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ACDF and No Neck Brace

AnonymousUserAAnonymousUser Posts: 49,671
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:35 AM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
All - just curious about others who have already been down this road. As my other thread noted, my recovery from ACDF c5/c6 is going pretty good. Today is only day 21 since surgery.

I was just curious about others that had this type of surgery and no neck brace. My surgeon said not needed and plate is essentially and internal cast. I definitely feel strong enough and flexible enough to do things I shouldn't - lift, brush the pool, bend my neck, etc.

Back of neck feels bruised and at night I wake up with a numb hand occasionally that goes away - but told that is normal and due to inflammation and nerve irritation from the decompressed nerves (had it bilateral radiculopathy).

--My Dr.'s instructions are no lifting excessively (no weight given)
--No overhead lifting beyond a coffee cup
--Don't crack or otherwise manipulate the neck
--If it hurts - don't do that

So...for those that that had this:
--How long until the bruise feeling stops in back of neck?
--I just had a cold and the sneezing coughing feels like it set me a back a bit...but how sensitive is the graft to movement?
--Dr. basically said nothing should move the graft except an impact / accident - so why the restrictions?
--When did your nerves fully heal / inflammation go down?

I go in Oct. 7th for my 2nd follow-up and hope the fusion is progressing...but right now I'm going a bit crazy because I feel like I can do almost anything (and a pay a price in discomfort). Know I shouldn't but even nodding, moving neck, etc. is OK right now and very hard to essentially sit on my hands. I'm not going to go outside of Dr.'s instructions but I am curious about others that have been down this road.


  • I'm 8 weeks out from ACDF c5-6, 6-7. Before surgery the doc told me I'd probably have a neck brace on when I woke up. I didn't, and wanted the nurse to ask him. She dithered around a bit, and seemed to forget about it so I headed home (1 1/2 hour drive). When I got home, I put a call in to his office to ask about the neck brace. He said that it was up to me if I wanted one. I decided to wear one to give me a "reminder" if I tried to move too far, but haven't worn it since 2 weeks post op.

    I saw him for my first post-op visit and he said I was doing fine, and that I could move as much as felt comfortable for me. I haven't worked in 6 years, but he said that I would be able to go to work part time (if I wished) this week.

    As far as the bruising feeling, I haven't had that since around the 4th week. My pain (after the "OW someone stabbed me in the neck" pain went away) has been actually between my shoulder blades, and sometimes up the right side of my neck and into my head. I've sneezed a few times, and WOW what an ouch, even now. I've taken to holding the kleenex with one hand, and my forehead with the other, to minimize movement.

    As for the restrictions, even if it's not going to disturb a graft, all the muscles, tendons, and soft tissues have been pushed around when the surgeon gets in there. It takes a while for those things to calm down, I'd imagine. This is a major surgery that we've gone through, and things need time to heal and strengthen.

    Not sure about the nerves fully healing and inflammation going down, mine still seems to be pretty sensitive. Hoping soon, though!

    Good luck with your recovery, I know how hard it is to resist doing something on a "good" day so you won't have 3 "bad" days afterward. Keep us posted on how you're doing!
  • Well I had C5 thru 7 done. No brace at all, pretty much the same restrictions, lift no more than 5 lbs, except I was told to move my neck as much as possible to reatain flexibility. About 2 months after surgery, one day I was feeling pretty good and must have used my right arm too much. All my pain has been on the right side of my arm, neck and shoulder (never the left of center). Anyway I had a major flare up of pain, so much so I had to go on a steroid for 2 weeks. Stopped physical therapy, could barely wipe my you know what. Bottom line is I am now 3 months out from surgery and figure I am going to baby my right arm and try to get it stronger for at least 2 more months before I go back to doing the things I was before surgery.
  • Yep - middle of shoulder blades is sore. Went back to work on 15th day (computers) and find myself fairly tired / sore by EOD. Need to get a high-back chair so I can put my head back.

    We'll see how it goes - really want that 2nd follow-up to clear me for more exercise and...doing something useful and vigorous :D Good luck all.
  • FlyingScot - Glad to hear you were about to get back to work on 15th day.

    I am having ACDF on c5-7 next Friday. Was hoping to be back at my desk job 3 weeks post-op. I know that is aggressive but its what i am hoping for.

