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Recovery questions after acdf surgery

AnonymousUserAAnonymousUser Posts: 51,461
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:29 AM in Neck Pain: Cervical
I know everyone recovers differently but I would like to hear recovery times for anyone that had acdf C5-C7 with hardware. I am 4 weeks post op and would be nice to hear from anyone that has had all restrictions lifted and can get back to normal. I was very active before the surgery with working out, golf, cycling long distances.
Just looking for some hope.
Thanks,
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Comments

  • Hi cj. You are still so early in your recovery and I know how impatient you can get at that stage. So, I'd like to tell you that at 5 months, I'm at about 90%. I swung a golf club a few time this past weekend and know that I'll be golfing as soon as I work out a bit to get my strength up. I've had all my restrictions lifted, but you will always have to keep your neck in mind and use common sense with everything you do.

    The most important thing for you right now is making sure you take care of yourself, follow your doctor's orders, and not to overdo it. You CAN get back to a normal life. I'm living proof.

    Take care of yourself and feel free to PM me if you need to talk or have any questions. You'll be up and at 'em in no time!

    Cath
  • dilaurodilauro ConnecticutPosts: 9,750
    In my experience, the ACDF recovery is one of the quicker and more thorough. Now, I know there are others out here who have had problems with cervical surgery.
    With both of my ACDF surgeries, I had to wear a hard collar for about 6-8 weeks. After that I started on Physical Therapy and wearing a soft collar. Now, that was back in 1996 and 2000, so many procedures have changed and some surgeons dont even go for the collars.
    4 weeks Post op and you are still look a fresh piece of bread dough cooking in the oven. Patience is so very important when it comes to spinal recovery.
    Also, these points should always be followed:

    1- Adhere to all the restrictions and limitations that your doctor has given you. Even if you are feeling ok, do not be lured into any false security. Pay close attention to what the doctor has told you and do not waiver
    2- When the time for Physical Therapy and/or exercise begins, stay with the program. Keep up with the proper and approved exercises. This will pay off down the road.
    3- Do NOT try to to push yourself. Listen to your body, and if it tells you it is doing ok, listen again. In time everything will be sorted out.

    Now,as Cathie said, golfing and other activities. I am not the one to talk about golf, because between my lumbar , thoracic and cervical issues, swinging a golf club is about the same as standing in front of a speeding train for me.
    But there are many golfers who have had spinal surgery. There are golf pros that specialize in training people like this. Limited swings, different stances, etc.

    In the long haul, assuming you do all that you are suppose to do, you will be very happy in the activities that you can return to.
    Ron DiLauro Spine-Health System Administrator
    I am not a medical professional. I comment on personal experiences
    You can email me at: rdilauro@veritashealth.com
  • Thanks so much for the great info! It really helps ease concerns and questions that most NS won't touch.

    Best wishes!

    Mel

    Having ACDF March 26, 2009
    C4-C7
  • dilauro thanks for the tips!
    Take care,
    Carla
  • :))) I am 4 weeks and one day post op and ....good news from the doctor. He said that since I already started to wean myself off the collar I can totally get rid of it(put it back on if needed), and I can start driving but still be careful since my range of motion is minimal, and he will let me go back to work next Wed the 25th!! I am very excited since he said normal for this surgery is 3 months off work and mine will be 5 weeks. Of course I sit at a computer all day at work and go to meetings. I still have a 10 lb lifting restriction. I now go back for another x-ray on April 1st at 6 weeks and he said we can talk about biking and golfing at that point. (I think he said that to get me on another subject.) He said absolutly not at this point because he does not want me to fall of jar anything. The x-ray looked funny with all that hardward and screws in there. He said they monitor the bone graft and fusion to see if it is fusing right with the x-ray. Mine didn't show much but he said it was still early and it could take up to 1 year to completely fuse.
    It was weird sleeping with out any collar last night so I didn't get a real good night sleep. All my other muscles can feel it when I try to sleep on my side but I am sure it will get better every day.

    The only post op symptoms I have are muscle tightness in my upper back and shoulders with some swelling at the base of my neck. A slight numbness in the back of my hand when I sit too long in one place without resting my neck back against something, and loss of my range of motion in the neck but that should come back when I start PT at the 6 week point. I still have to make sure that I don't over do it because I am feeling better but this 4th week I have improved tremendously. My arms and shoulders are week from not using them but they don't want me to start doing anything yet. I still have to have patience and be careful with what I do down the road so I don't have to go through this again. I don't want to put any extra strain on the adjoining vertebrae.
    So there is light at the end of the tunnel and I am very excited to get this far this quick. I hope everyone else that has to go through this has as much success as I have had this far.
  • I would say listen to your body. Stop before it starts to hurt. Try and find a way to work up to it. Maybe start with 20 or 30 minutes and then work your way up?

