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I am almost 3 weeks post ACDF for a herniated cervical disk at C6/C7 and still have frequent, extremely painful nerve pain. It starts at the base of my neck, goes across my shoulders and down the underside of my right arm (it's sometimes worse than the pain BEFORE my surgery!).

My doctor keeps reassuring me that the surgery was successful and that the pain will resolve, but I'm starting to have strong doubts and wondering if there's a complication that he's not following up on. I'm also having weakness in my right arm.

Has anyone had a similar experience and then had the pain resolve? I'm getting very depressed and would love to hear some encouraging words.

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I had this surgery in 2005. It is a painful surgery that's for sure!
I think at 3 wks you are probably still in the healing (fusion) process.
Give yourself some more time to heal, take it easy. Don't lift, strain your neck or do anything that causes too much discomfort.
My best guess is that you should probably be better in about 3 months.
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I had a triple ACDF in April (5 months ago) C4-5, 5-6 and 6-7, and have had neck and shoulder pain ever since.  I wore a bone stimulator for 2.5 months, as the surgeon said my bones were softer than he'd assumed and he wanted to make sure the screws didn't come loose.   After xrays, he felt that it worked and I didn't need it anymore.  I'm real close to being sorry that I had the surgery done, after putting it off for over 4 years.  Think long and hard about it before undergoing that surgery.  :|
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Hey Everyone! I am new to this forum and I have to say its a great resource to speak with others going through similar problems. I am a 37 year old male going in for a c5.6.7 acdf on this upcoming tuesday. I have to say I have so many emotions running through my head. This has been going on since april which may seem relatively short for some but the pain has been awful. I like others have numbness and loss of strength in my left arm, a couple of my left hand fingers are numb also. They also stated I may have double crush which is a result of the nerves being pinched in the canal. Which basically means carpal tunnel. I am in Canada and have seen 3 different surgeons to make sure they all agree , which they do. This has greatly affected the quality of my life and I am going to follow every piece of advice the doctor gives me upon release for the greatest outcome possible. I know some have mentioned it didn't work for them and I am sorry to hear that. Has everyone done back and neck exercises post surgery?


 One question i have is they say i will be in the hospital for a total of 3-4 days with this. after my release how mobile are you and how much independence does one have. The nurse said pretty independent but I wanted to hear from people that have gone through with this. How horrible was the pain afterwards or was it not really there? Any tips or any info regarding the surgery and after would be great. I am currently loading up with natural medicines to build my immune system up and antibodies to fight off any potential infection. 

  Thanks for any and all replies and also for having me here. 
  Rob (canada)
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I had the surgery on my disc between C7/C8 in May of 2012 and still experience nerve pain and weakness in my right shoulder, arm, and half of my right hand. I have tried both occupational and massage therapies, which seemed to help with the pain. You might want to try one or both of the therapies, combined with hot or cold packs (whichever feels better to you) and Tylenol or Advil. My surgeon told me that it sometimes takes up to two years for damaged nerves to heal and regenerate. Be patient and do what you can to relieve the symptoms. Good luck to you!
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Let me say...C1-C2 fused naturally @ birth being a breach birth. @ 38 I had C4-C5, C5-C6, C6-C7 all fused and a plate installed. @ 8 Yrs i had a screw come loose and need the plate removed. Now in 9/12 Of this ur i had C3-C4 fused...i had blown that disc, compressed my nerve severely. My first surgery was a breeze and i recovered easily...got all my functions back fast...the most recent fusion has been difficult and the road to recovery will b long and hard...If u have a great surgeon and a great physical therapist, ur recovery will be successful. Just make sure u follow the rules in recovery and dont try things ur not susposed to...its not worth it....also if u smoke u will have a very difficult time trying to fuse....smoking almost stops the bones from fusing....seen a woman @ my surgeons that after 2.5 Yrs she still wasnt fused and that was with a bone stimulator.....have also had lumbar fusions.
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10 years ago I had my first surgery c2-c3 fusion - plate - screws along with c5-c6  8 years later I had these plates removed when they tried to repair c7c8 - now I have a plate from c2 - c7 - total fusion plates screws the whole shabang. This past summer started having trouble again - bulging has now started in the T regions - I am in pain every day - have lost 95% movement and range in my neck.  If I could do it all over I am not sure if I would have started with the surgeries.  I have been told several different options by surgeons.  Some are more than ready to continue with surgery while others have told me that it just becomes a vicious cycle of repair.  Pain management and preventive therapy is what I am looking at long term now.  I am only 48 and am not to sure about long term pain management.  I sure wish that insurance would pay for massage therapy because that seems to be the only type of short term relief I have experienced so far.  This neck business really sucks - best wishes to anyone going through this.

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I am just about 3 years post op from same C6/C7 ACDF. I STILL have pain every day. Completely different pain than I had before the surgery. Numbness in the fingers of right hand and my right arm will cramp if I turn my hand/wrist a certain way. I did tons of PT with stretching before the operation and felt pretty good. However, my tricep on my right arm was getting weak because of the pressure. So I opted for the surgery. Not sure if it was the right move even 3 years later. I did post op pain center injections including botox and epidurals. Nothing has taken the pain away. The next they wanted me to do was that centrification of your own blood and $600 a session and they wanted me to do it 3 times. I don't have that kind of money so I live with the pain and use a neck massager from Brookstone. My finger is numbing as Im typing this.

