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ACDF surgery recovery time, etc..

Good day all. First of all, this is an excellent forum and thanks to everyone for the very helpful posts. I had a work accident in July, 2014 and have been off work since. A month after the accident I had an MRI and it showed C6 - C7 disc bulging causing the classic left arm pain and tingling, as well as chronic pain in the C-spine area. ( I started going to physiotherapy immediately after the accident but it only made it worse. I am on meds which help but just a little) I saw an orthopaedic surgeon not long after the accident and he referred me to a neurologist who I finally saw yesterday. He says I need the ACDF surgery and is referring me to a neurosurgeon. Hopefully I will see the surgeon soon because the pain has gotten worse since the accident. I know there is risk involved, I have thoroughly done my homework on this topic but the pain in both my arm and cervical spine area is chronic. I have seen many ortho and neuro surgeons over the years ( lumbar spine issues) and they always say they won't operate near the spinal cord until a person can't handle the pain any more. I have a very high pain threshold but I can't take this any more. I will take the risk and get this done asap. I can stay in any position for a few seconds to alleviate pain but it returns. Sleeping is drug induced or I wouldn't sleep at all.

Anyway, my question is: What is the average recovery time? I would imagine months due to the bone graph, etc.. Also, will I be able to return to work afterwards? I am a 55 year old construction worker (residential and commercial). Like I mentioned above, I also have major disc issues in my lumbar spine from a 1984 accident (disc herniation) so the area from L3 to S1 is in bad shape from disc compression and arthritis.

Thanks kindly and any thoughts are greatly appreciated.
Have a good day!


  • I had C2-C5 ACDF surgery on March 19th and go back to work tomorrow. Doctor wanted me out 4 to 6 weeks but since I have a desk job he said he would agree to 3 weeks. I am still in quite a bit of pain and not all of my range of motion is back so if you have a more physical job you may be out a little longer. It is a slower recovery than I bargained for but worth it so far!! I hear it takes several months to get back to your new normal but it is worth it to be rid of the pain. Good Luck!!
  • Motor1MMotor1 Pittsburgh, PaPosts: 552
    I was injured at work and ended up with 2 cervical disc surgeries. After my first surgery, my surgeon agreed to me going back to work after 3 months, but only on light duty at the office. I was only allowed to answer the phones. I ended up getting laid off 3 months later & had to have a second fusion surgery 3 months after that. My surgeon has told me that I will never work as a hospice aide again. I do a lot of lifting of patients. Your job in construction involves a lot more lifting than mine did, so I would discuss this with your surgeon. Just remember that surgery doesn't always take the pain away. In my case, it has made it worse.
  • Thanks awarren and Motor1 (Cathy) for your comments. I was curious as I heard that if I had a bone fusion done it could take considerable time to heal. My neurologist and family doctor both have since said they expect I will never do construction work again and maybe a desk job (retraining) is in my future, I have no idea now how long of a wait I have for the actual surgery... wait times here in Nova Scotia are long. I only mention that because the pain is unbearable and I know you're both familiar with that. I'm grateful that there's a place like this site to talk about this and I thank you both again for that. Good luck to both of you in your recovery.
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