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Cervical fusion and Shoulder Pain why does it happen?

tonya42ttonya42 Posts: 810
edited 06/11/2012 - 7:27 AM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
I have read practically every post and what I can't understand from anywhere is it seems that most everyone has shoulder issues after ACDF surgery. Has anyone ever asked their doctor? I know it's one of those questions that is always on my list when I see him but then I get distracted by describing my pain and it just seems to get dropped. I understand the muscles and their connections but why does it have to create such dramatic pain? I've read people who have had their shoulders dislocated. Ligaments or tendons torn. I just wish I could be a fly on the wall during this surgery so I could see what is wrong with the way that they do this. Can't they find a better way? I wasn't counting on trading one pain for another. And I'm also seeking a second opinion about my shoulder because I've been through most all of the conservative treatments and don't know what else to do. Any ideas? Comments? Theories?


  • Hi Tonya..I think we spoke about this a while ago as I have shoulder pain as well. I just had arthroscopic shoulder surgery yesterday..not (saying you will need that!) My cervical doctor said that when neck pain remains after a certain point and mri, etc are ok..he begins to spread out and look further for "connected" issues. He didn't have to look too far with me as I could not lift my right arm above shoulder height. His exam indicated AC shoulder issue. He gave me a shot and in a few minutes I had alot of relief! MRI showed issues (see my description below). Went to shoulder doctor who sent me for PT..and second shot 6 weeks later. returning to work as a special ed teacher, I was in un-imaginable pain (shoulder pain radiated to my neck) he told me something about 80% if neck people have shoulder problem or vice versa...don't remember.
    I had the surgery yesterday...which was a piece of cake compared to my neck!!!! In and out the same day.
    Has your doctor sent you for any additional testing? I guess it can't hurt!
    Feel better and let me know how you make out!
  • Hi darlin,
    I dont' know why. Muscles and nerves being messed around with I guess and the degree of injury itself to begin with.
    I don't think there ever will be the "perfect" answer to that question as we all have so many different types of pains after surgery.
    My burning lasted forever for my cervical and spinal. The burning from my cervical in my shoulders down into my back was OUCHIE.
    Now I still 2nd lumbar fusion later still have the burning feeling in my lower back.

    You just keep on going girl like you tell me. Remember you were in a traumatic accident. Some of us well either just our pain built up over time or one day we woke up like myself and could not move my neck. So you had other things to contend with.
    Plus your only at 3 months post op going on 4.. And you went back to work early also.

    Ok back to the orginal question!! I'v never heard of shoulder dislocations to me that would be very rare and on the drs part.
    The ligaments being torn??? That to I would think and also would go along with the orginal injury.
    I mean your either cutting through the front or the back of the neck. So how in the heck could your shoulder get dislocated unless they flop you around that "hard" or ligmants getting torn in the shoulder would be a TUFF one also. Mabye the patient doing to much or not getting up the correct way after surgery???
    I really wish I had a answer for you..
    Mabye some people will pop in that have had this happen to them and describe to us how they got that way.....
    I'm very curious..
    Oh I don't know here we go again with me rambling on.
    Only cause hubby blocks me out I figured someone will read this AHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.

    K catch a later my guardian angel
    love yas!
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  • I'm just trying to figure out if there isn't some other way. I just don't know very many people who don't have shoulder pain of some sort after ACDF.
    Donna, He has had me do all of the conservative treatments and now we're trying deep tissue massage. That works for about 2 hours and then the knots and pains are back. I just can't work like this. So yesterday I figured I was entitled to a second opinion so I scheduled one with an ortho that I have seen before at another hospital. Shoulders are his specialty. I know that I have a trapped nerve somewhere in my shoulder because if I can ever get that muscle to relax it stops shocking my thumb. Oh which leads me to he said that my nerve study and EMG were normal. I looked him dead in the eye and told him there was no way on the face of God's green earth that it was normal. Wrong maybe but not normal. I just want a new set of eyes on the problem. He just keeps changing my muscle relaxers and granted they work for a while but I'm not one to take pills. I just want the problem fixed or for someone to tell me that it is what it is and learn how to deal with it. I'm glad to hear that your surgery seems to have gone well and wasn't as painful as your neck surgery. But I just can't imagine any conservative treatment that we haven't tried already. So I don't know what else to do.
    Terri, You know me. I'm so impatient. I can't stand this anymore. Maybe given more time it will go away on it's own but for today I just don't know how much more I can take. I don't know how to make it better. And I am sick of living on a heating pad.
    But I still want to know if there isn't a better way to do this surgery. They refine surgeries all the time. Why can't this be one of them? I just wish I had been a fly on the wall during my surgery to actually see what they do to a patient's shoulders while operating. Luv you girlfriend! I hope your pain is getting much better too.
  • Has you doctor looked into thoracic outlet syndrome? Since our accidents were both so violent and there was such extreme whiplash it's something that I hope that they would rule out.

