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What to do about muscle spasms? They are driving me crazy!

I am 45 yrs old and 6 weeks out from posterior C6 C7 fusion, laminectomy, bilateral foraminotomy. The pain is much better and I'm taking Tylenol now and occasionally norco when it is bad. I am taking flexeril when I get muscle spasms. They feel like they start as spasms, turn in to charlie horses, then into a burning sensation. I also use a compounded cream, use my tens unit, my external bone stimulator 4 hrs a day and all this while wearing a SOMI brace. What else can I do? How long will this go on? I go back to work in 2 weeks! I'm not over doing it. (I had anterior fusion last year that didn't fuse and had muscle spasms then also) I'm feeling very frustrated! Husband doesn't understand and thinks I should be back to my old self even though doctor explained that it was extensive surgery. Please help me understand this.
C6 C7 ACDF May 10, 2012
Nasty fall May 22, 2012 (causing shoulder probs)
Shoulder arthritis - both - due to surg and fall
C6 C7 fusion FAILURE, bone spur, scar tissue June 2013....waiting on 2nd surgery!
And I'm only 45!!!!!!!!


  • I remember when they changed my valium to zanaflex post op 8 weeks ACDF. The spasms were terrible, I had the burning pain also and was given cymbalta for that. I started eating more magnesium rich food, and that did help some. It required a lot of chewing(nuts,beans,spinach)because swallowing was still difficult. Banana smoothies or lentil soap may be an option if your throat is still sore. I know it seems like a little thing, but I believe for me the little things make most days bearable. Good luck
  • The potassium pump in your muscles can cause spasms if you don't get enough potassium and salt. That's in addition to the magnesium you need. My chiropractor told me about the potassium pump problem. Good luck and I hope you can get some relief soon. Tell your hubby that major operations can take 2 years for the body to heal. My aunt who is a nurse clued me in to that. Tell him you need his help, love, and support without his unreasonable expectations. 2 years should be his expectation for you to be back to your old self.
    Chronic pain since 2007. Have scoliosis. Had ACDF surgery for C5 Dec 2011. Sick of dealing with pain. I just turned 32 and struggle through but work full-time in IT.
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  • Hi. I am 7 weeks post op. Had hardware removed at c5-6 and then C4-7 fused anterior. This was all in one 4 and a half hour surgery. I only took a week off of work. I do data entry and was able to work from home but it was still a big mistake. My doctor took me off of percocet at 6 weeks and now I have just Ultram. I am in a lot of pain. The doctor will not prescribe any thing stronger. I can tell its mainly muscle pain and its all swollen from my bra strap up. I have made an appt. With pain management but that isn't until October 23.
  • tiaallen said:
    Hi. I am 7 weeks post op. Had hardware removed at c5-6 and then C4-7 fused anterior. This was all in one 4 and a half hour surgery. I only took a week off of work. I do data entry and was able to work from home but it was still a big mistake. My doctor took me off of percocet at 6 weeks and now I have just Ultram. I am in a lot of pain.
    That seems like a big surgery to only take one week off. have you tried alternating heat and ice. I remember when they discontinued my Lortab, I was so not ready. Somehow I made it through. Do you have muscle relaxers? I wish I had some neat trick to share. I usually try to distract myself somehow (crosswords, comedies on TV, etc) and get up and walk around every 20-30 minutes
  • Hi
    I had C5-6 anterior cervical fusion with instrumentation

    The worst part of recovery for 2-3 months post-op was muscle spasms at the base of my neck and both shoulders

    I purchased " the stick" on ebay

    Its like a plastic rolling pin for the body
    Roll it over the places where you feel muscle spasms and it really helps break down those darn KNOTS

    Hope you get relief very soon, i can tell you its the first three months that you have to get through and then you wont feel like you had neck surgery at all

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  • grammaof9ggrammaof9 Posts: 261
    edited 10/03/2013 - 11:48 PM
    After having C3 toc7. June25th I still have muscle spasms but rubbing on my own helps as long as I don 't do much like sitting for any length of time. I sure wish there was somekind of muscle relaxer that would just take care of the screaming muscles. Mine was postrior and doc said not much you can do until coming out of collar which my weaning period ended yesterday and Pt starts tomorrow.flexeril no help and diazepam calms me but not my muscles. What is the deal with being so stingy with drugs after major spine surgery?
  • DonnabeDDonnabe Posts: 595
    edited 10/06/2013 - 6:24 AM
    muscle spasms are no fun, i still have them and had c4-5 fused in june 2011. not even 2 years later they want me to add another level to that... no thanks.

