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.