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Neck and Shoulder pain after C5-6 fusion.

A little over a year ago, I had C5-6 fused. With a plate and screws inserted. Since then I am having trouble with pain in the neck and shoulder area just below the fusion area. I wake in the morning with a headache then turns to pain in lower neck and shoulders.
I have talked to the neurosurgeon who did the surgery and he shrugged his shoulders and said I have no idea and sent me back to my neurologist. He gave me a series of injections in both shoulders and the pain stopped for a couple days but then came right back. Then we tried massage therapy, it helps but only for a short period.Then I have to go back to the massage therapist again and again, my insurance will not pay for that. And I have tried changing my pillows on my bed and sleeping in different positions and nothing seems to help for long term.
What can I do?
257 Responses
Avatar universal
roonie. i am having simular problems after a C5 to C7 fusion with a peek implant and plate. only mine swells up at and below the surgery with alot of pain. i am getting the same run around you are. its been 10 mo. since my surgery. I have had an mri and it says i am fused and ok. i am trying to check into adverse reactions to the plate and PEEK implant . i would like to stay in touch with you to see how u come out and would certainly tell you what if anything they ever find with me? thanks
Avatar universal
Yes, please keep in touch. I would love to know what is going on and I will do the same. I am going back to neuro in 2 weeks and see what else he has to say......I am not sure can we post our email addresses here?
Avatar universal
i go this week .  ill risk posting my email.. its ***@****
Avatar universal
It really bothers me to see so many cases of severe post-fusion pain. Doctors must not be explaining all the possible complications with the surgeries.

All fusion surgeries carry a risk of permanent post-op pain, and it appears that the likelihood of such pain increases as you move up the spine. Perhaps this is due to the very high density of fine nerve fibers in the head and neck region.  Part of the problem lies in the fact that to obtain access to the regions to be fused, large quantities of otherwise unrelated nerve fibers are subject to trauma as they are pulled and pinned back to clear the working field for the surgeon. Too often, the trauma to these nerve fibers is not considered significant until post-op pain doesn't subside, and by then it is too late.

Although the pain may be severe, the nerve damage is rarely, if ever, bad enough to be seen by MRI or CT scans.  Neuralgia is usually diagnosed only by ruling out other conditions, and doctors hate to point out the probability that another doctor might have caused the problem. To me, this is a case of misguided "professional courtesy", and it only serves to cause the patient unnecessary suffering.

See a pain doctor or neurologist and ask if neuralgia might be your problem. If the answer is "no", don't leave the doctor's office unless they can give a very good explanation for why neuralgia would not be worth considering (and then prepare to watch the doctor try to fish for an answer).

The reality is that any spine surgery carries the risk of ne ve damage, so any chronic post-op pain is potentially due to nerve trauma during surgery.
Avatar universal
i did know that there could be nerve damage from the surgery. the thing with me is that all of the pain i had before surgery is gone and now i have pain and swelling where they did the surgery. the pain might be expected i guess, the swelling is another matter. I dont know of any one that has swelling in the back of the neck where the surgery was done . being i am completly fused i also wonder why its so tender to lightly press on that area?
Avatar universal
I am posting this because I was fortunate enough to have cervical surgery this year that has been a complete blessing.

I had injured my neck over three years ago and lived with severe pain everyday for three years. I was told by two different neurosurgeons that fusion was my only option. WRONG!

I had Laser surgery in May of this year and I can honestly say I now have NO PAIN and NO HARDWARE!! Plus I was back at my office less than one week after the surgery. The name of the facility is Laser Spine Institute : http://laserspineinstitute.com/home.aspx
They also work on fusions gone bad. (I have never heard of a good fusion personally) The so called "Gold Standard" they told me. Fusion should only be done for severe Spondylosis to stabilize the spine in my oppinion. It is now done WAY TOO OFTEN.

I had a bulging disc at C5-C6, stenosis at C3,C4,C5 and some degeneration. I was on major pain killers everyday for over two years. I am now pain and drug free!

I told myself that I would let as many people know as I can about this procedure. I will never hurt for you to check into it and feel free to email me and ask me anything. I only wish that I had known about Laser Spine Institute three years ago. It would have saved me from going through the pure hell that I did.

Avatar universal
WOW, I did not know about the nerve damage that could be done because of the fusion itself. My Dr said nothing of this to me before the surgery. And if he had. I would never had it in the first place.
I really cannot afford any more treatments. But what can Lasar Treatment do for this now? By the end of my day my neck and shoulders hurt so bad I really want to sit down and cry. And the past few nights I cannot sleep on my left side. The pain radiates down my spine.
I put in a call today to my neurologist for an appointment and I plan on asking him about the neuralgia. I just want to see what he has to say to that. I am also going to do some research and see what can be done for neuralgia. Any one know?
Thanks Alot.....Your information has been helpful. I will be checking back to read more....
Avatar universal
I dont know what kind of pain your having  but it sounds like the pain is in the same area mine is. because of the swelling i have they are finally taking me serious, and i am goin in soon for a bone scan with contrast. i do get nerve pain down my spine but the worst pain is not nerve type pain. i hope you u keep telling us  what happens as time goes on.
Avatar universal
Hi, I called Dr today and cannot get in till the end of this Month. I have an appointment early in the day. So we shall see what he has to say. I have a list of thing as long as my arm. I also have to talk to him about my migraine meds. They are helping considerable. But my insurance co. has changed the levels of payment and now need to get them on the generic side. Hopefully they will work as well. I take Topamax to prevent the migranes. And it really helps.
  Jane, when do you go back to the Dr? I am interested to hear what is going on. When do you have that test?

Avatar universal
i go on the 27th for a spec bone scan. ill let u know when i know more .  i had an injection in my neck for the pain and swelling . they hit a vein and i almost didnt make it so i dont know if they will help or not but ill be picking out a diff doctor. ill let you know and feel free to email me to keep in touch about how we both come out. thanks
Avatar universal
I was diagnosted with a torn disc in my neck and was told I would need a discogram and fusion surgery...can you give me some more info on this laser surgery..
Avatar universal
I believe I belong on your page. I too swell up in the surgery area and get in nasty burnig pain every day. I have nerves shoot through my body when I open my mouth fast, turn my body, step hard or sneeze.
I had 2 level fussion 5/5/06. They removed bone spurs all around C3-C4-C5, freed up nerves that where compromised and straighened a verdabrea that compressed my spine. Removed the disc, fused and secured with titanium plate. All symptoms from before are gone, all of them. But since I returned to work I started hurting. I also swell up and have a nasty burn on my shoulder blades. This seems to get worse every day. I spend most of my evening pressed against the back of the couch not moving.
Moving around seems to help, losen up the muscles. Pain killers are not effective. Muscle relaxers help a bit.
The doc says the upper level has not fused all the way. The verdabrea may be moving.
Does anyone know what causes this and what to do about it ?? I will now try calcium in high dose to aid bone graft growth.

Thanks ahead for you input
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