Surgery recovery roadblock

Hi all,

I’m looking for some insight into my surgery recovery situation. I had bilateral styloidectomy June 20th for vascular eagles.

The good news is that my vascular symptoms are gone, so there’s no question the surgery is a massive success and I’m really happy I did it.

The bad news is that I seem to be recovering very, very slowly and I’m unsure what I should do next or if there is even anything to do other than muster through it.

I still have very intense tightness, soreness and pressure by the incision area / TMJ area. My jaw is fine though. I would say, though, that my biggest symptom is extreme tightness and soreness in the back of my head, that starts when i sit down to work.

I have tried PT, dry needling, posture changes but it feels like I made very little, if any progress.

I spoke to a few other people who had this surgery and my recovery seems to be going much slower than others. I’m also younger than them so that baffles me too, I thought younger people recover quicker. I’m 27.

I messaged my surgeon to see if he has any ideas but I’m honestly not sure what he can even do and I can’t travel to see him again.

I’m wondering if anyone has insight. Is this “normal”? Is something wrong that I need to check out?

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Great news that the vascular symptoms have improved, I’m sure that’s making a big difference to your life!
I didn’t have tightness in the back of my head but did (& still do at times 7 years out) have tightness & soreness around the incision site. I still massage regularly with oil which then helps it for a week or so. My incision was behind the ear so the skin’s quite tight there, I presume that’s what causes it, & I can feel the muscles around my jaw get tight too, that I’m presuming is tension…Others have given lots of info about massage & gadgets to try for the incision area, I don’t know if you’ve seen the discussions by @TheDude & @PatientD, here’s a link to one:
Novafon, sound wave self-massaging device - Symptoms and Treatments - Living with EagleIt does sound like it’s maybe muscular or postural for you as you say the back of your head hurts when you sit down to work, although it sounds like you’ve tried everything for that, maybe everything still needs more time to settle, recovery can take months, even up to a year. Everyone is different & doctors have different surgical techniques, so comparing with others isn’t a great idea, but we all do it!
I’m not an expert, but I wouldn’t think it’s anything to get checked out yet…hopefully it’ll improve soon for you…


Hi elijah,

I’m sorry for your ongoing symptoms after surgery. From my point of view ES messes incredibly with tension patterns (muscles and fascia). So I agree to @Jules. The back of head has also very sensitive nerves similar to the face. So there can also be terrible pain like facial pain.
I’d also recommend the Novafon for those conditions and maybe a warm package on the back and legs.
Additionally I’m profiting from Osteopathy very much. Maybe you can also find a good Osteopath. Would be the very best if the Osteopath is also Anaestesiologist, like mine. Before I found him I had to try a lot of therapists. Seems the good ones are somewhat rare here. But I’ve also heard that Osteopathy is more recognized in the US and Osteopaths are very well educated there.

Hopefully that might help you to find relief. Wishing you quick and full recovery. :four_leaf_clover:


Hi @elijah!
I know what you mean about the tightness at the back of your head. I also had pretty bad vascular symptoms on the left side which went away immediately post surgery, but the nerves to my head, neck, and back took about three months to really start calming down. So, in my book, your progression seems normal. Nerves will take their sweet time healing and there are better days than others. I’m not sure why, but focusing on my neck never helped. I did PT, chiro, and posture changes which didn’t really do anything. If I used the small salonpas strips with methyl salicylate, cut down to shape, right where my styloid started right behind my ear and iced the area I could get the tightness to release a little bit. Its a bandaid solution, but I hopefully that gives you something to try while you look at @Jules and @TheDude more permanent solutions.
I’m 29 btw.

Wishing you the best of luck. :slightly_smiling_face:


Good to hear that the back of head pain isn’t unique to me, sorry for you though :slight_smile:

It feels like things have gotten a lot worse in the last two weeks. The incision area is so tense and sore that it feels like there’s a big rock stuck in there and it’s causing so much pain and pressure in the back and side of my face, sometimes my cheeks too.

What sucks is that I just don’t know what I can do other than give it more time. But I’m also slightly concerned that things have gotten worse recently and not sure why that can be. Still waiting for Dr to get to me but I’m honestly not even sure what can be done.

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You are definitely not alone. I really empithize with you on wanting to do something about it. I know how frustrating it is to restart a recovery period over again. Sometimes you just have to ride out the bumpy healing process. A positive is that your vascular problems are gone and you are still healing. I think talking to your Dr is a good idea. Unfortunately, the neck is a complicated mess of muscles, nerves, and bones. Like @Jules said though, it can take a long time to heal from this kind of surgery and you did a bilateral version. I still get some episodes of headaches and neck pain 9 months later. I actually got the right side removed yesterday morning. So I’m starting this adventure over again. :grin:

I forgot to say before, my neck tension is episodic. For me, it’s a C1 instability with nerve irritation. It can start randomly, but a bumpy car ride or jumping, really anything that rattles my neck used to start a 3-10 day neck and eye nerve spasm. The frequency of them and the number of recovery days have gone down over time with healing, but I’ve learned to avoid certain roads or tasks. It doesn’t hurt my neck when the jostle happens, but I sure pay for it later. Stress sometimes starts it too. I haven’t figured out how to avoid that one.

Stay strong. :heart:


@elijah -

You’re a bit over 3 mos post op now & have seen some good changes. My experiences with recovery from 2 ES surgeries dictated that it took about 6-9 mos post op for my neck (back of the skull) pain to ease up. It did come & go & sometimes hung around for awhile. Face pain did the same. As @Bluemaple said, it’a an uncomfy & unpredictable recovery as far as symptoms coming & going as nerves heal.

One thing I wondered about is if you’re doing a lot of computer work. If so, that is possibly contributing to your neck pain. Something that has helped me is setting my computer screen at eye level so I don’t need to look down at it when I’m on my computer for long periods of time. I also think about keeping my neck “pulled up out of my shoulders” & shoulders down & neutral i.e. not rolled forward - no slumping (yup, it’s the ol’ posture by thing again).

Finding a good craniosacral massage therapist may also help though a good osteopath as @TheDude mentioned is also invaluable.

Are you doing any self massage on your incisions to try to help reduce scar tissue?


Ty isaish great info and encouragement even for me🤗