scar and pain following cervical surgery

Cervical arthrodesis: Postoperative pain (is it normal?)

The neck pain are responsible for daily discomfort and inconvenience. To treat them, the doctor generally prescribes analgesics, anti-inflammatories, muscle relaxants and physiotherapy sessions. Faced with severe forms, he resorts toarthrodesis cervical.


It is the treatment of last resort after failure of other treatments. Although it is effective, the patient may still feel pain after the procedure. Is this normal? Is there anything worrying? We will talk about this in the article.

What is cervical arthrodesis?


I will start with a few anatomy reminders to help you better understand the subject.


Reminders on the anatomy of the spine


La column vertebral ou spine is the part of the skeleton that connects the head and the pelvis. It is made up of 33 disc-shaped bones called the vertebrae. These are stacked vertically and joined by intervertebral discs, posterior interapophyseal joints, muscles and ligaments.


spine anatomy


The vertebrae of the spine are divided into 5 groups:


  • the cervical vertebrae ;
  • the thoracic vertebrae;
  • the lumbar vertebrae;
  • the sacral vertebrae (sacrum);
  • the coccygeal vertebrae (coccyx).


The last two groups of vertebrae are not mobile.


With regard to vertebrae cervical, they are 7 in number. They are located between the skull and the thoracic vertebrae, in the region of neck.



cervical spine anatomy


Le cervical spine is often the seat of pain that can be debilitating. This occurs in particular as a result of poor posture, false head movement, trauma, mechanical stress, inflammatory disease, infection of the ENT sphere, etc.


Cervical arthrodesis: what is it??


arthrodesis cervical is a surgical procedure. It consists of merge two people ou several vertebrae cervical in order to immobilize them.


cervical arthrodesis with cage


The operation can be done in two ways: by previous or by way posterior.


THEcervical arthrodesis previous is most often performed. It's about a discectomy. The surgeon removes the pathological disc which is between the vertebrae cervical. Instead, he inserts a bone graft that will also fuse the vertebrae together and allow them to stay still.  


This type of intervention is generally indicated in cases of neck pain that is persistent, chronic or associated with more serious and urgent problems such as compression of the spinal cord or other nerve damage.


To learn more about arthrodesis cervical, click here.


For the rest of the article, we will focus on the postoperative pain. 



How to explain pain after cervical arthrodesis? 


Where does postoperative arthrodesis pain come from??


Like any surgical operation, arthrodesis includes skin incisions and sutures. All of these actions cause pain that will be felt once the effect of the anesthesia wears off. It is completely normal to have pain after the operation and during the days that follow. 




Sometimes surgery also causes nerve damage that can lead to postoperative pain.


It is important to remember that the fusion of vertebrae cervical slightly reduces their mobility which will reduce neck pain. She can't make it go away completely.


Moreover, it should be noted that the pain does not necessarily come from the operation.


Postoperative pain after cervical arthrodesis: what type??


The pain that follow arthrodesis cervical vary according to their type, intensity, location and manifestation.


neck pain


We can distinguish muscle and skin pain associated with the inflammation caused by the wound. 


There are also the pain of types neuropathic manifest in areas associated with affected nerves. We then speak of pain projected. They manifest themselves in the form of chronic tingling, electric shocks, burning or pinching sensations.


Turnkey pain Type compensatory can also occur. They are explained by the compensation of the imbalances that can cause arthrodesis cervical. This type of pain is felt in the shoulders or in the thoracic region.


And finally there are the tensions muscle pain that comes with this type of surgery.



How long does one suffer after cervical arthrodesis?


For the majority of patients, the pain postoperative only last for some days or a few weeks. They eventually fade and disappear completely. Sometimes they even disappear as soon as the patient wakes up. The duration varies according to the individual.


anterior cervical surgery


As for skin pain, they are present until the end of healing. It may take about 3 weeks after arthrodesis cervical.



When to worry?


To have some pain after one arthrodesis is normal. In addition, the doctor prescribes analgesics to help support them. 


In some cases, however, the pain may persist and no longer respond to painkillers or other treatments. At worst, they cause limitations functional documents. It is in these situations that you have to worry. The best thing to do is see your surgeon to figure out what's wrong. 


arthrodesis cervical, like any surgical procedure, is sometimes accompanied by complications. There are several possible risks:


stethoscope representing a medical emergency


  • the appearance of hematomas which lead to breathing difficulties;
  • infections, irritations due to intubation (although the latter is sometimes necessary), bleeding, risk of phlebitis, etc.;
  • the risks associated with general anesthesia;
  • damage to nearby nerves;
  • failed operations also lead to complications, eg failed hernia removals, failed vertebral fusion.


The stresses increase at the level of the vertebrae around arthrodesis. This promotes their degradation and the appearance of osteoarthritis adjacent to the previous surgery.



What to do to avoid pain after cervical arthrodesis?

Take a rest


It is enough to rest, the time of convalescence, to avoid pain. Avoid neck movements for three weeks after the operation. The neck brace can be of great help in this case. Carrying heavy loads and intense physical activities are strictly prohibited.


All these precautions make it possible to avoid complications, which can accentuate the pain postoperative after one arthrodesis cervical.


Take medication to control symptoms


It is possible to relieve symptoms such as pain with medication. You can also wear a foam collar with analgesic action for a month.


Respect the postoperative protocol


In order to avoid complications as much as possible, it is imperative to respect the postoperative protocol set up by the attending physician.


To do this, it must be ensured that the drainage system is removed one day after the procedure. The dressing is mandatory, every 2 days until healing. Sports activities should not resume until the sixth month. Shock sports such as rugby, combat martial arts are prohibited.


If you have any doubts, do not hesitate to consult your doctor. In extreme cases, it may be necessary to operate again.




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