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Posted in: Herniated disc.

Pain and stiffness one year after ACDF

Started by Christy on 05/08/2016 8:29am

Hi everyone:

I'm a 44-year-old female who had ACDF surgery at C5-6 a year ago for a disc that was compressing my spinal cord. The surgery was a breeze, no pain whatsoever aside from a sore throat. No collar of any sort and restrictions were only no driving for 10 days and no lifting anything more than 20 lbs. to promote healing. In his words "there is nothing you can do to un-do what I did". Doc said he was very pleased with how I was coming along and everything looked great at my two-month appointment and that he wanted to see me after a full course of PT just to make sure all was good (but he didn't think there would be any issues with my recovery). Due to finances I was unable to go to PT and have not yet seen the doc for my final appointment.

I am a year out from my surgery. All has been great, aside from recently. Two weeks ago I noticed a pulling pain in my right shoulder (trapezius) and neck (from the base of the neck past my ear) when I turned my head, along with some stiffness and a slight loss of range of motion on that side. It feels as if something is out of alignment. It got better with heat and Tylenol and rest, along with gentle stretching to keep it mobile. Yesterday I felt loads better...until last night. I woke up at 3 am with an excruciatingly painful spasm in my neck and trapezius. Now, six hours later, it hurts a lot to turn my head and I'm trying as hard as I can to gently loosen it up and get myself mobile again.

Has anyone experienced this? I was thinking of getting an appointment with my chiro for some trigger point therapy and massage, as this feels muscular. He saw me one month post-op and will not adjust me.

Thanks for any insight you can provide.

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2 Responses


Omg... I am experiencing that exact same thing. I had a cervical fusion on c5 c6 a year ago and lately (past month or so) I have ever had the exact same pain and pulling in my neck and also in my scapula it also feels as if there is a knife stabbed into my shoulder blade/scapula and neck. It's frustrating and scary and disheartening to go through this. The pain is so intense in the shoulder (scapula) It's equivalent to or worse than it was prior to surgery. There are days I just want to sit and cry out of frustration. My range of motion is extremely limited. I have about 20 to 30 degrees in all directions before I start feeling intense stabbing and sharp pain and and an extremely intense tight pulling in the scapula and neck on the right side. I don't know what to do but I absolutely can not live everyday like this.


Oh thank GOODNESS I'm not the only one! I'm so sorry for your pain...I can relate. I've been taking Tylenol for the pain, which helps for about 10 minutes. I also tried capcasin, which helped on a limited basis, but only with the residual pain when I wasn't turning my head. Last night was particularly bad. I have one of those microwaveable heating pads that is shaped like a shawl with a neck piece that extends up to provide heat to the cervical spine. I used it off and on for about an hour, then tried ice a few hours later (after my skin had cooled). The ice actually made the pain worse, so I went back to heat.

The strangest thing happened though, but it kind of concerned me. Before bed I used an OTC analgesic gel on the right side of my neck and shoulder. I went to bed and had pain when my head hit the pillow. I am a side sleeper and rolled onto my back...I must have slept like that all night. When I woke up I still had the same range of motion limitation, but the pain was gone! What I did notice was that the tingling in my hand (which was there pre- and post-surgery) was worse. Throughout the day it has gotten intense, faded to where I could barely notice it, then back again. It feels as if something is going haywire.