Occipital Cervical Fusion with Extension Recovery

Hello everyone,
On May 19th, I had my Occipital Cervical fusion with extension, from previous fusion down to T5.  Recovery has been difficult at this point in the game, in comparison to my prior cervical reconstruction surgery in 2015.  Granted, I expect pain, different issues with each procedure; however, this has been a little more taxing than I'd expected. In surgery, I lost a lot of blood, which required 3 transfusions, issues with anesthesia (they always need to bop me in the head with a wake up bonker..haha!) and uncontrollable pain.  There are a few things that have seemed perplexing on my recovery and am wondering if others, who've had similar surgeries or even just similar issues, can help me feel a little less alone. Major mega muscle spams, starting from the left side of my neck up into my scalp, around my ear, which goes numb. Sometimes even my lips, chin,etc on the left side go numb as well during these episodes.  I expect muscle spasms, but these are absolutely THE worst I have ever experienced, to where I am crying. Walking any distance brings these on with a vengeance, which I am accustomed to taking long walks, before surgery. Next, would be scalp numbness and back numbness, which also has a prickly feel at times, so I am wondering if this could be caused by some type of numbing med they may have used or possible neuralgia, from the occipital area being aggravated.  I have asked my surgeon's nurse and the assisting surgeon about these issues and they have the same answer, this surgery is rare, the occipital nerve is affected, which could be causing the pain and numbness, use heat and ice for spasms, take pain, relaxer and nerve meds for pain. UUUUGH!!!  If those items worked, I wouldn't be asking what else to do, right?! Sorry this is so long winded, folks! I'm just tired, feeling a little whiney and spazzing (pun intended) out,

Thanks for letting me vent!



  • wow!  venting is good!  had some of the same problems but to a lesser degree. am fused from CO to C7  18 months ago. still cant tell if i am wearing a hat due to numbness in back of head, same spasms though, left side of neck to ear, were bad first 3 months but now about once a week and a relaxant helps. loss of upper body strength. and some balance problem due to loss of ROM so i am hoping your pain and problems dissipate over time. wife says i may have a screw loose though the NS says no, i sat i have artificially induced perfect posture and choose to count that as a blessing of sorts,  yes the surgery is rare and the available information seems to be different for the few who get it, but the end result seems to be good if you can wait it out.  keep the humor and know that your in a small group but not alone.  take care and bless you   piperbill
  • memerainboltmemerainbolt IndianaPosts: 3,403
    aimee rose

    It's ok to whine, vent, cry or scream, we've all done it at one point or another. And that's what we are here for, to support each other through the good and bad. No need for apologies. 

    I've had issues with anesthesia, they never give me enough so I wake up during surgery. I always tell them don't go by my weight (90 lbs), I have a very high tolerance. Well, they don't listen, so during surgery I'll wake up and say hello!! The same with controlling pain. I had surgery in Jan and was screaming in recovery. My daughter found out they were giving me a child's dose because of my weight. What??

    So no, you are not alone on having surgery issues. Besides, it's only been 2 weeks since you had surgery!! Give it time, you are just starting to recover.

    Take care and keep us posted.
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  • I am in week 8 of my recovery from an occipital fusion to C7. I also have numbness in the back of my head and down my back where they operated. My doctor has told me the nerves may regenerate and I may have feeling back and some has slowly started coming back. Usually the area that is starts itching a little bit. Numb but itching. So far it's just small portions of the back of my head.
    I had a lot of issues with spasms in my neck down to my right arm the first few weeks. Now it's lessened and I'm able to control my pain and that issue with medication and stretching. I'm doing outpatient physical and occupational therapy two to three times a week. So you may want to ask your PT for ways to help with the spasms.
    All I can say is it has gotten better slowly. It is a lot of hard work and I'm far from done but it'll get better for you.
    I required a platelet transfusion during the surgery and potassium supplements after the surgery.
    The spasms are really helped by stretching every day from your waist up. By stretching your arms up and down, raising them as far as you can and moving them around, and moving your shoulders. I call it my sitting down yoga. I do it at least 3 times a day. Also, massage therapy did wonders loosening my very stiff shoulders, back, and neck without touching any areas they weren't allowed to. I had a neuro masseuse, so you may want to see if that's available through your hospital.
    Some days are better than others and on the good days I notate them and the positive changes in my body. That way on the bad days I can read it. I'm sorry for the long post, I'm originally from Texas and I talk a lot. Hahaha! I wish you a speedy and complete recovery. :)
  • memerainboltmemerainbolt IndianaPosts: 3,403
    edited 07/23/2019 - 1:08 PM

    Welcome to Veritas Health Forum
    Your recovery seems to be going really good, of course, with a lot of hard work from yourself.
    Keep up the good work!!
    Like you, stretching has become my best friend. I lean over the dinning room table, put my arms out in front and slowly stretch. I will do that several times a day and find afterwards I can stand and walk better.

    Take care and keep us posted on how you are doing.
  • What kind of fixation is required after surgery?  Halo?  Miami J? Soft collar?  I already have balance issues.  Not using a cane yet, but probably should.  How do you view your computer or read if you can't flex your neck?  How do you accomplish filing your nails, caring for your toenails, etc.  My mind is reeling with questions.

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  • in my case a Miami j collar which I filled with little Christmas tree lights to enjoy the experience. My symptomatic balance issues disappeared after the fusion, but because I cant move  my head to counterweight my body movements when I turn or bend over I had to relearn some basic moves, Im a power plant mechanic and I had to be creative with how to move and look when working, Looking up for items in the grocery store can be a pain and finding the sweet spot for reading and computering  ? takes some adjustment, its the little things that may catch you up like putting on your watch when you cannot see your belt buckle, none of these things are impossible just have to do business a bit more creatively.  take care and best to you   piperbill
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