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ACDF pain free recovery?

walkrpupwwalkrpup Posts: 6
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:45 AM in Neck Pain: Cervical
I'm new here but I did try to fine my answer in other posts before kicking this out for discussion.

I am 11 day out from a level one ACDF C5-C6. I will start with saying that I am 44 yrs old, in great physical shape, heck I was running 3 to 4 mile every other day prior to the operation. The reason for the surgery was the pinched nerve and associated pain and weakness in my shoulder and arm. It had gotten to the point I was not sleeping well and having trouble at work, computers and driving are a big part of the job. Pain with both activities.

Now, the operation is done. I'm cleared to drive. I basically have NO pain at all. The business with swallowing is pretty much passed and with the exception of the nasty scare on my neck I feel 100% better. There is only the slightest tightness in between my shoulder blades. So here's the question. Will being psychically active wreck the fusion? I've tried putting my doc on the spot about what I can and can do without getting a straight answer.


  • Welcome to Spine-Health. You'll find a lot of friendly, knowledgeable and supportive members here and I'm glad you decided to post.

    Your doctor is really the only one that can tell you the real answer and I'm surprised you weren't given a packet given to you prior to your surgery that gives you some outlines on do's and don'ts post-op.

    It sounds like you're possibly one of the lucky ones that is going through a quick recovery. But, that being said, I still believe that you need to maintain restrictions for at least 2 months, (3 is even better). I'm talking things like lifting anything over a gallon milk jug, bending and doing any housework such as vacuuming or any exercise other than walking.

    This is standard protocol and when we begin to feel better, we tend to overdo then pay the price - the price being increased pain and spams and I've been known to overdo to the point where I'm in my recliner the entire next day.

    Your cervical spine has a lot of healing yet to do - it's on the inside working its little heart out and I'm glad it's not painful for you. You've only had one level so that may be a contributing factor to your lack of pain. It's also possible that you'll go downhill somewhere along the way as things rearrange themselves inside where you had very invasive surgery, but will subside fairly quickly.

    Anyway, with all this said, please don't do too much yet. Try to understand that there's a lot of work being done in there still and until your doctor says you're fused or almost fused, you shouldn't stress the area.

    As I said before, it's really up to your surgeon to tell you the real answer, but from my experience and knowledge, what I've said should be taken into consideration.

    Take care of yourself and don't hesitate to PM me if you want to talk or if I can help you with anything.
  • Welcome. It's great to hear you had such a great recovery. I had a T2 microD in January and had a similar great recovery. My surgery was on a Monday, I went home Tuesday and I took my last pain pill Wednesday and was driving locally on Thursday. After a week I felt great except for muscle spasms. And at three weeks I was back to work.

    But I did continue to follow my surgeons instructions about no lifting, walking as the only exercise and no activity that involved twisting my upper body. Other than that my instructions were to be smart and stop if it hurts.

    My surgery didn't include the fusion that you had which will take time to grow. Talk to your doctor about your activity level. There seems to be a huge range of medical opinion on this so don't be surprised.

    Good luck as you continue to heal and let us know what your doctor has to say. It''s great to compare info.
  • I have a call into the surgeon's office to get clarification. It really seems this part of the experience has been a bit weak. The instruction seemed way too generic compared to the attention that seemed to go with all the other parts of the treatment. So if there has to be a weak spot I'll take it there rather in the "skill of the doctor department".
  • Walkrpup,

    Cath gave excellent advice. My doctor as well (I've had 2 cervical fusions so far) didn't give me much in the way of post op instructions. He told me to "let my neck guide me", but too like Cath said, he told me not to lift anything more than 5 pounds for the first 4 weeks - he upp'd it to 10 at 4 weeks, then 'as I could handle' at the 6 week check. He also instructed me to walk at least 2 or 3 miles a day. Glad to hear you are healing so well! That is always good news!!!

    PCTF C4 - T2, Laminectomies C5, C6 & C7. Severe Palsy left arm/hand.
  • Weak instructions is very common. Many surgeons consider themselves done when they walk out of the OR. They usually leave the aftercare to their PA. And the instructions are usually generic and only divided between cervical and lumbar surgery.

    When you talk to them ask if you will be doing PT. There are a lot of muscles that get weak from cervical pain. I personally love my PT and for post op care I love having the security of seeing him 2-3 times a week to answer my silly questions.

  • Woke up this morning pain free. There was a little stiffness in left trapezoid. But that cleared away pretty early. No pain meds in days. I'm cleared to return to work next Monday and I've been driving since Friday, although not much. The surgeon got back with me yesterday and confirmed, lift nothing over 5lbs, walking and I can also use the recumbent bike at the gym. I will be seeing him again in another 10 days or so and depending on what he sees he will adjust the instructions.

    The hardest part is just staying still and not doing too much. Over the weekend I had several really busy days in a row and did not feel any ill effects.
  • It is so nice to hear someone with such a positive experience with the surgery. Just stay following the doctors orders and hopefully this will be a distant past thing and no other issues will evolve.

    While many are having ACDF surgeries the reason for surgery is so different, so the restrictions may always be different on each individual. For example someone with myelopathy are has a stability issue maybe much farther behind in the recovery. I guess I am lucky my surgeon doesn't use PA's so all answers come straight from him. Also in my pre-op paper work all of those issues of post surgery were addressed including a walking program.

    Good luck starting back to work next week and don't be surprised if you experience a little muscle soreness or some spasms, your still recovering.
  • Ok, it's been 18 days. The scar looks good. I've got my return to work note and will be going back to work this coming Monday. I'm continuing to be very careful with my activity, albeit difficult for me. I've gone as far a tying a string around may finger so I don't forget, no lifting. I have been faithful to walking and have added workouts on a recumbent bike. I have not had a vicodin in over a week. PRN flexeril maybe one a day. I'm only really having two physical symptoms. Still got little funny feeling in my throat and a tiny bit of tightness between my shoulder blades.

    As with anything unknown I read up. So now that I've made it this far and it's been a piece of cake there's follow up appointment and assessment of how well the fusion is coming along. Is there anyway for a body to judge how well that process is going or extra measures to help the fusion "take"? I've been blessed with an easy go of it so far. Now the paranoia of an empty mind as I've not worked in weeks has dreamed up this new worry. Input welcomed.

    And as usual thanks

  • tamtam,

    The reason for my procedure was a herniated disc that was impinging the nerve running down my right arm. all takes of my pedestrian life effected. Driving, typing, siting on the edge of my be to put my shoes on, riding a bicycle all caused extreme pain and numbness. The MRI showed the it very clearly, I was impressed by the picture. All of those symptoms have completely cleared.
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