    Maybe work a deal with your boss to be available for one hour off for one hour. (I was doing that when I first started PT because the pain was crazy bad-haven't had surgery yet)
  • kattoo13

    I started to work at home about 2 weeks after my surgery only a couple of hours a day at first. Then of course after about 6 weeks I was feeling pretty good so I was doing 8 hour days at home, but all of a sudden started having pain went to the Dr at 7 weeks and he told me I had to cut back to part time at home. I have a long commute so he will not let me drive that far yet, I can only drive short distances.

    So now 9 weeks post surgery I am working 6 hour days 3 in the morning and 3 in the afternoon. I take about a 3 hour break in between and get up and walk often away from the computer and I feel so much better...
  • I had two level ACDF 10-09-09. I just went back to work two days ago. After reading many post before my surgery I thought O.K. 3 months not to bad. Boy was I wrong ! Everyone heals and recovers at different times. I am sure alot of factors are involved. How long a persons has worked with injury. How bad is it when surgeon gets in there. What type of work does a person do . I had a rough recovery however I am glad I did surgery ! I wore brace for 30 days. I did not drive for 30 days. I have done 19 sessions of P.T. 8 more to go. (work comp)
    My job consist of lifting throughout day as well as admin. stuff. For me the med reduction has been pretty tough. Anyway just thought I would share.... Have a Great day !
  • Wondering if anybody can help me..I had a ACDF at C6-C7 March 5th of this year. I have also been going to physical therapy since the first of April, three times a week. I have followed "orders" exactly as I was suppose to.

    My main concern is the extreme pain that I am experiencing in and around my shoulder blade. It is at times unbearable........I am told by PT that this takes time to heal. As long as I sit around and do absolutely NOTHING, my day is great but even small attempts such as dusting, dishes, laundry, etc., sends me right back to my heating pad which I still have to sleep with at night). I am also using a tens-unit...wear it faithfully, as well.

    It will be three months June 5th and I am suppose to return to work June 1st, however, I don't think I can get through the day at work. I almost feel like I did prior to having this surgery and I am getting concerned. I will follow up with my neurosurgeon this Friday and his nurse stated he might try a trigger-point injection on me.

    I am just very frustrated and still feel very, very limited. I would appreciate any advice or recommendations anyone may have. I don't feel like as though I will ever return to "normal."
  • That doesn't sound very good.Maybe you surgeon should do another mri and see if there is something else going on in your neck causing the pain.Two months post op i wasn't exactly feeling great but i didn't have the pain that your describing.Maybe you have permanent nerve damage that needs to be addressed.Are you taking any kind of meds. for your pain?
  • Thanks Bubblegum and Tammy........regarding the tens unit, I have been wearing it about an hour, off thirty minutes, back on but seems like I am really starting to depend on it for some relief. Sometimes it irritates me and I leave it off a few hours at time. It really depends on what kind of day I am having.

    I am taking pain meds and muscle relaxers. I just came from PT and feel as though my shoulder is going to explode. The pain feels so "deep" and it's like it makes my right arm very weak at times. My massage therapist really gave me a work-over today but after a couple of hours, reality sets in and I am right back on my heating pad or ice pack. My arm feels like sometimes it weighs 20 pounds.

    For ten months, I lived with my right shoulder all drawn up because of the pain...PT told me today that I was just one of those patients that would take longer to recover. I am just really down and out over the whole situation.

    I guarantee you my neurosurgeon, whom I see in the morning, will come in the room, tell me I look good and let me go. I don't think I am ready to be let go and PT says they are going to suggest that I continue coming 3x a week......my shoulder pain is preventing me from doing things I should be able to do and my surgeon won't understand. He would have sent me back to work last month had I had better ROM, that was the only reason he left me off work another month. Bubblegum, you have a good idea, I think I will discuss maybe going back part-time or maybe even requesting he keep me off another month. PT says we are going to start doing some more "aggressive" treatments involving weights. I don't know if this is wise or not because of the pain I have and the pain I know it will cause.

