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Started by katesquill on 01/08/2011 8:17pm

I'm a 57 year-old female who had a four level anterior cervical fusion with a plate and screws in September of 2002. Over the past year I've had a lot of popping and crunching especially on the left side of my neck and for about 3 months I've had a constant crick in the left side of my neck as well that gets significantly worse when I sleep. I've also had some pretty severe headaches which I usually wake up with..

I'm concerned that there might be something serious going on with my fusion---or maybe above or below it, but my surgery was done down in Atlanta and I now live in upstate New York so I no longer have access to the spinal clinic where I had my surgery done.

Doctors up here say helpful things like--I don't know. We don't do fusions that long.
One doctor ordered a CAT scan, but it was turned down by my insurance because "I have to go through physical therapy first."

Okay. 1) My insurance has a hefty copay for physical therapy.
2) I don't want to stress my neck further if there's already damage in there
3) If it's not a risk of something serious, I just can't afford to do it.
I did have 2 cervical epidurals which helped some for about a month and cost me $600.00 out of pocket. The pain management doctor said I can have them every few months, but the cost is exorbitant and I wonder about all those steroid injections into my spine.

On top of that, I'm now looking at bilateral knee replacements and an ankle fusion in the near future.
Gotta love arthritis!

Anybody else out there gone through anything like this? Is this something I just need to grin and bear---with the help of pain medication, or is this something I ought to be seriously pursuing despite the cost? I hate to be perceived as a whiner, but this is getting old.

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5 Responses


I too had a C4-C7 fusion which occurred in December 2004. Our symptoms sound alot alike. I have constant headaches accompanied by nausea and vomiting. My neck pain is mainly left sided. I have been through many pillows. Currently, I am using a butterfly shaped pillow that I found at Shopko. Better than the others I have tried, even memory foam.
I have an appointment with a new neurosurgeon this week to assess the bone spurs growing on the left side of my cervical spine. Being a 42 year old nurse with this condition is turning my life into a living hell!


Thanks for your response RN2006. It's nice to know I'm not alone. I'm fused C3-C7 and believe it or not, I'm also a nurse--or was until my surgery.. Now I have a ten pound lifting restriction and nobody will hire me as a nurse so I'm working as a substitute teacher,

I'll look for a butterfly pillow. I'm on my sixth pillow. I've tried stacking them, cutting them, wedges...whatever... Nothing.helps! Hydrocodone lets me get to sleep, but I wake up with migraine type headaches and a crick in my neck.

I'd appreciate it if you let me know what your new neurosurgeon says, I need to decide what to do. I don't have a neurosurgeon up here. The rehab doc did and EMG and told me the increased numbness in my hands was just carpal tunnel. The pain management doc keeps saying, "Just let me shoot you up with Steroids again and you'll be fine!" Meanwhile the crunching and pain continue and I'm scared I'm doing more damage. The doctor who did my original surgery said I wouldn't have needed a 4 level fusion if I'd come in sooner.

My new ankle specialist says I wouldn't have needed an ankle fusion if I'd come in sooner...but every time time I go in to my regular doc, he sends me to the rehab specialist and they all act like I'm whining. I feel like I don't have a handle on when to complain and when I'm just being a whiner. .


Saw new neurosurgeon this week. Great and compassionate guy. Found that bone spurs at C3-C4 have not caused spinal compression as of yet but joint is very degenerated. Also found to have bone spurs growing within my hardware. Feels that my constant headaches could possibly be caused by the severe muscle tightness through my neck and shoulders. Recommended asking pain management for a trial of migraine medication to see if the headaches are actually migraine in nature and not 'structural' like I have been told in the past.
Surgeon gave me two options. 1) Discogram at C3/C4. If pain is inervated during procedure, he would be willing to fuse at that level. I doubt insurance will pay if fusion is used to control pain without significant spinal cord impingement. 2)Implanted spinal cord stimulator. A temporary unit is placed with a one week trial. If unit decreases pain, than a permanent one would be implanted.

The doctor said that there is no question that I will require another fusion is the future. It is just a matter of time. At least he was honest and really listened to my concerns and answered some questions. He did say that my complaint of bilteral arm weakness is legitimate even though I have been told my EMG is negative. He thinks that my brain is actually trying to decrease the use of my arms to help control the pain. As a nurse, it makes total sense to me.

Just retained a disability lawyer who has accepted my case. Hopefully I will get awarded disability before we lose our house. Thankfully, I have the greatest husband in the world!!!

I hope this post is helpful to you in some way.


I had C5-7 fused almost 2 years ago and I would say the sooner you can get an MRI the better even exrays would give a decent pictur as to what is going on. I bought a Water pillow from a local medical supply store last May and after I got the water adjusted properly in it, it works great. If you do by one by the one with the water bag attached directly to the bottom and make sure the air stays out of it. After a while it some how gets air in it and makes it more firm, so make sure you do that. The one I got was about $70.00 and it has earned every penny of it. It also has a 3 year warrenty on it. The reason I bought it was I was having tension headaches and new Neck symptoms with pain and numbness in different areas. Wish you the best and good luck.


I have had 8 neck surgeries with hardware in 2 of them and fusion in the other two...now my T spine has bone spurs...where my hardware is can give me a lot of pain, headaches and yes my hardware came loose, but finds its way back

just went through 6 days of the same in my lumbar spine..have 2 cages there...ive had many episodes of severe pain..

I personally think the epidurals are a crock...i cant have themm my whole spine is a trigger point...Physical therapy never helped my but heat and massage does..after 6 sesions they get you do do excersises and they just make me worse.waste of time and money after 3 weeks
In surance wont pay for more than 6 weeks...I can do heat packs and ice packs at home.

Doctors wont be interested in you if your not a candidate for their service...find a doctor who will work with you on different meds till you find the right combination....pain management clinics tend to try to get you hooked on thr harder drugs such as NEUROTIN AND METHADONE...DONT DO IT...I slept 22 hours a day or threw up..

its been ten year since the last lumbar surgery and i can tell you lumbar surgery is 10 times harde that the cervical...then the T spine is also a whole different ballgame,

spine teams are nothing more than money takers...they sent me for a OPEN MRI (Ive had so many i cant count)just recently and the only comment i got out of the Doctor was....BONE SPURS DONT CAUSE PAIN , WE DONT KNOW WHAT CAUSES PAIN....?????????/WTF?
I wont be seeing this jerk again
the bone spurs in my neck is what started all this crap.....!!!

yes mam you can get a bulge disc below or above..after that level gets repaired...
keep in mind... THE DOMINO EFFECT! Beware of doctors...mine left the state and her group wouldnt even take her cases....they mailed me all my records!

ive learned that I know more about my body that the DOCTORS DO....
No your not a whiner....you are seeking much needed help!

Good luck!