    i went back to work as a restaurant assistant manager 9 weeks post op. i felt great at home.... but work was another story!

    i have had muscle spasms for a long time. the severe muscle spasms post op last a couple weeks. those are from the position they put you in on the operating table (for an anterior cervical fusion). remember your head is tipped all the way back with the anterior potion of your neck skyward and basically your eyes looking at the wall behind you. not quite that far but almost. anyone, cervical issues or not, that had their head in that position for more than a few minutes would end up in muscle pain for a few days. add the fact that they cut and move around muscles, and that the area is already having muscle problems, assuming you had muscle spasms pre op like i did, then of course you would have severely heightened muscular pain post op.... and i am not even talking about the nerve pain! after your body starts to heal and you get past the first few weeks, your pain should be less but you are still in a state of elevated pain. if you stay in bed all day, of course you are going to be in pain, if you do too much, of course you are going to be in pain. so find that balance... i always recommend to everyone getting cervical surgery... get a recliner. it doesn't have to be a fancy one. preferably new or like new so it isn't sunken in and worn out. mine was around 250 dollars from the well-known furniture store in my area. if you feel like you won't be able to put the foot up and down you can even get ones that kind of slowly dump you out with the push of a button, or ones that have an easier lever. i also would keep the foot up on mine, not tipped back very much if that makes sense, and just get in and out of it like that. of course the more the features the more expensive, but think of how much you spend on medical things as it is.... plus, it’s not like it’s something you won't use after your initial recovery period. i am sitting in mine right now! aside from the recliner i also recommend lots of slower than your normal pace walks. short, long, whatever don’t overdo it. if you get bored during walks like i do try to live in the moment. don’t think of the past, the future, just think of now. think of what you hear for a few minutes, what you see, touch something and really think about what it feels like. feel the breeze on your face. try to live in the moment. again, it doesn’t matter how fast you go. just getting moving a little bit and getting some fresh air helps mentally and physically. so, again, in the initial recovery phase alternate between your bed, recliner and slow walks. if you can have a loved one or even a professional come to your home and massage you that may help too. not your neck of course, but your shoulders and even arms, hands, legs, feet. some people find it easier to sleep in the recliner those first couple weeks. i heard it all depends on what level (s) you had fused.

    funny quick digression- i had a "friend" that was actually not really a friend and only used me. she was actually jealous of my condo, she lived in her grandmas basement and couldn't keep a job. i have absolutely no problem with that and we visited often, however she became a very negative force in my life and as much as i try to help people, you have to help yourself and your family first. it took me a while to learn this. my condo was not given to me... i am 26 now, i worked my way through college, all while remaining at the same job and working my way up. i purchased a foreclosure condo june 2012 and with the help of my father we fixed it up and it is very nice. built in 2001, 1481 sq. ft. 2 bed 2 bath. anyway, i never have been the "cool" type. in my past it extremely bothered me and now i embrace it. funny thing about that is i have more friends now than i ever had. my condo is “my place” and i decorate it how i please. i have lots of waterfowl and chicken themed things, because that's what i like. this girl would make fun of all of it and say she was kidding, even though i know she wasn't. then, if she were to even have 2 drinks… forget it, all the hate and jealousy would come pouring out of her. anyway, i was talking about this with my best friend and she said "no your place is awesome i love it". i said something along the lines of “well thanks, but it’s my place so i will have whatever decorations i want regardless of what anyone says". then she said, "well actually there is one thing that is seriously un cool in your house" i asked her what it was, and she said that chair right there in the middle of your living room! i laughed and told her, “whatever! that’s the best chair in the universe and no one else has permission to sit in it anyway!” digression over haha!

