View Full Version : 5 weeks post op - shoulders question for those who are fused high up around T3

07-11-2010, 02:28 PM

On June 8 I was fused from T3-L3. I will be 5 weeks post op on Tuesday and I am still having the hardest time with pain in my shoulders/upper arms/neck. THe pain still feels the same as it did at 1 week post op. For example, when I go to put my hair in a ponytail, I can't because there is so much pain in my shoulders. I just clip it up real quick and quickly bring my arms down because it hurts so much. I was just wondering to those that had high fusions when this pain will begin to subside and start to go away. I start physical therapy tomorrow so I'm sure they will work with these areas. Dr. Boachie said he cut tons of muscles up there since my kyphosis/scoliosis was high up and it will take time to heal. So for those of you who were fused around T3, did you still have pain around 5 weeks post-op? If not, how long would you say my shoulders/upper arms will start to feel better? Also, when I log roll into my bed, it hurts so bad to do this because of my shoulders. My shoulders honestly feel like they were run over or just punched a 100 times or something like that.

Thanks, hope everyone is enjoying this beautiful Sunday.


07-11-2010, 03:26 PM
I am fused from T2 and feel pretty good. Sneezing is the worst thing ever. I did hurt today from doing shoulder rolls yesterday. My guess PT will hurt a lot but then you will be able to tolerate much more. I feel like I can walk more everyday. (By the way ponytails are hard for me too!) Not sure if you saw my post before, but I have a child's rail on my bed that helps tremendously with turning. Hope you feel better!

07-11-2010, 03:52 PM
My fusion started at T3. I haven't had any shoulder or neck pain until yesterday. Then, the left side of my neck feels like I slept on it wrong. It is still very sore today, mainly when I touch it or lean my head to the right.

I can put both arms out to the side and reach with both arms over my head without any difficulty. I can put my hair in a ponytail (of what resembles one since I cut my hair prior to surgery.) I can shrug my shoulders up and down and do shoulder rolls.

My main problem is that alongside my incision areas up and down my back I have weird sensations, which is what I logged on to ask about.

Hope it gets better soon. Are you still on any pain meds?

07-11-2010, 09:33 PM
Although I was fused from T4 I can't help much except to remind you that you're still very early days and this will improve a lot over the next 12 weeks.

For some reason I didn't really have back pain post-op. When I hurt, it seemed to be my entire body that hurt.:confused:

It will get better, of that I am sure.

Debra JGL
07-14-2010, 07:09 PM
Jen - I hope your shoulders are starting to feel better. So sorry you're in so much pain. Hopefully your neck brace will give all those cut muscles a break, and time will continue the healing. This has been one of my worries for after surgery,having to raise my arms for washing and brushing my hair, putting it up, and putting on shirts. My fusion will start in the same place as yours. I've been shopping for button up shirts (and finding a front clasp bra). I think I'll just be wearing hats alot too. I've also been worried too about being able to wash my hair. Good luck with physcial therapy, hang in there.

07-14-2010, 09:29 PM
I am asking my DR for PT next week. I keep walking hunched over from using my walker on long walks. It is training me all wrong. Now I have to train myself again. Good luck w/ PT!

07-14-2010, 09:30 PM

Thank you so much for responding to my post.

The pain is still brutal, and is just as bad as it was on day 1. I don't understand why it's not getting any better with my shoulders/pectoral muscles/collar bone area. I still can't do my hair, it is so hard for me to shampoo my hair. I think the reason I got sooo much worse today is because yesterday my back was feeling soo good (so for the first time I did a load of laundry and helped cook and get on a step stool and bring kitchen plates down (which are rather heavy)). My left shoulder was always the worst one...that was the shoulder that kept having muscle spasms in the hospital. Well today, surprisingly my RIGHT shoulder/pectoral muscle/collar bone area felt like it was just smashed into thousands of pieces. When I log roll into bed, I am basically screaming!!! I think it's weird because no one else on this forum has really responded to my post and seems like everyone is doing good. Dr. Boachie did tell my husband and mom that he really had to do a number on me on my upper spine (maybe because I also have kyphosis?). I dunno.

