Pain in shoulder after cervical surgery

Posted by Harvey @purdy, May 10, 2020

Anyone have cervical surgery in areas if C4 through C7 and have had permanent pain in your shoulder? Have tried injections and ting unit, but no relief.

@jwest3sons

Hi, I wanted to respond to you. I am so sorry you are in so much pain after your fusion. It can be tough stuff. The spine is so complicated with so many parts and nerves. I can only speak to my process, the first step for me was to find out the why I was in pain. Your pain doc or your spinal surgeon can order a MRI or better yet CT scan using dye. It will tell the complete picture. If your pain is from muscle spasms due to complications perhaps Botox will help. It basically puts the muscle to sleep. I had bad headaches and spasms since surgery so I went to a Neurologist. I looked for a woman that specializes in MS. She has more practice with spasms. Turned out the spasms in neck and shoulder were my headache cause. She is the one that put in the Botox. After a year of treatment I just tried not having the shots, and now the spasms are back. So I’m scheduled again. The muscle relaxer I’m on is Methocarbamol, it is marginal but worth a try. The best for me was Baclofen but had other complications from it that most people don’t have. You could ask. The best about Botox is you aren’t medicated so you can work drive and have a life. I think it will be used more in the future, hang in there, keep working towards a plan that works best for you. Each person is different but there will be something to help. My prayers are with you.

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@ryan6220 I didn't tell you on my last message that I had a fusion on my back from T10 to my pelvis. It was in June 9th. I had degeneration that caused a scoliosis and had stenosis in my L-4 & 5. I am healing quite well and wearing a brace. My bones are soft so I have to do Tymlos, an injection into my stomach daily. the needle is so small you can hardly see it. I am so sad you are having so much pain. What did you have done? I was in the hospital for 7 days. Blessing and healing sent your way.

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I have not had cervical cervical, but I have had a Fusion on my back from T10 t0 my pelvis. It was a nine hour surgery. Yours would be much easier. So don't be afraid to have the surgery.

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@purdy I am so sorry, you have all ready had to surgery (cervical) So your shoulders are in pain. Have you asked your surgeon or primary care. I'm not a doctor. I had a fusion on my back from T 10 to my pelvis and doing well. It has been almost 3 months post=op. Take care I hope you get better.

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@lilypaws

I have not had cervical cervical, but I have had a Fusion on my back from T10 t0 my pelvis. It was a nine hour surgery. Yours would be much easier. So don't be afraid to have the surgery.

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I have had 3 spinal surgeries and they will not do more because I am 83 years old.

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@muttwoman

Hello Ginger, Thank you for your response. I was searching for additional information on the internet, and selected the Mayo Clinic as a trusted source of information. The shared responses were of great interest to me. My surgery was complicated, and I ultimately retired so I could take care of my health. I certainly would describe myself as one who is an excellent historian, and keeping details of this journey would be quite easy. I wondered if the surgical positioning of the shoulder (and learned during a Post-Op visit from a Nurse Practitioner that the shoulder is pressed to better access the spine) caused my subsequent injury. Elizabeth

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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,
Nan
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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@nkd123

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,
Nan
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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@nkd123
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:
https://connect.mayoclinic.org/discussion/anyone-had-an-anterior-cervical-corpectomy-and-discectomy-with-fusion/?pg=1#comment-367661
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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@jesfactsmon

@nkd123
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:
https://connect.mayoclinic.org/discussion/anyone-had-an-anterior-cervical-corpectomy-and-discectomy-with-fusion/?pg=1#comment-367661
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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Hi Hank, Thanks so much for your feedback, I'll be sure to follow the leads you've suggested. As I'm sure both you and your wife understand, it is rare to reach out and get answers and even more rare to find others who are supportive and empathetic as well, so I thank you for this as well.
My best regards, Nan

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@nkd123

Hi Hank, Thanks so much for your feedback, I'll be sure to follow the leads you've suggested. As I'm sure both you and your wife understand, it is rare to reach out and get answers and even more rare to find others who are supportive and empathetic as well, so I thank you for this as well.
My best regards, Nan

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@nkd123
Nan, since you can not tolerate much in the way of prescribed medications for your pain dues to your kidney disease, I am wondering if you have tried using cbd oil? Some people get relief from it. Linda, my wife, was not one of those lucky people but she does use other cannabinoids. Do you happen to live in a state where medical marijuana is legal? The might be another thing to try, assuming it does not interact with your illness in a negative way.

