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Old 09-14-2012, 06:05 AM   #1
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chronic pain one year post cervical fusion

Hello!
I will start by giving a brief description of my backround. I am a 33 year old female with a very active life with my boyfriend and 7 year old daughter. I grew up involved in every sport imaginable, always on the go. My first love was cheerleading, I did it from 6 years old to the college level. Being a base all those years (the girl on bottom of stunts) my spine indured stress from a very young age. Mostly from girls standing/sitting on my shoulders, day after day, but who thinks of that so young! I think this out of all the sports was my main issue for neck issues later in life, my personal opinion.

I have always had back/neck aches (who doesnt) from the sports, but 3 years ago, my neck was giving more trouble than ever. Finally in 2010 I went to my pcp and let her in on it, she had me get an xray and said everything was fine. So I sucked it up and continued on with activities. Well that brings us to April 2011 when the symptoms were now my shoulder, arm and hand (no trauma or falls to bring this on). My pcp referred me to an ortho who then did am MRI. I am still not sure to this day what exactly the real diagnosis was but I know he said "you should do surgery now when your young and can heal because it is going to happen eventually".

I had a c6 c7 fusion with hardware. He also said I had other issues in other levels but since I wasnt having symptoms there, we would leave it alone for now. I felt great a few months post op, well I felt better anyway. It wasnt the constant shooting toothache like pain or shoulder pain like before, it was there, but tolerable.

Now, over a year later I am in constant pain with new symptoms. Shooting right ear pain, horrible headaches, Losing my balance (this one scares me), losng hand function on and off and losing strength, forearm going numb and in pain and of course the old symptoms are still there also, worse than ever.

I called my surgeon and he said to go to pain management, my last xray looked ok? Even with my new symptoms I was surprised he didnt want to see me right away, is this common??

I am new to the whole pain management dr so I dont know what to expect, any thoughts? He is a private practice dr thats about all i know. I have my first apt in 4 weeks and I am nervous but anxious to see what is going on. Any advice would be appreciated, thanks all!

 
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Old 09-14-2012, 08:46 AM   #2
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Re: chronic pain one year post cervical fusion

<< I called my surgeon and he said to go to pain management, my last xray looked ok? >>

An X-Ray is a very blunt tool. it may tell the surgeon that the hardware he installed is still in place, or that the fusion may have progressed well, but it can't tell him ENOUGH about all the other things that can cause nerve impingement.

Fobbing you off on pain management is a bad sign, imo. I think you need to get more opinions, from surgeons. I wouldn't count on the pain management doc to do anything other than "manage" your pain. That's how he makes money, after all, not by sending you to a surgeon.

I am NOT saying that pain management isn't where you should be, only that you should ALSO be getting TWO more opinions from surgeons, and a NEW MRI.

 
Old 09-14-2012, 08:58 AM   #3
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Re: chronic pain one year post cervical fusion

Thank you for the quick response and opinion, much appreciated! These new symptoms and increased pain are scaring me because its only getting worse. I actually did call a neuro and explained the situation, his assistant said since I already had surgery they weren't willing to see me? This is frustrating to say the least. do you know what I can expect at my visit to the pain dr? Will he order more tests to see if there is additional issues or just treat what is showing on previous tests?

 
Old 09-14-2012, 10:48 AM   #4
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Re: chronic pain one year post cervical fusion

Sorry, I have never seen a pain management doc. Hopefully, I never will. Maybe he'll do a very good job, maybe he'll get you back to the surgeon, I don't know.

You seem to be caught in a Catch-22. The first surgeon may be afraid that if he sees you again and you still have a problem it may imply that he did the first surgery wrong. News surgeons may say they don't want to follow after another guy, but they won't ALL say that. You may have to go to another city, though, to avoid the first guy's friends.

 
Old 09-14-2012, 11:04 AM   #5
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Re: chronic pain one year post cervical fusion

Great point, never thought of it like that. Like you said, he may be great I will just have to wait and see. thank you re replying

 
Old 09-14-2012, 02:39 PM   #6
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Re: chronic pain one year post cervical fusion

I feel your pain, literally!! I am 42yrs old and had ACDF 4/5 and 5/6 with hardware. I went to a neurosurgeon because I was dealing with my neck and it made me nervous and I thought a neuro was better than ortho......WRONG.
Anyway, one year later, still in pain and no longer working as a dental hygienist (disability now) I am still not fused. She told me about a month ago to, "give the fusion more time" and get steroid shot.

I went for a second opinion (after the steroid shot) because the shot gave me some pain relief. I felt like I was on borrowed time. My orthopedic doc today that I saw was a little offended that I went to neurosurgeon. Anyway, my fusion "failed" according to him. He showed me on the MRI the bone spurs that she either "missed" or more than likely have formed because my neck was "collapsing". My neuro I just saw a month ago never said anything. Said one fusion looks great but the other one "still has some healing".

