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how long should i remain taking meds after c5-c6, c6-c7 acdf?

aardvark85308aaardvark85308 Posts: 52
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:42 AM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
I know it sounds like stupid question....I've been taking 2 percoset every 4 hours, valium every 6 (taking by alarm even at night). Last night I slept thru the alarm, and woke in considerable pain. It's an all metal fusion...titanium plates and screws and tantalum(?) Spacers.

I'm out of percocet anyway, and can't get it on the weekend. I feel a crazy amount of guilt each time I ask for a new perscription, and am wondering should I.be off.them by now...surgery was Feb 25th and was a 5 hr surgery due to bone softness?

Anyway....hurt now in back of neck and shoulders, as well as left arm ( my neck is much straighter than it was).

Funny story, the other night I woke up in my stupor to the alarm on my snazzy Google phone....after taking the appropriate med, I set my phone down thinking it made an odd sound on my night stand...well...I woke up two minutes later thinking sploosh was not the proper sound, and found my awesome phone completely submerged in my glass of water...new one arrived today !!!

So aside from advice not to put the phone in water, how long should I be taking the meds (by the way they help immensely, unless I have to sit with neck unsupported for more than an hour)




  • The part with your phone sounds like something I am destined to do. I am having my c6-c7 ACDF on 4-1. I will be watching your posts to see the answers because I know these are things that are going to come in handy. Hope you start feeling better soon and that you do not have to keep taking the meds for much longer. Only your body knows what it needs. Good Luck

  • You are still in the early stages of recovery. Of course check with your Dr., but if you are in pain then I would think you need to continue them for a while. I'm 4 months out from my fusion and still on pain meds, lower doses, but without them I'd be hurting. If you are in pain that stresses you out and doesn't help the healing process either.

    Best wishes for your recovery, Lisa

  • First, congrats on getting through the surgery and being home and on to recovery.

    You're only one month post-op and still very early in your recovery. You shouldn't have ANY guilt about still taking pain meds and muscle relaxants and can probably plan on taking them for at least another month. That C6/7 is a difficult one to fuse and I know from experience, it's painful. I also had the pain in the back of my neck (and unfortunately, still do and I'm 1-1/2 years out) and the pain in the shoulders. I'm hoping the valium is helping the shoulder pain and assume the percs are helping the back of the neck pain. Are you wearing a brace?

    Don't hurry getting off the meds. You can try cutting down if you feel that you can, but again, you're still very early in your recovery. You can also ask for something a little less potent, like vicodin if it makes you feel more comfortable mentally. I doubt you're going to feel anywhere close to normal until 8-12 weeks out.

    Take care of yourself and don't worry. You've had a major spine surgery and it's a long recovery, so just do what you need to to make yourself as comfortable as possible. I also assume you're walking on a regular basis? That's a great spiney exercise.

    Feel free to PM me if you have questions or want to talk. I know what you're going through, as I had a 3-lvl ACDF.

  • I guess this is a question best answered by your surgeon. Some doctors are more "strict" than others and want their patients off the "big" meds by a certain number of weeks. Others want their patients to not suffer needlessly and are less afraid of the issues of dependence.

    Looking back on my lumbar fusion two years ago, I think I was probably a tad over-medicated. I had been told to take my prescription medications as prescribed by my surgeon, so I faithfully set an alarm and took them around the clock for about 8 weeks. I'm pretty sure I could have started to decrease the meds sooner than that. But I followed orders. At 8 weeks, it suddenly occurred to me I wasn't really in severe pain any more, so I just stopped taking everything all at once...also, probably not the smartest thing to do!! But it was OK.

    It is difficult to learn anything from other people's experiences because each person handles pain differently, feels things differently, and has a different surgical experience. So you just need to work with your surgeon to do what is right for you.

    You had a big surgery and it will take quite awhile to recover from it. The body heals better when it is not also battling pain.

    I personally do not feel you should be off your pain meds at this point. If you are still in as much pain as you describe, then your body still needs them. I do think it is smart to try to do with a little less periodically to see how you respond...as you do not want to stay on them longer than necessary.

    But, again, discuss this with your surgeon. Only he knows what all was done to your body during the surgery.

    Best wishes for a continued uneventful recovery.

  • It is a good idea to try and see if you can do without the med at one of the intervals. For instance, perhaps try not taking one in the middle of the night and see how that works. Or, try taking just a half in the middle of the night.

    There comes a point when you have to try and decrease the meds to just see how you fare. I'm now 10 weeks out from a lumbar TLIF and started tapering off my meds about three weeks ago. It's opened my eyes as to what my pain levels really are and I'm now at the point where I take an extra if I'm in more pain for some reason, but have days where I'm on the bare minimum. I'm not completely off the meds yet, as there's still too much pain to not have anything to help at all.

    But, like I said above and Gwennie said, you're still early in your recovery and it's generally a painful one.

  • I was just thinking about you yesterday and wondering how you are!

    Your phone story is great and gave me a good laugh!

    My advice is~ don't feel bad about managing your pain. As everyone else has gently reminded; you have been through a major surgery and it's not even 4 weeks yet!