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I too had a double ACDF of c4 , c5 & c5 ,c6 in 2010, I had pain going down my right arm. I recovered still had some discomfort, released went back to work at 6 months. I hurt myself lifting in 2011 now I am always in pain have not been able to enjoy my life. I can not sleep all night due to pain in my neck shoulder left arm some numbness and tingling I am restricted in doing house work, yard work, driving and sitting up. The x rays and MRI's and Physical therapist, no results or answers my left shoulder is swelled most of the time and I my pain can be awful. I have weakness in my arms also, I would like to know has ANYONE been able to return to normal life after this surgery ? I am on various pain and mus relaxers to help me thru the day and night. This surgery was good at first then I tried to return to my normal activities can not be done.

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I had surgery for the same thing 6 months ago and I am in more pain now than I was before.... My hands go through shocking modes it feels like electric shocks. My back and neck always hurts ...Going for second opinion this week cuz my doctor is full of c**p.... I know I am in pain and how much pain I am in all the time
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you are lucky your dr gives you meds mine don't give me anything and the pain is horrible
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I too am about 3 weeks post op for ACDF of C5-C6, C6-C7. I am getting very frustrated with the pain as you
mentioned. I had known for several years that I had degenerative disc disease but until last March was always
able to treat the discomfort with anti inflammatories to get relief. I feel I have been following "Dr's orders", but
perhaps "overdo" now and then. My pain changes from initially in my shoulders that would wake me up to more
muscular pain in my neck across my shoulders. Extra strength Tylenol barely touches the pain and I've read
you are not to take ibuprofen for 3 months. I feel like I take 2 steps forward and 1 back. Does anyone have
suggestions for pain relief (without Vicodin), or is this just a normal result of the surgery that takes time to
get relief. My doctor told me that this is a result of normal wear and tear (I am 64 yr old female) and said it is
very common and a highly successful type of surgery.
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How right you are!! I had ACDF on level 5 and 6 in March of 2011 I am so sorry I went ahead with this surgery. I am in more pain now then I ever was. These surgeons are so full of sh***, and there isn't a thing I can do now it's done

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Almost 6 weeks out, ACDF C6-7. Still have pain in the back of my neck that is worse now than before surgery. Was told by surgeon today that it could be another month before my pain subsides and that was it. No offer of anything for relief.. Yep I agree with Lydia49.

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Hi:

 

I am 3 weeks out from C5-6 ACDF for a right sided herniated disc. The surgery was performed at the Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston with CBC/boney fragments and no other hardware placed. 

Preop

My right hand weakness (20% grip strength) and arm shoulder and neck pain (8/10) were horrible for three weeks after the inciting event- a prolonged 3 hr dental procedure with my neck hyperextended. I complained that the position was very painful throughout the appointment to no avail. The symptoms set in 3 days after the dental procedure. By the next week, I was taking 3 Percocets, Neurontin, Soma and still had 8/10 pain. It seemed hopeless. The perispinal corticosteroid injections were worthless. What is worse, the internist didnt have the outside MRI reviewed by the hospital radiologist as they would have either seen a nasty disc or asked for another study. Notwithstanding, by week three, I went to ER and was seen by a neurosurgeon, Dr. Groff, who was spot on and professional. A new MRI was ordered. OR was booked and away things went.

Operation

Disc was hard to remove, took 4 hours in the OR for a single level disc. Spinal nerves looked frayed and inflamed per the neurosurgeon. An acute disc comes out like a rabbit out of a hat. A chronic disc like mine is much harder to remove. Had I let the pain go for another month, I am sure I wold have more more lasting nerve deficits. 

Postop

I have improving strength (75%) and diminishing pain-now down to 1-2/10. This pain is mostly at the end of the day. There is fluctuating numbness of both hands, right >left. I am on no pain meds, no muscle relaxants and take Tylenol occasionally. I think the main thing is to rest and do not lift anything, pull or push anything at all for 4 weeks. Admit yourself to a rehab facility if you can. You can certainly make yourself a lot worse, long-term by not respecting the process. Also get the best surgeon you can find and pray. Getting a recliner to sleep on and sit in is very smart. I use an Aspen collar and I love it. I was discharged with a soft collar but bought the Aspen on Amazon-feels much more secure. I left town and am convalescing with family away from my kids/work as there is too much temptation to help out which started to set me back. I have bad days like today where my hands feel a bit numb and yesterday where I felt awesome and no pain and very little hand numbness. It is funny but the numbness seems to be worse when sitting and walking.

Overall I expect that I will fully recover and will go back to work in 8-10 weeks after surgery depending on how the nerves are doing (grumpy nerves are a pain so let them heal). 

Take home message

1. Don't wait if you have weakness. If you need your hands to function perfectly like I do, stop messing around with conservative measures. Get in to see a good neurosurgeon and get an MRI. Weakness is a very bad sign. 

2. If you want to recover, you need to obedient to your body's need for rest and no weight bearing on the arms.

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