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4 months post-op ACDF - when will I get better?

AnonymousUserAAnonymousUser Posts: 49,671
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:34 AM in Neck Pain: Cervical
I had ACDF surgery in April 2009 and I am still on vicodin and muscle relaxers daily. The surgery itself was a success, but how much longer am I going to be medicated? I alternate ice and heat each and every day for relief and I work at a computer 8 hours a day... I am month-to-month on FMLA, but my job is such that I NEED to be on the keyboard. (doctors orders say 20 minute break every hour). I over-do it and then I find myself in bed all day - a vicious pain cycle. They did not prescribe PT for me, only massage therapy. I've been reading posts to these forums for months, but I am finally fed up enough now to scream out to you, my neck and back brethren -- WHEN WILL I STOP HURTING AND GET TO LIVE A NORMAL LIFE AGAIN??


  • I have a question, Where is the pain? If your pain is in the neck that will take longer to go away. The fusion will only take the limb pain away according to my surgeon. He told me it would take a year to have some neck pain relief if any. I did get some relief but it wasn't 100 percent. I am always in some kind of neck pain and after a long day its at the highest. I take anti inflammatories every day or I will swell up. I have 3 exercises I do at my keyboard at work. I have a tens unit i use 3 times a shift. I take a 5 minute walk two times a hour. I have found that If I wear my soft cervical collar at work at the key board only then my neck doesn't get so stressed out. I don't wear it anywhere else so the neck muscles don't get lazy. when i get up and move around i take it off also. I had c4 to c6 fused and c5 corportectomy anterior January 2006. and c3 posterior laminectomy in June 2009.
    2005-ACDF with Corpectomy at C3-C-5.
    2006-L4-L5 diskectomy.
    2009-Cervical laminectomy at C3.
    Steroid injections series x 4.
  • Welcome to spine-health. One thing to remember is that we all heal at different rates. Perhaps you are taking longer because as you said you "over-do it". You have just had major surgery and your body is going to take time to heal. You can see that when you over-do things your body says it has had enough and you end up in bed. My body at this point after three surgeries still leaves me know when enough is enough. I also think that most people do not return to normal after back surgery. For me I had to find my new normal and work with things from there. Hope that you do start to feel better, just take the time to leave your body get better.

  • I agree with Mark.
    2005-ACDF with Corpectomy at C3-C-5.
    2006-L4-L5 diskectomy.
    2009-Cervical laminectomy at C3.
    Steroid injections series x 4.
  • i agree that four months isn't very long after surgery to expect to feel great especially if your at a computer.
    did your surgeon tell you that you had some nerve damage? i'm just wondering why he would tell you it would take a year to feel pain relief unless he's talking about your nerves healing up because they take a long time to heal.
  • that it takes at least 6 months for the nerve to heal.

    It can take up to a year it all depends on how long you had the damage to the nerve. I hope you feel better soon.

  • The phrase 2 steps forward and three steps back keeps coming to mind after reading the initial post. You can't make yourself heal any faster than your body will allow. I feel the need and urge to return to work, but I can't. I am only 3 1/2 weeks postop. But I am soooooooo bored. My wake up, eat, nap, walk, nap, eat, walk, sleep routine is getting very annoying. BUT, I am thankful with all said and done, that I have the ability to do all the above.
    Hang in there, take a deep breath and listen to what the doctor(s)says.....if you feel you are not getting the answers you need, by all means, get a second opinion.
    Best wishes.
  • I'm 3 weeks and 2 days and counting. I put a big red check on my calendar every Monday. I'm with you tib. My routine is BORING!

    Are you totally fused? Computer work is tough with a healthy neck. It's what threw me over the edge after avoiding surgery for about 17 years.

    Did you have your office set up so it ergonomically correct? I redid my home office and plan on hiring someone to make sure mine is correct. I know that the other discs in my neck are going to be overloaded so I want to do all I can to keep them happy.
  • It is interesting reading how everyones healing time varies.

