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Harvey (@purdy)

Pain in shoulder after cervical surgery

Chronic Pain | Last Active: Mar 12 12:10pm | Replies (34)

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Hello Elizabeth, I have been searching for information about what caused injury to my shoulders during multi-level ACDF surgery several years ago. Immediately following the surgery, I had a 3 to 4 inch circular bruised area located between my collarbone and shoulder on the soft skin tissue on each shoulder. I wish I had taken pictures! I won't go over every detail between then and now, suffice it to say, I concluded it was caused by something used for positioning the patient during the surgery. I have never located anything online indicating a device or even that this may be done during this surgery, but common sense and injury location led me to conclude this. The result was a brachial plexus injury, which occurs when the shoulder is forced down while the neck is stretched upwards and away from the shoulder. I was thrilled to see that you actually were told about learned about the surgical positioning by a medical professional. The surgeon who performed my ACDF actually denied any knowledge of such an injury. Can you imagine? Thank goodness my husband was there with me to hear the doctor's denial, because I don't know if anyone would really believe me. I suppose he was concerned about some kind of liability, although that wasn't my reason for asking him about it. I just wanted him to tell me what could be done about it. To date, I've had some self-referred PT to address some of the problem and now, two years later, I've reinjured the injury in a fall. The symptoms and decrease in ADL are the same now as then: restricted range of motion with my arms, cannot lift them above my shoulders or use them behind my back. I also have nerve pain run down my arms and very intense pain in my hands and lower arms. I have about a 50% decrease in my physical ability to do housework and gardening tasks such as carrying anything like clothes, or reaching inside the washer and dryer. Forget cleaning floors with vacuums, dust mops, brooms or wet mops, they result in setbacks and more pain. I take Tylenol when the aching and burning get bad, but of course, nothing helps the sharp nerve pain. Because I have stage 3 kidney disease, there are very few pain meds I can take. I'm sorry I don't have a specific remedy for you, but it sounds as if you were questioning whether the positioning during surgery had caused your shoulder injury, to which I say, yes, I absolutely do. I wish you the very best in your search for relief from pain and injury. I cannot tell you how overjoyed and relieved I am that you posted real information about this. By the way, when the surgeon denied any knowledge of my injury resulting from a procedure, I was crushed, it was such a let down from someone I had admired and relied on to perform this complex surgery. I never returned for any follow up care.
My best regards,
P.S. Dylan and Hope, both doggie rescues who are now part of our family, send doggie hugs to you and Molly!

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Replies to "Hello Elizabeth, I have been searching for information about what caused injury to my shoulders during..."

Hi Nan. Welcome to Mayo Connect. Hopefully Elizabeth will see your post and respond to you, but her last post was in July so she might not be following Connect that closely now. I actually started a discussion a while ago about ACDF surgery. A friend of mine was having one done and I was trying to elicit experiences from others who had had it done. Here is a link if it's of any interest to you:
I am sorry that your doctor will not discuss what was done to you during surgery, i.e. the reason your shoulders evidence these areas of "brachial plexus injury" as you say. Liability issues really drive a wedge between doctors and their patients unfortunately.

In addition to the Chronic Pain Group (here), you might be interested in checking out these other groups to perhaps connect with others who have similar issues:
Bones, joints and muscles: https://connect.mayoclinic.org/group/arthritis-and-joint-conditions-268850/
Spine health: https://connect.mayoclinic.org/group/spine-health/

Nerve pain is the WORST! My wife has peripheral neuropathy in her feet and ankles and there is (so far) no cure. But I try to monitor the neuropathy group myself. Occasionally a good idea will appear and we will try it. Some actually have been helpful to my wife.

I'm so sorry for what has happened to you. My heart goes out to you for sure! I hope you are able to get some benefit and enjoyment from using Connect. All my best to you, Hank

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