Also, I am starting to get really DEPRESSED over the fact that I cannot lift my chin off of my chest. Dr. Boachie said this is a rare complication after surgery. Guess he wasn't too concerned 'cause he said come back in 5 months for my next checkup!!! I now wear a neck brace (which doesn't seem to be working) and started physical therapy this week. The CRAZY thing is that I am up in the morning with my neck perfectly looking forward, then about an hour later after I do alittle activity (like putting some laundry away, making breakfast, etc) my neck slowly moves down back to my chest. It is 9pm now and I am in sooo much pain from my neck I have to lay down. The upsetting thing is that my back feels GREAT and that's what i had surgery for. I didn't forsee that anything serious would happen to my neck. Also, my physical therapist seems alittle nervous about my neck too. She wants to call Dr. Boachie's office to discuss. So of course this doesn't make me feel any better. Just to point out to people who are reading this is that I didn't wake up after surgery with this neck problem. It was about 1 1/2 to 2 weeks later after surger it developed (in the middle of the night I wasn't sleeping in a good position and I couldn't move my neck in any direction. It was very odd.

Debra. thanks for checking in on me. Think if I was feeling better, I'd be posting alot more. Hope you are well and are enjoying your summer!


07-14-2010, 09:57 PM
Oh Jen,
I'm sorry to hear that the neck hasn't improved. Yes, I would definitely call the Dr.'s office about this--especially since the PT doesn't seem comfortable with it. Did he say how long you were supposed to wear the neck brace?

07-15-2010, 12:15 AM
So sorry Jen, I hope you feel better soon and I hope the PT help those neck and back muscles become stronger!

07-15-2010, 08:19 AM
After my surgery i had torn rotator cuffs in both shoulders as a result of using my shoulders to haul myself up from bed or a chair. They were brutal but I am pleased to say the pain went away as I was able to use my back instead of my shoulders to get up. I was told this was not unusual at all with the type of surgeries that we all have. I can't contribute anything about your neck but I have to think you are doing way too much. AT 4 or 5 weeks you should not be cooking or doing laundry. I am surprised nobody else has said that you are doing too much so I will. My doctor told me he wanted me to heal and not to do anything else but heal and walk. No pt or anything, just walking and taking care of myself. To sum up, the shoulders will get better as you get stronger and maybe that's true about your neck but I don't really know. Please ease up on yourself and rest and by that I mean don't put laundry away or cook. I don't think we realize just how physically brutal these type of surgeries are and how long it takes to recover.

07-15-2010, 08:30 AM
hi Jen
i, too, am shocked at how much you're doing...does Dr B. know this?
have you tried a few days just laying off all forms of activity like laundry, etc..to see if that alleviates some of the pain?
if your PT is concerned, maybe you should talk to the doctor's office yourself...?

hope you feel better really soon..

07-15-2010, 08:35 AM
Dear Jen-- I am so sorry you are having that neck problem! That must be frightening as well as frustrating! I am also sorry I didn't write a little sooner, but the problems I had were not as bad as what you have written about. My fusion starts at T2 and goes to L4, so one vertebrae higher than yours. YES, I was very sore in the shoulder/upper back area (and on down, of course) and that upper area was one of the longest hold-outs for being tender to the touch. Even now, at 3 years post-op, if I press near my scapular regions ("wing-bones") it is still a little tender. But of course, I don't press there, so I am fine. :) I do remember wondering last year WHEN it would ever stop hurting up there. And sometimes in the winter (and I live in northern Indiana where it gets pretty darn cold) I get the feeling like I'm a bug pinned to a board in one of my daughters' insect collections they had to do in high school biology. (Not pain, just being stretched and tight, and not movable-- that's the closest I can come to describing it.)

Anyway, I whacked my hair off really short before my surgery and was able to wash my hair and slip t-shirts on ok and even blow dry that short hair very quickly ok, although it did tire me. But with the short hair it didn't take very long! I just wanted you to know that my upper back/shoulder area did bother me-- just probably not as much as yours has been bothering you. I had initial PT right after the surgery, but I don't think that did much. At 6 months, I had PT to strengthen my arms (which, of course, strengthens your back too) and legs. And at 11 months I had PT to strengthen my core. Both sets of PT were great for me.

I sure hope you can get some relief soon!

Adding on: I hope this didn't discourage you-- even though it remained tender for quite awhile, it was certainly a workable thing. I had some limitations I don't see others having... I couldn't lift things because it hurt-- I couldn't lift things like a spaghetti pot to drain it because it was too heavy, or handle more than one dinner plate at a time (to carry)... I'm not sure what actions take those upper back muscles or not... But that didn't last too long. PM me if you have questions. Don't worry. You are young and resilient and will bounce back fairly soon.