    Tammy, yes, I have considered an MRI but my surgeon will tell me it is not necessary. He tells me this shoulder pain is normal for awhile......I may have to demand an MRI because I want to know why I am having this huge problem that does not seem to be going away.

    Thank you guys SO MUCH for responding to my post...I am worried and need to get my ducks in a row before my follow up appt. in the morning. I want to get better and not re-injure and or cause more pain.

    If you have any other ideas please let me know and I will keep you posted.

    THANKS AGAIN!
  • You have some really good advice........I am trying to just deal with it, day by day by day....very frustrating. Torn between going back to work or taking another month off. I can barely get thru a day at home just doing things in general without a heating pad or ice pack. Hopefully after seeing my neurosurgeon for another follow-up tomorrow I will be better informed of the problems I am having.
  • Surprised by hearing all the bad or drawn out experiences most everyone have been posting. I had C6-C7 with hardware on April 18th, 2009 and went back to work June 1 with no restrictions as a paramedic. Only took meds 5 days. Driving first week after surgery. Tilling garden, mowing, riding 4 wheeler, heavy lifting of patients with no problems.

    Kinda scary hearing all the lengthy recoveries and long term restrictions. Maybe I was just really lucky. Another paramedic I work with had C5-C7 about 4 weeks ago and she is going back to work in about week and a half with no restrictions also.
  • wow flightmedic99 that is good news...
  • I went back to work 11 days post op, 8-9 hours days since the first day back (I'm now at 3 weeks post op).

    I'm fortunate to be able to work from home at my desk job, but even so it's been rough at times. I've been struggling the past few days, so I will be taking it easy this weekend.

    Just started driving a few days ago, but I don't have all of my ROM back yet, so I'm being very cautious...

    Overall, I feel lucky that things have gone relatively well so far, but I know it will take more time and patience for everything to heal...

    obx
  • Hi amy, Can you have your doctor prescribe aqua therapy? Thats the pt i had after my fusion and it was gentle and I healed normally with restrictions for 9 months. Comparing to previous surgeries I think I healed faster being in aqua therapy instead of lifting weights etc. It was probably too soon for pt for you because we are all so different. Even regular swimming this summer would be a good idea for you, When you are in the water your pain eases up. Get the water up past the painful area and move the limbs attached to that area. Thats all the exercise i can do, I have a fragile spine. I really think that pt hurt you. Your body needs time to heal and its probably all inflammed inside from not being healed before pt. Maybe some anti inflammatories after your fusion heals would help you too.
    2005-ACDF with Corpectomy at C3-C-5.
    2006-L4-L5 diskectomy.
    2009-Cervical laminectomy at C3.
    Steroid injections series x 4.
  • Having very much the same experience as flightmedic .. 10 days post-op and I am feeling really well. Had little to no pain and was able to eat, drink, talk and walk a couple hours post-op...... is it that we are just lucky, had a good surgeon or a combination of both.

    I wish everyone luck and a speedy recovery.
  • I had a 2 level acdf right before Thanksgiving, finally got to sleep in my bed vs the recliner. Today I have a strange pain in my arm, which started today, it feels as if I'm stretching the muscle. Pain includes the thumb knuckle, like I hit my thumb. Is that normal? I'm taking muscle relaxers and pain meds as needed and wearing a Maimi J neck brace.

    Also, I am scheduled to fly 2 months post surgery, do you all think that trip will have to be canceled?
  • I consider myself a fairly tough old bugger, my work is extreme...long hours, lot's of lifting and carrying heavy stuff. We work up high, sometimes 60 feet over a stage or set, and in confined spaces sometimes, we are often in boom lifts etc etc.The work is most often really physical.

    That said, this C4/5-C5/6 cervical fusion recovery is really kicking my tukus.Since day one post op I can't hardly swallow and my pain levels are up there. I am at 4 weeks or so and absolutely cannot see myself being written back to work before at least 3-6 months at this rate.

    I drove my car after the 4th day and I can do most things in the house, like laundry, cooking dinners and cleaning dishes etc etc.

    There are a lot of related issues though. The ACTUAL incision etc ...no pain. Neck, well increased pain since I hurt myself a few days ago, don't know how. No obvious trauma. But the swallowing etc and then he has put me on a steroid to help bone growth...it makes me extremely dizzy, nauseous and I get radical headaches from it. The opiates constipate the heck out of me. No way I could deal with this at my job.

