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New cervical problems and I am scared

spunky21sspunky21 Posts: 161
edited 06/11/2012 - 7:47 AM in Neck Pain: Cervical
Hi all. I believe you can read my list of problems under my name. (I just updated this the other day so not sure if I did it correctly).
Anyway, I sustained two injuries at work one was 08-06 and the other was 11-07. I fell, hit my head front first then flew back and hit the back. Fell very hard to the floor on tailbone then over on rt. shoulder. Was knocked out for a short time. CEO said she filed proper WC paperwork but turned out all she filed was an injury report. Now in the legal system. Just a short explanation of how I was injured.
In March 2008 I had a ACDF C5-6, C6-7. My rt. vocal cord was paralysed during surgery and after that seemed as though neurosurgeon wanted nothing more to do with me. I tried to return to work as my husband is disabled with a bad heart condition. I only lasted two hours for two days. I could barely walk, was falling down and of course could not speak. Although I was a VP for financial inst. and had a sitting position I could not sit for more than a few minutes and could not stand either. My dr.'s would not allow me to return after 29yrs 11 mos and 26 days. I was heartbroken to say the least. I asked the CEO and Bd of Dir. to please continue my ins which would have been a benefit after 30 yrs but they turned me down. This was after they found out a WC claim had been filed. We lost our home and have since had to move from MI to FL. Okay on to the questions I intended to post. After seeing several neurologists both in MI and FL. Having MRI's and EMG's my cervical fusion is considered failed. Yet I had minimum ins. I had to purchase so I could not really get any treatment for the 2 yr period it takes to get on Medicare. We also purchased additional ins but with co-pays and deductibles so far I have been able to have physical, occupational and speech therapy. They all stopped as I was not making enough improvement so ins. co won't cover you unless significant progress is made. My only treatment plan has been pain medication from Neurologist at this point besides all the therapy.
I am so sorry this has turned into such a long post but trying to explain situation.
In the last few weeks I have noticed alot of increased pain below the fusion site level. One of my emg's did show a problem (nerve root damage at C8) My left arm is numb from the neck to fingertips. I have pain, tingling, shock like pain which is always present. The right side of my body is beginning to be very painful with numbness and pain radiating down my rt. arms to fingertips and both hands go complete numb all the time. It seems as though my neck has shrunk down into my shoulders and my whole neck and head seems to extend forward. Lifting my head upward makes it feel very unstable. I told my husband it feels as though my head is going to fall off or that if I still had a collar it would feel more stable. My spine seems to bow at under the surgical area and the pain and muscle spasms are horrendous. I have never had an issue with the thorasic area just cervical and lumbar but it seems as though the pain as extended downward. Has any of this ever happened to anyone after having a cervical fusion? I feel like lifting my head is a chore and prior to these new symptoms I have very little mobility in my neck from the fusion. Now it seems like my neck is down and its hard to lift up. I am really scared that something is wrong and I am so tired of being poked and prodded. Any suggestions or advice would be so greatly appreciated. I know additional MRI's are probably necessary. But I just really need some help from anyone who may have gone through something similar. Hoping it is nothing but you know how we all know our bodies? Well I think that is why I am so scared something just doesn't feel right.


  • Jan,

    Was your original injury paid for by work comp? If a report of injury was filed in the proper amount of time work comp should be paying for all of your treatments. While they may never have filled with the state, that doesn't mean anything. Because they failed to file the work injury in a timely manner, it is not your issue. But if the report of injury was filed then it is still work comp. Whom paid for your first surgery and the treatments?

    As far as the paralyzed vocal cord, I did all the voice therapy and like you didn't get much back, but I did gain some what louder of a voice. In the end I ended up using botox and I am surprised at this point and time no one has offered it up to you. The botox goes into the cord to make it plump up to push them closer together. I am not sure what they explained to you but your condition means the cords don't hit so they can't vibrate to make the sound, hence the reason you push all air. In the beginning I ended up some how being able to use my false cords which over powered my vocal cords. Here is the bad thing, till your voice issues get better if you have more neck issues there isn't any surgeon whom is going to operate. The dangers for a surgery using general anesthia are so high. Have you been scope and video recorded with your cords? What types of therapy have they tried so far? Have you tried any type of inhaled steroids?

