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Scheduled for ACDF on May 23

MightyJoe36MMightyJoe36 Posts: 6
edited 06/11/2012 - 9:02 AM in Neck Pain: Cervical
New to the group. I'm a 51 y/o male diagnosed with a herniated C5/C6 disc. It started with pain in my left shoulder last summer that was mis-diagnosed as a strained rotator cuff. After the physical therapy had no effect and the pain got worse and then started radiating down my arm to my hand, followed by tingling and numbness, I was referred to a neurosurgeon. After X-rays and an MRI came the above diagnosis.

Back to physical therapy which did not help, then I had my first corticosteriod injection and the pain went away almost immediatly. Unfortunately, the pain was back within a month. Two more injections later, back to the doctor. The pain and tingling is worse now, to the point where I need half (3.5mg) of an Oxycodone once or twice a day to get through the day.

Anyway, the doctor who is performing the surgery has done over 100 of these procedures, and the only complications he has had have been in elderly patients (osteoporosis, obesity, etc.). I'm in good shape, I run and lift weights, and am nowhere near overweight.

It's not the surgery that concerns me, so much as the recovery time. From what I've read, I won't be able to do *anything* for at least two weeks post-surgery (no driving, no bending, no lifting anything heavier than a carton of milk), and then a good three to six months until I'm completely healed.

Is that the norm? Can some of you share your post-surgery experiences as to how long it took you to get back to your normal routines/activities?



  • and welcome to Spine Health.

    I haven't had surgery on my neck yet, but I did have a lumbar fusion in 2010.

    It looks like I will be having a 2 level ACDF in the future. My neurosurgeon has told me that I will have a sore throat, trouble swallowing and possibly a deep voice for a few days or weeks after surgery.
    He also said I will have very sore muscles in my neck and shoulders for a while and that I will not be able to return to work until after 3 months after surgery. He said I should be able to drive at 6 weeks.

    This is a great place to learn about spine problems and surgery. Take a look at the Conditions and Treatments sections. It is a great support to be able to talk with others who have already travelled down this road and who really understand what it is like.

    I'll be interested to hear how you get on, and hope that you will be one of the common success stories.

  • Hi Joe,

    First let me say welcome to spine-health. Have a look around and you will find the procedure you are having done rather common on the boards. You are correct about the first two weeks post surgery. One thing I might note is some members actually wake up and all the pain is gone and are so happy, that they do to much in the first few weeks only to suffer set backs. When they do the surgery they will introduce some medications directly into the surgical site, which should provide a great deal of relief, and it is when those medications wear off, that some patients, who had done more go back wards. One important thing to note is that the muscle spasms are about the worst from the surgery, so you want to be sure to have a good muscle relaxer. During the procedure they have your body in a very weird position, with the halter that holds your head so you don't move and that can provide for some pretty rough muscle spasms.

    I will tell you I lived alone and post surgery I went home and took care of myself and my dog, so your not really left useless for those two weeks. The idea is to stay as low key as possible to give the surgery a chance to setup and heal.

    Look in the surgery forum and you will find a link to post surgery must have's that will guide you in some things you might need. Be prepared for the sore throat while some don't get it. I have had multiple surgeries and on one surgery I was eating a roastbeef sandwich within two hours. Following your surgery they will get you up in a few hours to walk and get your bearing. Don't be afraid to ask for pain meds if your in pain. Your body can't heal if your in pain.

    My suspicion is that you have a really good outlook and will do just fine with the surgery, and soon this will be something of the distance past for you. But don't hesitate to ask question. Most find the wait is worse than the surgery itself.

    Just thought I would stop by and welcome you to spine-health. If I can be of any assistance don't hesitate to pm me. Take care and keep us posted on how your surgery goes. If your bored post surgery don't hesitate to check out our chat room.
  • Hi mightyjoe and welcome, I too had ACDF. Yes those restrictions sound about normal. They give u those restrictions so that u will fuse properly. The speed in which u fuse and heal depends on u following what ur doc says and it sounds like ur doc knows what he is doin. Good Luck and like tamtam said if you need to talk you can PM me or come to chat when people are on we try and help in any way we can.
  • Joe,

    I don't know if you checked out the forum, but there are several people on the board having surgery in the next 2 weeks,so you will have lots of people to compare notes with post-op.

    The recovery takes awhile to fully heal, fused bone about 3 months. Nerve pain is so individual, the worst of mine was gone when I woke up, but I have some permanent from the trauma of my fall. It however is much better unless I overdo. As tamtam said this is something to really watch out for when you are home recovering.

