3 Weeks to 3 Months After ACDF Surgery

By 3 weeks, patients usually are cleared to do some light work around the home. Lifting items that weigh up to 10 pounds is now allowed. It’s still important to take breaks and rest if fatigue develops, however.

While the individual is likely to be feeling much better at this point, there may be some continuing arm numbness or weakness.

ACDF Recovery Time

Recovery time can vary widely. Some patients are able to return to work within a few days or a week after surgery. Others start physical therapy about four weeks after surgery, and continue for 2 or 3 months.

Typical Physical Therapy after ACDF

This is what the patient can typically expect at physical therapy:

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Return to Work

When and if the individual returns to work will depend largely on the patient’s recovery as well as the type of work performed. Some may even be able to return to work as early as 3 or 4 days after surgery. The surgeon needs to be consulted on when to return to work and if any work modifications are required.

Long-term Success

The fusion should be solid by about 3 months, and the newly fused bone should continue to grow stronger for up to about a year. The surgeon may take X-rays to determine the fusion’s progress. By 3 months, the surgeon is likely to allow the patient to play sports such as golf or tennis; however, it will typically be a year before the patient is cleared to engage in contact sports or other activities that may impact the neck.

It’s easy for an individual to slip back into old habits once the pain has eased. Recurrences of neck pain are common. Continuing with safe lifting techniques, good posture, and suitable exercise—and avoiding smoking—are good strategies to keep the pain from coming back.

Written by David DeWitt, MD