    Just a thought,

  • Maybe the shoulder dislocations you remember reading about were mine? My neck/shoulder pain was so confusing to me before and it was more confusing to me because the pain is in my left shoulder.This just happens to be the shoulder that I had dislocated several times,so I was unsure when my pain suddenly got worse-if this was something new,a coincidence,or something to do with my neck.

    I've had problems getting good answers/any answers actually,and I've also had the nerve study done(at the hospital).It took quite awhile,but came back normal.Now normal means that I don't have carpel tunnel-because that's what they were looking for.

    I have a lump now that sits on top of my..between my neck and shoulder.It's been there since the 19th when I had my last injections,and though it's gone down a little,it's not changing in the past week.I feel that it's a muscle-maybe entwined with a nerve even.Hell,I don't know,but I do know muscle pain,and this is more than just that.My theory is that the shoulder pain is coming from the nerves (and muscles) leading away from my neck into my shoulder/arm.That would explain the tingling in my fingers-which I don't mind really,it's the pain that gets tiring.Numbness & tingling are a symptom I can handle..but has me believing from all that I've read that this is nerve and muscle related.

    Of course I'm only guessing because the Drs don't tell me much,and to be honest I'm sick of asking them.I think it's ridiculous to ask a question of your Dr and not get a straight answer.What are they afraid of..it's not Jeopardy-?
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  • has the shoulder doctor done an mri to "see" what is going on? I had impingement from bone spurs (calcifications pressing on tendons. I didn't have an emg done after my neck surgery..did have abnormal one before..though. anyway, I was getting exact same symptoms from the shoulder that I got with the neck. this surgery, the shoulder guy removed all the bone spurs that were pressing on the tendons and also removed a small section of my collar bone. two days post op: no neck pain, no arm pain/numbness (except post surgical of course!)
    Maybe ask about an mri...just a thought.
  • Hi Tonya,

    Without going into my life story, I wanted to tell you what my doctor said about my shoulder pain which goes all the way down my left side. I did not have this problem with my two previous ACDF surgeries only the last one for C6-C7. When I asked the doctor about this new pain, he said it's perfectly normal as it happened when he had to open up the area to remove the bad disk. He said it pulled the muscles which caused a "whiplash like" effect. It is an awful pain and heat or cold treatments don't appear to help. I see him again on 2/4/09 and I am going to ask him again since it doesn't seem to be going away. I am finally supposed to return to work on 2/17 and I do not know how I am supposed to function like this. I wish you the best!

  • At this point he hasn't really said much of anything. He doesn't say he thinks it will get better or that he expected it or anything. He just keeps giving me different muscle relaxers and that's about it. Oh he did suggest the deep tissue massage since it's pretty much the last thing to try. Maybe he is just trying not to make it such a big deal since he's done 100's of these surgeries and knows something I don't. But he doesn't seem willing to share. I am going to for a second opinion Monday just to see what someone else thinks. Lord. I felt so bad for you when I heard you say TOS. I hope it isn't anything like that. I'm too busy praying for you. :)
  • I guess it was your post I was reading. I just remembered reading about a dislocated shoulder. Sounds like we're in the same boat. My doctor just comes in says how great everything looks and then writes me a new presciption for a muscle relaxer. How can everything be great if I need a muscle relaxer?! I know for a fact there is a nerve tangled up in my shoulder spasm but I DON'T know how to get to him to even entertain the idea. I love this doctor. He has such a great bedside manner but he aint the only good doc in town. I am ready to meet the doctor again on Monday and get his opinion.
  • I would have thought he would have done an MRI by now. Maybe it's just too soon for him to consider it but he's not the one in pain. That would be me. I'll let you guys know on Monday what my new doctor says.
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