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Trapezius Muscle Spasm or Tightness after Surgery

AnonymousUserAAnonymousUser Posts: 49,578
edited 06/11/2012 - 7:41 AM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
I stated in a previous chain of the good news I received on Friday, January 22nd about my C5-C7 finally fusing. Surgery was 8/31/09. I was told by my NS that my Trapezius muscles are my main culprit for continuation of pain. So I am taking Soma 350mg and it seems to help a little. I started excercising again this Saturday and today. I will say that getting on the eliptical, doing a little bit of weights and stretching certainly makes the neck feel a little better even if temporary. I will be getting back into PT very soon as well.

So my pain is the sides of my neck hurt up to the base of my skull. It feels like a general tightness/burning pain. There are times when my head gets a little harder to turn as if there is a rubber band resisting me. Also the base of my neck aches, burns, out to my shoulders and I have tightness down to my mid-back. Pain pattern my NS states follows the entire trap muscles on both sides. This goes away to a large degree when I am exercising or when I am fully in a relaxed state, but I cannot get it to stop when I am trying to do day to day things.

I welcome comments.



  • I had an ACDF 11/09. I also have had the same muscle spasms causing pain. My neck hurts and it goes up to the base of my skull giving me serious headaches. My dr gave me a stretch to do, saying that there is a ligament in the lower spine that sometimes reacts to healing nerves and tightens. I've only been doing them for about a week. I'm still hurting though.

    I'd like to follow your post to see if anyone else has advice here. The dr also gave me flexeril to take. I have been having lower back pain as well which I forgot to mention to my surgeon at my last visit. But gosh...the headaches and neck aches are bad. Not everyday but some days.

    I'm hoping you get the answer to your dilemma...and not only for selfish reasons. Pain sucks doesn't it? Is it normal for fusion to take so long? I'm just wondering because I'm at 11 weeks and last week there was no sign of fusion yet.

    Wishing the best for you!

  • Hey Yvonne,

    I was not fused until just recently and I had surgery on 8/31/09. I have heard it takes 3-4 months. So don't get too concerned about that yet. The issue I am having though which remains unabated is the muscular pain. You too it seems and it is not fun. I wish you well and hope this chain starts some good avice.

    I use to train with a lot of weights & played impact sports. I am a pretty stocky guy at 5'9" and 220 pounds. I guess years of abuse equals time to correct. I'm only soon to be 36, so I've got some time ahead of me.

    Obviously I'm not bulit like a certain 40-year old Quarterback that took a huge beating yesterday and still keeps zinging it. I wish I had some of his biological make-up.

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  • You are a bit ahead as I just had ACDF 12/30, not yet 4 weeks.I get headaches, but always forget to mention that part when I call the MD office, though a valium here and there does help with the tightness; though I don't function very well then either!

    Curiously is everyone told there has to be a full fusion before one can do anything but ellipticals and walking or is there something in between? Not used to being so limited.

  • Jon...did you have to wear a bone growth stimulator? I've had one on 24/7 since the 2nd week after surgery. I've had a few clumsy accidents where I've hit my head. I'm still pretty clumsy, but I'm hoping that'll improve. I almost fell down a few steps yesterday.

    On top of this, I've put on weight because of the inactivity and inability to drive. I can't even buy "my kind of food". I was eating whatever was given to me (gee..that sounds bad). Hopefully I can start driving again soon. But the doc says no driving until it doesn't hurt to turn my head.

    At least the pains I was having before the surgery are gone. but evenings are absolutely the worst time of day for me. My neck and head ache like crazy. It isn't exactly pain as it was directly after surgery or before for that matter. Its like a deep ache...bone deep. Does this make sense???? I've been meaning to ask about that but keep forgetting.

    Well....eventually this will all pass and hopefully, prayerfully it will just be a distant memory for us with no more fusions needed.

    Thanks y'all!

  • Hi Yvonne,

    I was never prescribed a bone stimulator, so cannot comment on its efficacy. My pain is a deep ache at times well but chiefly tightness with burning pain in the muscles. I feel pain around the vertebra at the base of my neck. Its really frustrating trying to describe it because it jumps all over the place. From my right side, to left side, base of my skull to the base of my neck and down my thoracic. It jumps all day long with little rhyme and reason.