I think you are wise to continue to do physical work, even in as limited a way as you must due to the impairment from your illnesses. Whatever you can do, even if its just a small amount each day, will stand you in very good stead as you move forward. I admire your spirit in continuing to strive to continue to live your life. Hats off to you.

Best, Hank

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@purdy

I’m four weeks post-op for cervical surgery on C4-5-6-7. I now have the feeling that I need to constantly clear my throat, horrible taste in my mouth and still have extreme pain in back of neck in area where surgery was done. Has anyone had this same surgery and dealt with any of these post-op issues? Is so, what help you deal with them?

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Yes! I had cervical 4-5, 5-6, 6-7 done. I had excellent results for several years. However my Doctor explained that you have to be care Dio when eating drier foods like bread, crackers chips and harder things like Licorice in bed if not sitting up
Straight snd you need to chew thoroughly! I had my procedure done in 2010, right after rotator cuff and labrum tear surgery. Shoulder locked back up so had to redo physical therapy on shoulder along with neck. 11 years later, my disks above and below are in severe pain… they’ve weakened a lot. The only thing I can suggest to give you relief other than a lot of opioids or a fentanyl patch is to have regular facet injections. Epidurals don’t work for this and all it does is add on the pounds!

Facet injections are wonderful and if two or three of these work, then plan a rysotomy with your pain management dr. This is where they either burn the nerve or sever it with needles.. I chose the later in case there was a slip, I knew in time it would come back! These work for a good 8 months at a time.

I’ve now had a reverse shoulder replacement six weeks ago and I know I really need a complete fusion after the 11 years in the cervical. However, my neurosurgeon says it’s a huge operation as the hardware I presently have has to be removed and then the entire neck has to be fused. This will SEVERELY Decrease mobility to the point of possibly not being able to drive and a huge scar across the entire neck. I visit my shoulder doctor today to see what I can do next as the reverse replacement hasn’t eased my shoulder pain at all. I have severe reduced mobility in the arm AND I still have constant pain and it now goes from shoulder to shoulder and is causing severe muscle spasms across my entire back, upper neck area from shoulder to shoulder! I’m a mess! In addition I’ve had two lower back surgeries! A fusion done thru the front where they moved all my organs to get to the back… done in 2012. Last May, I had had severe static’s for over 6 mo the and wanted to just craw into a ball forever. My neurosurgeon did a discectomy and laminectomy and my lower back hasn’t felt this good in years!

However, my thoracic spine is also herniated and surgery is THE LAST OPTION FOR THIS… I’ve been to University of Miami twice to Dr. Lee and it’s a very dangerous procedure! Having recently had this reverse shoulder replacement, I really feel it’s taken a severe toll on my cervical and thoracic spine and the reason I’m not healing as expected! I’m only 58 years old and I have felt with chronic pain since 2004 from a severe auto accident. I’ve taken myself off of ALL PAIN MEDS, but now I’m wondering if a fentanyl patch may not be the way to go again!

I’ll keep you posted. However, all I can say at the moment is I’m not happy. I wear pain on my face daily and I’m always in pain which is exhausting! I just wish I knew a solution for all I carry. In addition to all of this…. I apparently have accelerated arthritis which I believe is hereditary. When I had my cervical fusion at 47, my doctor told me he actually flipped me
Over to be sure he was operating on me as he said I had the back of a 70 year old woman. So… who knows where I go from here. I’m assuming pain will always be in my future. I just continue to look for holistic ways to treat it as my liver, I’m sure, is not in the best shape from all the drugs over the years!

If any doctors are reading this and have ANY SUGGESTIONS… I’m open to anything to try accept oxycodone or OxyContin drugs! They’re nasty and I’m very sensitive now to all opioids including morphine and dilaudid. Anything I take makes me itch bad! A fentanyl patch is about the best thing and that keeps me from sleeping so I just move on day to day and suffer and try to enjoy life the best way I can. I test a lot and am not who I was just a few years ago.

