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Neck popping/adjusting after cervical fusion.

From: thiatt - on 03/03/2011 12:26am

Hi. I had a double fusion on 12/7/10 (c5/6 and c6/7). The surgeon used the shaved bone from my vertebrae to fuse them together, while a using a plate a screws to hold it all together.

It is now 3 months after the surgery. I am having issues with my muscles from my shoulder blades up into my head/face being tight. I also have popping that will occur. The pain is sometimes almost unbearable. for the most part, I think I'm the only one that hears the popping (vibrations). I will attempt to move and stretch to get my pain to stop. Sometime the stretching helps; however when it feels best is right after the popping occurs. Sometimes when my muscles are very tight, it might pop on its on. The sound/feeling radiates around the area of my surgery. It does not hurt when it pops. After popping, I feel the best I have felt in over a year. My neck becomes very loose, and the pains are then less in my shoulder blades. After popping, a side effect is my head will hurt, and runs down into my forehead and jaw. This occurs for a brief time and then goes away; however, it happens almost every time my neck pops. It'll feel better for about 30 minutes and then it will start to tighten up again. It gets so tight that I cannot tilt my head to the left but just a little (like it is frozen at that point). The weird thing is once I pop my neck, I'm able to tilt it.

I have taken Aleve, used Icy Hot, and a heating pad daily..but the cycle continues.

What scares me is the popping. I can push my neck with my hand and it will sometimes fell like it has slid /moved an inch. I know this is not the case, but that is what it feels like because it is such a jolt. Has anyone experience this, and if so, how did the DR. diagnose/treat you.

Thanks to all!

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on 03/03/2011 8:23am

thiatt,do you manually pop your neck with your hand? or does it pop by itself?

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on 03/03/2011 11:20pm

Hi. It can either pop by me moving/stretching my neck, but the bigger jolts typically happen when I put some pressure on one or the other side of my neck. It almost locks up on my left side, with me not being able to bend it to the side much at all. If it pops, it becomes loose and feels much better. It cycles through afterwards. With it feeling so good for those short periods of time, I keep hope that I'll get to that point at all times. Thanks for asking.

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on 03/09/2011 9:01am

Hi thiett, I experience the same things. The tightness and burning sensations in my shoulder blades & neck. I also have the popping and grinding sounds. It does feel good when it pops how ever i do not get the sensations of feeling good after words. I do how ever my neck does get very very stiff, to the point that i can not move it with out pain. Of course we did have neck surgery. I had my surgery Feb. 27th of 2011. So i think every thing my body/neck is going through is just from the surgery it self and part of the healing process. Except for the infection i have at the incision site ;( and i am currently taking antibiotics for. I had the exact same surgery you did, even the same vertebrae. So....the burning sensation between the shoulder blades is part of the healing process, my dr. says lol. so for now i will live with it. we really have no choice, right. I have been doing some reading and have found that if we walk, walk, walk and get the exercise, that we will get less of this shoulder pain. Sounds good to me. My dr. still won't let me do any thing except walk. I am supposed to wear the neck brace for 2 months 24/7. I do not!!! It gives me headaches if i wear it to long. I know some people that have had the same surgery and don't have to wear the (HARD) neck brace 24/7, its just not what their dr.s are ordering and they (dr.s) all have their own ways of doctoring lol. I wish i had answers for you and my self but i do not. Just letting you know we are going through the same side effects. Like them? No!! So i will find a way to cope with it for now or find a way to make it feel better and go away ;) You how ever are further in your healing process and hope its going better for you. I can not wait until i am 4 months out. We are moving to Germany in a few months and will need my strength. Besides your surgery on your neck, do you have any other health issues? I unfortunately do. RA, raynauds, disc degeneration, along with a whole list of other things. Sad, but true. We are the only ones that are in control of our well being and health. I think it all comes down to exercise. I am 47yrs old and need to stay in shape. Have a great day and thanks for sharing ;)

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on 03/10/2011 1:49pm

I had a neck fusion in 1995 and the popping takes years to lessen. It has never gone away comepletely and probably never will . I also feel very stiff until I take a hot shower.Remember you have permanently altered the biomechanics of the cervical spine and your ligaments must move differently now. I sure wish I never fused my spine and I am appalled to see spinal fusion still being used in the usa while most countries around the world have abandoned fusion for adr. Good luck Ron

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on 04/04/2011 7:55pm

Thiatt-- I am about 6 months out from a two-level fusion. I also have popping, muscle tightness behind my shoulder blades and in my neck, jaw and face. In addition, I also am getting frequent headaches which are quite severe. I have not had much improvement during this time and am now seeing a pain management doctor who is able to treat with trigger point injections for muscle tightness. He also has numerous other strategies he says may decrease the pain. He did warn me however, that the postural changes caused by the fusion can cause pain which will need to be managed permanently. Have you tried cervical traction? Once you get a unit there is no ongoing cost and you can use it everyday. Either way, my recommendation is to start seeing someone other than your neurosurgeon. My experience is that the neuros are good at the surgery, but not so good at managing the consequences. Good luck!