    I am confused on the failed fusion? I think we may have had this conversation before. But your fusion area fused correct? You are suffering from failed neck surgery syndrome but not a failed fusion? Meaning the surgery failed to relieve your symptoms, but you fused?

    If a emg study showed issues with the C8 nerve root, then it sounds like you have issues at another level, that need to be looked at. When was your last set of MRI's. Being that you were injured at work, the other level should be related to your original work comp injury. Your going on SSDI was it a direct result of your neck fusion surgery. As far as not being able to stand up and walk, what has anyone said is causing the issues for your legs? Have you ever had a lumbar MRI?

    As far as cervical issues causing thoracic issues, I am going to bet that way you are holding your head has a lot to do with the way you are holding your head and the pressure it is placing on the thoracic spine. But you need to get checked out by a doctor and come up with a game plan as to what is going on. First and foremost would be to deal with the vocal cord issues. Is their any position you lay in that makes your voice any better?

    Do you have all the copies of all your medical records sense you have moved states? I wouldn't just put a cervical collar on without a doctor prescribing it, it will only further weaken your neck muscles? Which sounds to me you can't afford. When was the last round of physical therapy you attended? I like to tell people don't just settle for a C when you can get a A in your health care.
  • MetalneckMetalneck The Island of Misfit toysPosts: 1,786
    So sorry that we have to meet on these terms. I can relate to your physical condition. Regards,

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  • *HUGZ* So sorry you are in this predicament. I know you're scared - I can "feel" it from your post. Tamtam seemed to hit all the main parts, so I can only add my experience with the land of betraying necks!

    I lost lordosis (curve) some 20 years ago - was told probably from flying helicopters, wearing helmets and night vision goggles. I herniated onto the cord at the C5/6 level - fusion within weeks when that was discovered. A year and a month later, I yawned, and C6/7 went. Fearing permanent damage due to how fast and severe the symptoms were (pain, numb, weakness), C6/7 was added to the mix. Week 7 post op, much of the symptoms returned, at week 8 another MRI was taken. Due to swelling still in there from surgery, not much was revealed.

    Month 6, more symptoms, but more so related the C5/6 - x-rays showed the vertebra (C6) cracked right between the two fusions. Told to wait to see if it heals on its own. 1 year mark, crack still there, NS pretty much washes his hands of me, as "his" hardware (see my avatar) couldn't have caused it. Before he dumped me, I expressed that I had lost much of my ulnar response in the right arm, and intermittent in my left. Had and NVC/EMG done for legs, spine and arms. It was deemed Neuropathy in the right arm and both legs! The Neurologist that conducted the test told me, neuropathy or not, the C7/8 was now going.

    Frustrated with my NS, I decided to start from the beginning and get all the tests redone, and a new Neurologist, and then NS. I know all of this is driving you bonkers Jan, that just shows you are normal. As to head weight, with me I find that I arch my head back when I type, and that adds to spasms and pain at the base of my neck and out to my shoulders. Any chance that for now you can get a soft collar (or hard) to give your neck a break once in a while? I am sending you positive energy that something good heads your way such that you can get the tests done to find out what is going on. *HUGZ*

