm about to choke just sitting here at the computer.

I guess I'm just frustrated because I actually thought I would be over the surgery by now. I have no pain where my discs were removed. It all seems to be muscle related.

I sure appreciate any comments and advice from all of you.


  • Hiya Kath >:D<
    Welcome to Spine Health. :D We can only advise you on our own personal experiences :? , as we are not professionals in the medical field #:S . I would say go back to your doctor and tell him what you have told us in your post :< . Keep us Posted! :) Check out our chat room here, we are all friendly , again welcome. >:D<

    Angie :D
  • Oh, I forgot to mention that sometimes the muscle is so tight it "snaps" when I move my head. Kind of like a rubber band snapping. Is that normal?

    Maybe I'm just being too impatient and it takes a lot more time...

    Thanks again!
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  • I asked on another topic about the same thing you're asking about.

    I've been like that for about 2 days now, where it feels like something is stuck in my throat but there can't be because food goes down. ???

    I'm going to give my DO a call tomorrow and find out if it is a spasm. It drives me nuts!!!

    Oh and yes, I've had muscle spasms in the shoulders and I'm taking Flexiril for it. It seems to help and for about the past week the numbness and tingling seem to be less. Which I'm really glad about since it's the first time it's really been like this since surgery. I'm not doing any type of PT, my DO doesn't do it for this surgery, which I thought was kind of weird. I don't go back again until January for my 6 month follow up.
  • Angie, I see you are from Birmingham. I am too...just not in England. I think our accents are very different. :)

    Jeff, it looks like we had our surgeries two days apart. I'm sorry you are still having muscle spasms but it sounds like they are getting better. I wasn't sure if it was normal to still have the spasms this long after surgery but it must not be that uncommon.

    My surgeon saw me for a post-op visit one week after surgery and then said, "See you in a year." I was kind of shocked at that but I have gone back to see him since - basically for the throat issue. He prescribed celebrex and said he thought it was from swelling but the RX is not helping at all. The days the muscle spasms are not as bad the pressure in my throat is not as bad either. They seem to correlate to each other??? It's really strange.
  • I would call and ask your surgeon if you are able to have massage therapy. I suffered from terrible muscle spasms after my first surgery and this was the only thing that helped me at all as I am intolerant of most muscle relaxants. I would schedule them after PT and then go home and TRY to take it easy and not do much so the muscles could relax. Heat helped too. I still go in occasionally to keep things loose.

    Be warned- the massage will NOT feel great while you're having it done. I considered it a good type of pain (if there is one LOL) and knew that, in the long run, it was going to help my muscles relax and feel better. Try to find a massage therapist with experience with cervical problems- your surgeon or physical therapist may be able to reccomend one for you.

    Good luck and I hope you can find some relief!

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  • Hi in Canada we have ART Active Release and they work on the fascia Connective Tissue that helps release and dissipate scar tissue etc. I had c5 6 plate/own bone in Nov 03 and l5 s1 microdiscectomy in 04. I live with major bulging c6 7 which they wouldn't take out at the time. Now it rears its ugly head and balloons when I travel or try to exercise or over work myself. It is very painful and this summer started with major pressure on my esophagus. Now 2 chiros say they see clouding in the xray which may be scar tissue but the ENT guy says NOT MY AREA and the BARIUM SWALLOW was clear. You have to fight to get help as no one understands the kind of pain and pressure it creates in my throat..like choking on something... I often awake coughing too. SO I am trying ART and after the first night's session it seemed to release a little so will let you know. Good luck the ART website is from the USA and you can find a dr in your area through them. MING CHEW is PT who uses a form of ART and just wrote a successful book with all his patients/stars and atheletes who have had major success.. Now in bookstores.. Give it a read and it gives you exercises as well. All the best....trying to be nearly new and RISE ABOVE IT.... ELAINE IN T.O. Canada
  • Thanks everyone for your responses.

    riseaboveit, the ART Active Release sounds interesting. I looked at their website but the closest is a three hour drive. I would be very interested in how this works for you and I hope you come back and post about the experience.

    griff, my PT does spend about 15 minutes of my session doing massage. I know what you mean...it hurts so good. When she finishes my muscles feel so much better but about 10 minutes after I stand up the spasms and pain have returned. It's just very frustrating.

    I'm giving it another 2 weeks max and then I will call the doctor and see if he has any more ideas. I never know what to expect day to day. This past Saturday wasn't bad but it's gotten progressively worse since then. It's like I have one good day each week...I guess I should be grateful for that!