    Had my follow-up with surgeon yesterday and YEA!! the x-ray shows some fuson is starting to take place. Today is my first full day out of the Miami J collar and my neck and shoulder muscles are so tired.

    I also got the okay to drive -- I quickly learned you pull through parking stalls; as I could not back up and look both ways quickly (or hardly ar all)!!

    I have been very lucky with my employer. Right before I left for surgery they installed a 'sit-stand' desk for me. With the touch of a button I can go from sitting at my computer, to being able to stand and work at my computer. This is helpful as it is hard to remain in one position for any length of time, as I am sure you all know. I was also provided with an ergonomic mouse. I only roll the ball with my fingers and it sure relieves the neck and shoulder pain (note - it takes a day or two to get used too!).

  • the pain is primarily right at the base of my neck, with charley horses into my right shoulder. If your keyboard exercises are working, I would be interested in hearing more about them... I know I am impatient, but I am so happy to have found this site and get inout from great people like you!!
  • thanks Mark, I will keep searching to find my "new normal". I know I am being impatient, but it is SO nice to hear that I am NORMAL! :)
  • I am sure you are right that he was referring to nerve damage, I had spinal stenosis and bone spurs too. I am SO glad to hear you say "four months isn't very long after surgery".... I just need to chill out and let my body heal up properly. :)
  • thank you so much for the info - I hadn't thought about it, but yeah, it took a while to get where I was pre-op, it will take time to heal.

    I hope you are able to go back to school - I have been wanting to go back for my Masters, then surgery happened.

    You are in my thoughts.
  • my doctor is awesome, I have every faith and confidence in him - I almost used the "two steps forward" analogy in my initial post - it's SO true!!

    My biggest issue right now is work.... even with the FMLA, I don't think they GET that I am still broken, except for a little scar at my neck, I LOOK healthy so they think I can accomplish as much as I could pre-op.

    that's what brought me here. You have a great outlook - thank you for sharing that with me!
  • I work at a community college - but have I thought to ask our Health Center Professionals to come visit my workspace to ensure I am doing everything properly?


    guess who I will be calling first thing Monday!!

    thanks - I'll keep you posted!
  • Great news on living collar-free!! Oh, and that first post-op drive? I was SO scared, but so thrilled to have my freedom back!!

    this SIT and STAND desk?? that sounds AMAZING.
  • Thanks for thinking of me too! I hope you are feeling better. :)

  • I had C5 thru C7 done on June 8, 2009. Still have allot of pain one day and hardly any the next. The last 10 days I was in agony and today I get up and feel good ! Did not do anything different. This is not like a broken bone !
  • I know exactly how you feel!! today - I feel AWESOME, not even a twinge, but I am taking it easy, tomorrow may be a whole different issue. thanks for sharing your story
  • That is a good way to look at it, your feeling AWESOME, but going to take it easy. Sometimes that is best. I have tried to do some things when I felt great, that only feels good so long, then the aches and pains start again. It is GOOD news that you are starting to feel BETTER. Keep up the good work!
  • I am 4+ mos. post-op. It has taken 4 EVER to heal. Every time I started to feel better, I ended up over doing it, by doing hardly anything - meaning stretching the sore muscles out AGAIN! sheesh!
    I don't ask my surgeon for anything. He & his staff are VERY RUDE & don't seem to care about me. I went to my family doc who sent my to PT & now I am finally getting R-E-L-I-E-F!!! They use the 10 unit, along with the ultrasound to ease the muscle tension that I HAD (note had) post op. It was so badly tensed it was numb to the touch. PT gave me a feeling of normal again. It has been a very B-O-R-I-N-G, P-A-I-N-F-U-L RECOVERY! YOU WILL GET BETTER! JUST KNOW THAT MUCH!!!!!!! <<<< smile >>>>> I know you feel as if you won't a lot of days, but you will soon. It is just taking 4 EVER it seems. Try some PT... surgeons won't even suggest it if you have a jerk surgeon like I did.
    Take care ALL of YOU & keep your chin up - It's going to be fine one day & you'll forget all about this... you really will!!! YOU WILL not only be normal feeling, but BETTER than ever!!! I wished I would have thought of PT sooner - I would not have to be coming in here still discussing the whole ordeal.... it's getting old..... & ya'll know what I mean.
    ; 0
  • Sorry to hear you have a jerk surgeon. Are you going to be tracked by him or her? Are you totally fused yet? That's a bad situation.