    PCTF C4 - T2, Laminectomies C5, C6 & C7. Severe Palsy left arm/hand.
  • I appreciate all your comments. TamTam mine is a confusing one for sure. No WC has not paid a dime that is why it is in litigation. Yes an injury report was filed but I should have been taken right away to an emergency facility. Did not happen. The day of injury was very confusing for me and I should have demanded more. I know this is stupid but being the VP I was not allowed to rock the boat. Anyway when I did go for tests they would not let me have them said I needed to see someone else.(I am sorry the wording slips my mind) but all my exams tests and anything done was paid for by my insurance through work. Should have been WC but was not. If I win the case it is possible monies will have to be paid back to several places. The system is so backlogged in MI it is taking years before cases are finalized.
    As for my vocal cords I have been scoped by an ent and also had another test where the put you on a table give you a little of this yucky liquid and move the table about to watch how it goes down. Not a fun test. Not painful just uncomfortable. Alot of choking. My speech therapy was very recent about 3 weeks ago. She was wonderful. Not only did she help with strengthening exercises which I do daily she gave me many breathing exercises. We were making alot of progress however if we continued as she was with me the longest it is possible medicare could start rejecting the claims without notice. I was getting to a point where I could make my voice actually come out somewhat. The only other thing was my ent in MI offered to put Teflon on the vocal cord to build it up. My husband and I researched and my PCP also stated might not be in my best interest to go this way. I can whisper, some days are better than others but within a minute or so voice is gone. As far as actually fusing you may be correct perhaps I fused but have failed neck surgery fusing. When the neurologist dismissed me I was not fused yet. Perhaps I have not been as proactive in my problems as I should be. Alot of it has been due to financial issues. It sounds like I don't even know what is going on with my own body. Once we lost our home and had to move it was a stressful time. My husband who is also disabled as I said had to do everything. So we have been in FL one year and it seems like we are running to drs constantly although it has been for other things. We just now after one yr found a good PCP. Hubby found a cardiologist and an endocrinologist. I found a good neurologist but due to ins up until May this yr nothing could be done as my ins did not cover tests. I began therapy which was everyday in home for many weeks. Then developed infection 3 teeth extractions. And now two ear infections. No excuses but I just don't have it in me to do more. However with my next appt in Nov. with Neurologist I will address these issues and ask for a new set of MRI's. If it gets worse I will move my appt. up. Do any of you feel so overwhelmed by running to dr.'s all the time? That is the only times I have really gotten out since we moved? It is very difficult for me to get about. My dr. rx'd a wheelchair but for my husband to lift it into the car is difficult for him and I worry about his heart condition. It sounds to me that I have to get the MRI's and go from there which is what I will do to see where I am at right now and if I have new problems. I guess when it comes down to it I am under alot of stress and our medical bills are huge. My husband is on 19 different meds for all of his conditions and I will admit I don't put myself first. I feel my condition is one of pain but his is life threatening so to me he comes first when its a matter of finances and medical issues. Sorry for the long post and rambling. Trying to answer your questions as best as I can. Thank you all so much for caring enough to post and give me lots of food for thought. I think as Brenda stated now that I have moved I am going to start all over again.
  • My initial failing of my C5/6 was work related, but I elected to use my insurance, as I couldn't chance delays and permanent damage. I still am glad I did that, as we had an employee with the same insurance go the OWCP route, and now he has had 3 surgeries in the same location, and may lose use of his right arm and shoulder. Bummer...

    Vocal cords. At the 5 month post op mark, I started losing my voice daily, and too couldn't pronounce certain vowels, letters would skip, singing was gone, and by mid day, many times I was at a whisper. We had a renowned Neurosurgeon come to our location to talk of the neurological issues involved with traumatic injury (impact, gunshot). I had a question for him, he called on me and "what voice?"

    He was too far away from me to see I had any surgeries on my spine. His first question back to me was "did you have any surgery on your neck?" I looked at him and squeaked out yes "5 months ago". "When did the voice problems start?" "3 weeks ago", "Does it hurt?" "No".. "Please get with me after this presentation."

    We got together, and he had me say some phrases along with some "eezzzz's and aaaahhhs" and told me it sounded like I had a paralyzed cord! I almost lost it. But then I said to him, why would it take 5 months to manifest. He didn't have an answer except to say "maybe scar tissue." I went to a well respected ENT locally, and initially he thought too it was paralyzed. He scoped me, checked my throat, eeeezzzzzz's and aaaahhhhs. Then he had me move my head fore and aft, side to side with more eeezzzz and aaahhhhs.. He then said the cord isn't paralyzed, but badly irritated and swollen! He could see them moving as he moved my head, and moved my trachea.