    My surgeon now has a pain management doc and after the initail Rx you are referred to him. It's wonderful as he specializes in pain and his job is to help you be comfortable so that you can focus on rehab and getting better!

    I saw mine last week and talked to him on the phone Thur and he called to check on me on Friday. The nice thing about pain management is there are so many options now available to you!

    I just started sleeping through the night, it's been years since I have slept through the night! I now longer take my meds like clock work. What seems to be working for me now is oxycodone every 6 hours and Narco for break through pain~usaully at least 1-2/day. In addition I take flexeril 3/day and neurotin 3/day. But every day is different so who knows! :)

    The thing about pain is, it is so unique to each person. So, just go with what your body tells you and don't feel bad. Even Superman takes stuff for pain! :-) glad to know you're doing well!
  • It seems that spineys are forever on muscle relaxants. It's always the pain meds we worry about, but I know that I've been on muscle relaxants for almost two years. That's the absolutely one thing that I don't think I could function without. Of course, I'm talking out both sides of my mouth because I'm still taking pain meds, but I'm just sayin'...
  • Hi all, thanks so much for the responses!

    I am in a neck brace for about three months. I've been on the phone with the docs office for.most of the day. They wonder why I. Am asking for a new perscription foe.percoset...I am in awe...when most people have no idea the pain involved, you would think you could trust them to know. They refused most of the day. Finally they are sgiving me a script for 10 (that is impossible to pick up today) and. Said I van go back to The pain mgmt clinic, who already told me they can't treat me.after sutgery.....I also have Xray on Wednesday. So, no pain relief.till tomorrow, and iffy after that. And no.confidence in an office that tells me I shouldn't be taking two every 4 hours as necessary, when that is ezactylly what the perscription says...I am frustrated beyond words, and dread.the next 24 hours....hopefully valium alone works.

    Sorry for being negative....I am always positive.....it just seems my Dr's care went to don't care....I.can't hold.my head up more than half hour even with the brace without intense pain
  • For some reason there are patients who are taken care of better post op than others. Post op pain mgt is also as important as the surgery in my opinion and this comes from my personal experience. I had read other people's experiences who have gone through the same problem as you are currently experiencing.

    Fusion surgery is in a class of its own when it comes to pain. You count on your surgeon to keep you as comfortable as reasonably possible while you are recovering. I was fortunate to have both my surgeon and pain mgt office working together when I had my 2 level TLIF on L4-S1. Prior to surgery I was on Fentanyl patches and Norco, and then my surgeon wrote my scripts for Norco and Valium for 3 months after surgery. PM increased the dose of the Fentanyl and I took these meds for a long time after.

    Maybe you should ask for a referral to a pain clinic because they also deal with post op pain. Surgeons don't like to keep you on pain meds for very long and some will refer you to a pain specialist. I hope things work out for you soon. Take care

  • You are having so much trouble. When is the best time of the day for you pain wise. Start there. Mine is in the morning, that is when I started to space the meds out. I start from 4hours to 1/2 evey 3 hours then continued if I could till I am now 1/2 every 6 hours. I try to get by with just tylenol in the early afternoon.The late afternoons can be hard so I would take a full dose, then the same right before bed. I could sleep for 8 hours. I have a heating pad that helps and will take a tylenol pm if I need extra help sleeping.
    Sometime I wish I could take more, it has been that bad, but I would concentrate on my legs or arms and think about how they felt. sometime it would just make them feel itchy, but it divert my mind away from my neck.
    Also I have a cervical memory foam pillow, that really has helped, it has the hump that supports my neck.
    I hope you are feeling better soon.
  • I agree that yoou should go to a pain management clinic and if the one you were going to can't help you, go to another. I feel confident they will be able to perscribe something for your pain. It is what they specialize in.

    My surgeon refers after the first prescription to pain management. They may be able to see you right away if you tell them your story! I hope you can rest and let us know how it's going! Take care~Shari
  • I had a three level acdf, 4/5 5/6 6/7, on Feb 11th and no neck collar and only a thirty (30) day supply of Darvocet (of which I am hoarding the last 15 pills). I returned to work on Mar 15th, 9-1-1 Dispatcher, just sit for 10 hours at a stretch and taking Tylenol 1 gram every 6 hours. Haven't needed anything stronger yet and rarely take anything on days off work. Best of on your recovery.
  • SpineAZSpineAZ WiscPosts: 1,084
    I found post cervical fusion that mornings were a bit tougher than post lumbar fusion, possibly since I've been able to sleep on my back and thus I don't move it much, but when my neck had the chance to move it could end up in an uncomfortable position during the night making the mornings harder.

    For both the neck and back, in the first 4 weeks after surgery, I kept a strict medication regimen where I was taking meds every 4-6 hours as prescribed. At around 5 weeks I tapered off a bit (both with neck and back recovery). Since often that meant I didn't need pain meds at bedtime I would then work on preventing morning pain problems. I would set my alarm to take a single pain pill 2 hours before I would get up so when it was time to get up I felt reasonably well. Then as I got breakfast, etc, I'd see how much moving around helped my neck pain and stiffness. Sometimes it would dissipate enough that I would not need more pain meds until later in the morning. So I do preventative pain meds when I can (by taking them before waking). I was doing this for my back but just stopped it about 1 week ago.
    2 ACDFs, 2 PCDF, 3 LIFs; Rt TKR; Rt thumb fusion ; Lt thumb arthroplasty; Ehlers Danlos 
  • Well, went to the doc today with new xrays...everything looks awesome! The incision looks like a scratch.

