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Sleeping after ACDF ???

jellyhalljjellyhall Posts: 4,373
edited 06/11/2012 - 9:01 AM in Neck Pain: Cervical

I have read many posts of people having problems sleeping in a bed after ACDF surgery.

It looks like I will be headed for this operation, so am trying to find out what the problems are likely to be after surgery and hopefully find some solutions to them.

What were your problems sleeping after surgery?
How did you deal with them?
Which was the most comfortable position to sleep in?

I am not going to have a collar and worry that I will put my head in an unsuitable position while asleep. Have others managed ok without a collar?

So many questions!
Hopefully, I will get lots of stories of others's experiences.



  • I requested a soft collar for trips in the car since my NS said ACDC patients were magnets for car accidents (I only used like 2x'sfor driving BTW) and I used that for sleeping for the first few nights. I was not one who had a hard time sleeping. I propped my self up in my bed with about 8 pillows (already have the 4" memory foam topper) and stayed there for about a week. Some people reported that they needed to sleep in their recliners. But I slept upright in bed mostlyuntil the swelling went down and then I layed flat with out a pillow for a few weeks more.

    Good Luck,
  • I too had no collar after ACDF. I slept in the recliner for 2 weeks. It was too difficult to get in and out of the bed. My shoulders and neck were so stiff and painful that I didn't want to lay flat.

    It's been 3 1/2 months since I had ACDF. I sleep either on my back or my side. I always make sure there are pillows around me so that I don't roll off. Occasionaly I wake up on my stomach with my head turned to the side and this results in a dull aching neck for the day. Also about 3 weeks after surgery, I woke up with my head completely off the pillow and that was the most painful feeling trying to straighten my neck and get back on the pillow.
  • Hi jellyhall,

    Sorry to hear about the surgery, but hopefully will resolve some of your issues for you. I wore my soft collar on my own volition after my 2 level ACDF. I have a therapeutic memory foam pillow which really helps me. My issues were and still are on the left side of my cervical spine. When I slept in my collar, I laid on my right side and adjusted the pillow so that collar would fit in the indent of the pillow. I used a sofa pillow to prop under my left arm to ease the downward pressure cause by my left arm. Bed pillow between my knees. I still sleep that way today, but have long since given up my collar ... unless I am using it to ice my neck and want to lie down for a short time. It took a little while, but eventually I was able to sleep on my back,thanks to my therapeutic pillow.

    Again, I refer to good old common sense and what your body is telling you. Most docs don't like you sleeping in the collars because they impede the muscles from regain their strength and tone. I say do what feels best to you and for you! You obviously have been in this game long enough to know what your body is saying to you. Got my fingers crossed for you. Sorry I went on so long, all. Keep us posted on your progress. >:D< >:D< for warm thoughts.

    Rassy's Story
    Under House Arrest Without the Ankle Bracelet :-)
    The remarks I make are strictly my own based on my personal experiences.
  • Sorry you may have to go for the ACDF. I had a C3-7, and although the first 2 weeks were tough, each day I got significantly better. I would have been uncomfortable with the idea of not having a collar with the multi-level ACDF. My surgeon routinely has a multi-level ACDF spend a night in the ICU (I spent 2, but still out of the hospital in 4).

    As for sleeping, I slept in a high back recliner (high enough to support your head)for a couple of days. I was lucky to also have a recliner in our family room (which I still sit in most of the time). That provided me the ability to nap in the chair whenever I needed. After the first couple nights I was able to go back to the bed. I was supposed to wear an Aspen collar 4 weeks 24-7, with another collar to wear in the shower. I always sleep on my side, so I used a couple of pillows for my head and my collar would be below that so it wouldn't push on my neck. For a number of years now I have slept with a small pillow between my legs and hold onto another small pillow (that provides a cushion so my arms don't come together - I don't know exactly how to explain it but it really helps me).

    Feel free to PM me if I can be of help.

    4 level ACDF C4-C7 5-2-11, laminectomy & discectomy L4-L5 1/26/12, ALIF L4-5, L5-S1 12/10/12.
  • I was also very worried about sleeping after the ACDF but it actually was no big deal at all.

    I put pillows all around me and slept on my side. I wore my soft collar. For the first couple of weeks I woke up every 3.5 hours or so when the pain meds started to wear off. I'd take more meds, fall alseep in about a half an hour and do the same thing all over again. It wasn't bad at all.
    ACDF C4-5 June 23rd, 2011

    Another surgery in the near future. I am 26 years old.

    Current Meds- Norco 7.5/325, Cymbalta 60mg, Gabapentin, Adderall 20mg

  • I do have a memory foam shaped cervical pillow that has really helped with my sleeping (most nights).
    I already sleep with a pillow between my knees because of my lumbar fusion. I also have a roll pillow on my right side to put my right arm on to help the horrid aching that I often get in it at night.