    He felt my hardware was moving, irritating the cords. I then showed him my x-rays with the cracked vertebra, and he said that was what is causing it. Gave me steroids to try for a week (they did help, but short term), and told me to go back to my NS. My NS discounted the crack as "moving" and pretty much sent me on my way - another reason *I* am starting over. If I have my head leaned forward, or to the left, voice gets really bad. If I talk more than 30 minutes or so, position doesn't matter. It also has a choke spot in it, and when I hit it, I feel like I am being choked, and cough my head off! Have you had that, and too issues with liquids?

    Honestly Jan, I never gave the function of vocal cords a second thought until all this came up! That's a pretty important organ, and not just for speaking!!! I hope your treatments help. Until my crack heals, or they fix it, I am stuck with it! Please let us know how it goes. *HUG*

    PCTF C4 - T2, Laminectomies C5, C6 & C7. Severe Palsy left arm/hand.
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  • Brenda,
    my problems were began the day of surgery. Obviously with an ACDF you are going to have problems I was well aware of that. The neurosurg. kept saying give it a little longer. PM dr said give it a little longer. Phone consult with neuro said it could take a year. I never spoke since the surgery just a whisper. It has now been two years and ent confirmed rt. vocal cord paralysed along with dyphasia which I believe is choking and problems swallowing. We have had some real scares as I can choke on anything. Not to be gross but I choke on my own spit. I have learned on my own and through therapy to chew food a long time. Dinner takes almost two hrs to eat. I have problems when I sleep as drainage makes me choke and I wake up as I cannot breathe properly.
    I too did all the eee's and aaahs for ENT while being scoped. I agree about liquid really being a problem. Also the whole vocal cord thing is so bothersome. Mine does not hurt but if I have company and I use my voice too much even though it is just a whisper it is very straining and it can hurt after that. I don't know yet what I am going to do for now I have so many issues I just have to take one thing at a time and one day at a time.
    In your situation I am surprised your problems did not show up right away. That is kind of odd. Sounds like we are in the same boat except I do not know if my hardware is causing any problems. Perhaps that should be checked too.
    Thanks for the post Brenda,
  • Gross me out? lol, not in this lifetime! You just made me feel "normal" for crappy vocal cords! I have that ALL the time! One thing I find helps, is Dentyne gum of all things! Something about the Spearmint or Peppermint makes the "sticky/chokie" back off! If I sleep flat, or on my right side, I have been known to wake up with choke outs! I also blow my nose a lot to keep phlegm at a minimum!

    We too have had scares with my choke outs. We were out to dinner a few weeks ago, I had just had a bite of steak (and like you, I've learned to chew it to little bits), swallowed, took a sip of beer and started choking so bad they almost called 911! See my cords (both of them) swell in a bow shape (as my ENT described it), and they connect in the middle, but not the ends, so air, food, liquids easily slip past!

    I asked too why mine took so long to go bad. After I showed him my 6 week x-ray (which no fusing yet, but no crack) and the 6 month (little fusion, crack), he told me that "3 weeks ago when these symptoms started, that is probably when the stress fracture occurred!" I still choke out daily, and like you, sinus drain/spit if you will - constant! Now for a full picture too, I smoke. He acknowledged that smoking isn't helping the situation, but that this *is* due to changes continuously in my neck from the hardware moving - most likely due to the crack.

    From what I am seeing, the only real difference symptomatology wise between us is your cord is paralyzed, so your voice isn't coming up with any regularity, where as mine changes constantly due to swelling so at times I too, go to a whisper - I also (except for choking) don't have much pain with it. If I move my trachea *just right* I can cause a choke out! Try that...see if you can invoke it. I hope you can get it figured out. *HUGZ*


    PCTF C4 - T2, Laminectomies C5, C6 & C7. Severe Palsy left arm/hand.
  • Having a paralyzed vocal cord is not a joking matter at all. I woke from surgery and it was gone. The struggles to get through everyday life can become quit difficult. The first place to start is with a qualified Ent, and voice therapy. I think the test you are describing is the swallow test with drinking something. That test gives a good idea if something is in the way. I had that test done after my 4th surgery from bridging two plates together and the plate was into the esophagus and causing swallowing issues. Brenda in your case it is a test that needs to be done. Also to determine a paralyzed cord you have to be scoped to find it. Otherwise a more serious condition could be going on and and them thinking it is a paralyzed cord.