    I have also had some inflammation that made the posterior part of the base of my neck feel swollen. When I told my PT I was returning to see her after NS ruled that my fusion took place, she thought that was great but did not explain the swelling she discovered. Further she said that MRI's are not always conclusive in showing if there could be something wrong. But as we sat there and looked at everyone of my cervical vertebra on film, at the canal and at the foraminas I could not see any nerve entrapment, nor could he.

    So the only logical thing at this time is muscle spasms from the new dynamics of my neck along with tension from stress. My job, house situation and raising a baby are all big time stress. So I think too that stress is exacerbating my condition.

    I am trying to remain confident and resolute. I overcame lower back pain, I can do this too. But like I said I just hope it is only muscles I now need to address and not something else unforeseen.

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  • So Joh....how long did it take for you not to have pain when say...you tip your head back to rinse off shampoo. And how long did it take for you to be able to lift your arms over your head without feeling as if something was pressing on your throat like a choking sensation?

    I'm wondering about these muscle spasms too. I agree that the stress of the situation is making this worse for you. I'm sorry about that. My doc wants to send me for a CT scan. We'll see I guess. I just hate the aching. Mine travels too. sometimes before a dr's visit I try to mark it with a pen so that I can show him because usually by the time I see him, it has moved or is gone or is something else entirely. Headaches, neck-aches and lower back pain. Hmmmmmm...

  • I would say when my flare ups are at their worst, I feel pain when I go to put hair product in my hair or even shampoo it. Bending my head forward is really painful. Reaching for something above is sometimes pretty painful as well and my shoulder muscles are tight.

    Its frustrating, you go to the Dr. to describe your symptoms and then your pain level has been significantly reduced when you're there and you struggle to fully describe your symptoms. So I find myself being rather vague.

    But what this tells me is there is certainly a mental component to this pain thing and that the pain is to some degree stress related. I am of the mind that I do not have anything else going on other than the nerves are still trying to heal and I am stessed. My lower back took over a year to feel right when I had my ADR done. I am still 4 years pain free there. My spine frustrates me, but it is what it is and I just need to go with it I guess.

  • mikebf53mmikebf53 FloridaPosts: 19
    I read this post. I am now almost 5 months from ACDF of my C5-6. Similar to you, I have been getting a lot of stiffness and pain in my right trap and the shoulder blades. Surgeon said it could be muscle spasms as things heal but I am wondering if it is because my other levels had issues. Like above when I work out and especially swim it feels great. but after it starts up and goes all the way down into my fingers.

    Has anyone else had this and does it eventually go away?
  • Bruce EitmanBruce Eitman Akron, OH, USAPosts: 1,437

    For me, the shoulder blade pain was the start of my problems.  It hung on after my C5-7 ACDF.  I gave it a year and a half to get better, but it didn't.  So I asked my primary care physician for help.  He sent me to a sports medicine doctor to help track down the source of the pain.  In the end we discovered that I had stenosis at C4-5 and that C6-7 while fused wasn't quite right.

    I then had a second ADCF at C4-5 and redid C6-7 and after 8 months (over 3 years from when it started) the shoulder blade pain is almost gone. So, which disc was the problem?  I don't know, but one of them.

    Ask your Doctor about muscle relaxers to help with the muscle spasms, which I think are the real reason for the pain.  If that doesn't help, then I would start too look at the other discs.

    Spine-health Moderator

    Read my story at Bruce - My Story
    ACDF C4-C5-C6-C7, and getting better every day
    It has been a process of healing, learning, exercising, and resting - and figuring out when to do which.

  • mikebf53mmikebf53 FloridaPosts: 19
    Thank you Bruce. When I went for my follow up at 2 weeks and 6 weeks, they said it was muscle spams. I asked the neurosurgeon about my c4-5 and c6-7 which he said has some minor spurring and little stenosis, but he said when he was in, those looked ok. So after 5 months I am hoping it's just the muscles as hard to believe the other levels got bad so quickly and it's  from the healing as not sure I could do another surgery unless had to. Plus in all honesty I'll be pissed he didn't fix those when he was in the first time.

    I do take muscle relaxer, flexeril, but really knocks me out.

    Thanks again
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