Pain worsening after cervical artificial disc replacement


I'm new here but I figured I'd tell my story so you would understand what I've been going through. I have spent hours online looking for someone else with my situation but I can't find anything so I'm reaching out on here.

3.5 years ago I started experiencing neck pain. I didn't see a doctor until a few weeks later when my left arm, hand, and fingers began to tingle and go numb. They did some xrays but they didn't show anything wrong. When the pain and numbness continued, they decided to do an MRI. That revealed two bulging discs in my C5/C6 and C6/C7. So then my doctor referred me to an orthopedic surgeon to discuss options. He recommended doing steroid injections directly in my neck, so I went in to a pain management clinic for an injection. It did nothing to relieve my pain or symptoms so I was sent to physical therapy. After 4 sessions it was just making my pain worse and made the numbness worse. By this time 6 months had passed so we tried the steroid injections once again and it still didn't work so they tried muscle relaxers, which didn't help. So a few months later I began taking Tramadol 50mg 3x a day while also going to a neurosurgeon. This neurosurgeon said that I was too young for surgery since the MRI showed bulging discs and that they should heal on their own in time. So I continued to take the Tramodol in hopes that it would eventually heal. After another year of this, my pain management doctor suggested another surgeon. That surgeon ordered an updated MRI, at which time they found that one of the discs had fully herniated. Still, this new surgeon refused to operate because I was "too young." So my pain management doctor referred me to yet another surgeon. This time they agreed to a cervical artificial disc replacement surgery. So I finally had the operation on May 20, 2019. Shortly after my surgery I went in to see my pain management doctor to be tapered off of the Tramodol because I was no longer in need of it. All seemed to be going well until around two weeks ago when I started experiencing severe pain deep in my cervical spine. The only way I can describe it is that it's a severe, deep, throbbing pain near the artificial disc. I have also had some infrequent headaches starting in the back of my head going to my eyes. So then my surgeon prescribed me prednisone last week in case there was any swelling. This did nothing. So today I went in to talk to him and get xrays, which revealed that everything looks normal. So I don't understand why I am in such terrible pain. I trust my doctor but this has me concerned. I don't know if I should get a second opinion or if I should just wait it out and deal with the pain. Has anyone ever had anything like this happen?

Thank you for reading.



  • keyblademaster

    Welcome to Veritas Health Forum
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    I have had cervical fusion surgery, but not disc replacement, after my surgery I felt really good for the first few weeks, then the muscles and nerves started hurting again, you didn't mention if you wore a brace or are still wearing one, but they can create a lot of muscle weakness, my neck continued to hurt until I started PT, they showed me the proper exercises to do and helped the pain.
    Take care and keep us postedChip
  • Thank you for the response. 

    I had a soft collar for two weeks after surgery, only removing it to shower and eat. I didn't notice any muscle weakness from wearing it though. I am to begin PT this week. My doctor prescribed it 2-3 times a week for 8 weeks so hopefully it will help.

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  • Even a soft collar for two weeks will create muscle weakness, and you may not even realize it, PT was the most helpful thing for me, they showed me the proper way to do things, I felt a lot better after 2-3 sessions, hopefully you will too.


  • So I have an update on my situation. 

    I started having severe headaches 3 weeks ago. I called my surgeon after almost a week of them and he told me to go to the ER if they weren't going away before the end of the weekend. So I went and they drew blood, xrays, and a CT scan on my head. Everything came back normal. So I went to see him a few days later and he did an xray on my neck. Said everything looked normal and that my headaches weren't related to my neck. He referred me to a neurologist and back to pain management. The pain management clinic can't get me in until August 26th and the neurologist still hasn't called back to schedule an appointment. I am beyond frustrated about everything. These headaches are so bad that I have had to leave work early. Literally every day I have the worst headache imaginable and I've never had a history of them. And then 2 days ago I started having pain in my left ring finger. So now I'm thinking that the other disk that was bulging has possibly fully herniated now. And of course they keep doing xrays when I know I need an MRI. But nobody will listen to me. I'm stuck and in pain with nobody listening to me and taking me seriously. 

  • memerainboltmemerainbolt IndianaPosts: 4,557


    If this is your first visit with pain management, please read the articles below, they will give you more insight on how things work and what is available.
    When I have to go to my PM doctor, I never go without my pain journal. And hopefully, you will hear other members talking about their journals. I write down where my pain is, how bad it is and when, what I was doing or not doing. I do this every day until my appointment. I also talk about what tests I think I need. I don't want to treat the symptoms, I want to find the source. You stated your appointment is Aug.26 so you have time to start writing.

    Pain Management Health Center 

    Take care and keep us posted.

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  • Waiting to be seen when you are hurting can be beyond frustrating, while this is hard to do, we have to remember that specialist have list of patients that are in as bad of shape or worse than we are, I know it's hard, but do your best to calm down, I am sure that the doctors are trying to get you in as quickly as possible, you are doing more harm to yourself by fixating on it, I have had migraines before and they will make you miserable, so I can understand somewhat you are going through, relax as much as you can, that will help your situation.

    Take care and keep us posted


  • I hope you are doing better than you were last week.  It is beyond frustrating when you are waiting to get in to see someone and you are in a great deal of pain.  Your appointment with PM is on Monday?  You should ask him to order an MRI.  If he doesn't want to do it, maybe he can explain why to you.  For instance, will there be too much artifact from the hardware to be able to assess the source of your pain?  Since your next appointment is with the pain doc, let him know how frustrated you are, in a respectful way.  As for the headaches, it sounds like you do not get migraines normally, but that it has only been in conjunction with your recent pain?  I am mostly a hormonal migraine sufferer and do not get normal migraines.  But, my neurologist calls the migraine brain a "sensitive brain".  When things are even just a little out of whack, it can trigger a migraine in someone who doesn't normally get a migraine.  With my recent arm pain, I have been getting migraines or even just dull headaches, when I can normally go a year without a migraine.  For me, the trigger is that I am in pain.  It is possible that your headache/migraine pain is directly the result of some nerve issue.  But, it is also possible that your brain is going into hyperdrive with a migraine/headache by being triggered by the ongoing pain that you are suffering.  While you are waiting, can you find some time to try to meditate, taking deep breaths, practicing relaxation techniques?  Sometimes, this can be helpful to take the edge off of our emotions.  This is no way discounts or devalues the frustration and pain you are going through, but if something can help even a little amount while you are stuck in the waiting game, it is sometimes helpful to try it.

  • I am only going on week 4 of recovery from my cervical artificial disc replacement and I am still in alot of pain. I was wondering how some of you felt around week 4? I feel like I'm only on week 2 of recovery. I start physical therapy March 2nd, I'm hoping that will help the recovery but I'm still so sore. I was only able to to have help for about 4-5 days after my surgery then I was back to getting my kid ready for school and taking care of my 4 year old. So I don't know if I'm still sore bc I only had a couple days to rest or if the surgery didn't work. Please let me know how it was for you around week 4

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