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Hi, I had an Anterior Cervical Discectomy and Fushion Surgery with auto/cage/plate 2 weeks ago at c6,c7. I started having severe pain in my shoulder blades and all along my upper back one week ago and it's not going away. I no longer have the pain at the base of my neck and down my arm since the surgery, but when I asked my surgeon about the new pain in and between my shoulder blades, he said he had never heard of anyone having that problem following this surgery. It feels like it's nerve ending pain. Has anyone else experienced this and if so what do you do for it? Pain pills are not helping at all. I have been using moist heat and that does help some. I do have fibromyalgia, polyarthritis, sjogrens syndrome and degenerative disc disease. I had a lower lumbar fushion surgery at 3 levels in 2008 and then was in a rear-end auto collision 9 months after that which caused problems in my shoulder and neck. I had shoulder surgery in Jan 2009 and that was a complete success. Then after a year of conservative treatment, I had to have the neck surgery because I had 2 bulging discs that were pressing against my spine and causing unbearable pain. My surgeon is an excellent one and has done over 10,000 spine surgeries, so naturally I am worried when he says he has never heard of this following an ACDF. I'm 47 and have 3 kids and I'm in need of hope! Thanks in advance for your help and advice. Charlotte :)


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Life is what happens while your busy making other plans-John Lennon

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Sorry to inform your doctor I'm one of the people that's had ACDF and share the pain at the base of my neck and between my shoulder blades.
I'm post op 4 yrs and it has never went away. I have found that lying down, taking the stress of my neck and shoulders does temporarely relieve it though. You might give it a try.
Best of luck to you.
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Oh how I feel your pain! My doctor warned me off the muscle spasm that were to come before the surgery and they kicked in with a vengeance. My surgery was last Dec '08 and I have to take medication for the spasms. Now the spasm go down my back and after a two day hospital stay to rule out a heart attack, I find out that they are now traveling from my shoulders to the front of my chest.
Test after test...still no answers for the multitude of issues since the 3level ACDF. It seems that most doctors just don't want to get involved. I use the other drugs sparingly, the long term side effects are concerning and just plain scary.....but the muscle spasm meds are a must. Tizanadine is now my friend. Just hope it is not a life long one.

Good Luck to You.
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Hi Charlotte,

I had my ACDF level 5/6 done October 15, 2009 and I am experiencing the same pain as you. I start to do things around the house, and the pain in between my shoulder stops me in my tracks. When I eat anytime at the table my pain comes too. I use cold packs alot.
I haven't asked my doctor about it yet. But, when you said your pain started after your surgery in your shoulders, mind did too. The nurse at the doctor office said it could from the stretching affect of the spine with new disk. I hope this will go away soon. Nerve pain is good example of the pain. Can Anyone out there can help us?

Good luck.


Toni
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Twin 2854-

You are still recovering from your surgery so hopefully what I'm about to say is not your case (I hope!).
I had surgery in 2005 and have suffered from the pain you are describing since.
I have been to numerous doctors, had numerous MRI's, EMG's and any other test you can think of with no diagnosis except Fibromyalgia.
Nothing and I mean nothing entirely gets rid of my pain. Some days aren't too bad. Some days are hell!
Just wanted to give you some input. I know not everyone is the same and I'm not a doctor but I have been through it all trying to find a reason for this pain. Quite simply the only reason is I had the surgery and this is the after effect.
I had to quit my job of thirty years because of this. Now I spend my days around the house doing the most I can. When the pain gets severe I have to stop and rest. It's very frustrating but I've learned this is my "new life" at 49 and deal with it.
For some people I've heard Physical Therapy has helped (three times for me and it did not) but it is definitely worth a try since you are so fresh from surgey.
I wish you all the luck.
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KariB-

Thanks for your reply! It does help with my recovery. My shoulder pain is little today, believe it nor not! I was at a church function today for a little over three hours and feel better. Maybe, all these bishops and priest had something to do with it!!!!!! Well, anyway, pain is better. Thanks again for your support.

Toni :-)
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I had my Fusion Dec.14th 2010. C4 thru C7. This week I went back to work on light duty and the pain between my shoulder blades started. Today the physical therapist told me a possible cause was
that the head is no longer pivoting the way it used to. With this new Folcrum Point the muscles
are having to do more/different work to hold and move the head. He likend it to a brick wall tumbling forward and the back muscles are holding it up.

Our goal will be to strenghten these muscles to the point they are no longer under strain. I sure hope it works. As I do this therapy, I'm to make sure I maintain good posture, with my head back.

