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Pain after ACDF C6-C7….Please somebody help me?



  • Hi guys!

    Thanks for your inputs. I have my six week follow up with my orthopaedic surgeon Christmas Eve morning. I will talk to him about what's going on. He didn't seem to be concerned that I have a desk job and cleared me to return just shy of three weeks. I honestly didn't think it would be an issue...but then again I didn't know what to expect about any of this. I think I was overly optimistic with feeling pretty much pain free at 2 weeks post op. Heck, I didn't even need to take my pain meds. at that point. Now I'm taking at least one Norco (7.5/325) a day plus 4 mg of Zanaflex at night. I feel great in the morning after a good night's rest. And when I'm feeling sore during the day standing/walking provides relief.

    There are a couple of people in my office that have ball balance chairs (chairs that fit one of those big exercise balls) that helps with posture. I'll ask my ortho if that might help too. Not sure what to do about the looking up and down though. Maybe wear my hard brace again? I stopped wearing it less than a week post op because it was pressing on trigger points at the base of my skull and sparking some pretty bad headaches. Ugh.

    I have found that resting on a heating pad on my neck and upper back provides relief from the achy and burning muscle pain. I found an extra large, soft and flexible one on

    David - yes, we should compare notes!

    I'm 40, and was in a car accident 11 years ago where I sustained whiplash (I had unbuckled my seat belt to get out of the car and was reaching for my laptop when we were rear ended). I never had any issues until April 2014. The pain started with muscle pain in my trap. area so I chalked it up to muscle tension. Then I started getting pain down my left arm. I went to a chiropractor thinking a good adjustment would help. He took x-rays, and that's when I found out I had degenerative disc disease. I traced it back to the accident because he said it looked like the injury was 10-15 years old based on the extent of arthritis.

    I went to a spine pain management doctor and got an MRI which showed disc herniation at C5-C6 and C6-C7 with significant foraminal narrowing at C6-C7. In addition to seeing my chiro 3x a week, and PT, I tried two rounds of steroid injections. The first provided relief for about three weeks. The second make the pain worse (from a 6/7 to an 8/9 pain level). It was at that point that I consulted an orthopaedic surgeon. About a month later, I had my C6-C7 ACDF. It's been a tough road and looks like it might be rocky for a bit yet to come.

    Take care guys!
  • Hi Sarah,
    Thanks for writing…
    Hope you're feeling a bit better? I guess no matter if we say 5 / 6 weeks post-op, or feeling great on some occasions (as I do) - disguises the reality that we are still SO fresh relatively speaking from having a pretty major operation…even though at one level.
    You are relatively young I think, and so if you continue to do the right things, stay positive etc, I think you'll be OK.
    It's kinda comforting to know there's someone else who's in a lost the same boat.
    I'm 46, and although I didn't have any specific accident, was diagnosed with DDD. My mum has had spine issues all her life - or at least since I can remember…perhaps I inherited her "bone" genes!?
    But curiously I too started having pain in March/April of this year, and just put it down to too much stress on my shoulders (where the pain started). I ride a motorcycle, and would always have a heavy backpack going to and from work.
    However, the pain spread down my arm, and would culminate in horrible neck pain. I did exactly as you did…tried meds, physiotherapy, cortisone injections (which worked the 1st time……but 2nd and 3rd rounds had much less effect).
    In the meantime, X-Ray and MRI clearly showed a number of problems. Funnily the technicians who did my MRI asked me "Wow, when did you have your accident?!"…at which I said I hadn't been in an accident.
    For some reason my NS only wanted to do only single-level C6-C7 ACDF. I questioned whether it wasn't a good idea to do the level above too, as there was a herniation there also, but he was evasive. I personally think the state system here will try to "do the minimum" in non-emergency cases. He also questioned the probability of the other discs nearby suffering.
    In any case, although I attempted to avoid surgery, I knew in my heart it was necessary.
    I'm glad I did it. It's not the miracle cure some people have been fortunate enough to experience, but let's see…In time…eh? My dream is to get back on my motorcycle and go for a blast, and come home with no pain.!!
    The throat has become another "issue". It's quite uncommon, but it's called "vocal chord paralysis". I'm seeing an ENT doctor this week. It's really really frustrating at times…because when I speak, people have problems understanding me, and because my Italian is poor, the reverse is true! Not an ideal situation….But, I'm confident in time this will resolve.

    OK, I've written too much! Good luck Sarah on Xmas Eve check-up….And to the other guys on this thread, I wish you a good week. !! :-)
    ACDF C6-C7
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  • I've had a ACDF at c3 to c5 and wii be adding c6 & c7 soon. The previous comments by others is right on the money. It's way too soon to be 100 % pain free if that's possible for any of us. Once you open up the spine to fix a problem (fusion) it takes several months to fuse, longer then mending a broken bone. Your nerves are Unhappy too. Inflammation is building in response to the healing process. Taking anti inflams will ruin a fusion so until the inflammation calms down there will be some side effects. Let your pain be your guide. I also wear a soft collar at least half a day so my neck and shoulders get a break. I lay down when I have to. I soak a lot in my hot tub. I do a few mental things to keep my mind busy. If the pain is severe I go to sleep. You heal and have less pain when you sleep.
    2005-ACDF with Corpectomy at C3-C-5.
    2006-L4-L5 diskectomy.
    2009-Cervical laminectomy at C3.
    Steroid injections series x 4.
  • ... No significant improvement since week 2. Glad I had the op. Just hoping the summer brings better news.
    ACDF C6-C7
  • Do you still have the vocal cord paralysis? Are you back to work? Sorry you're still in such pain.
    I can sympathize somewhat - I'm almost 10 weeks out from a 3 level fusion, and the neuro signs still persist. Ahhh, this is such a lesson in patience I could do without.

    ACDF w/Corpectomy C3-6 12/8/14 ; Laminectomy C3-6  5/19/2016

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  • .. Oh yeah, I almost forgot! Magically over the Christmas period, my voice returned to full strength. Best gift from Santa! We take so much for granted. Yes, back to work but it's not easy. Adrenaline seems to mask the reality. So so exhausted after each day, base of neck burns, upper back/shoulders always very uncomfortable. If there is progress, it's very slow. Take care and stay positive.
    ACDF C6-C7
  • Burning at the base of your neck and shoulders? All symptoms of nerve pain. I'm willing to bet that returning to work too soon is the reason you have not seen ANY significant improvement. I hate to say it, but this is in the textbook for what not to do. Sorry to pick on you, David, but you should have taken more time to heal! A gradual return to the work force makes more sense! Taking the money root is not in anyone's better interest! Most people cannot jump back into FT and sustain it. That's the problem here. It just isn't realistic and if it becomes their reality, living with more pain becomes part of that reality as well. Please people, don't take the financial route, take the time to fully heal first and then make a gradual transition back into the work force. Like the old saying goes --- those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.

    I wish you all the best though, David!

    Realize that FEAR is our worst enemy. Get up & get out in that stormy weather of the real world & kick fear in the teeth. Stare at it dead in the eyes & walk right through it into the storm; because once you're wet, you won’t fear the rain anymore
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