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New Here & Nervous @ Neck Surgery

AnonymousUserAAnonymousUser Posts: 49,578
edited 06/11/2012 - 7:26 AM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
Hi everyone. My doctor's office gave me this website as I'm going to have surgery on Tues 1/6. I wasn't expecting to go "under the knife", but given the other alternatives, this was my best option. I've been reading the posts and have a couple of questions. First, I'm having ACDF on C5-6, C6-7 with bone replacement and metal plates. I will not be given a neck brace, collar of any kind. Here are my questions: if you follow the doctor's directions, how long does it take to start driving again?

I don't have a recliner and read about the Bed Wedge. Which is better the Bed Wedge or Several pillows? The pain/numbness affects my dominant arm, will it take long to be able to start doing small things with my arm? The numbness is in the bottom half of my rt arm, would a grabber be useful? Also, I'm currently enrolled in an online course, will I be able to type, or should I have someone do that task for me?

Lastly, would you do the surgery again? I've suffered from neck problems since 1998 after I got whiplash. Am looking for relief. Thanks for reading! :) Anxioustl


  • :H You're in a good place for information and friendship. I was driving 2 weeks after surgery but I had been involved in a car wreck and it was my paranoia not my surgery that kept me from driving. I looked at all of the really expensive cervical pillows and actually decided on 4 $2.50 soft pillows from Walmart. You can squish them anyway you want and if they don't work for you at least you're not out the $70 for a bed wedge. My numbness and tingling were gone immediately after surgery in my left side. I had myelopathy to go along with the numbness and tingling though. I was walking into walls and feeling like I was falling out of chairs too. All of that was gone when I woke up from surgery. If I had to do it again. In a heartbeat. I have a grandson to hold and couldn't imagine living in that kind of pain for much longer. And if you weren't nervous I'd be nervous for you. This is a big decision. Once you do it you can't go back. So good for you for working up the courage to go through it!
  • Welcome to spine health! I have found this site to be very helpful!
    I had C 5-6 discetomy July 31st of 2008. fused with donor bone and titanium plate and screws...anterior approach.I did have a brace..first hard then soft. Every doctor has different opinions on braces, so I don't believe there is a right or wrong way!
    Driving: I don't remember how long till I could drive,,I think it was about three months. but it might be different because of the no collar..basically you can't bend lift or turn (BLT). Again based on your doctor's directions. You should make a list and have him clarify everything before surgery so you know what is expected!
    Grabber: My numbness was on my right side as well..the grabber is very helpful! Anything to help your mobility without stressing your body is helpful. Try to move things to a lower level that you use regularly before the surgery..so you won't have to deal with it after the surgery. Put commonly used items at a level so you don't have to bend or stretch.
    Wedge: I have a recliner..spent quite a while in it. in the very beginning I needed help getting out of it...My husband would hold my arms and assist me up. I did have a wedge for the bed as well, but found it hard to get comfortable with. But there are many types out there..I know others on this site have posted about that..maybe someone will chime in and offer suggestions.
    Typing: everything was hard for me in the beginning. Hard to hold your head in place for one time, hard to type. etc. I have taken online classes..can you do the work ahead of time so you don't have to deal with it after surgery until you feel up to it? My computer was upstairs and the stairs were limited for me do to the hard brace. My family bought me a laptop (godsend!) and a tabletop stand : "portabook" which raised the keyboard and supports your wrists and brings screen to eye level to reduce looking down. This is the link: my son picked it up at Walgreens I believe: http://www.portabooktv.com/Default.asp?bhcp=1
    Do it again: The pain and numbness was gone from my right arm when I woke from the surgery! Only returned once since (due to shoulder injury). I am very thankful for that! Being right handed, I am sure you know what I mean! I still have neck pain. but have issues with discs above and below and now dealing with shoulder injury (which surgeon feels is causing my current neck pain),....but overall I am happy I did the surgery. I too suffered for many years (since 1991)
    Good luck..it is normal to be nervous. I am sure others will offer their input and support as well. I found this site after my surgery and wish I had found it before, I would have been better prepared! Good for you. PM me if you would like to talk! Donna
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  • I found that pain meds made me feel super human in the first few weeks after surgery and was just sure that I could do all of the housekeeping in a single day only to wake up the next morning in even more pain and regretting the day before. There is a member on here called haglandc. She gave me the Golden Crown Award for going against dr.'s orders and overdoing it so much that I ended up back on my recliner for an entire day. Now I would gladly give my crown away to the next person to do what I did I just don't want to see you wearing it. :D So listen to your Dr and his restrictions and most importantly your own body. It will let you know when enough is enough.
    As for typing I think I was on here typing like day two after surgery. Although the pain meds may have affected my ability to think clearly. The surgery didn't stop me from moving my fingers.
  • welcome ;)
    normal to be nervous about any surgery!!!
    if i had to do neck surgery over again i would in a flash.
    all my symptoms were gone when i awoke. the numbness/headaches/gait everything was back to normal.
    my disk was all the way out i could not even turn my head. i awoke like that one morning. it was years , months coming to me!! so my surgery was pretty fast within 2 wks of the mri report.