I don't know if that helps anyone, but I hope it helps me, as this pain is not any kind of fun, and I'm not yet 40.
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I had the same surgery except they removed my C5=C6. I"m having throbbing pain along my left trap. It started 2 weeks after the surgery and has only gotten worse. It's now 5 weeks since surgery. I was a big athlete prior so I'm in great shape. My doctor give me no indication of anythng. Everything to him is normal aches and pains of surgery, but he's full of sh*t. I know my body and something is either impinging or causing this muscle inflammation. It's progressively getting worse. I was off pain pills 3 days after surgery and now I'm back on over 4 weeks later over this muscle cramping.

I think if your pain persists it's something to look into. The problem is that if something is wrong, then the damage is done. Only a MRI will show exactly what's going on.
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Yes I agree it should pain should be looked into but sometimes there just is not an answer.
After C-5,C-6 replacement in 2005 (yes you read it right!) I have not recovered from the type of pain you are describing.
I have had numerous MRI's, EMG's, the list goes on and on without any findings. Numerous doctors finally gave up on a diagnosis and decided to give it the name Fibromyalgia. Funny I developed it after surgery!
I do however personally know people that have had the same type of surgery, suffered the same type of pain, and had to endure another surgery. Needless to say it might have helped their spianl problems but they are still in agony like us.
Keep us updated on your progress and findings. I'm still not ready to give up hope for a cure.
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Hi everyone,
I had a 5/6 fusion surgery done in October 15, 2009, my therapy has started and I am almost pain free!! I still have some pain in my traps but most of it is gone. I feel so much better now. The alignment of the neck theory is probably right. Lots of exercise to improve your strengh around your spine and neck are very necessary. My therapist is doing a great job in building my strengh. Time has improve my neck. Lots of rest. Lots of ice packs at night. The only problem that I seem to experience with my surgery was, when I lean over, my neck felt so so heavy. But now, it no big deal. Hope this helps.