    Jan, you need to go back to the voice therapy under medicare as long as you are making progress they will continue with the treatments. You can apply for assistance on low income to get the remaining 20% paid if your having issues making the payments. But I also encourage anyone on medicare to get a supplemental policy. The fact that you were making progress is a good sign. But a good voice therapist can video your cords as you speak, which is not just the standard scoping.

    What condition did your doctor prescribe a wheel chair for? Wheel chairs are a serious issue for me and something I would never take lightly at all. What types of leg bracing have you tried? A few weeks back I was told to use my legs while I had them. That answer didn't sit well with me, so I went and got another opinion, and will follow the treatment options that have been given to me.

    I understand it gets tiresome going back and forth to doctors, but after all it is your health. The one thing I don't want to find out is damaged could have been stopped if I had of went to a doctor for help. So if your primary care doctor is not going to help you and order some new films then I would keep going till someone is going to help me or find the answers to the problems. But I think you need to know if your fused or not, for one? Then secondly you need to address what is making your legs so weak, that you need a wheel chair. Putting a neck brace on will only mask the issues and weakening the muscles in the cervical spine more. If your fused and another level hasn't blown, then they need to get you into a good physical therapy program to increase your strength. AS the muscles atrophy in your body with no movement, it will only make it that much worse to get them back. Are you not driving any longer? If not what is the reasoning behind not driving?

    I might sound a bit rough but it is because you only get one spine and if you don't get the proper treatments now some of the damage may not be able to be undone. AS muscles atrophy it takes them longer to come back as we age. I know for myself it is a daily mission to do the stretching and the home therapy program I have. I know for myself we are getting ready to put me back in a aqua program and see what we can do. While I am still in a neck brace from the 6th cervical surgery the aqua program I need now for some leg issues as they are atrophying more. While it may set off another issue with my bladder, I can control that with self cathing. But I need to keep my legs in working order.

    So you need to keep pushing. From my own experiences I can tell you there is nothing worse than litigation hanging over your head, but you can't worry about that as the chips will fall where they are going to fall. But your most important issue is to keep your health up.
  • Tamtam,

    Great post, got lots out of it! :) If you see my post in here (#5), I did go to an ENT, and he did extensive exam via (choke) scope. I also had the swallow test in two forms. The first a few weeks after this initial assessment, then a week later (after being on steroids for a week) to see if there was a change - there was. Better on the steroids for me - but I have no interest in being on that nasty stuff 24/7. His diagnosis was 'movement of hardware is evident, and as such causing chronic irritation to Mrs. B*** vocal cords." There is a bunch of stuff after that as to "what I presented" with upon exam.

    Hopefully I will have a "game plan" here shortly for my neck. For now my next ENT visit is going to be to address fixing my deviated septum. As he put is "That's one hell of a deviated septum you have there!" Thanks bad guys! (G) Tamtam, Jan my worry now is *are* my cords >that< much more at risk if they have to revise this mess, and too add C7/8? Argh!

    Jan, not sure if you mentioned this? Did they try Botox on your cords? I asked about it for me, and he said it wouldn't help "given" my situation. Is it an option for you? *HUGZ* We're here for ya!!

    PCTF C4 - T2, Laminectomies C5, C6 & C7. Severe Palsy left arm/hand.
  • :))) So sorry to hear about all your problems. We are very lucky here in the UK as we get all our operations, treatment etc paid for by the NHS i.e. our Government pays. I am very recently out of hospital after ACDF 4/5/6 and am still experiencing swallowing problems coupled with severe shoulder and neck pain but my physio visited yesterday and is coming back in a few days to massage my neck and shoulders which she assures me will help to get rid of the muscle spasms. It is almost impossible to shave due to the incision on the neck. Sleeping is now a lot better since I made myself a 'butterfly' pillow. It is going to be a long uphill battle. Sorry I am not out in the USA to give you and your husband a helping hand. Very best of luck to you.
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