07-15-2010, 12:10 PM
JenM, I'm sorry you are having such a tough time and are in so much pain. It does sound like you're doing a lot, especially when you are in so much pain. I still have not loaded a dishwasher, done a load of laundry nor any form of housework. My husband has been terrific in helping me focus totally on allowing my body to heal. If you have someone who can help you out, allow them to do so, while you focus on resting and doing what is needed for your body to heal. I do hope you are able to get some answers and move forward soon.

07-15-2010, 12:23 PM
I'm fused T2-L1, and I remember for the first two weeks post-op, I had the WORST shoulder pain and I also could not raise my arms during this time without stiffness, pain, and general soreness. I am now 15 months post-op and I don't have any shoulder pain anymore. My shoulders probably stopped bothering me at 2 months post-op, and the overall stiffness gradually got better, week by week. Pilates helps, but I don't recommend it until you're at least six months post-op. :)

07-15-2010, 12:50 PM
Hi im fused from T3-L4, im two years post op now.
But remember when i had my op i was the same as you but it did get better, i got quite down thinking it was my worst idea to go ahead with the op, but am so pleased i did now.
It does take time. You are only 5 weeks which isnt that long still. I felt a lot better after about 2-3 months when i went back to work after 2 months, and once you start to feel better it seems to get better day by day then.

Hope you start to feel better soon.

07-15-2010, 02:19 PM

I am so sorry you are having this neck pain. I thought about you when I first woke up this morning because my neck was hurting (just my neck--no fusion yet). Anyway, I think I identify with you because our kids are close to the same ages, and I know you must be pushing yourself to do things because you want to get back to helping those kiddos. BUT, you have got to let yourself rest. Do not compare yourself to other people. I know JSully is doing a lot of stuff (and that's awesome, Janet!), but everyone is different, and every surgery is different--even when the levels are similar. I was encouraged by the fact that you said your neck is normal when you wake up: That means rest/lying down is helping it. I would try to do that as much as possible except of course for the exercise that you need. Sending good thoughts your way--it sounds like from what everyone says, this too shall pass!


07-15-2010, 06:41 PM
my fusion is from T4 to L2 my shoulders only hurt a few days after surgery around 3 days

07-17-2010, 08:54 AM
Thanks everyone for responding. I really appreciate your posts and stories. THe other night the pain in my right shoulder/pectoral muscle was so bad. It was the worst pain I have ever had in my life. I was in the hospital for scoliosis surgery in June and that pain in the hospital didn't even compare to my right arm pain. I was crying so hard I didn't know what to do. I couldn't even position my arm in any way so the pain would go away. The ice didn't work and the heat didn't work. My husband was at work and this was at night and I had to put the kids to bed myself. It was a bad situation since they saw me in so much pain and crying. They looked so concerned and I don't blame them. (sorry for the sob story, just hope no one will ever have to go through this much pain after their surgery). I mean I am almost 6 weeks post op. Shouldn't this shoulder/pectoral muscle pain go away soon? My physical therapist says I'm doing tooo much since it's my right arm and I'm right handed. I honestly don't even think I'm doing too much. I take 3 naps a day! So I'm going to try to stop doing alot of activity and increase the rest I am getting. I have 2 small kids, my one just turned 3 in July (and she needs help doing everything) and my other kid is 5. That's probably why i'm still in alot of pain 'cause I need to help them do things.

I'm trying to hang in there. THings have to get better.

Thanks for your support.


07-17-2010, 09:11 AM
So sorry to hear of this. The part about having to put your little children to bed is the worst. As a mom. I can just imagine!

I wonder if your arm pain could like Debbei who posted about it recently. She said as I recall that it came on some time after surgery and was related to the position they'd put her arms in during the long hours of surgery (above her head). Makes sense to me. Hers went away w/ PT - again AFAIR.

Might be worth asking her about it.

Hang in there. By your left arm only, I guess. :( Poor dear Jen. So scary.