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@lorimpl

Yes! I had cervical 4-5, 5-6, 6-7 done. I had excellent results for several years. However my Doctor explained that you have to be care Dio when eating drier foods like bread, crackers chips and harder things like Licorice in bed if not sitting up
Straight snd you need to chew thoroughly! I had my procedure done in 2010, right after rotator cuff and labrum tear surgery. Shoulder locked back up so had to redo physical therapy on shoulder along with neck. 11 years later, my disks above and below are in severe pain… they’ve weakened a lot. The only thing I can suggest to give you relief other than a lot of opioids or a fentanyl patch is to have regular facet injections. Epidurals don’t work for this and all it does is add on the pounds!

Facet injections are wonderful and if two or three of these work, then plan a rysotomy with your pain management dr. This is where they either burn the nerve or sever it with needles.. I chose the later in case there was a slip, I knew in time it would come back! These work for a good 8 months at a time.

I’ve now had a reverse shoulder replacement six weeks ago and I know I really need a complete fusion after the 11 years in the cervical. However, my neurosurgeon says it’s a huge operation as the hardware I presently have has to be removed and then the entire neck has to be fused. This will SEVERELY Decrease mobility to the point of possibly not being able to drive and a huge scar across the entire neck. I visit my shoulder doctor today to see what I can do next as the reverse replacement hasn’t eased my shoulder pain at all. I have severe reduced mobility in the arm AND I still have constant pain and it now goes from shoulder to shoulder and is causing severe muscle spasms across my entire back, upper neck area from shoulder to shoulder! I’m a mess! In addition I’ve had two lower back surgeries! A fusion done thru the front where they moved all my organs to get to the back… done in 2012. Last May, I had had severe static’s for over 6 mo the and wanted to just craw into a ball forever. My neurosurgeon did a discectomy and laminectomy and my lower back hasn’t felt this good in years!

However, my thoracic spine is also herniated and surgery is THE LAST OPTION FOR THIS… I’ve been to University of Miami twice to Dr. Lee and it’s a very dangerous procedure! Having recently had this reverse shoulder replacement, I really feel it’s taken a severe toll on my cervical and thoracic spine and the reason I’m not healing as expected! I’m only 58 years old and I have felt with chronic pain since 2004 from a severe auto accident. I’ve taken myself off of ALL PAIN MEDS, but now I’m wondering if a fentanyl patch may not be the way to go again!

I’ll keep you posted. However, all I can say at the moment is I’m not happy. I wear pain on my face daily and I’m always in pain which is exhausting! I just wish I knew a solution for all I carry. In addition to all of this…. I apparently have accelerated arthritis which I believe is hereditary. When I had my cervical fusion at 47, my doctor told me he actually flipped me
Over to be sure he was operating on me as he said I had the back of a 70 year old woman. So… who knows where I go from here. I’m assuming pain will always be in my future. I just continue to look for holistic ways to treat it as my liver, I’m sure, is not in the best shape from all the drugs over the years!

If any doctors are reading this and have ANY SUGGESTIONS… I’m open to anything to try accept oxycodone or OxyContin drugs! They’re nasty and I’m very sensitive now to all opioids including morphine and dilaudid. Anything I take makes me itch bad! A fentanyl patch is about the best thing and that keeps me from sleeping so I just move on day to day and suffer and try to enjoy life the best way I can. I test a lot and am not who I was just a few years ago.

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@lorimpl Welcome to Mayo Clinic Connect, a place to give and get support.

I'm sorry to hear about your car accident. 58 is so young to have gone through so many surgeries and reduced mobility. It sounds like you have a rough road ahead too.

Below I have linked a discussion where you may wish to introduce yourself to members like @jenatsky @anniebrook @artscaping@migizii@lionness@bustrbrwn22@gayle1@faithwalker007@ken82, who have recently discussed chronic pain.
– Chronic Pain members – Welcome, please introduce yourself https://connect.mayoclinic.org/discussion/welcome-please-introduce-yourself-welcome-to-the-new-chronic-pain-group-im/

It seems impossible that you have gone without pain medications for so long. May I ask if you have any suggestions on finding providers and treatments for alternative pain options?

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