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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 message therapy, it helps but only for a short period. 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?
246 Responses
Avatar universal
My comments are in response to Maureen's neck and Shoulder pain after C5-6 fusion.  I had a neck disectomy perform 8 months ago on C4-5, C5-6.  I also had the plate and screws inserted.  Like you, I experienced headaches, neck and shoulder pains.  Fortunately, through trial and error, I found out that my sleeping position had a lot to do with my pain.  Maureen, you mentioned changing your pillows, which I did also.  However, it depends a lot on the type of pillow you are using.  Try purchasing a Memory Foam Cool Contour Pillow (currently, on sale at Target) ... not only will you sleep much better but you will awake feeling less pain.  Also, determine which side (left or right) is your best sleeping side.  For me, it's my surgery side, which is my right side and/or flat on my back.  Hope this helps ...

God Bless,
Avatar universal
I also have neck and upper back pain after C5-6 fusion.  An Oropod did my surgery.  I eventually went to a Neuro in Rapid City, SD but it appears that there is not a problem.  I have had another MRI. No problem.  My new Neuro is doing an Intrathecal CT on Jan 3, 2007.  My guess is that he will not see anything.  The pain that I feel, generally a "burning" sensation in between my shoulder blades, along with headaches, upper neck pain, and nitetime pain in both the left and right neck is becoming debilitating.  I have not worked since August of 2006 and am starting to get desperate.  Along with this I just started (two weeks ago) right Iliac Crest pain.  Not sure what to do about that.  I did use my own bone for this surgery. The hip pain is just another in the whole thing. Why has it started after about 4 months?  I am a smoker but am on Wellbutrin to quit ad my Neuro says this may help. Any help would be appreciated.
Avatar universal
I also had the same surgery due to a blown disc in C5,6 and arthritis in c7... I had the fusion with donor bone, this was in Feb 2006. I was out for 8 weeks and felt pretty good. I was in the hospital only over night! I was amazed at how fast I felt better. It is now July 2007 and I am in so much pain and so many headaches that I want to scream! I have been seeing a Chiropractor and that helps some, but relief only lasts for a few hours. I just had another MRI done today and hope to see something so that I can get it fixed. I have good pillows and do stretching stuff, but no relief. I hope that I can find some help, I am getting so depressed from the pain. I also have numbness in my arms at night now also. Let me know if you all get some answers.
Avatar universal
Hi All,

I am 44 yr old female.  I just got home from DR with results of MRI... I too have probs at C5-C6.  Dr now tells me there is a surgery to fix my prob but he recommends that I just stay on pain meds and muscle relaxers so as to avoid scar tissue later on from surgery.

I was wondering if you all have great relief from surgery and if you had to do it again would you?  Reason for question is, if I can quit taking pain meds of course I would like to do so...But life is not so bad on pain meds...I still work and life if going good so far.

G Wilson (Greeter from New Orleans)
Avatar universal
I would like to say, Greeter, if you can live without the surgery, do it.  I also had this same operation as the rest of you--donor bone (C5-C6), osteoarthritis in the rest of the cervical spine.  I don't understand how this is happening.  I have always exercised and follow a balanced diet.  My Neurologist seemed offended and kept repeating that the surgery was a sucess.  I agree the surgery was a sucess, I have no pain in the front of my neck and have good mobility.  Before surgery, I was myleopathic and was losing bladder and bowel control.  They are back to normal.  What isn't normal is the pain I am in.  I also get the burning pain down my spinal column and into my shoulders.  Sometimes it radiates down my back.  My Physical Therapist got to the point that he wouldn't see me anymore because the exercises were causing me too much pain.  The memory foam pillow worked for about six months to reduce the pain at night.  I am seeing symptoms of compression on the left side of my body as well as the right.  According to my neurosurgeon, only the right side was compressed.  It would seem with so many of us out here asking these questions, there would be an answer somewhere.
Avatar universal
I was experiencing excruciating and debilitating headaches associated with severe neck pain.  For over five years I was required by my many many doctors to endure many many medical procedures and tons of different medications, to which was not only a waste of time but put me into so much debt with co-pays.  I had my fusion (C4-C6) with a plate and six screws done in March 2007 and was so impressed that I was feeling so much better for about two months after my surgery.  No more headaches!!!!  I was so happy.  Then about eight weeks after my surgery I began my physical therapy – twice a week for six weeks at $50 a pop.  I felt horrible, so I stopped, I felt horrible.  I bought a new mattress and several new pillows, I felt horrible every single morning.  I tried physical therapy again, I felt horrible.  I have resorted to using pain pills three or four times a day and now after reading this page I have lost all hope.  I do plan on printing this all out and taking it to my PCP in hopes I guess that she will continue to prescribe the pain pills I take.  I would like to know though if there was anything (any one thing) that brought some type of relief to the horrible pain in your back and neck.fg
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