I just wanted to write about my positive experience (so far) with surgery and recovery because there seems to be a lot of people who are experiencing more pain after acdf surgery.
Before my surgery on July 31, I had pain in my left shoulder and arm and then increasing numbness. My MRI results showed that 3 of my cervical discs had formed bone spurs which were pressing into my spinal cord. I decided to undergo surgery to get rid of the pain. At my pre-op appointment, my doctor did a run through of the dangers of the surgery and I was very scared about becoming paralyzed, damaging my vocal cords and having problems swallowing.
My surgery took four hours and I was released the next day. Most importantly, the surgery took away most of the pain from my shoulders,neck and left arm. I took painkillers the first week after surgery, but now only take a Tylenol once in a while for pain that I have in my shoulders.
The first 1 1/2 weeks it felt like I had a really bad sore throat (which I expected.) I ate soft foods and protein drinks. Now it still feels like I have a lump in my throat when I swallow, but it's not painful. I have a weird tugging sensation across my incision, but it's not really bad. I was surprised how big my incision was (almost 4 inches) and that it's almost vertical vs. horizontal.
The most helpful posting on this site for me was the POST OP MUST HAVES. The items I felt helped me most with recovery were: cough drops, bendy straws, facial cleansing cloths, grabber contraption that I bought from a pharmacy and lots of pillows. For the first week, my mom and friend split shifts in keeping me company so I was never alone. I couldn't shower or wash my hair for the first three days. I bought this dry shampoo stuff which helped.
I was dreading wearing the hard collar because I'm claustrophobic. I have to wear it for 2 months (about 3 more weeks I'll be able to wean myself from it - yay!) Now, it's not so bad - it's like wearing a big scarf! I still have trouble sleeping with it because I find it smashes into my jaw while I'm sleeping and I can hardly move my mouth in the morning, but that goes away. My doctor told me I can sleep in any position but I had to pile a bunch of pillow so I was almost in a sitting position to sleep for the first few weeks. Now, I'm sleeping while only a little propped up.
I had my four week post op appointment last week. I had xrays taken of my neck and examined by my doctor. Everything looks well and I'm supposed to see her at the end of October. She does not want me to do any physical therapy yet, no lifting, pushing or pulling, and I'm just supposed to keep walking to build up my strength. Initially my doctor said I'd be out of work 6 - 8 weeks, but I'll be going back 7 weeks after my surgery.
This website has been invaluable in helping me deal with surgery. I hope my posting will bring encouragement to people who are worried about cervical surgery and recovery