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post op acdf surgery recovery

cate_bccate_b Posts: 3
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:47 AM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
I had two level acdf surgery at c5-6 and 6-7 with donor bone graft 10 weeks ago,included titanium plate and 6 screws. I had been diagnosed with degenerative disk disease, spinal stenosis and osteoarthritis. Had been having severe nerve pain in arms for about 2 years. Anyway surgery went well and my follow up x-ray at 8 weeks looked very good. The radiating nerve pain is now gone which is great. My question and I realise it may vary from patient to patient is; I am still having severe muscle spasms in my upper shoulders and down between shoulder blades. I am taking pain meds and muscle relaxers as well as ice/heat. I can lay in bed or sit in reclined postion all day and keep pain very tolerable. Problem is when I stand and start moving around the spasms set in very quickly. I can usually last about and hour or so before the pain gets too much and I have to get down. My doc seems to think at this point I should be able to have resumed normal social activity within reason without this level of pain? How long do these spasms last I'm wondering. I'm spending most of my time still laying down because of it. I am ready to get back to my life. Am I being overly optimistic or perhaps my Dr is. Cate


  • Howdy Cate,

    I've had fusions at the same levels as you, but mine were a little over a year apart. With that said, I found that I had on and off spasms such as you are describing for up to 6 months post op. You have to remember or realize that your whole spine is going through a rather large change. Muscles also have to adjust to the change in structure of that spine, and too the loading and dynamics have changed. Notice "change" is the biggie here.

    Hopefully you will find the spasms backing off over time. I know, they hurt, and they are annoying. Sadly it can take up to a year or more for the fusion to be complete. So as you can see, there is a lot going on in your body and at your surgery site. I guess here, patience is the key. I hope you feel better soon. *HUG*


    PCTF C4 - T2, Laminectomies C5, C6 & C7. Severe Palsy left arm/hand.
  • Cate,

    I had the exact same surgery as you 18 months ago. I also get the exact same kind of muscle spasms, although not as severe or as frequently as you seem to. I’ll get minor ones every so often and one or two bad ones per month. Minor ones usually go away after an hour and some stretching or, if I can convince my wife, a neck rub takes care of it. When they are bad I’ll take a muscle relaxer (valium) and it knocks it out. Did your doc have you go to physical therapy after surgery? I started about a month after surgery and it REALLY helped. Just getting those muscle moving again really helped calm things down. By three months after surgery I felt back to normal.

    Another thing that helps is get a tube sock and put two tennis balls in it then tie off the open end. Then either lay on the floor or stand up against a wall and put the sock in between your shoulders and you can really massage those muscles between your shoulder blades, feels really good.

    Hope this helps, if you haven’t gone to physical therapy you should really consider it. If you have, continue to do some of the exercises at home. You also might want to consider getting a professional massage. A friend of mine who has had an ACDF gets one every week and swears by it.

  • Thank You Brenda for your reply I appreciate it. Patience is something I am definitely lacking in I admit lol. I Had hopes that I would be one of those fortunate folks who has the surgery with immediate and great results. I am very lucky that I don't have to work. I feel so badly for those going through this proccess who have to return to work with this pain. Just can't imagine that. Some days my brain understands it takes time maybe months. Other days my brain says "What were you thinking having this surgery! What if you never get better" I try to stay positive and realistic. I guess I just needed some reassurance that this is not uncommon. Thanks so much.
  • Hi Chris, When I see my Doctor again I am going to ask him about pt. Prior to the surgery he said he didn't like to start PT until fusion had taken place. The xray that was taken 2 weeks ago at 8 weeks post-op looked great he said, picture perfect. Except there was no visible signs of fusion. Although he said at eight weeks there often wasn't so he is not concerned yet. He also said there could be fusion there but its just not visible on the x-ray. I know prior to surgery massages worked great for me. I am planning to go back very soon to my massage therapist and start that up. Great suggestion about the tennis balls Thanks! I am also on the Valium it seems to work best for me but it scares me (the addiction factor) so I admit I don't take as much as I am allowed to even though it does such a great job. Foolish of me I know. Thanks for the reply. hope you continue to improve and do well.
  • sunny1966ssunny1966 VIRGINIAPosts: 1,385
    I'm 18 days post op ACDF 5-6 and dealing with severe spasms also.

    I hope your spasms lessen real soon. It's rough isn't it?

    I just wanted to let you know that I know what you're going through and will send you positive thoughts and wishes for much better days ahead.

    Good luck
  • You and Debbie need to talk. She had her surgery more recently, but she's also talking about terrible muscle spasms. Having had a 3-lvl ACDF, I know how horrible they can be and they can continue long past when you think they should be gone. It really isn't uncommon. I guess that's why I have a bottomless pit of Flexeril, between my lumbar and cervical problems, I can be a walking jumping bean. LOL

    Hang in there, Cate. And keep doing what you can to keep them at a minimum.

  • Cate,

    I'm retired now, but was in a similar mode after my first cervical fusion and going back to work. I think that makes recovery go so much slower!! Now of course, like you, if I don't feel up to doing something, I don't! (G)

    What Chris suggested sounds excellent! Never tried the tennis ball massage - I like the concept! Thanks Chris, I learned something good today!! :)

    Hopefully your muscles will settle down soon. Rest, relax, and walk so you can continue healing. Oh and not being patient..hehee, I think in many ways, we are all like that! (G) *HUGZ*

    PCTF C4 - T2, Laminectomies C5, C6 & C7. Severe Palsy left arm/hand.
  • I fully understand what your talking about i have a Facebook page to better inform people about post care cause most of the info that i have found is usually only during that week or so after and no long term post surgery follow. I had my surgery on October 11th 2010 and I have been keeping notes and videologs on my youtube page to document post care tips and suggestions.
  • Hello--I just saw my orthopedic surgeon for my 8 month follow up. The bone is fused between c3-4. Between 4 and 5, however, there is a large gap. I would appreciate feedback about the length of time people experienced before total fusion was achieved. I had a non-union ankle fracture in 1995 and was warned that another non union was possible. Thank you.
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