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3 months after ACDF and doing fine.

It has been 3 months since my 4 level ACDF. I have been meaning to post about my progression but life has been busy. For a long while I was depressed, thinking I had simply swapped one kind of pain for another. That changed about 2 weeks ago. I suddenly had a big improvement in the muscle pain in my neck and shoulders. I still have pain but it is mostly manageable as long as I schedule some down time in the late afternoon.

I am still having swallowing issues. Bread and meat are a problem as is some pills.The surgeon wants me to see an ENT doctor. I haven't yet scheduled but will if I don't see improvement in the next week or two.

The extended period of inactivity has caused a flareup of lower back pain. An x-ray shows arthritis there as well. I am now going to physical therapy and that is helping lots. I think I now see a light at the end of this tunnel.

Spine-health is a wonderful resource but only those with lingering problems tend to stick around. This gives newbies the impression that surgery is not very successful. I have been guilty of not posting as often as I did in the beginning. It is just so freeing to be able to have a life again and I have found myself very busy lately.

I wish good luck to all awaiting surgery and speedy healing to those who have had surgery.

4 level ACDF completed on January 3rd.
I developed an infection which required reopening the wound on January17th
Looking forward to life without as much pain!


  • This is great news. So glad that you are doing better. I am thrilled to hear you've made a positive turn.

    You're right about not coming on as much - I know I try to check in once or twice a week, but I am VERY busy living life, especially after 3 months of a lot of inactivity!

    I am glad physical therapy is working for you!
    I am honestly not surprised that a 4 level took 3 months! That's A LOT of levels.

    Dry crackers are my challenge. Dry bread, I guess, too. I haven't really been eating a lot of either of late.

    So glad to hear you're out and about and enjoying life again!

    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 am two weeks before my 3 level acdf.... looking for tips on surviving....call me a newbie.
  • Have you checked the sticky on must haves before surgery? Lots of good suggestions. It is not easy but you can do it.

    I was hospitalized for 4 days and had lots of pain but it was manageable with meds. My biggest quality of life issue early on was constipation. The combination of percoset and an inability to eat anything other than smoothies was not good. You may want to have on hand some miralax and magnesium citrate.

    I slept in a recliner for the first couple of weeks and watched lots of TV. Plan on doing what it takes to heal and prepare for it.
    Good luck!

    4 level ACDF completed on January 3rd.
    I developed an infection which required reopening the wound on January17th
    Looking forward to life without as much pain!
  • Probably my 1st post here. I had 3 level ACDF fusion on april15th. Had and still have full faith in my neurosurgeon. Some great advise that helped me. Take cholera septic throat spray to hospital for throat pain. Squirt it in your mouth every minute your throat starts to hurt. I didn't know this and probably paid hospital markup. Found out also that I had to ask nurses (especially night) for my meds. The 2nd night was very busy and I didn't get meds even after requesting. I told hubby to go home to sleep because hospital recliner was horrible on his back pain. The pain meds made my vision much worse - was befuddled as to why I could read emails on cell before surgery but couldn't afterward. It's from the pain meds (typical side effect). So take some cheater glasses. Take comfortable bed wear. I didn't have a bowel movement for a week (sorry to bring it up) but took OTC products and nature usually always takes its course. Don't rise up in the bed in forward motion. Turn on your side then push yourself up with your arm. I stayed in the hospital for 3 nights. Walked the halls as much as possible, so walk those halls as soon as the PT allows. I dreaded wearing the aspen collar but found it to be quite comfortable and the support feels good. Thankfully I didn't have a big problem swallowing for long. After 2 weeks I've been able to eat most anything. (I.e. veg soup with small beef chunks). Onestly think I can eat steak but I will be careful. I'm type A and now becoming incredibly Stir Crazy, bored and working a lot from my desktop. Hubby is scolding me but some things I just have to get done. I own a company but work from home. Paid April and may bills via online banking and put together an excel spreadsheet and checked each bill paid, when it was due, etc. now I only look at that so I have a much better handle on what I need to look out for to keep from having late fees etc. we live on a horse farm and my favorite got. Sick (lameness issue) which has me totally stressed out because some daily tasks can only be done by myself. Hoping this doesn't backfire on me I have been picking up things from the floor, but bend all the way down and try to keep my head straight. Trying to walk as much as possible but I know I'm not doing enough. We rented a hospital bed which Is incur living room so I can watch recorded programs etc and not get cabin fever from camping out in our back bedroom. This has been WELL worth the money. Even though daily traffic can be noisy, I don't care - family can look in on me and I know what's going on and my sweet golden retriever puppy gets to hang with me. My current concerns as of yesterday is a new tightness between the shoulder blades, have had the sensation of having a golf ball in my thread that I can't swallow. Slightly aggravating to me but I refuse to dwell on it. So just cope to save frustration. A metal plate was inserted to support the three levels (c4-c7) and I am really starting to "feel that thing in my throat". I'm going to call my contact person today and follow up on this sensation and if its typical or if I'm abusing myself. Frankly I am not wearing my brace anymore around the house now that I a, totally stable and no fall threats. Only wearing it while in the ca r or during walks outside (very important because there are a million things that can trip you up and make you fall). I cringe even thinking about that. So, I worry about not fusing correctly and maybe my high energy (but laying low) may haunt me. Again I'm calling my nurse to see if these sensations are normal. Haven't had the Need to use my Tens unit on shoulders, but pre op, my PT told me to use it all the time. May start today. Also my neck ROM is more stiff - hubby reminded me that when I was in the hospital, the surgeon told me it was good to move my neck left and right - anything that did not HURT. I still don't dare to look straight up or down and try to use peripheral ,vision as much as possible. Sorry to ramble, just throwing out thoughts as they come to mind. I'm lying here in my bed and aggravated with insomnia and tired of lying or reclining. Will see if increased walking like two miles split up each day may help a future issue with back. Also I have a torn meniscus in right knee. Totally went out on me last weekend due to my "proper, or improper" squatting. This threw me to an all time low I felt horrible as a high energy, 50 year old horse rider that such issues are arising one after the other. So I'm being judicious and using common sense. Any big questions - definitely listen only to your doc or assigned post op nurse. I've had no post op nerve pain that was insanely painful at all since surgery. Bummed that I can't ride horses for quite a while but we all have to do the right thing or face the consequences of fusion failure. I sure don't want to go through this again. Oh, give up driving for 4-6 weeks. You need to always wear your brace while Ina car in case of accident. Plus, you wouldn't be able to turn your head to lookout for traffic. Been frustrating for me as I have a teenager involved in every sport, goes to a private school, so hubby has been doing a ton of driving on my behalf. Find an approved way to keep you from staying awake at night (as I currently am since I've been awake since 2:30 am). Hence, I got online here and saw your post. So hopefully I've done some good today. Oh, also wanted to get off pain pills since I've beenon them basically since early Feb. the last pain pill I had was on Sunday (day 13). Trying to manage with just Tylenol but I'm not going to be a hero if I really start to hurt. Hope this helps. Feel free to PAM if you have future quests. Oh, another thing, the scar is ugly to look at, but fortunately my surgeon used a type of super glue which I can't wait to see what things look like until he takes it off ( I hope) on post op visit (may 21). Record lots of tv shows, get an ipad and download brain games or word jewels2 and put millions of pairs of cheater glasses all over the house. Regardless, just when you get tucked in and comfortable, you're going to have to get back up and get something across the room. Be positive and go full speed to the safest recovery. :-)
  • I have a post on here that journals everything I experienced.
    I will say that I was one of the rare and fortunate ones to experience no pain whatsoever - no so throat, no surgical pain post op. It still blows me away.

