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9 months post-ACDF**too much pain!

Started by tracy64 on 02/24/2011 11:15am

Hello fellow spine sufferers!
Long story short, I had an anterior cervical discectomy with fusion and instrumentation in May of 2010. I have had neck pain since 2006- degenerative and herniated discs with bone spurs leading to severe neck pain and right side numbness from the shoulder to fingers.
I am 9 months post surgery, and still in tremendous neck pain. Which is much worse since the surgery. The numbness went away right after surgery thankfully, but I can't get back to work with this horrible neck pain. I am in my 6th week of 8 for physical therapy, and experiencing severe headaches on and off due to cervical movement. MY PT is fabulous, he works his tail off too loosen my neck muscles but darn they are continuing to be stubborn
I desperately want to get back to work and back to some sort of life. I take 5-6 pain meds a day, and can't work until the pain drops a couple of notches. Any advice from someone with a similar surgery would be great!
Thank you!

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5 Responses


Hi Tracy, Sorry to hear you're still experiencing a lot of pain. I like you had ACDF c5/c6 almost a month ago and I'm also experiencing lots lots more pain than before surgery. Positioning my neck throughout the day is critical otherwise I end up in so much pain. Tilting the head back just sends a ripple affect through my lower neck and into my upper back. Extending my right arm just kills feels like someone is stabbing me in the shoulder and arm. I also get severe headaches which are usually located in the back of my head and I'm guessing they're tension headaches from the muscle spasms. Do you have any arm pain that was similar to what you experiencing before surgery? I like going to PT because of the massages, but oh once they start having me do things with my neck it really sucks as it just creates so much more pain. You know I would like to know whats different about you and I and many others compared to those 90% that come right out of surgery feeling minimal pain. Hope life improves for you sooner than later I don't want to even imagine feeling like this 9 months down the road.


Thank you so much for the reply. I forgot to mention I am C5-C7 fusion.
You are doing pretty good for just having the surgery a month ago! As far as right after my surgery, the numbness and issues with my right shoulder/arm/hand stopped pretty much right away. I won't even talk about the surgery pain, it was the worst thing I have ever experienced. I don't want to tell my story in fears of scaring other pre-surgery posters. :-)
I am happy to hear you are in PT already. I tried about 3months after my surgery, and the headaches and pain were so bad after 3 weeks, I called my surgeon to ask for more pain meds and he said to stop. So now I'm 6weeks into it and making it through, just not getting rid of any pain. I have to admit I would call myself a massage addict, I LOVE massages and they help tremendously. I have an amazing massage therapist, in fact last nite I had a massage and she helped me with my post-PT headache. Anyway, good luck to you and I hope you continue to improve!


I am 2 weeks shy of 1 year after surgery (March 18, 2010) C4-7 ACDF. Pt caused me MUCH more pain but therapist wanted to know about it and would back me down from anything that was causing it. I've been out of therapy now since October and not in as much pain as I was then but of course I'm not strengthening the same either as it causes too much pain. I was told before the surgery that if you have a good surgeon the success rate is around 80 % and anywhere from some pain gone to no change..all depends on what the cause of pain is; ex:compressed nerves, arthritis, narrowed spinal canal, etc. I miss the massages!! I've found for myself that I can only do a little activity at a time and then have to let the muscles relax ..if not I will be in pain for days.


Hi...sorry to read you have complications. I too had acdf surgery and the doctors gave raving reviews about a positive prognprognosis. The reality is that we fit into that 15% category of messed up and bad results. Pain management is the normal thing now android even that is a pain in the right? .... My levels were 4.5.6 and now the disc's below the fusion are compressed. Does anyone else have this added issue to the already bad acdf results?


I had C4-7 ACDF last June and still have a lot of pain. In fact I am going to have to quit working because I miss so many days and have too much pain to do my job. Yesterday I tried a new physical therapist who came highly recommended. But he started pulling on my neck. I told him my neurosurgeon said no one should ever do any traction on my neck because I have severe osteoporosis and my disks above my fusion are bad. He backed off a bit but after awhile I realized he had not studied my chart before working on me. Today I am in terrible pain at the base of my skull.

I know I need to strengthen things back up, but if this is the way it will go, I just assume do things on my own. The last PT was much more careful and gentle with my neck., but is too far for me to drive to on a regular basis.

My neurosurgeon reminds me that he didn't do the fusion to reduce my pain, he did it to keep me from being paralyzed. And most people are never the same if you have extensive work done. Any input on PT?

And to the above comment. Yes, if I do too much my C2/3 and C7-T1 get very aggravated. My disks above my fusion were bad before my fusion and my guess worse now. But there is no way I will have any more spine surgery. It is 80% effective at best and leaves you never the same (I have also had lumbar surgery that only partially helped). My understanding is that it creates a domino effect. You should only have surgery if your pain in unbearable and / or to prevent nerve damage or paralysis. My neck surgery was done by a top notch surgeon, my low back surgery was not.