    Wishing you a smooth recovery,

  • I just had acdf on may 10th for c4c5 I'm doing pretty good, just sore throat when I wake up, a little trouble with swallowing and talking at first no collar, nice yellow bruising on neck, I have titanium plate and donor bone, most of pre-op problems are gone, balance seems to be restored, arm pain gone, leg pain gone, well worth it, not nearly as bad as I thought it would be. I just can't lift anything but can walk anywhere just fine. Good luck
  • evening
    i new to spine forum
    i just had my 2nd ACDF on feb 27 2012 @ c3/4, my 1st one was in 1999 @ c4/5 same surgeon did both
    i still going to p.therapy, did your dr say you would be going to pt after the collar comes off? i had a soft collar on this time for 2 wks compare to the 1st time i had a hard plastic one for 3 months
    this recent surgery was more complicated and still trying to recover..
    everybody recovers differently
    i have a lot of other medical issues to go along w/ ACDF
    best of luck
  • I know your surgery is coming up this week and I just wanted to let you know that I am thinking of you.

    You will be on the "other" side, the road to recovery soon. Let us know how you are doing when you can post-op.

    Wishing you a smooth recovery,

  • Hi Joe, wishing you the best of luck on your surgery, check in with us when you are able. I had a 3 level ACDF on 4/16 I came home next day and live alone I had a sore throat for a few days and was able to care for myself. I took the meds as prescribed at first because if you wait for pain it is hard to control, but now 4 weeks post-op I feel pretty good as long as I do not over due it. I did not need to wear a collar unless I wanted to but all DRs are different. When I woke up from surgery my arm pain was gone, but I did have shoulder and neck pain which the meds controlled.Now I just take meds as needed. I was very scared at first but this site and these fellow spiney's were a great support. Good luck we will be thinking of you. Kim
    Kimberly Martin
  • good luck Joe, i had my c3/4 4/5 5/6 and corpectomy and fusion on wednesday, was home next day, am on soft foods as trouble swallowing but getting better every day, cant lie down to sleep yet, but am managing to sleep sitting up ok. on only paracetemol now. good news is i can walk again, i have my right hand back again, and am in less pain than before surgery.... however... i did listen to the wisdoms of this site, so i prepared well, i drank water and lots of it the day before surgery and as soon as i came around, and got up and walked about as soon as possible.....i am still listening to this site so i will not be rushing to do things i know i shouldnt, i dont want a repeat op therefore am organising time off now to prevent longer time off in future. i hope yours goes as well as mine, i was soooo scared. good luck joe.

  • You are in my thoughts as you have surgery and begin the healing process.

    I had ACDF on C5/6 in March 2009. As far as any pain I had from that level prior to surgery, they were gone when I woke from surgery and didn't return. I am now having some other issues, but they are not related to C5/6. It was so amazing to wake up and not have the arm pain, tingling, and numbness. :-)

    Drink plenty of water, make sure you have lots of pillows if you plan to be in a regular bed (I used about 6 to prop myself up), soup is good (I had cauliflower cheese soup my husband made me, the first night), and even if you feel good, take your meds. As many others have said, if you let your pain get out of control, it is hard to control later.

    Sending lots of hugs your way!

  • I hope that all goes well and that you will soon be telling us that you are feeling much better and glad that you had surgery.

    welshlady, it is good to hear that you are home again and sounds like you are doing well. Amazing that you are only on paracetamol already.
    Keep following the instructions. I love reading about successful stories!

  • just to say good luck, hope you are drinking plenty of water over the next few days, hope yours goes as good as mine.... will be thinking of you.
  • Good luck today Joe! You are in my thoughts and prayers today and I wish you a speedy and easy recovery.

    And Welshlady I am so happy for you. You sound like you are doing really well after your surgery. I wish you continued good health and a speedy recovery.

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

  • Hello all,

    Had my surgery on Wednesday. Went very well. Stayed overnight in the hospital. When I woke up, tingling and numbness in my arm and shoulder are gone! Can't gauge whether or not the pain is gone because of the pain meds they have me on. I have pain in the back of my neck, and the front (incision site) feels like somebody grabbing me by the throat. Swallowing is uncomfortable but not painful. The only thing that's really painful is coughing - didn't think about that. First time it really hurt. Hope I don't do much coughing.

    Sent me home with a collar that I'm to wear when not in bed. Doc says no impact exercise, lifting, or driving until my follow-up on the 18th. Plan to start working from home on Tuesday if I feel up to it. Just taking it easy now.