    I suppose if I had a desk job I could physically go give it a go. I wish I had an office/desk job. But no way I could physically handle what we do at my work. I would booger myself up before a day was out.

    I think you should just go with the flow....... just concentrate on getting through each day and doing what you can to stay active and perhaps even go for walks and do stuff that will help keep you as fit as possible, eat right etc etc. Don't stress too hard on having to get back to work or whatever.....just let yourself heal. The rest should take care of itself accordingly. Your body will let you know when you are ready to attempt whatever work it is you do.
  • I am 23 days post of of a 3 level C5-7 still feeling a little slow, can take shower fold clothes but tire very easily. I left my home for the first time on Friday and that was to ride to McDonalds with my husband (20days) other than just walking about 1/2 mile to 1 mile a day around my neighborhood. I have NO more pain in my arm BUT I am still having pain in my right shoulder. It is still painful to hold my head up for long periods of time about 1 hr and I am ready to lay down with my heating pad or ice pack. I see my dr on the 8th of Dec for my FIRST post op appt and am VERY curious to see what he thinks of my recovery. I am off all pain meds but still taking muscle relaxer (robaxin) which does nothing (I feel anyway). I dont see going back to work anytime soon...well not till I can turn my head and feel like I can hold it up LOL!!! I sure did not expect this after surgery I dont know what I thought but it wasnt this. It can become very depressing at first but things seem to be improving. I really just want to get to the dr so I can see what my next move is. Any comments will help !!!!!

    Jennifer
  • I am 23 days post of of a 3 level C5-7 still feeling a little slow, can take shower fold clothes but tire very easily. I left my home for the first time on Friday and that was to ride to McDonalds with my husband (20days) other than just walking about 1/2 mile to 1 mile a day around my neighborhood. I have NO more pain in my arm BUT I am still having pain in my right shoulder. It is still painful to hold my head up for long periods of time about 1 hr and I am ready to lay down with my heating pad or ice pack. I see my dr on the 8th of Dec for my FIRST post op appt and am VERY curious to see what he thinks of my recovery. I am off all pain meds but still taking muscle relaxer (robaxin) which does nothing (I feel anyway). I dont see going back to work anytime soon...well not till I can turn my head and feel like I can hold it up LOL!!! I sure did not expect this after surgery I dont know what I thought but it wasnt this. It can become very depressing at first but things seem to be improving. I really just want to get to the dr so I can see what my next move is. Any comments will help !!!!!

    Jennifer
  • I had a 2 level ACDF on Dec 6th .. was on Robaxin for severe muscle spasms and pain 10 days post surgery - did nothing for me and gave me insomnia. Called DR and got Valium which I take at night to sleep - works great to relax the shoulders and neck. Still have issues during the day but don't want to knock myself out during the day .. maybe you need to get something different than the Robaxin.
  • I'm coming up on 4 months post-op ACDF C6-7. I have come to terms with the fact that I cannot put a timeframe on my healing. I am in PT now and have been going for the past 7 weeks. I also see a massage therapist 1x/wk.

    I still have pain at the base of my neck and like others, I have pain in my shoulder. No more numbness and I have increased strength but my right arm still about 30% weaker than right. Can't be on computer for more than half hour without increased pain and this has not improved at all.

    Taking Ambien to sleep and still taking Valium and dilaudid for pain.

    I'm a webmaster so being on computer is huge part of my job. I started working part-time but went back out on ful,-time disability due to increased pain and stress of expectation that I needed to return to full-time within certain timeframe. I use my iPad to check emails and keep up w personal things but have really limited my tech use.

    Therapist said my problem is weakness and it will just take time to heal. I'm trying to focus on getting better, doing therapy and getting stronger and dealing w pain. I know adding work to the mix will destroy my recovery. Wondering how long doc will let me stay out since as we all know recovery is technically 4-6 weeks for most people. I have acknowledged I'm not like most people and it's confirmed that others have same issues as me so at least I feel better that I'm not alone.

    I hope you guys have made process in your recovery and find some solace in knowing you are not alone.