    Very curious about the neck collar. Saw two surgeons. One said 2 weeks in a brace another said 4. I have an acquantence who had the same two fused and he never wore a brace at all.
  • I received mine in the doctors office a few days before surgery. Strictly told only wear it while riding in the car or if I was in a crowded place and felt a little more protection was needed. Otherwise keep it off my neck. The brace I have is every adjustable to help level out my head so it would not bobble around like a doll on a dashboard. I do have a very precaustion doctor but he said that wearing it constantly would imped my recovery of the muscles in my neck and leave it off would help strengthen them back.
    I really fell I could return to work next week but the doctor feels otherwise. I am starting to have more pain, discomfort and fatigue than I already have.
    I do have spasms in my mid back, biceps, triceps and calves. I know the leg pain is not typical for neck surgery but the damage was severe.
    I have a question for you and anyone else... did you have a folley with your ACDF? I didn't and ran for the bathroom as soon as I got in my room. The nurse thought I was trying to be active too soon and I know from past surgeries the quicker you get up and move the quicker you leave the hospital and the better you feel.

    Just glad I am not alone on feeling I can do it all but I too know I might pay a price for doing so.
  • Everyone is different in how they recover. I was back with my Dr.'s approval at 15 days, but for all but the last 3 weeks before surgery I had been in a serious workout / weight lifting program for 3 mos. I didn't know until about 3-weeks before the surgery that I had a problem with my neck - thought it was my shoulder. I had lost about 12 lbs and neck muscles especially were strong (because my neck was sore before I did a lot of weights to build it up - go figure).

    Point is...I had surgery at a physical peak + I have a very high pain tolerance from dealing with chronic shoulder pain for years. Add in that my job is not physically strenuous and I basically was in the right place at right time. I honestly could have gone back (felt like it) at 7 days. I was walking within 3 hours of surgery and had no pain meds at all from 3:00 PM - 3:00 AM the day of surgery (surgery was at 8:30 AM). The dilaudid (sp?) made me sick and didn't think to ask for a pill...Nurse thought I was nuts but PT and Dr. were glad to see me get out bed - hated sitting there! I'm stubborn in case you didn't notice #o - not always a good thing.

    Now - that doesn't mean pain free. I stopped the pain pills 2 days after hospital - still have a bunch of it in medicine cabinet. Side effects didn't agree with me and I could deal with ache. Primary issue of this has been lack of (good) sleep. Trying tylenol PM tonight.

    Noticing that in week 3...I feel like I've been in a car wreck, I ache but getting stronger in steps. Nerves firing up are just weird - I.E. this morning my bicep / shoulder hurt so bad like I had tendonitis...but by this afternoon was gone. Kinda like all my aches and pains of last year are being played back in reverse.

    For actual healing...the muscles of mid-back (between shoulder blades), lower sides of neck and base of skull are better...but by EOD are pretty much screaming at me. At C5/C6 it feels just like a stress fracture / shin splints...but in the neck. Figure that will go away when fusion fully takes hold.

    Right now - it is just the grind of time + healing. And I pay if break the rules but doubt any damage is done (i.e. lay on stomach to wire-up something in the bilge of my boat). Gotta not do that until cleared :D
  • Hi. I'm 23 days post 2 level ACDF. My dr didn't give me a neck brace either. Some nights I wonder if that would've been the better way. If I lay on my left side, my arm and hand get numb. Same thing on the right except that both hands get numb. If I lay on my back the pain is killer. I've tried to wean off the Vicoden, so I only take it when the pain isn't controlled with Tylenol. Nighttime is absolutely the worst. I'm happy if I sleep 4 hours a night, even with Tylenol PM. right now my shoulders are burning and tingling up and down the rigth side. This is strange considering that before surgery all my issues were left sided.

    I'm hoping all this resolves. I miss sleeping in my waterbed next to my husband. Sigh...I'll be so glad when its over.
  • One thing that I learned early on with neck issues, is that the opposite side from the problem generally "reacts" to the insult or injury. So if the right side become tight and knotted (which can cause tingling and pain in the arms), most times it can be traced to an issue on the left side. It is possible that your body is reacting to the change in your neck structure now that it's fused. It takes quite a while for the body to adjust and adapt to it's new norm.

    The thing to remember, is that when in doubt, have the doc check it out!

  • I wore a soft collar neck brace for couple months before my surgery (per doc's orders) and couple months after surgery. I still will wear it once in awhile if i have a bumpy ride in car or if I'm feeling real unstable.(my balance is not to good and I use a cane)
    Before surgery I wore it always at bed time and it made a big difference in not being woke up with arm numbness and tingling etc.
    At times my head just feels to heavy on my neck and when I have that feeling starting, I don't hesitate to get that soft collar on because if I don't I will have more spasms and tension which leads me into having more pain.(My Experience)
    I have found some doctors have different opinions on collars and I think maybe it sometimes depends on the stability of the neck in other areas that were not able to be fixed by surgery (Just Guessing)
    Some of the bruising you might be feeling might be from the contraption they put your head in while doing surgery.(Again Just Guessing)

    I know when i had my surgery I had catheter,that they put in before surgery but after i was put under and when i woke up it was out.
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