    yes golden rule follow your drs orders to the "T"
    follow your med regiman and the only exercise you will be allowed is walking. depending on where you live that might be tuff right now. i would try to find a treadmill used etc instead of investing in pillows.
    i also slept in the recliner for a few days but found it very hard to put the foot part down with out help. but you don't need one. i was actually more comfortable on the couch. it took awhile to sleep in my bed but that was just me.
    it was easier being on the couch and then having the coffee ttable there with all my things and i was able to grab onto the table as you will be log rolling to get from a laying postition to a sitting one.
    using a garbage bag where you sit or lay down is a big help.
    i then migrated to the couch after 2 days as i said the recliner was a pain for me. i also slept better!!
    2 pillows under my head, 2 under my knees and 1 under each arm.
    LOTS of reusuable gel ice packs. i laid them on my shoulders or behind on my neck. (any drugstore carries them)
    it will help with the pain and the burning feeling from the muscles being cut.
    heating pads are also awesome a few weeks out for those shoulder muscles.
    kept all my meds, phone etc next to me where ever i was sleeping etc. kept a journal when i took my meds as you do forget sometimes. especially at night when you fall asleep and awake 2hrs later...

    driving also took me about month and a half. i had a soft collar though. but also again take into consideration their may be no bending or twisting of your neck even though you do not have a collar.
    i started physical therapy at 5wks and it was heaven sent. yes it hurt the first few weeks, but you don't realize how your neck stiffins up.

    just keep in mind everyone reacts differently to this surgery. not one person is going to recover the same or have the same pain levels.
    alot of ppl have a very sore throat for a week or two so your going to need soft foods, liquids etc.
    grabber i did not have one as my body worked! lol just not my neck. but it is a good idea. the physical therapy dept at the hospital should discuss all this with you when your there. they usually bill those things to your insurance.

    typing , i was at my computer chair with pillows and the keyboard propped on a pillow the first day i was home. but you do get uncomfy..
    so a laptop laying down will probably be much more comfy!!
    we can tell you all our personal information in the world, but you actually will not know how your body will react till you awake...

    i only had a 1 level and was in the hospital for 36 hrs due to swallowing issues. most of the time its either 24 or 48 hrs. i would get spasms in my throat, valium was perscribed along with a muscle relaxer and it was a dream. as the valium works very fast for the choking feeling if you have that. not everyone does.

    good luck with surgery!!!!
  • I had ACDF C5/6 in March '08 and did not wear a collar during recovery. I would agree with the others, I would have the surgery again in a minute. My numbness and tingling was gone when I woke from surgery and has never come back.
    Driving, I can't remember, maybe about 6 weeks. I stayed in bed a lot or the recliner, just used lots of pillows for props. I did not have a grabber, but I don't think I would have used one. I did not want to do much the first couple of days but after that I could type.
    I went back to work at about 6 weeks, I did wear my soft collar some, it reminded me no BLT. When you feel better it is easy to forget.
    This is just my experience, it is great that you have several to compare.
    I hope you get the relief you are looking for, let us know how you are doing. Take care.

