I have spent many hours searching and reading on this excellent site and finally decided it was time to share my own experience in the hope it is somehow helpful to others. Any input would be appreciated and questions, more than welcome.
First of all, I am a 51 year old fitness-oriented female and good physical condition. On December 14, I had ACDF on C5-6 with with titanium plate and cadaver bone after 2+ years of worsening neck pain and left arm weakness / lack of hand coordination. The procedure went well (about 30 mins) and I had the normal swallowing discomfort and posterior neck pain, but I was eating regular food almost immediately and discharged the next morning. I have not taken any pain medications at all after my first night home from the hospital. This has to do with a relatively high pain threshold and the constipation and insomnia that narcotics give me.
The post-op instructions were inadequate, with very minimal restrictions and no cervical collar because of the stability provided by the plate. I was told I could drive as soon as I was off the narcotics. This all gave me a false sense of security and by day 2 or 3, I was doing dishes, wrapping gifts and trying to do as much as possible. Not a great decision to push this much and neck pain and arm weakness came on with a vengeance. Unfortunately I have one of those spines that does not always let me know I am overdoing it until 2 days later.
On Day 9, I was riding with my husband to a local restaurant and a car pulled out in front of us. Thankfully we avoided a collision, but of course the slamming of the brakes caused my neck to jerk. I was extremely anxious about it being so early in the fusion process. Pain and weakness progressed over the next several days, so I called the neurosurgeon's office. I had to jump through a lot of hoops over about 5 days,, but got an X-ray that showed the fusion was in good alignment. A week later, NS ordered an MRI because of the sudden brake-slamming, which I had 4 days ago and the feedback I have gotten thus far is that the site looks normal.
I have been walking a couple times a day for 20 mins. I tried to use my recumbent bike several days ago for 10 mins and that brought on additional neck pain, so laying off that for a while longer. I am scheduled for the regular post-op follow up late January.
I am trying to stay positive, but can't say that I feel much better than before the surgery in relation to the level of neck pain and arm weakens. I am hoping that is due to healing and inflammation. I suspect that other levels are contributing, since I have spondylosis like a lot of folks my age. One definite positive is that I am no longer lightheaded. I'll take it!
Thanks for reading this!