07-17-2010, 09:45 AM
Jen-- I think I hadn't read (or had forgotten) about ALL that you are doing when I initially posted. You have had such a major trauma done to your body, and it needs to heal. If you are trying to do normal housework and take care of your children, which I'm sure your heart and your mind are saying you need to do, then that is too much. Is there a family member that can come and stay with you for a little while and help do the work part? You really need to heal-- and you could still cuddle with the kids and read stories and things like that. Or if finances can manage it, could you have someone come in to do housework and laundry once a week or something? Or could your husband? You might need to have a heart to heart talk with yours, if you are not improving soon, and explain that it is just too much for you, and your body is not getting better because you need to let it rest and recover. Not because you don't want to do the work, but because it needs all your strength just to heal. My husband worked his full time job and he fixed our meals and did the laundry and housework (yeah, not the greatest, but it was fine...) until I was able to resume doing those tasks. You might think about that. It's amazing how much energy it takes for your body to recover and heal. Best wishes.

07-17-2010, 10:00 AM
I have a 20 year old babysitter come to my house 3 days a week (for 8 hours). She comes in, takes care of the kids, does all the laundry, cleans up the toys at the end of the day, and does some light cleaning around the house. She even drives me to physical therapy (which is an added plus) and drives my son to camp during the day. She is wonderful. The 3 days she is at my house she makes me breakfast and lunch. The only thing is that she leaves at 5pm so then I have to prepare dinner. My husband is useless when it comes to laundry, housework, etc. He can't cook either. It makes me so jealous when I read about the husbands who get more involved and cook and clean. Mine does none of that. Then I have a cleaning lady who comes to my house 1 time per month. So I do have help. Then on the other 2 days, my mom and sister take my kids all day and bring them to the pool club since it's summer.

Anyway, susiebee, I was wondering, did you have this arm/pectoral/shoulder pain at around 6 month post op? I am wondering if the shoulder pain has anything to do with the fact that I am in a neck brace and without it my chin is basically on my neck. So it could be pinched nerves from the neck radiating down my arm.

I hope it gets better!


07-17-2010, 10:21 AM
Yes, I still had a lot of tenderness in that area. I don't remember if it was actual pain or not. I did not have the neck issue. It does sound like you have a lot of help.

If it could help any, when I started back to work many years ago and my kids were old enough, I posted directions on how to do the laundry (and other basic jobs around the house-- how to dust, how to do the dishes, etc.) in very simple terms so that any idiot could follow them... My hubby said he used them as he did the laundry... ;) I'm sure yours could learn to turn the oven on and heat up a frozen dinner or order up a pizza-- or do a little grilling. Most kids like hot dogs... Maybe you could push him a little to help; just do it gently. Take care!

07-17-2010, 05:48 PM
I know that when I have my three littlies (grandaughters, just turned 2, 4 and 5), I never stop. I could not have managed them until at least 6 months post op. Even with the help you have, which is great, there are still times you have to do things yourself, and even this might be too much given your neck and arm problem, which does sound a bit like a pinched nerve to me. Did you contact your surgeon/gp about that severe pain you had/are still having?

I think a little gentle urging to your husband might ease the situation up on yourself, if at all possible. Maybe some time off work in the form of annual leave?

But it IS still early days for you and this should improve a lot in the next 6-10 weeks, but some healing time now sounds to be in order. Easy for me to say, I know.

Has there been any improvement with holding your head up since you began wearing the neckbrace?

07-17-2010, 05:53 PM
Uggh. I feel for you JenM. I have been there with having to put the kids to bed when I have an awful stomach flu or a couple of times mastitis when I was nursing my daughter. It SUCKS--and that wasn't major surgery.

Thoughts: Could you have your sitter come a half hour later in the morning, so she could leave a little later and put dinner in the oven? We sometimes use one of those Dinners by Design type places where the dinner is basically made and in the freezer. Expensive, but it might be worth it for a while.

Also, is it possible your drooping neck and shoulder/pec pain are related? I'm thinking I would be on the phone to the surgeon about this again. It doesn't seem like your pain should be WORSE at this point. UNLESS...are you not taking enough pain medication? Maybe this should also be talked about with your doc.

Anyway, I hope you are well stocked up on Diego/Dora, etc. videos and using them--without guilt. As someone said on a different thread, this is the time to take care of MOM, so you can take care of them later. Hang in there -- and keep posting!


07-17-2010, 07:22 PM
Not to create family tension, but I just posted about this in the kyphosis thread running (though I edited out a good deal, as it was getting too long). The bottom line here is that if we don't take every precaution now, regardless of cost pretty much, those we love are apt to end up with far more burdens down the road from our inability to remain independent.