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on 04/06/2011 1:23am

Hi all. I just recently saw this thread and thought that I would add my experience. I have had three cervical fusion surgeries in the past five years. The first one was C5/6; then C4/5; and recently C3/4. In addition, I have varying degrees of stenosis, spondylosis, and bone spurs. The most recent surgery (C3/4) was in November 2010. I too have a major problem with shoulder pain and pain in the area of the back between my shoulder blades. I used to have the 'popping' sensation some have described when moving my neck, however, it hasn't happened for quite some time now. My muscles are so tight at the base of my neck that it is difficult to rotate the neck left or right. I also get severe burning type pain in my right shoulder, and frequent numbness and tingling down each of my arms to the fingertips. I too had severe headaches after the last two surgeries but they eventually decreased in intensity and frequency. I was told that my severe headaches were likely from the loss of spinal fluid during surgery and once the spinal fluid regenerated itself the headaches lessened.

I totally agree with the optimists opinion on neuro's - good for surgery, but not for pain management!

Good Luck to all!

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on 05/05/2011 11:08pm

Hi all.

I just want to update everyone on my current status. I revisited my surgeon. X-rays confirm that the implants are fine and that the fusions healed successfully. I explained my pains and popping. His thought is that my spine has alignment issues, recommending me going to a chiropractor, returning to him in 3 months to see if it was better. If not, he'd order another scan.

I've been visiting the chiropractor for almost a month now. Talk about being jumpy when he began adjusting my neck...I was. However, I am used to it now. He thinks that he can help me get rid of my tight muscles and extreme pain; however, he says that if he is successful, I'll have to continue adjustments throughout my life...how often depends on his success with what I am dealing with now.

Has it helped? Yes it has. He set me up on a plan for recovery. The first 4 weeks I visit him 3 times a week. The next 4 weeks I visit twice a week. And then the next 4 weeks is once a week. Again, I am on about week 4 of the first 4-week period. The visits are quick and straight to the point. He adjusts my neck on both sides, my upper/mid/lower back, and then my mid ribs. Just last week I was still having issues trying to bend my neck to the left. He did a new adjustment on my first rib. I was instantaneously able to bend my head to the left and have been since. I wish I had that one a long time back. :) I'd recommend it to anyone at this point; however, I can give another recommendation in about three weeks.

My neck still pops, but not in the same spot, and not the violent/jolting pops like before. Before, I had to get up every morning and get under hot water in the shower to try to get my muscles relax; that is if I slept through the night. Now, I am not taking any sleep aides, I sleep mostly through the night, and I do not have to hit the hot water in the mornings. I am able to turn my neck side to side much better too.

All in all, I'd say my pain before my surgery was typically between a 6 and 10. After the surgery, I say it went to a 4 to a 7 about after three months. Now I'd say it has went to a 3 to a 5. It is still chronic pain. It is amazing what you get used to if you have to deal with it. Right now, I'm going to continue the chiropractor visits. I am hoping to get my pain between a 0 and 2 or 3....popping or not. :) I know that the adjustments have helped; however, I am not going to be too optimistic since I've been hurting for a long time. But I do know that I do not want to go back to the surgeon again unless I have to. I really do not wan to get cut on again like that unless my pains shoots back to 7+. :)

I with all luck with their spine endeavors. I hope that I can check back in about three weeks and say I hit my 0-3 goal. Wish me luck!

Thanks!

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on 07/31/2012 9:01am

Watch out for chiroprators Thiatt! I too had a double fusion...same one you did. However, all my doctors told me not to have a chiropractor touch my neck!!! They said that maybe a chiropractor did this to my neck once in my life. I did go to a chiropractor years ago and when he adjusted my neck my middle finger would not go down due to nerve damage (Hoffman's sign). I beleive a chiropractor contributed to my neck damage. They didn't know how this happened to my neck. I could have been in a car accident, I was born with it or a chiropractor did it or I fell as a child. I did fall as a child but the chiropractor really did a number on my neck. Doctors said they do more damage on necks than good. Be careful! Let them just align your back.

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on 07/31/2012 7:55pm

Had the same attempted fusion in May 2010. C5-C6, C6-C7, discs removed, chunk out of hip used for fusion between those vertebrae. After a year, it appears the fusion had taken. When I went back in Feb 2012 for a follow up, MRI revealed that the fusion didn't appear to have taken as initially thought. When a Cat Scan was performed, it revealed that the fusion did NOT take. Been to a couple of doctors who agreed fusion did not take. Looking for some 2nd and 3rd opinions before opting for anymore surgery. Have the same "popping" noises going on in my neck that "thiatt" described. Last week, had a cervical spinal nerve block done to get me through my daughters wedding in a couple of weeks. Will meet with some more doctors after the wedding to see what course of action will need to be taken. This is sure getting old....as we all are....ha

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on 02/03/2013 7:01pm

I have so much pain from my plate and since I have been off my pain meds it's awful. I truly think the plate is on nerves or something. I do neck stretches, everything and I get sever migraines and cluster headaches since my surgery. I can't take it anymore. My new Pain management dr, who does not prescribe pain meds wants to do 31 shots of botox in my head. Usually when I get injections I get a SEVERE migraine. So I am scared to death. Can they take the plate out?

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on 08/04/2013 12:26am

I agree with Lavender Rose. A chiropractor damaged by neck with the violent jerks to the left and right. Physical therapy would be a safer bet.

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