    I did lose my voice for 35 days - but I sort of had this "surrender to the healing" attitude which helped a lot.

    I wore my hard collar for 3 months. When sitting in my recliner - after the first 6 weeks, I would open the front of my collar with my neck supported by the back of the collar and the recliner - and just let air circulate. I would SLOWLY move my head from left to right. I did some self massage at the back of my neck which helped a lot.

    I could drive at 6 weeks with the collar on - and I really did not find it to be a problem. I just learned to turn my upper body more than my neck to make up for that loss of motion.

    As Penny said - constipation from pain meds at the hospital and lack of real food in the beginning. Make sure to take some Senokot and Ducolax - daily. I didn't. That was not fun.

    And, just make sure you rest. You get one shot at getting this right. I fortunately planned my surgery for the end of October so that I could take the next three months and not have demands on me. I own my own business, but I made sure that some big projects were finished before my surgery, so it gave me the holidays and January to really heal.

    I still have tingling in my left hand and I am guessing that will likely not go away - but I was fully fused at 3.5 months and my surgeon was very pleased.

    And, thankfully my voice came back and it was MY voice - unaltered!

    Make sure you have soft and smooth foods at home -- applesauce is great to take pills - better than water. For several weeks, I would choke when sipping water, so pace yourself. Cream of wheat, oatmeal, fruit popsicles, smoothies, yogurt -- things with some texture worked for me. Ice chips were helpful in the beginning.

    Crackers - FORGET IT! Dry foods - FORGET IT!

    I could not get my head/neck wet for the first 7 days home (after 3 days in the hospital), and thankfully, I had a shower head that slides up and down on an arm affixed to the shower wall. I am so glad I put that in. I had to wear my collar the first 6 weeks while showering - but I did start taking it off at 3 weeks for that because I was not in a tub/shower combo and I felt sturdy standing there. The first three weeks, I didn't have that confidence in myself or my neck.

    Pay attention to your body. Don't kid yourself to think you're a superman or superwoman.
    If you smoke cigarettes - STOP NOW. They say that can prevent fusion.

    Wearing the collar is not just for tripping and falling, but also to prevent knee-jerk reactions many of us may have to grab something that might be falling. Let it fall/drop!

    Oh yes - the best thing I did - and I have said this is so many posts now - was to get 'guided imagery' audio recordings and listened to those before I went into the hospital. I also put them on my smart phone and brought that with me to the hospital with my ear buds - and it was the first thing I asked for when they rolled me into my room.

    Studies apparently show that listening to guided imagery helps reduce pain. Whether this is why I had ZERO pain, I will never know, but it sure did help me relax and let my overactive mind drift and take me to a place that allowed for healing. Sounds hokey, I know. But, the proof in the pudding, as they say. :)

    The guided imagery I downloaded from Amazon.com was about $9 and it was the best $9. PM me if you want to know the name.

    Sleeping - I first slept in my recliner, then my sofa - where I took the back cushion and laid it against the arm of the sofa - and gradually, I moved to my bed WITH the sofa cushion placed again the headboard of my bed. Yes, I slept sitting up. Thankfully, I had no problem with it and with the combination of the guided imagery - I slept really well, for the most part.

    OK - hopefully this helps!
    Good luck!

    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
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