    Surprising the staff is even mean. I hate when that happens. I've been through that but not with this situation so far. My surgeon is a pit bull but his staff is great! I hope the staff continues to be kind. I call a lot and they are patient with me.

    Thank you for your words of encouragement. I'm working on my 5th week and so grateful for this forum. I have it book marked and come here several times a day so I don't feel alone. It's tough seeing everyone else doing life as usual and to be so limited.
  • Hey Lynn,
    I am not worried about anything regarding my surgeon. As a matter of fact, he & staff have been reported to the hospital's "Human Resources Dept." I know I can't be the only one that has ever made a report on them. They are horrible and maybe if enough complaints, they will get rid of them. They don't return calls & they refer to you as "nut cases".
    Are you feeling better day by day? Or is it week by week? I hope you find comfort in everything you do and have a quick painless as possible recovery.
  • Hey Mark - I started PT yesterday. guess what I am doing today? REST!!! :)
  • some days that is easier said than done, eh?? what is a "10 unit"? at PT yesterday, they did the ultrasound, stim and some good massage (therapist kept saying "oh my" "oh my" as she massaged my shoulder) it HURT when she rubbed around my scar - like something was stuck in there?? ugh.
  • Hi Julie!

    It's day by day. I go tomorrow to see how I'm progressing. I'm so excited. I've been super careful. I've only been in the car a few times and not driven. I did all the walking and such so PLEASE fuse little neck!

    I can't wait until I can get in and out of bed without holding the back of my head and my neck is no longer numb. I have a bump along my incision that I'm told is common but when it goes I'll be doing a happy dance!

    I hope they're nice to me tomorrow!
  • You sound as though you are coming around!!! YAY!!! The only thing my doc DID tell me was "to remain positive & you will heal quicker" - that's hard to do, but I had to tell myself that over & over, because of each & every day feeling like you're never going to get better is ever so depressing!!! BIG TIME!!!
    I have bumps, etc... too... it'll pass... who knows really WHEN?@%#*
    big HUGS to YA & ev1 else reading this
  • Hi there Julie,
    I am 14 weeks postop ACDF and recovery is so depressing sometimes. I use neurotin 3 times a day (400 mg) and a few aspirines. I have seen them all this summer US open, French open, Wimbledon, Tour de France. And now I hate television. you get so bored my healing and try to kill the time looking on the television. It is so recognisable what you wrote about healing, trust in healing, thanks for your support on this forum!!!xx
  • LOL at watching TV! Boy, do I know how boring that gets!!! Sheesh! Pretty bad when the dif talk shows I was watching, became repeats. Like you say though, "what else is there to do" - not a dayum thing. That really got me down big time! Then I ordered HBO & Showtime. Oh lawdy, it's been one hell of an event, this recovery!!! You know! Must be the worse in history of all surgeries known. Hang in there! We're ALMOST there!!! Look back & remember how BAD it was!!! Then smile..........
    Big Hugs to ya >:D<
  • i'm 17mths post op and people that i haven't seen since before my surgery say what a huge difference they see in me.healing has been very slow but even with the problems i still have i'm so much better off then i was before my surgery.Stay positive people and you'll get through it!! >:D< Big hugs for everyone!!
  • I feel for you. It has been three years+ since I screwed up my neck. Still way too much pain. Ice helps me - heat not so much. I just bought a stand-up keyboard/monitor setup for $150. Haven't got it setup yet. Sitting kills my neck.
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