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Level 2 ACDF - post op

hershsmithhhershsmith Posts: 3
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:47 AM in Recovering from Surgery
So I had a level 2 ACDF about 3 weeks ago - spent night in the hospital postop because surgery was so late. Went home next day, had instant relief on pain in right arm, believe my right tricep weakness is gone (can't lift anything to be sure!), but numbness still in right fingers. I didn't really have much pain, only used the soft collar when riding in car and walking around (only wear when riding in car now) - off pain meds 6 days into recovery.

The only pain I'm experiencing is a "stiff neck" and some throat discomfort towards the end of the day.

After reading some of the posts on this site, either I'm the luckiest guy around, or my condition was not as severe as some of you - has anyone else been this pain free after only 3 weeks? I am tired all the time, but it was major surgery and I'm not a youngster anymore (although 50 isn't that old is it?).

Am I being too cavalier with the lack of collar use? I wear it on on occassion when the stiffness gets a little much, but I am driving short distances and working out of my office (only lifting my laptop). Anyone else released to travel after week 5?


  • Welcome to Spine-Health. The only thing I can say is, "Sometimes she do and sometimes she don't."

    I know that some members have had an easy go of it with ACDF recovery and they're no long on here telling their story because they're out living life. Usually it's only the ongoing sufferers who stay with the forums, that's why you'll see more bad stories here than not.

    As long as you're following your doctor's orders with regards to wearing the collar, then I don't believe you're being too cavalier in your use of it. Many doctors don't even prescribe collars after an ACDF at all any more. Mine was a 3-level and I had a hard collar for a month and then a soft collar for two months.

    I feel like I might have been more like you if I didn't have so many problems throughout my entire cervical spine (and apparently some lumbar too). I have continued neck pain due to the levels above my fusion having problems. So maybe you have a pretty healthy spine, other than the original problem that they fixed. And it also sounds like you had a great surgeon.

    I was released to drive as soon as my hard collar came off, although it was a bit of a nail-biter as my ROM made me nervous when merging into traffic. But once I got used to it, it wasn't a problem.

    Congratulations on having a successful surgery and recovery. But please keep in mind that if you overdo it during your recovery because you feel good, you may pay for it with a painful episode. So try to still be careful until your doctor clears you and you know you're fused or well on your way to fusing.

    Take care and again, I'm happy to hear a good story like yours. Looks like you're one of the lucky ones.

  • thanks Cath - it's a bit of a vote of confidence, although I've sort "amped" up my activity level lately (still not lifting anything heavy, although I'd say my laptop and bag weighs about 10 lbs, and I'm taking it easy with it) by going to kids football games, etc. I wear the collar only when my neck gets stiff (which it is right now) and feel tightness more than pain - this prevents me from moving my neck around. I don't know how to interpret the "tightness" to see if it's scar tissue fusing the bone rather than my own bone graft - but then again, I am a complete neophyte (OK idiot) on this situation, as up until last month I did not have issues with spine health.
    Any advice is welcome at this point....
  • I can't tell you why your neck feels tight, but I can tell you that I feel that still in my neck as well as my lower back.

    One thing my surgeon told me to do once my scar healed is to put your fingers on it and move it around, like in a circular pattern. This keeps scar tissue from attaching to anything in your neck. That might help.

    Other than that, you might still be having some muscle spasming as that's common after surgery. Will you be doing any PT? Sometimes that helps because they give you exercises to do to loosen those muscles around your neck. The surgery is pretty traumatic on the neck area and your muscles could be feeling some of the trauma.

  • Hershsmith,

    I had a 2 level ACDF, C5-C7, in March of 2009. My pain had settled to an acceptable level after about 2 weeks. I had to wear a hard collar for a month per doctors orders, but only if I was on my feet or in the car. My doctor was more concerned with me falling or being in a car accident that me not moving my neck. Had it not been for the collar I would have been back at work and driving after 2 weeks or so.

    I didn’t experience much throat discomfort, although the first thing I did after coming home from the hospital was have a Coke and ended up with the hiccups for about 4 hours, not fun.

    I would get muscle spasms in my shoulders that would feel like a bad cramp which in turn would make my neck feel stiff. In fact I still get some mild spasms that make my shoulders feel real tight and if I turn my neck from side to side it seem to exacerbate it. Usually they go away after an hour or so, every now and again I feel the need to take a valium to settle things down but it’s rare, once every couple of months.

    I found physical therapy really helped me feel back to normal post-op. I still have numbness in my fingers, thumb and index, that I believe is going to be permanent but it’s not that big of a deal, it doesn’t hurt and they still operate just fine. I also had quite a bit of triceps weakness, but PT took care of that and I’m back to full strength.

    All in all it sounds like you’re recovering nicely. Just don’t over do it and follow doctors orders.

  • other than the hard collar, it sounds very similar to my situation. Numbness still exists, but they haven't released me yet for PT - hoping that takes care of the tricep, and I can learn to live with the numbness. I like to do a lot of ab work to prevent lower back issues, but have not done since the surgery. I guess I'll just wait until my 6 week follow up and try to exhibit some patience....just wish my docs had been a little more "prescriptive" witht the post op limitations, other than don't lift anything heavier than a milk jug....
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