Continued pain and other problems after Anterior Cervical Fusion
I have had three surgeries on my cervical spine, with fusions on c4/c5/c6/c7 with plates on c4/c5 and c6/c7. The last surgery involving c4/c5 gave me the greatest relief but was short lived. Within 6 months of the surgery I started experiencing severe headaches which seem to come from the pain in my back which would move to my neck and then would cause me to have a severe migraine type of headache which my migraine medicine Zomig does bring some relief. The problem is I am at the point now almost two years later with pain that involves both arms, mostly the left, pain and severe tightness in my neck and shoulders which is causing headaches that last 3-5 days. Muscle/nerve spasms which at time contract all the fingers on my left hand and radiate all the way up my arm. Strange pains that start in my hand and terminate in my jaw area and spiking pain that radiates up the back of my neck and feel like they are coming out the top of my head. The Zomig works most of the time, but am a bit concerned with the amount I am having to take and the problem never goes away. I am unable to hold anything that has any weight to it in my arms and it is terribly painful to do any work with my arms at or above my shoulders. My throat is so tight at times it is hard to talk and causes some swallowing difficulties. My arms feel like dead weights. I have permanent numbness in my neck from about the middle front, extending to below both ears and into my lower jaw. The numbness appears to be mostly on the outside although it does appear to be affecting some of my teeth. I did undergo physical therapy recently for several months and had some relief from massage therapy, but was only a bandaid which needed constant attention. The therapist says my muscles and nerves are not communicating, not on the same page which is causing the extreme pain, spasams, and discomfort. Since I was not improving the PT had to end. Some of the PT stretches seemed to cause a bit of TMJ, which the therapist noted and stopped some of the stretches. I feel whatever is going on is also affecting my breathing as I find myself gasping at times for no reason; during sleep or relaxing and at times have brief sensations of being dizzy, like being in an earthquake, everything else is moving, but me. I am confusedas t why the surgeries have not been as successful as we had hoped and could use some guidance if there is any available on how to get better.
I'm so sorry to read that your having so much pain following your neck surgeries. Unfortunately, I don't think this is so uncommon. I too have had excruciating neck, shoulder, upper back pain since I was fused at C6/C7. I have many of the same symptoms as you do - numbness, tingling, weakness in the extremities, etc. All of these came AFTER the surgeries. I had no pain prior to them.
From what I've read, when a disk is removed and/or fused, this will lead to instability in the disks above and below the surgery site. Since you've had so many fused, the sites above and below will eventually also cause problems. My first MRIs, prior to the surgeries, showed only one disk herniation (C6/C7) and some spondylosis at other levels. My most current MRI showed three additional herniations and much more spondylosis - especially in the foramin. I am at a loss to explain the new herniations.
I've talked to so many people who now experience debilitating pain after either cervical or lumbar surgery. The real problem is that we get referred back to neurosurgeons who only think about surgery - that's their job. I can't tell you what to do next. Your case is so complicated. There has to be a muscle relaxant that will loosen the muscles around the neck to relieve some of the pressure. Also, a pain doctor can use injections to ablate (kill) the nerves that are causing the most problems.
I wouldn't be suprised if you have more disks and cervical bone injuries than you had before. It's the nature of surgery. I guess the only thing I can suggest is a visit to a pain doctor who can use his bag of tricks to relieve your pain. A friend of mine goes to accupuncture and gets some relief. The accupuncturist puts needles into the sites that stimulate endorphine production. This has helped her with pain.
Take care, Mare. I wish you the best of luck in resolving your pain. let me know how everything is going.
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