    back on the topic of muscle spasms, after the first couple weeks of the worst muscle spasms you will most likely have moderately severe spasms that last quite a while, mine haven't gone away. it may be because i am a tense person, could be my posture, and could also be due to other disc issues. everyone is different so i pray that whoever is reading this, your spasms go away as soon as possible! remember that during surgery the surgeon is basically repositioning your spine. post op your spine has a whole new dynamic. i highly recommend cervical fusion patients work with a physical therapist who can help the patient learn to use and strengthen their newly positioned muscles. again i am not a doctor i can only speak from experience and personal research. also remember to pay close attention to head positioning and posture. a personal tens unit and heat/ice can also help. muscle relaxers/ benzodiazepines (valium, ativan, xanax..) can help too but oftentimes people find the side effects especially the tiredness isn't worth the amount of relief, especially during the day. i found zanaflex (tizanidine) to be very helpful at night and was better than any sleeping pill for falling asleep, but taking zanaflex in combination with cymbalta and norco for over a year ended up giving me elevated liver enzymes. stopping the zanaflex wasn’t hard, and i realized it was the cause of the night sweats i had been having. after stopping the medication for a few weeks i had another liver enzyme test and everything was back to normal. i take ambien occasionally now but have recently started listening to bed time meditation on my phone. there are a lot of free apps and they shut off when the meditation is done. i never thought that would help so much but it does. i still take the cymbalta and norco. other muscle relaxers… skelaxin did nothing other than give me a headache. flexeril knocked me out. i only took it at night because i couldn’t sleep 24-7! for the week i took flexeril i felt like i was a water addict. literally. i always have been a heavy drinker, (haha just water) but on flexeril i would drink and drink and it would feel like the water was going right through me. i felt like i was on a desert island with no water. i craved it and would drink as though i just found an oasis in the desert. except it wasn’t a desert and it was constantly. i would get no relief from drinking and seemed to be becoming more and more dehydrated. it dried me out so much my nose started bleeding. at that point flexeril went on my list to never take again! this is very rare. in fact my doctor never heard of that happening. she knew it dried people out, but not to that extent. valium helped a little and was the best for directly post op but docs do have concerns prescribing it more than a few weeks which is understandable. i still highly recommend lots of walking using good posture but also not getting off pain medications post op too early. i know some people don’t have a choice like some of you in this posting; however some people want to get off asap and feel like it’s a sign of weakness to take pain medication. it is not! let your body heal!

    i am very sorry that many of you are having problems getting the pain medications you need. tia- october 23 is a long wait, in the meantime maybe you can ask your surgeon for stronger pain killers, or your primary care doctor. go to the er if it gets bad enough and have them call your surgeon. i am sure he will prescribe you more if that happens, at least until your pm appt. possible call the pm office and try to get on a waiting list or get in early. start crying that helps sometimes! i don't understand what some of these doctors are afraid of... you have a legitimate condition, you just had surgery that has a long recovery, what's the problem!? secondly, i hate tramadol. it’s also on my short list of never take again medications. it made me so sick. plus it still has risks of addiction and dependency and is even worse than opiates in my opinion. again i am not a doctor or medical professional. it’s just my opinion. tramadol works on serotonin in the brain as well so if you are taking any ssris you need to be very careful, and in higher doses often times causes seizures while on it or getting off it. i know withdrawal of opiates can cause horrible flu like symptoms but i don't think it will cause seizures. again… i am not sure of that. people like us, aka spineys, don't need to be having seizures. i am sure that would start up a massive pain flair! anyway, i will get off my soapbox now, surgery is no fun, and spine surgery is even less fun than no fun! i am very thankful to this community and if anyone would like to pm me please do. ((soft hugs)) thanks, donna
    post edited by the spine health moderation teamplease review the forum rules prior to posting at these links for more information.
    title edit
    ACDF C4-5 June 23rd, 2011

    Another surgery in the near future. I am 26 years old.

    Current Meds- Norco 7.5/325, Cymbalta 60mg, Gabapentin, Adderall 20mg
  • I go back to work Monday. I'm continuing to have the muscle spasms. I went in to the doc the other day and he said it was normal. I also have some swelling at the surgery site and that is causing a nerve that runs over my right shoulder throb. It's neck hasnt bothered me much in the past few days, but this shoulder is killing me! I tried tramadol as he suggested and it made me so sleepy! So for right now I'm icing my back/neck and heating my shoulder. He said I'm right on schedule for this type of surgery (still having muscle spasms). Still in the SOMI brace until they see signs of fusion. I actuallly feel better when I wear it . When I wear the soft collar I seem to have alot of spasms! Anyway, I know it will get better soon. I'm still going grocery shopping and getting carry outs, etc so I don't over do it. I go back to work at an elementary school tomorrow. We'll see how it goes :)
    C6 C7 ACDF May 10, 2012
    Nasty fall May 22, 2012 (causing shoulder probs)
    Shoulder arthritis - both - due to surg and fall
    C6 C7 fusion FAILURE, bone spur, scar tissue June 2013....waiting on 2nd surgery!
    And I'm only 45!!!!!!!!
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