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My ACDF experience (good)

I had ACDF c6-c7 on Friday (May 10th). I was scared out of my mind (probably not a good idea to read about how wrong everything can go). My pain was primarily in my left arm/shoulder.

The only reason I had surgery was because the ortho people could not get me in for an epidural until May 8th (My injury was March 30th). Meanwhile, many people urged me to see a neurosurgeon. One in particular came highly recommended and I made an appointment with him. He saw me on May 1st and said that I needed to get the nerve decompressed as soon as possible because of the lack of improvement (dead index finger and tricep) after 5 weeks and he was afraid the nerve damage would become permanent if I tried to wait it out like the orthopedic doctor wanted. This was also my my second go-around with this injury and he didn't think I would improve without surgical intervention.

I decided to just go for it. I knew the epidural was a long shot and would take about two weeks to work (if it worked at all) and permanent weakness in my left arm was not something I wanted to deal with. I was also eager to get off of the narcotics since I like them a little bit too much. I was shocked that my insurance approved my surgery without any kind of physical therapy (even though several doctors recommended against doing physical therapy, it is apparently still a requirement). Somehow I got approved and scheduled and operated on in little over a week.

After surgery I woke up and immediately wriggled my toes just to make sure I'm not paralyzed. My second realization was that my arm pain (left side) was completely gone. 6 weeks of constant, excruciating pain gone instantly. My throat still hurts a bit and my neck is slightly stiff two days later but other than that I have zero pain. My index finger is still a bit numb and my tricep has weakened significantly (I'm sure I'll be needing some rehab for that) but both these issues seem so minor in comparison to the pain I was feeling. I am in awe of the people on this forum who have had to deal with nerve pain for years on end. I really feel for you. I wouldn't wish this kind of pain on anyone. And the few people I know who have experienced it all agree that it's just one of those things that you have to experience to be able to understand. It's hard to show compassion when you don't understand how painful nerve pain is.

I'm also amazed that my surgeon did not give me a neck brace at all or any restrictions other than to say I can do whatever I want if it doesn't hurt (he only gave me wound care instructions). I'm going back to work tomorrow since I've been feeling great all weekend apart from being tired. At least I can take a nap at work if necessary. Did anyone else leave the hospital without restrictions?

Anyway, for now I am glad I had the surgery. I know it's possible for the adjacent discs to go due to the increased load but for now I am just thrilled to be without pain.

I wish everyone well.


P.S. I think your choice of surgeon is the single most important factor.



  • Hello Adri, and welcome to Spine-Health!

    I'm very glad that you received immediate relief after surgery and actually am shocked that you weren't given a collar at least to wear while your in a car or sitting upright for periods of time without support. Then again, it seems each surgeon had different philosophies.

    I was given a "Miami-J" collar to use after my two ACDF surgeries, I am fused from C3 thru C7 (degenerative disc disease).

    Good luck, please play it safe and be kind to the neck! :-)

  • LizLiz Posts: 7,832
    edited 05/12/2013 - 10:05 PM
    I am sure that you will find your time on Spine-Health very rewarding. This site is a powerful and integrated system that is dynamic and continues to grow.
    Here are just some of the highlights:

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    dilauro , tamtam, liz jellyhall or sandi

    Liz, Spine-health Moderator

    Spinal stenosis since 1995
    Lumber decompression surgery S1 L5-L3[1996]
    Cervical stenosis, so far avoided surgery
  • I really glad to here your surgery went so well and you are not in any pain, but for recovery were you given any advice about lifting things and about moveing your neck.
  • Hi Tina:

    The doctor said I have no restrictions about lifting anything as long as it doesn't hurt. I specifically asked about weightlifting (I do CrossFit) and he said I can do it as soon as I feel well enough. I will probably be a bit more cautious and wait a few weeks before lifting anything too heavy though. His exact words were: "There is nothing you can do that will undo what I'm about to do to you today". I found it very surprising but he has a very good reputation and by all accounts is the best in my area.
  • Sorry. No restrictions on that either. I did not get a brace and even though my neck is a little stiff, I seem to have full range of motion without pain EXCEPT looking up (because it pulls on my incision).
  • Hi Adri.........that's okay! :-)

    I truly hope all goes well with healing and all facets of your recovery is smooth. Just be careful, and if you ever have any question, please feel free to ask or PM me. Occasionally there are bumps along the road of recovery.........hopefully you won't hit any. ;-)

  • Thats good its important to follow the doctors advice I hope you recovery goes well. Takecare
  • RangerRRanger on da rangePosts: 805
    That is unreal, no restrictions, no collar, but I have heard some surgeons don't require restrictions. I had C4 thru C7 fused both anterior and posterior, corpectomy, discectomy, with a strut, cage, plates, rods, & screws. I did have weight restrictions along with a collar and bone growth stimulator. My fusion is well and I am also very active also doing H.I.I.T. (high intensity interval training) which is somewhat similar to CrossFit. I commend you GreenGecko, that is a very impressive routine. Just don't herniate any more cervical discs.

  • It certainly does sound like your surgery has gone very well and being back at work so quickly is amazing. Going back just 5 days after surgery does concern me a bit, but if you feel you are ready and your surgeon is happy for you to get back to work, then good luck!

    I had C3/4/5 fused last November. I actually had 3 months off work because my job as a teaching assistant involves lots of looking down and stooping. Also here in the UK spine patients seem to have more time off. I think it is because we have entitlement to paid sick leave. After working 12 years at my job I am entitled to 6 months off on full pay and then another 6 months off on half pay.

    I didn't really have restrictions other than my surgeon telling me that my recovery would need similar restrictions to after my lumbar fusion. I had no collar at all and had 2 titanium cages only. No graft, no plate, no screws. It seems to have worked though! :-)

    I think the fact that you had your surgery fairly quickly will give your nerves a better chance of healing. My neck was left by my first surgeon 'watching and waiting' for 2 years. I got a second opinion who said I had a lot of compression of my cord and we should do the surgery. Now I still have most of my nerve pain and symptoms. A new MRI scan shows that my cord is now free with fluid around it so it seems that I may be left with my symptoms. I was told that the surgery was done to stop the progression of damage to my cord but I am disappointed that I didn't get more relief. I wonder if I had not been left for so long I would have had a better result. My singing voice has also been affected by damage to my superior laryngeal nerve.

    My surgeon has said that I could still get improvement as the nerves heal. He thinks that at 12 months, that will be as good as I get.

    Good luck in your recovery and please do take it easy. :-)

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