    As for the pain meds, dropping to 1 percoset every 4 hours and keeping 1 valium every 6 hours...means a little more pain, but time to start cutting back...am allowed to sleep without the collar now, so that's good.

    I'm.a little concerned about exrtra pain...and sleeping without a collar, but those are my updates for now.

    Take care everyone!

  • Congrat's on your healing and your stellar x-rays, that's fabulous! Glad to hear it! :0

    Hopefully your new pain plan will work, but if it doesn't, I definately think, you shoud tell them. And if they don't listen and responnd to your needs. try another doctor. Everyone responds to pain so individually and you shouldn't have to suffer!

    How is your wife's pregnancy? It won't be long now!

    Take care and let us know how you are doing! Shari
  • right now I'm having a fair amount of shoulder pain, but its valium time so hope it goes away?

    Mum and baby are both doing well ....saw some 3d pics of the little one last week. They'll probably induce at 39 weeks making may 2 as the birthday! Can't wait!!! I'm already used to The sleep deprivation;-)
  • Hey,

    I had c5-6/c6-7 ACDF in Dec 09. Prior to surgery I was on so much meds I was flat out stoned.

    I had pain mgmt doc b4 surgery and he did his best. His office worked with surgeon to coordinate care. I was pretty well doped for first few weeks post op.

    But I don't like taking all those meds. I wanted to ween off ASAP so I could feel for myself what was going on.

    Each of us are different. Listen to your body, and also your Dr's. I found it very helpful to keep a journal of all activity so I could inform Docs what was causing adverse reaction pain.

    I soon switched to Tylenol 4 and that was great. All I needed to knock the edge off. I know just use normal Tylenol and that seems to do the trick.

    I am not pain free. I dont know that I ever will be, but I can work and do most things and I sure wouldnt go back to where I have been.

    Getting yourself a plan to reduce meds or switching to lighter ones is a great way to test the waters.

    Also, some pain is good. It is telling you that you are healing. Time is your friend.

  • So I'm sitting in my house at 1130 pm. And I hear a car alarm go off....it sounded close, so I ran outside to check it out. Just as the thief was making off with my car, and smashing the window out of my suv, I tripped and faceplanted in the driveway.....well, head never hit the ground, mostly landed on shoulder...neck muscles and collar prevented contact.

    So it hurt a lot at the time, and I knew it would be more once the adrenaline dissipates...it did...I was on 1 percoset every 6 hrs and am now back at two. The Xrays luckily showed no damage, but I have yet to talk to the surgeon. Why does my neck hurt so much if I caused no damage to the hw attachments and such? We were trying to cut back on the meds, and now I have to take more for pain...my biggest worry??? It's like pulling teath trying to refill perscriptions for pain meds from this doc, so I'm scared to take what I need, knowing they may not refill when I run out. So why does my neck hurt....how long will it hurt? Shoulders hurt too and I felt tingling return in one finger for first time since surgery...I'm just a little concerned...it was a hard fall!
  • Oh Peter, I have been watching for a post from you, but this is not what I wanted to read!!

    I am so sorry!~ Sorry that one of your cars were stolen, one was damaged and that you fell! That is horrible.

    An xray only shows issues with bone, but not soft tissue. Nerves and soft tissue that was already irritated and beginning to settle down, may have gotten irritated again.

    What about ice? have you tried icing 20 minutes each hour? If it has been more than a couple of days, you can also use heat or you could combine heat and ice.

    I hope you feel better! Please let us know how you are doing! Your neew baby will be here soon! Take care xxxx Shari
  • The Xrays turned out ok, but pain still there. I meet with the surgeon today. Don't really care about the car, it was the fall that really scared me.

    BTW, the baby is due in 3 weeks;) can't wait!!!
  • There is nothing in the world better than the birth of a new baby, the sign from God that the world continues! So, so happy for you Peter!

    How did your appointment go with your surgeon? How are you feeling? Is it getting any better?

    I'll be thinking of you and keeping you in my prayers! xxxx Shari
  • I absolutely agree! Babies are the true eye opening meaning of life;)

    The Dr appt went well. No neck damage from the fall. So now he's starting to ween me off the collar. Yestedqy was 1 hour on, 1 hour off. Today is 1 hr on 2 hrs off....and so on.....and no sleeping with the collar. So today, my throat swelled again and I had a hard time getting meds down. I guess ill have to deal with it for a while, and hope it doesn't get so swollen that I gag on my own throat again!

    I did get the script for the meds too and told him how rediculous hard it is to get a refill from his office!

    What's weird, is I went to sleep last night at midnight and woke up today at 5pm. Is not wearing a collar that much work;)

    Thanks so much for talking shari....how are you doing????
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