Arm, midback and shoulder pain after cervical spine fusion

by Joyce
(St Clair, MO USA)

Arm, midback and shoulder pain after cervical spine fusion; it's usually not the cure we're looking for.


Pain in upper back that gives me headache and vomiting that last from six to eight hours. Can't sit in any chair if the upper T area touches, I sit with a thin pillow on left and right and top half of head like a small pillow.

Have had cervical fusion of 5-6-7 in 2008. For the correction of these symptoms. The headaches stopped for a brief time but returned to same in 1 year. I have numbness in underarm all the way down to hand on right side. While I sleep if I lie on my left side my right arm goes numb. Can't lift anything where I have to raise my arm outward.

I have been diagnosed with a tear in my rotator cuff. I also get a pain sometimes in chest in same area as my back problem as if they are connected. When this occurs it gets painful to breathe and to take a deep breath. I sleep the same way in my bed as I do in my chair, the pillows strategically placed to prevent my back from touching anything I'm on several medications for pain, inflammation have had steroid shots in that location of my back which did absolutely nothing.

Was diagnosed with degenerate bone in that area but still can't find the reason for the pain for the headaches or the vomiting spells that last all day long. Have surgery coming up on shoulder in February afraid of what will come of this if I have to sleep in a way that prevents me from protecting my back.

I can't go to a dentist or sit in a chair at a doctor's office for any length of time without severe repercussions; my last dentist appointment left me sitting in a chair at my home for well over 2 months just trying to contain the sick headaches and vomiting. I'm at a loss at this point I have seen six specialists, a chiropractor, physical therapy an orthopedic surgeons, neurologist 2 neurosurgeon.

We have tried many methods and still all we come up with is it is muscle problem in the upper back, maybe the degenerate bone but no one wants to tackle anything in the thoracic area of the back. Is there any help for me where do I go from here? I have heard a lot of (I don't deal with this area of the back) there are too many nerves.

Hello Joyce,
I just wish folk could be warned that cervical fusion isn't always the panacea that it's proclaimed to be. It's a shame, you're having a lot of grief.

Pain with a deep breath in the midback points to a rib problem, and I see no reason why it shouldn't be treated with chiropractic; however, be warned; if you are having breastbone pain, a heavy manipulation in the midback may aggravate the chest pain; I prefer the "anterior thoracic" technique.

The pain in the underarm, probably travelling down the to the ring finger and pinkie, comes from below the fusion. The C8 or T1 dermatomes; hence the surgery didn't help; or did these start after the surgery?

Are you having any jaw joint pain, just in front of the ear, and often radiating towards the mouth, the eye, sinuses and side of the head? Any popping and clicking? The TMJ is a major cause of headache.

But if you have lower neck subluxations causing all these shoulder and arm symptoms, and midback via the dorsal scapular nerve, then it's not improbable that you have upper cervical problems too, a frequent cause of headache.

You don't tell me how it was before surgery; did the operation help at all, or simply worsen matters? You've had previous trauma I suspect.

Obviously one has to be more gentle after neck surgery, but gentle chiropractic should bring you considerable relief from these problems. A cure is unlikely.

What's needed is a course of gentle chiropractic treatment, and then a monthly maintenance consultation.

Ask for shoulder exercises; perhaps you can avoid that shoulder surgery; the rotator cuff lesion was mostly caused by chronic nerve irritation to the muscles from the area fused.

I hope this contributes.

Dr B



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