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Post from 3 level ACDF

I am two weeks out from 3 level ACDF (C3-4, C4-5, C5-6). I am reluctant to take prescription pain medications due to my fear of future dependency. The pains, however, have become quite a nuisance. Sleeping is good, but anything in a vertical position is problematic. The pains are not consistent, but drive me nuts with their inconsistency.

From the doctor, I get a pat on the head as he says that some pain is to be expected. This pain, though, is worse than before surgery and I can't seem to get anyone to understand that I don't trust myself to do much of anything because I fear that it will result in another pain. Therefore, I am becoming a couch potato.I also feel that my height (6'4") may be contributing to this condition since the spacing between vertebrae is greater than average.

Am I a wossie or what? Is all this pain normal? I guess my pre-op expectations are quite different from my post-op realities.

Just a Whiner, I guess


  • FrancineSFFFrancineSF Posts: 318
    edited 12/24/2012 - 4:09 PM
    Sorry to hear that you are in so much pain. I am in the process of recovering from 2 level ACDF (C3/4 and C4/5).

    Without trying to pry, are you reluctant to take the meds because you have had previous dependency issues? If that is NOT the case, you may want to take them for a few days to break the cycle. Have someone dole the out to you, if you are concerned that you will not be able to manage them or yourself around them.

    Your still very new to healing and your body is adjusting to a lot. Taking the medications as prescribed can potentially break the cycle of pain without you being dependent on them, if that makes any sense.

    The problem with letting the pain get too out of hand is that it takes that much more to correct it later. If you can nip it in the bud now, I would suggest you do so. I have been told that by doctor friends whenever we talk about medicine and pain.

    If you have had previous issues with the manangement of medications/drugs, talk with your surgeon about other options.

    One thing I did find to be very helpful for me was listening to 'guided imagery' audio selections for pre and post operations, That did A LOT for me, especially in the evenings in bed when I would awaken at 2 or 3am and my mind would start to race. I found a terrific one on Amazon for $9 by a doctor here in Northern CA. Please know, I am not much into the woo-woo of things, but there have been a lot of studies done on guided imagery and pain management. It might be worth a shot, but isn't something to do only once and then abandon it if it doesn't work.

    The only thing I can say is this - I never had a moment of pain post surgery - except for some muscle strain in my neck because of the Miami J Collar I am wearing. I have never needed pain meds at all. Now, if that is because of these audio selections, BEAUTIFUL!
    If you are interested, feel free to email me privately and I will give you the name of the one I selected.

    One thing I know for me is that I have a generally high tolerance for pain - which is not to say that I don't feel it, but I am like you, I would rather not take medications. Mine is not because I would be afraid of getting hooked, but I just don't like that stuff in my body. HOWEVER, I also know that there is absolutely no reason to suffer. Try it for a week and see if it helps. If not, stop. I doubt you are going to become dependent on them in just a week. If it does help, stop taking them and see if the pain returns and to what degree. Be your own experiment. You won't feel like a couch potato as much! hahah

    Good luck with this. You're not being a wuss, but there is no reason to struggle through the pain right now. You're still just too new out of surgery to be combating this AND healing at the same time.

    That's my two cents. :)
    10/26/2012 ACDF C3/4 C4/5 surgery
    No pain; no pain meds - thank goodness!
    04/01/2013 - 5 months + 1 week - FUSED
    Doing some physical therapy for even better range of motion
  • I had a four level (c4-c7) on the 17th. 6 hour surgery. Intubated for almost 24 hours. In ICU two days. In post op for two more days. Released the evening of the 21st. Nothing could have prepared me for the levels of pain I would experience. I am a very active, health conscious 59 year old and had managed my pain in neck and shoulders with exercise and stretching for years. All the deterioration in my cervical discs were old high school injuries and automobile accidents. The surgeon thought it would be a 3 hour surgery on three levels, but found a "war zone" when he opened me up. Swallowing is difficult and sometimes painful. I am eating some solids, but mixing lots of fluids, small bites, and chewing carefully. I have numerous areas of numbness and pain down both arms and legs. The base of my neck sometimes feels it has an ice pick in it. I am on oxycodon every six hours since being released. It usually works well to bring the levels down to bearable pain. I have had 6 - 7 coughing attacks that have been excruciating and wonder if I am doing damage to the repair work. My doctor says all these symptoms are common and part of the process of healing. Sleep is very difficult in a recliner, but the doctor says I cannot be horizontal. I am up every 3-4 hours walking around the house and this seems to help bring the pain down. I am praying for full recovery and a much less painful life afterwards, but it seems a long road. I must wear a hard cervical collar 24-7 for the first 6-8 weeks. 3-6 months full recovery. Had I known it would be this painful I probably would have delayed the surgery. I would encourage anyone who has the pain post operative to take the pain meds to help you rest and heal and repair. I'm not a whiner, but I bet I would be if it were not for the meds. :-)
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