I am going for 3rd opinion in 2 weeks. I know something is not right and I am afraid the Orthopedic doc is right. He specializes in spinal cord/fusion/disc etc. I think you should get a second/third opinion. Also, they pain mngmt doc will probably rec steroid shot...it may work but it can mask the problem if there is one.

Good luck to you. I know it's overwhelming and confusing. you don't know who to believe. You know your body and if your in pain, something is not right!! Have you been checked for TMJ or ENT for ear pain and dizzy spells?? Just a thought........

 
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Old 09-14-2012, 03:18 PM   #7
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Re: chronic pain one year post cervical fusion

aww I am sorry you are suffering also, its not fun You are right, I dont know who to believe! My surgeon has a great rep so I trusted him, I think he did the surgery way too soon, but I felt at the time it was my only choice, like I was pushed into it.

I ama just really worried about the losing balance thing and ear pain, it just weird how it appeared months after surgery. Also, I sit all day at my desk as an admin assistant and I find more often than not I have right hand pain and sometimes i lose function when I use my mouse, it will just lose feeling or sharp pains. My apt with pain dr is oct 12 so I dont know if I should wait and see what he says? I really want a new MRI to see what is going on.

I heard recently that once you have a cervical fusion it can effect the discs above and below, do you know if that is true?? Thanks so much for your reply Hope you are having a good day!

 
Old 09-14-2012, 04:06 PM   #8
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Re: chronic pain one year post cervical fusion

Yes, it is very true and I am a perfect example. The doctor I saw today said either the doc that did my surgery put in cadaver bone that was too thick and it put pressure on area below fusion so my neck has "collapsed" OR she shaved the bone too thin when she was making space for spinal cord or removing osteophytes (bone spurs) I am only one year post surgery. I had 4-5 and 6-7 fused. There is an osteophyte at C7-T1 that is getting big and causing numbness. He showed me the MRI.....I'm no doctor but i could see what he was talking about.My bone has collapsed causing the hardware to move and the top part is impenging on level above. i had a 2 level fusion...the more you fuse, the weaker the area. Now they are talking 4 levels!!! I am getting more opinions.

You probably already know this but take a lot of little breaks and stretch. i went to phy therapy for a while and I still do the stretches the taught me. Also, deep tissue massage may help. It buys me a little relief but now I'm going broke!!! Be careful of carpel tunnel as well. i heard Motrin was the best OTC for pain relief. I look like a walking pharmacy....I have so many muscle relaxers/pain killers. My Aunt had 7 or 8 back surgery before she died. She had morphine pump implanted in her back. Such a horrible way to live. i pray to god that doesnt happen to me. Keep me posted

 
Old 09-16-2012, 06:42 AM   #9
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Re: chronic pain one year post cervical fusion

Quote:
Originally Posted by Holly01 View Post
Yes, it is very true and I am a perfect example. The doctor I saw today said either the doc that did my surgery put in cadaver bone that was too thick and it put pressure on area below fusion so my neck has "collapsed" OR she shaved the bone too thin when she was making space for spinal cord or removing osteophytes (bone spurs) I am only one year post surgery. I had 4-5 and 6-7 fused. There is an osteophyte at C7-T1 that is getting big and causing numbness. He showed me the MRI.....I'm no doctor but i could see what he was talking about.My bone has collapsed causing the hardware to move and the top part is impenging on level above. i had a 2 level fusion...the more you fuse, the weaker the area. Now they are talking 4 levels!!! I am getting more opinions.

You probably already know this but take a lot of little breaks and stretch. i went to phy therapy for a while and I still do the stretches the taught me. Also, deep tissue massage may help. It buys me a little relief but now I'm going broke!!! Be careful of carpel tunnel as well. i heard Motrin was the best OTC for pain relief. I look like a walking pharmacy....I have so many muscle relaxers/pain killers. My Aunt had 7 or 8 back surgery before she died. She had morphine pump implanted in her back. Such a horrible way to live. i pray to god that doesnt happen to me. Keep me posted

 
Old 09-16-2012, 06:45 AM   #10
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Re: chronic pain one year post cervical fusion

I have tried Motrin, Ibuprofin and Tylenol and nothing works to even take the edge off. Very frustrating. I understand I will never be 100% pain free, but I would love to find a way to at least minimize it. Any idea of what to expect at my first apt? I know all dr are different and this oneis private practice, not a clinic, not sure if that matters? I am going to get my MRI report on Monday and post the findings, maybe that will give a better picture of my issues.

 
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