    Going to surgeon for follow up this Friday. My boss already to,d me they only want me to return when I can work FT and to focus on healing.
  • Everyone heals in their own time and I think that you are doing right by making sure you are 100% or close to it before returning to normal life. I am only 5 weeks post 2 level ACDF and just started PT today. I had Spinal Cord Compression and Stenosis. I still have neck and shoulder pain some moments worse then others - severe pain is gone thank god! Right arm weakness and Range of Motion between 30 - 40 without pain. Dr said last week not clearing me to return to work untul next appt in March which I almost fell off my chair but she did say that if after 4-5 weeks of PT I feel that I can work and Therapist agrees then she will release me. So definitely partner with your DR and therapist and only you can know when it is the right time for you. I do not want to go thru this again myself so trying to do everything possible to ensure I am 100% before returning to full activity.

    Take care and keep us posted on how you are doing.

    Mary
  • Painfree at last,

    Thanks for the words of encouragement! So glad your severe pain is gone-that's a huge weight off your shoulders;-)

    Good luck w/ PT. I love going & adding new exercises & feeling a sense of accomplishment. My doc told me bc I was doing my home exercises, he couldn't justify me going to PT so I didn't start going until about 2months post-surgery - I insisted on it.

    The time off of work will fly by. Catch up on some good movies or books you wouldn't otherwise have had the time to watch/read. Best of luck to you in your recovery!
  • Yes, I am sure this is so true. I had a 3 lvl cervical laminectomy 2 yrs ago. Last May I had a 4 lvl lumbar laminectomy. Next I am to have a two level cervical discectomy/fusion with titanium plates and screws.

    I've been on 7.5 mg oxycodone 3x a day, 15 mg morphine 2x a day and 300 mg gabapentin 2 of them 3x a day for two years now. The first two, esp the morphine do cause constipation. Its not as bad now as it was in the past for the most part.

    It all started with arm pain in both my arms that would not go away. My cervical laminectomy did nothing to alleviate the pain. I am hoping the cervical discectomy/fusion helps. I am anticipating this in the next month or two.

    I am on SSDI now, have diabetes and almost 59 yrs old.
    Greyeagle
  • Glad to see you are coming around, but thought I would toss.. C5-7... is a 2 level fusion, not 3. I'm the same! :)

    The first 1-2 months many people have problems...even up to 6 months. Fusion is not like when we brake our arms, the spine is more fussy!

    Brenda
    PCTF C4 - T2, Laminectomies C5, C6 & C7. Severe Palsy left arm/hand.
  • Had a 2 level ACDF C5-6 C6-7 on 12/9/2010. Had issues with excessive swelling and swallowing. Finally getting better took 5 day course of steroids 6 days post op. I use to tire very easily from a shower also. Now I am okay, just started to try and blow dry my hair instead of a wet pony tail. You are lucky that you can walk in neighborhood (NY is too cold and snowy). I just walk around my house and up and down the stairs. How did your post op go? At this point I can hold mu head up for most of the day. At times it gets tired and I lay back on the recliner. I only wear the soft collar when I am out, sore or in a car. Are you wearing a collar. I was told the same length of time you wear a collar it will take your muscle and neck to get use to not wearing it and feel stronger. I too do not have enough ROM in my neck to drive to work and work as a teacher for the day. I go back Wed. for a 6 week check. Hope I can go back to work the next day. I understand and go through the same depression.
  • Had a 2 level ACDF C5-6 C6-7 on 12/9/2010. Had issues with excessive swelling and swallowing. Finally getting better took 5 day course of steroids 6 days post op. I use to tire very easily from a shower also. Now I am okay, just started to try and blow dry my hair instead of a wet pony tail. You are lucky that you can walk in neighborhood (NY is too cold and snowy). I just walk around my house and up and down the stairs. How did your post op go? At this point I can hold mu head up for most of the day. At times it gets tired and I lay back on the recliner. I only wear the soft collar when I am out, sore or in a car. Are you wearing a collar. I was told the same length of time you wear a collar it will take your muscle and neck to get use to not wearing it and feel stronger. I too do not have enough ROM in my neck to drive to work and work as a teacher for the day. I go back Wed. for a 6 week check. Hope I can go back to work the next day. I understand and go through the same depression.
  • I had the exact same surgery on 12/6 .. I went for a 1st month check up on 1/6 and got OK to start physical therapy but not OK to start work. First my NS said no work til my next appt in March and when she saw my face she said that if therapy goes well in a few weeks she may give me OK to return to work sooner. I was excited to start physical therapy but have to say sooo sore and get terrible pain in back of my neck by mid day everyday so then I knew I did not want to push going back too soon.. Did you start or do any PT yet? Go luck with your appt next week.

    Mary
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