    We have a recliner downstairs in the lounge, so that may be another way to sleep. I worry about getting out of that though. To lower the leg support, you have to push down hard with your legs. Sometimes, even now before surgery, it hurts my neck to do this. I would hate to need to get up and walk around in the night (which I often have to do) and not be able to get up out of the chair.

    I have wondered if getting a wedge pillow to use in the bed might help. What do you experts think? I will need to make sure that my lumbar spine is supported properly or I'll start having trouble there.

    I want to try to have anything that will help me to hand when I get home. I don't think I will feel like going shopping looking for pillows after surgery!!

    I feel as if I am in a strange dream. Although I am thinking about, and starting to prepare for this surgery, it doesn't seem real. I have not yet got my head around being in this position again!

    I am so glad that I have this forum to come and talk and ask questions. Thank you my friends.
    >:D< >:D< >:D<

  • Hi hon!

    Just wanted to say that I wish you the very best. I will be going through surgery around the same time as you so keep in touch. You're a trooper you'll do great!

    Missy, 1 level ACDF C6/C7 Monday July 16th 2012.

  • We can support each other

    >:D< >:D< >:D<
  • Honestly, I was fine with sleeping after the surgery, but I had a one-level. My doctor did not prescribe a collar either. My muscle relaxants did the job for me in regards to pain and sleeping.

    If you are not having issues sleeping now, then you should be fine. Before my surgery, I had a horrible time with sleeping. I only had difficulty sleeping the first 2 nights after surgery. The surgery did help me. Trust your surgeon to get the job done. Jelly, we are here for you! >:D<
    2011 ACDF C5-6 for Spondylosis with Myleopathy
    2012 L4-5 herniated disc and hernated disc at C4/5 2013 Taking Amitriptyline for headaches

  • Sorry to hear that you need the surgery. It was not as bad as I thought.What levels are you have done? I had my surgery 12/2010.
    Sleeping was definitely an issue. The recliner was my best friend for 2 months. Just felt I slept longer and better. I was able to sleep in the bed with pillows propped up. I wore a soft collar for 2 months 24/7 but did take it off every now and then. I had a plastic hard collar for showering.
    I also had swallowing issues for a while. Ate alot of soft food. Ask as many questions as you want. Hopefully Ii will remember specific details.
    I had excessive swelling and needed steroids in order to decrease. Recovery took time. Walking was the best for me. Getting out in the fresh air when I could even if it was only the next door neighbor. Just listen to your body. It will let you know when you have done too much after surgery.

  • It will be C3/4 and C4/5 that I will have fused.

    It is so helpful to hear of others experiences. That helps me to feel that I can face this.
    I had hoped that after my lumbar fusion, I wouldn't need further surgery. I think my spine is a mess. I haven't been in an accident, but they think it must be genetic and also due to my 'double jointedness'.

  • Jellyhall, If you aren't going to have a soft collar after your surgery, I suggest getting a neck pillow at least to keep your head from lolling to one side when you're asleep. They're a lot like a traveller's soft pillow for flying and will support your neck. I got one to have while I sit on the couch to help support my neck. I slept in the recliner for about a week like so many people do, I could get in and out of it easier than the bed. When I started sleeping in my bed again my feather pillow felt the best for me, I sleep on my back and scrunch the sides of the pillow up against my head to support my neck. You'll find the best pillow and sleeping situation for you, it's all about what feels good. I think you do need some support while you're sleeping though.
  • JH, I also had some difficulty getting out of my recliner, pushing the stick thing to flip down the foot part was too hard for me, I kind of wiggled out of the side of the chair without lowering the end or the hubby would do it. Make sure you get a 'grabber', if you don't have one...at the drug store for about $20, I've used mine for several surgeries and you can pick up light stuff from off the floor without bending at all. When is your surgery? I'm 6 wks. post op now and I'll post any helpful hints as I think of them that might help you. There's lots of good experience in this group!

  • I don't have a date for surgery yet. I'm waiting until after my next neuro appointment on April 17th to see what they say. This is the one who keeps saying wait another 6 months. The 2nd opinion neurosurgeon I saw nearly a month ago said time for surgery due to the compression of my cord and the signs I now have of myelopathy.

    I hate the idea of being downstairs in the recliner and needing to get up to walk to help with pain (I do that every night at least once) and hubby being upstairs and not hearing that I need help to get out of the chair!

    I have a grabber that I had lent to someone and now have it back again ready. Last surgery (lumbar) if had it and 2 others that I borrowed so I had one downstairs, one in the bedroom upstairs and one in the bathroom. I also have a bath board and shower chair along with a few other things that will probably help me.

    I would value any hints that you think of to help me. I know that I will get a wealth of support from all the lovely people on Spine Health.
    Thank you one and all!

    >:D< >:D< >:D<

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