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  • . . . and I was out of my Vista Collar 8 days later and driving. No range of motion issues side-to-side -- but up and down took longer.

    I was back on the computer and responding to work emails 2 days post-surgery. I could only sit for a half hour or so and read/respond, but I did it twice a day.

    I didn't have a grabber -- the only difficulty was reaching overhead (which I didn't do) and lifting a gallon of milk (also didn't do).

    I bought a 12" wedge pillow off the internet -- cost me less than $50 including shipping and handling. I had tons of pillows, but I couldn't get comfortable with them. The wedge was invaluable to me -- still is!
  • wow..i am reading all the posts and see everyone was driving much sooner than me :''( . I guess my doctor was being ulta-conservative!
    "Anxious" I hope all these responses are helping you feel calmer! take care. Donna
  • Hello there Anxious1!
    I just had a 2 level ACDF on Sept. 3, 2008.

    The best investment I made was a wedge pillow. I looked around in stores and I could not find one that I liked so I ended up ordering mine on line. It was actually 3 pillows. The wedge is really long so I do not slide down the pillow. I think it is 32 inches long 26 wide and 10 inches tall.
    It was a really expensive pillow but it is made with a layer of 3 inches think memory foam. That pillow really saved my life. I felt that it was better then the bunches of pillows. I say this because I ordered it well before the surgery but it arrived about 2 days after I got home from the hospital because it got way-layed in shipment due to the hurricanes.
    Anyhow I used bunches of pillows the first two nights home and I was pretty miserable.

    I am not a doctor so all the things I write are from my personal experience only.

    My Ortho spine surgeon put me into an ASPEN collar for about 3 months...this was dependent on whatever he say or felt I guess. Every single doc does thing his or her own way so as everyone else has stated already follow your docs orders to the letter!!!
    I followed my docs orders and feel that I have thus far had much improvement inmy neck. Although I have some other issues in my T-spine or at least some pain there, so there is some investigating going on. Do not be discouraged by this...I am so happy that I did the ACDF...o more arm weakness and I can walk! I could not go out and walk before my surgery.
    In fact before my car accident which is the cause of the neck troubles, I was an avid walker and hiker, snowshoer...
    I walked 15-20 miles a week and then hikedon the weekends. The after the accident "Nothing"
    So the fact that I can now do that again is so wonderful...

    I have to say that if your doc tells you to walk please stick to it!! I had gotten up to almost 3 miles a day and then I started slacking off for some reason and now I am back to doing it again and it does cause me issue in the thoracic area, but not my neck. I do ot because I feel it is good for more then just my muscles....good for my spirit too.

    As for the driving...well I was allowed to go back to driving when my surgeon put me into a soft collar. I did not feel comfortable driving for two reasons...1.) because my neck was real tight and it caused pain...I had to work on the ROM and then it got easier....Start slow with the driving and again follow your docs orders...2.) Since my car accident I havedeveloped severe driving anxiety. This also happens while riding in other peoples cars.. Some days it is quite awful to drive or be a passenger. I have to say that due to the nature of my accident it will take some mental and emotional work to try and make some progressin this area...I have made some progress, but there is room for more improvement.

    One more thing! About the on line class...I think in the begining if the typing is two much you may have to dictate it to someone to type for you, it will depend on how your doing...just do not push it....see what your doctor thinks about it. If you have a laptop one thing I found that helps is to have a piece of foam in the shape of a wedge to set the lap top on. If you have a desk top please seek advice on this one from your doc...the position of typing can possibly aggrivate and cause more pain..It will just depend on what your body and your doc say about it...

    Good luck tomorrow and let us know how you are when you get home and your up to loggin in!
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