    Thanks everyone for your thoughts and prayers. I'm feeling really good about this.

  • Wow! Congratulations Joe! You sound like you are doing so well and I'm happy your surgery went well and that you're not in much pain. I pray you have a speedy recovery and that its also an easy one!

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

  • Awesome news! :-) It is the best feeling to wake up and have that arm pain and numbness gone.

    Take care.
  • Great news, Joe! Now you can rest and get caught up on the wonderful daytime TV! :) Glad to hear your doing well!
    ACDF C4-5/5-6 - 04-09-2012
  • Sorry I am late but want to wish you a good recovery and will keep you in my prayers. God Bless, Joe
    ACDF C5-6 scheduled for July10, 2012.
    ACDF C5-6 July 10, 2012 with plate and screws.
  • It is so good to hear that you have lost the arm and shoulder tingling and numbness and that you are home again. Now give yourself permission to take it easy, in fact give yourself orders to take it easy!

    I am very encouraged to read about successful ACDF surgeries. This morning I was having a 'stress with tears'. I know that this is in my future and on Thursday afternoon a neurosurgeon told me that I shouldn't leave it too long as my spinal cord is being compressed and is in danger of spinal injury if I fell or was in an accident.

    I am waiting to hear from a neurologist I also saw on Thursday who is looking to rule out MS before I have the surgery. They want to make sure that my symptoms are actually coming from my neck. He said that they certainly could be, but they are also symptoms of MS. I had a brain scan on Monday, so he will review that and decide if he wants more tests (EMG and nerve conduction studies) to make his decision.

    Even if I do have MS, I will have to have this 2 level ACDF to get the pressure off my cord. I just felt overwhelmed by it all this morning. I know that we need to reach an accurate diagnosis, but all this waiting is getting me down!

    Keep up the good healing Joe. :) I'll be watching how you get on to give myself hope.

  • Jelly,

    Thanks for the kind thoughts and words. Hope it is not MS.

    I too was very nervous and apprehensive about having surgery - especially spine/neck surgery. In the end though, it seemed like the best way to go. It wasn't just having to live with the pain, but also the herniated disc pressing on my spine had the potential to cause permanent nerve damage and muscle atrophy.

    Now that it's over, I'm sure I made the right choice and I'm glad I did it. Hope everything works out for you.

  • I agree with your comment about the disc pressing on the spine. I had the same surgery a year ago and am glad I had it, eventhough I am still having issues. Unfortunately for me, my muscles on my left side refuse to cooperate. My left upper torso has atrophied and I've been struggling to gain strength. I've been diagnosed by my physical therapist with myositis and myalgia.

    Glad to hear that you are doing well and wish you a smooth recovery! Remember to take it easy and not to strain the muscles.
    2011 ACDF C5-6 for Spondylosis with Myleopathy
    2012 L4-5 herniated disc and hernated disc at C4/5 2013 Taking Amitriptyline for headaches
  • Hi Joe, I am so glad to hear you are doing well. There is nothing quite like waking up to the arm pain and numbness gone..I was estatic when I did. Just please remember your limitations because I can tell you as soon as I felt a little better I over did it, and I paid for it big time. So remember to take it easy your body will tell you what you can do as long as you pay attention. I wish you a speedy recovery and keep us posted. Kim
    Kimberly Martin
  • i went back to work after 2 weeks but i had to wear my cervical collar. i work in school kitchen so very labor intensive. couldn't drive because of collar so hubby or one of my sons drove me. the dr allowed me to go back because its all the sick time i had left. i really didn't have any problems. My physical therapist
    helped with strengthening. i rested when i got home. i worked 5 hrs a day. it all went well. first 2 weeks were rough you really can't do much but its worth it.
    good luck i had to wear the collar for six weeks because i did go back to work so soon. it depends on job.
  • Hi Joe,

    Isn't it wonderful to be on the recovery side of the surgery?I'm so glad things went well for you, you're home and ready to get better!

    Take Care and heal well,

  • Thank you all for your words of encouragement.

    Continuing to progress each day. I think the hardest part of this whole thing is going to be keeping myself down. I feel like I can do everything I used to and feel ready to get back to my normal life. I have to keep reminding myself to wear my collar and not to pick anything up. Fortunately my wife is here to remind me.

    I work a desk job so I plan to start working from home tomorrow. Won't overdo it. Trying to keep a positive attitude, but it's not easy. I'm not used to this much sitting. I feel well enough to do anything, but I know I can't yet. It's frustrating.


    One level ACDF C5/6 May 23, 2012
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