Toni
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I had surgery on C4-C6 in April 2008 and I have the same pain as all of you describe. I woke up in recovery complaining of the pain between my shoulders and in my shoulders. Dr said it was positional, the way I was on the operating table, and it would go away. Well 2 years later and lots of PT it has not gone away. It is actually worse, as now it goes down my rt AND left arm. I have been to shoulder dr, pain mgmt dr, neurologist and back to my surgeon. I have had 4 MRI, an EMG, spinal block shots, and many other tests. I have never recovered and can not do anything for an extended period of time. I can't even clean my house without being laid up for a couple of days. I have trouble sleeping at nite because I can not get comfortable and wake up with both arms numb several times during the night.
If I had known all of this I would have NEVER had the surgery to fix my neck, which by the way is much better.
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I had my C6 C7 Surgery and fusion Jan 14th of this year.. I actually began having pain between or on my sholder blades prior to the surgery and had thought that this was just a pre-curser symptom to the severe arm paid we all probably dealt with. Since surgery I have felt so much better (no more neck or arm pain), but I still have occasional sholder blade pain. I brought this up with my DR. during my 10-day post Op visit and he indicated that he recently attended a symposium on this type of surgery and that shoulder blade pain is one of the most common "side effects" along with difficulty swallowing. He told me that this should go away after time, but after reading some of the posts, I'm a little less confident that will be the case..
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Just wanted to give some comments here after reading these posts.. I just had my yr's follow up visit with my surgeon and at first thought all was well (had an ACDF at C5-6 with donor graft and plate/screws on 3/9/09 and have been working with an excellent PT who specializes in post cervical fusions since early May '09) He had initially commented that the fusion on xray didn't look as dark as he'd like but not bad but as we talked and he learned of the pain I'm having between my shoulder blades (as well as traps etc.) he went back to the xray and with his PA measured several areas then turned and said that unfortunately it seems that my fusion has not been a complete success (despite a 93% success rate ;( ) and that I may very well need to have him go back in and redo the whole thing using a protein that massively increases the likelihood of a successful fusion that insurance will not pay for the first go round- only after a failed attempt!!! grrrr- it's very very expensive evidently... my surgeon was however able to give me a nice curve back to my neck on extension as it was completely straight vertical prior and was able to shave off bone spurs that were close to 'kissing' each other... all reasons I was not a candidate for a disc replacement at that particular level...
ANYway, the point I wanted to make is that the only reason he even looked further was due to the symptoms I was telling him about between my shoulder blades. He told me that it's a VERY clear indication of the failed fusion when you have pain in that area... I am rather disgusted though not surprised to hear your surgeon did not know why you'd have pain there. I am a nurse (a neuro one to boot) and did a TON of research to find my surgeon and I trust him with my life (obviously! :-) and feel confident in what he tells me. (it's a phenomenal practice near DC and we travel to see him) We decided to wait a little more than 3 mos to try accupuncture for the pain and to make sure it's not just from spasms due to the therapy that has been focused on strengthening that exact area that according to my PT is very weak and unstable and may have been the cause of the neck problem to start with. I've had back pain/problems since around '03 now and ended up being diagnosed with Fibromyalgia in '04 despite having a herniated disc at that exact level even back then and bulging discs in my lumbar spine... I told EVERYone that I knew my back was the source of my pain but they somehow convinced me that it was Fibro.
Well after being on TONS of meds for like 4 yrs and gaining over 70lbs despite working out and dieting religiously I was fed up and took myself off ALL my meds and saw a doc in CA whom I paid out of pocket for alternative therapy. No real success there but two good things happened... I found out how BAD my neck was hurting (like I'd nearly pass out if I coughed etc.) and was able to get a full back MRI out of that doctor since I paid for his services for a year... so ultimately I diagnosed myself and once I saw that scan and took it to a surgeon I trusted I was told I had two choices- have fibromyalgia or have it in a wheelchair!
SOOOO my point to this LONG :-) post is that you have to educate yourself and you have to trust your gut! Don't listen to ONE doctor if you feel at all you are not getting answers that make sense to you or if you are 'blown off' or if you are not getting better!!! I hate to be the one to say it but doctors are like the rest of us- there are great ones and there are ones I wouldn't let touch my cat! Same as any field, but unfortunately we as a society have been taught to trust them emphatically. Don't. NO ONE will care for your health as much as you do (and your loved ones) so if something either doesn't sound right or your body is screaming at you that things aren't right then keep looking, keep asking- who CARES if they think you are a pain- it CAN"T be as bad as the pain we deal with every day ALL day. I do feel for you all and pray that you find a solution to your pain- believe me I KNOW what it does to you. I'm praying that things work out for me and I am still completely happy I did the surgery to begin with- best move I made! My pain overall is MUCH improved and I know that I do have Fibro and that complicates things but I am hoping I can get off my Fentanyl patch again and stave off the pain in my low back with anti-imflammatories (which my surgeon couldn't believe I wasn't on! and which finally gave me tons of relief- WELL after my surgery of course!!!) and steroid caudal epidurals prn, long enough to let them get disc replacements for the lumbar spine approved by the FDA!!! My surgeon's part of the trials but I know we are a ways from that point. I swore that I would NEVER have back surgery after seeing all the failed ones come thru my unit etc. and knowing there is an actual diagnosis of failed back surgery due to SO many.... but never say never.
Best thing I did- I had progressed from numbness and tingling in my hands to having a serious decrease in my arm strength... but NO one believed me!!! LISTEN TO YOUR BODY!! :-)
hang tough- thanks for your posts and for reading mine- hope I am able to help even one person!
ps- my PT and my surgeon both told me that pain between the shoulder blades is also a very common symptom of a c5-6 herniation where the cord is impinged upon as well!!! NO ONE had told me that alllll those years and thru all those docs... I had been practically screaming about the pain there for years- and I was told that I was lucky that the CONSTANT pain I had there (slightly to the right and as if I had an arrow stuck there 24/7 that would become worse with every breath- and a deep breath- forget it!!!) was gone when I awakened from the surgery.. that very often with it going as long as mine did without treatment it's permanent and that pain in that area will never go away....I'm not a doctor- just passing on what I was told....and the pain I have now is different.. so despite the worse two days I've had pain wise since my surgery I'm hoping it's all spasm due to the car ride and stress of the bad news etc. Stress is a killer! I'll try to remember to post a follow up after that visit where we determine if another surgery is unavoidable. I dunno- as positive as I am about having done it, it was hell for me with the Fibro making the post op pain much worse...
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Apparently upon much reseach of my own and the return of symptoms, it is pretty frequent to blow the disc above or below the surgery. Mine was below and after a C6-7 in may 08, Tuesday I had C7-T1. I couln't use a pillos of any type, had to lay with my head flat or have a migrain type pain from base of my neck to head. weakness returned in my hands and r leg. Then started with paralysis. They said sinc it is now anchorded on the stronger Vertebrea, should do better. They took the screws out of the bottom (C 7) and attached a extra long plate to T-1 and removed the bone impinging my spinal cord. Besides the swollowing (which is apparently fairly normal) PAin not to bad. Was scarry when I started having pain and paralysis down either my left or right side.
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Hi I had a c5-7 ACDF five weeks ago. My neurosurgeon and regular MD BOTH told me that the strain/spasms in the upper back/shoulderblade area BEFORE surgery. I was told that this is because those discs have been compressed for so long. During the surgery the spine is stretched and the new discs are inserted. This creates what he described as "severe tendonitis-like" symptoms, including muscle spasms.
I had this for the first couple of weeks after surgery. It gradually got better. The surgeon prescribed muscle relaxer for the first couple of weeks (flexeril, valium). These really helped. The thing that helped me the most, however, was a heat pack. You heat it up in the microwave and -place it in effected area. This helped relax those muscles and tendons.
It WILL get better. Listen to your body. When you start hurting you are OVERDOING. Take it slow. "This, too, shall pass".
I hope this helps.
Hang in there!
~JLC
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