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Recovery questions after acdf surgery

AnonymousUserAAnonymousUser Posts: 49,321
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:29 AM in Neck Pain: Cervical
I know everyone recovers differently but I would like to hear recovery times for anyone that had acdf C5-C7 with hardware. I am 4 weeks post op and would be nice to hear from anyone that has had all restrictions lifted and can get back to normal. I was very active before the surgery with working out, golf, cycling long distances.
Just looking for some hope.


  • Hi cj. You are still so early in your recovery and I know how impatient you can get at that stage. So, I'd like to tell you that at 5 months, I'm at about 90%. I swung a golf club a few time this past weekend and know that I'll be golfing as soon as I work out a bit to get my strength up. I've had all my restrictions lifted, but you will always have to keep your neck in mind and use common sense with everything you do.

    The most important thing for you right now is making sure you take care of yourself, follow your doctor's orders, and not to overdo it. You CAN get back to a normal life. I'm living proof.

    Take care of yourself and feel free to PM me if you need to talk or have any questions. You'll be up and at 'em in no time!

  • dilaurodilauro ConnecticutPosts: 13,531
    In my experience, the ACDF recovery is one of the quicker and more thorough. Now, I know there are others out here who have had problems with cervical surgery.
    With both of my ACDF surgeries, I had to wear a hard collar for about 6-8 weeks. After that I started on Physical Therapy and wearing a soft collar. Now, that was back in 1996 and 2000, so many procedures have changed and some surgeons dont even go for the collars.
    4 weeks Post op and you are still look a fresh piece of bread dough cooking in the oven. Patience is so very important when it comes to spinal recovery.
    Also, these points should always be followed:

    1- Adhere to all the restrictions and limitations that your doctor has given you. Even if you are feeling ok, do not be lured into any false security. Pay close attention to what the doctor has told you and do not waiver
    2- When the time for Physical Therapy and/or exercise begins, stay with the program. Keep up with the proper and approved exercises. This will pay off down the road.
    3- Do NOT try to to push yourself. Listen to your body, and if it tells you it is doing ok, listen again. In time everything will be sorted out.

    Now,as Cathie said, golfing and other activities. I am not the one to talk about golf, because between my lumbar , thoracic and cervical issues, swinging a golf club is about the same as standing in front of a speeding train for me.
    But there are many golfers who have had spinal surgery. There are golf pros that specialize in training people like this. Limited swings, different stances, etc.

    In the long haul, assuming you do all that you are suppose to do, you will be very happy in the activities that you can return to.
    Ron DiLauro Veritas-Health Forums Manager
    I am not a medical professional. I comment on personal experiences 
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  • Thanks so much for the great info! It really helps ease concerns and questions that most NS won't touch.

    Best wishes!


    Having ACDF March 26, 2009
  • dilauro thanks for the tips!
    Take care,
  • :))) I am 4 weeks and one day post op and ....good news from the doctor. He said that since I already started to wean myself off the collar I can totally get rid of it(put it back on if needed), and I can start driving but still be careful since my range of motion is minimal, and he will let me go back to work next Wed the 25th!! I am very excited since he said normal for this surgery is 3 months off work and mine will be 5 weeks. Of course I sit at a computer all day at work and go to meetings. I still have a 10 lb lifting restriction. I now go back for another x-ray on April 1st at 6 weeks and he said we can talk about biking and golfing at that point. (I think he said that to get me on another subject.) He said absolutly not at this point because he does not want me to fall of jar anything. The x-ray looked funny with all that hardward and screws in there. He said they monitor the bone graft and fusion to see if it is fusing right with the x-ray. Mine didn't show much but he said it was still early and it could take up to 1 year to completely fuse.
    It was weird sleeping with out any collar last night so I didn't get a real good night sleep. All my other muscles can feel it when I try to sleep on my side but I am sure it will get better every day.

    The only post op symptoms I have are muscle tightness in my upper back and shoulders with some swelling at the base of my neck. A slight numbness in the back of my hand when I sit too long in one place without resting my neck back against something, and loss of my range of motion in the neck but that should come back when I start PT at the 6 week point. I still have to make sure that I don't over do it because I am feeling better but this 4th week I have improved tremendously. My arms and shoulders are week from not using them but they don't want me to start doing anything yet. I still have to have patience and be careful with what I do down the road so I don't have to go through this again. I don't want to put any extra strain on the adjoining vertebrae.
    So there is light at the end of the tunnel and I am very excited to get this far this quick. I hope everyone else that has to go through this has as much success as I have had this far.
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  • I would say listen to your body. Stop before it starts to hurt. Try and find a way to work up to it. Maybe start with 20 or 30 minutes and then work your way up?

    Maybe work a deal with your boss to be available for one hour off for one hour. (I was doing that when I first started PT because the pain was crazy bad-haven't had surgery yet)
  • kattoo13

    I started to work at home about 2 weeks after my surgery only a couple of hours a day at first. Then of course after about 6 weeks I was feeling pretty good so I was doing 8 hour days at home, but all of a sudden started having pain went to the Dr at 7 weeks and he told me I had to cut back to part time at home. I have a long commute so he will not let me drive that far yet, I can only drive short distances.

    So now 9 weeks post surgery I am working 6 hour days 3 in the morning and 3 in the afternoon. I take about a 3 hour break in between and get up and walk often away from the computer and I feel so much better...
  • I had two level ACDF 10-09-09. I just went back to work two days ago. After reading many post before my surgery I thought O.K. 3 months not to bad. Boy was I wrong ! Everyone heals and recovers at different times. I am sure alot of factors are involved. How long a persons has worked with injury. How bad is it when surgeon gets in there. What type of work does a person do . I had a rough recovery however I am glad I did surgery ! I wore brace for 30 days. I did not drive for 30 days. I have done 19 sessions of P.T. 8 more to go. (work comp)
    My job consist of lifting throughout day as well as admin. stuff. For me the med reduction has been pretty tough. Anyway just thought I would share.... Have a Great day !
  • Wondering if anybody can help me..I had a ACDF at C6-C7 March 5th of this year. I have also been going to physical therapy since the first of April, three times a week. I have followed "orders" exactly as I was suppose to.

    My main concern is the extreme pain that I am experiencing in and around my shoulder blade. It is at times unbearable........I am told by PT that this takes time to heal. As long as I sit around and do absolutely NOTHING, my day is great but even small attempts such as dusting, dishes, laundry, etc., sends me right back to my heating pad which I still have to sleep with at night). I am also using a tens-unit...wear it faithfully, as well.

    It will be three months June 5th and I am suppose to return to work June 1st, however, I don't think I can get through the day at work. I almost feel like I did prior to having this surgery and I am getting concerned. I will follow up with my neurosurgeon this Friday and his nurse stated he might try a trigger-point injection on me.

    I am just very frustrated and still feel very, very limited. I would appreciate any advice or recommendations anyone may have. I don't feel like as though I will ever return to "normal."
  • That doesn't sound very good.Maybe you surgeon should do another mri and see if there is something else going on in your neck causing the pain.Two months post op i wasn't exactly feeling great but i didn't have the pain that your describing.Maybe you have permanent nerve damage that needs to be addressed.Are you taking any kind of meds. for your pain?
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