    Again, thanks to all of you!
  • massages really help me.i had tight muscles prior to surgery and after surgery i started therapy again for muscle strengthening and i found it just made them even tighter so when i went back to the surgeon for my two month post op check up i asked if i could do some massages and he said definitely as long as my neck wasn't manipulated he said that they had to be light massages in my neck area.i have a great massage therapist and its really been helping me get through the therapy.
  • Hello there kathal: Sorry to hear about your spasms, as I can relate. I haven't had surgery yet...pending. I often get the same as you as far as the spasms go. My NS said that my spasms in the trapezius area are from spinal cord impingement/involvement. Was your spinal cord bruised with the surgery at all? I have had some massage as well, and yes, it hurt good. BUT, the massages actually increased my spasms (I believe it was from inflammation from too vigorous of a massage). As griff said, get a massage therapist with cervical experience and who will be as gentle as YOU need. Most chiropractors will tell you that spasms can be decreased with chiropractic care; but of course, choose a good one (if your regular doc says it is okay). My PCP told me to stay on around the clock pain meds, muscle relaxers, and NSAIDS to stop the vicious cycle of healing, spasming, injury, healing, spasming and injury. When I took around the clock meds per my MD, it helped a little bit overall. Again, ask the doc what you should do. Finally, as far as the throat thing goes, I was on the chat room site last night and someone mentioned throat issues and that they believed theirs were from the actual hardware from the fusion. According to those in the chat room (no docs present of course), many people suffer the choking sensation and throat soreness from the hardware they use in fusions. I wonder if that is it? Hang in there and I hope you are feeling better. I may be doing surgery soon myself. Gulp
  • (I apologize for the long post. It turned out much longer than I intended.)

    April 2008 I had laminectomy at C5/C6. It resolved most of the problem, but at night I would wake up with my right arm partially numb, and then later - after the numbness wore off - I would have pains in my right hand. This went on for a while. Wearing a soft cervical collar while I slept, and sleeping on my back, usually helped avoid the numbness and pain, but not always. My neurosurgeon sent me for an MRI, but the results did not show anything wrong, so he referred me to a neurologist, who prescribed an anti-inflammatory (Mobic), a mild muscle relaxer (Clonazepam), and physical therapy. (Interesting side note: I had asked the neurosurgeon about physical therapy, but he was against it, whereas the neurologist was all for it.) Weeks of physical therapy strengthened my neck and shoulders, but did not resolve the original problem. So, the neurologist ordered a myelogram, which ended up being scheduled for about one week later.

    Now about the massage therapy...
    Immediately after the appointment with the neurologist I went to see a massage therapist at a chiropractor's office because the muscles in my upper back had been very tight, especially the right trapezius where I had a "knot". I did not associate this in any way with my neck. I just thought it was from sitting at a desk and working on a computer all day. (The neurologist did not order massage therapy. I just did this on my own.) The massage therapist was doing fine, but for some reason she felt she could not push hard enough on the knot, so she asked if it was OK if she called in "John" (not his real name) to work on the knot. Well, "John" is a muscular guy. Alarm bells should have gone off in my head, but they didn't (to my everlasting regret). Well, "John" comes in and proceeds to apply really hard pressure on the knot (and a few other “trigger points” he found). I should have spoken up immediately, but I was thinking the hard pressure was required to try to resolve the knot. The next day I had very severe pain in the spot where the knot is located, plus numbness, tingling, and pin-stick sensations in my right hand.

    Back to the neck issue...
    About two weeks later I had the myelogram (I actually postponed it because of the pain I was now having), which showed that C5/C6 had herniated again. The neurologist sent me back to the neurosurgeon, who said he consulted with another neurosurgeon, and they agreed that I needed a discectomy/fusion. My neurosurgeon does not do anterior discectomy/fusion, so he referred me to the other neurosurgeon.

    Back to the trapezius issue...
    After three WEEKS the numbness and tingling in my hand began to subside, but I still had intense pain (sometimes to the point of nausea) from that "knot" in my trapezius, so I went to see the neurologist about it. I explained to him what happened, and he said I probably had some nerve damage, but that it would probably heal. I was still concerned about the burning in my trapezius, so the neurosurgeon ordered an MRI on that area to find out what was going on. (As you can imagine, the symptoms resulting from massage really “muddied the water” as far as determine which hand and arm symptoms were being caused by a problem in my neck, and which were being caused by the nerve damage from the massage.) I assumed I had a torn muscle, but the MRI results showed nothing wrong (I cannot tell you how disappointed I was.) The neurologist said he thinks the constant pain/burning from the “knot” is due to the disc herniation and nerve compression at C5/C6. I find this very hard to believe because the intense pain/burning did not start until after that massage “therapist” smashed down on that knot. Before that incident, the only problem I had was sometimes waking up with my right arm and hand numb.

    At this point, the numbness/pain/tingling in my hand is about gone, but that “knot” in my trapezius is still burning. In addition, I’ve noticed my “shoulder” area tends to stay very tense and tight, even when I am just trying to relax and watch a movie or go to sleep. It just tenses-up by itself and I have to make a conscious effort to get it to relax.

    A note about insurance...
    When I made the appointment with the new neurosurgeon his appointment scheduler first asked me what insurance I have. The neurosurgeon does accept my insurance, so she scheduled the appointment. Unfortunately, the soonest I could get an appointment was about a month away (Jan. 20th). Just today (Jan 4th) I realized I needed to make sure this new neurosurgeon is “in-network”. He is not! So, now I need to cancel that appointment and get a referral to a neurosurgeon who is “in-network”.

    Now what?
    I really want to find out what is going on with my trapezius and shoulder area before I jump into surgery. I would hate to have the surgery and then afterwards still be left with this burning "knot" in my trapezius muscle. So, I have another appointment with the neurologist, although I am thinking about canceling it and going to see a sports medicine doc instead. I really don't know what to do.

    Also, if I do decide to have surgery, I want inquire about artificial disc replacement versus discectomy/fusion. However, it may be pointless to worry about that issue because I’m not even sure my insurance would cover the artificial disc. I’ll call them Monday to find out.
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