It's awful to look at someone like you who by one standard has so MUCH help already! But maybe it's not enough. And remember too, this initial healing period which is so crucial is (only) a matter of months for most of us.

But the potential cost down the road, of missteps ...in more surgery, in our pain, in our children's health (mental and physical), of a spouse's worry and lost work time...What else are savings for?

It takes adopting the long view - and much of it IS precautionary. The risk is incalculable, though. The future comes sooner than we think - speaking as someone who (with a little more bad luck) is now having to explore painful cost:benefit calculations about nursing home care.

God forbid, certainly! But God doesn't forbid as much as S/He ought to, in my observation... The time just flew and those little ones I was prioritizing over my health are now young adults still needing to focus on their own life challenges. You're not doing anyone any favors to pretend these long term risks aren't real. At the very least, if things aren't optimal, we want to be able to look back and know we didn't cut corners. As Ed says "we only get one chance to do it right".

This is true of raising children, yes, but of our own survival too. How can we separate between the two, ultimately? They need us to be there all the time. That includes not having to worry about us later on too. Later on being now, for my sons.

Hopefully, not in our future though - not for a long time, anyhow. No one's body lasts forever.

07-17-2010, 10:42 PM
Hi Jen...

I'm so sorry this has gone on so long.

I had a lot of shoulder blade pain after my surgery, and found it very frustrating. I don't, however, think it was as severe as yours. I did find that any activity that caused me to move my chin toward my chest aggravated the pain.

I wonder if you can figure out a way to really relax and recover for a week. If you get really inactive for a decent amount of time, it might tell you whether there's something really wrong, or if you're just trying to do too much too soon. Would it be possible to get some friends to make some meals for the family? And, get your husband to at least take care of the kids at night, and get them into bed. If the house gets dirty or cluttered, so what?

If you do nothing but care for yourself (and take some walks) for a whole week, and your pain doesn't get any better, I think it would then be time to call Dr. Boachie's office and get someone to see you. When pain borders on unbearable, it's time to act.

I hope you get it worked out.


07-17-2010, 10:55 PM
I feel so bad for you. I was lucky to have lots of support from my husband, my grown daughters and friends who took turns bringing in meals twice a week. They came up with a system. I could not have done it alone at all for many months. I still find picking up my little grandson a strain when I do get to see him. Having 3 little ones and trying to do this even part of a day is way too early in your recovery. I think Linda and others brought up some good ideas. Just a thought--did you and your husband read the D. Wolpert book--I can't think of the title right now. It would drive home the gravity of the surgery and importance of recovery. Good luck to you. Janet

07-17-2010, 11:05 PM
Hi, Jen.
I'm really feelin' for ya. I have grown kids, two still at home, almost 18 and 20. However, I also tend my grandson, almost 2, full time. I had a mild meltdown today because I don't feel like I get the help I need around my home. I'm just wondering if I will be in your same predicament when I have my surgery. I'm doing a LOT of things right now that are aggravating my pain and the doc is pretty upset with me AND my family for not helping me more. I'm trying to plan ahead and get all the canning done. I'm making recipes and canning them for "future" use. Is there any way that you can survive on TV dinners until your arm and shoulder feel better? I know with little ones, you are on the go, no matter what AND it's hard to be away from them. My hubby doesn't cook either, so when my big day comes they better be happy with easy, easy, easy meals out of jars and out of the freezer. The hard thing about this surgery, as I'm learning, is that the healing time is sooooo long. Families need to learn to understand that you are not all better after a week or two like most surgeries. Is there any way that you could get your hubby to understand how difficult this is for you and at least learn to throw in a frozen pizza or lasagna or something so you don't have to? Also, is your 3 year old potty trained? Changing diapers for me can be difficult when I'm in pain. Also, potty training is so difficult, too. It seems that when they are this age, they tend to hang on your neck a great deal during potty time, like when pulling pants up, etc. Maybe you can take note of some of these things that you may not even be aware are hurting you, then address them and get some help or make alterations in how you are doing things. It is nice that you have the help you do, but with little ones and a hubby gone at night, is there someone who can stay with you, at least when you are having a bad night? Sorry if I'm rambling. I'm just trying to come up with some things you might find helpful. I hope you feel better soon!