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How long before swelling from ACDF goes away?

BrihtwulfBBrihtwulf Posts: 69
edited 06/11/2012 - 7:53 AM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
Hello Everyone,

It's been almost 2 weeks since my ACDF at C5-C7 and while the pain seems to be getting better, I'm wondering when the swelling from the surgery will go down and my spinal canal might go back to a normal state. Or should it already be mostly normal now that the ruptured disc material has been removed as well as the problematic bone spurs? I wasn't sure what to expect in terms of the headaches I had before the surgery going away. Things seem to be better, but how long do they usually say it will take before things in your neck return to a normal physical state?

So far I'm pretty pleased with the outcome and I'm just hopeful that my recovery will continue to progress and not plateau or have symptoms return for any reason. I'm still pretty unsure about what I should and should not be doing, other than the clear list of "do nots" from the hospital, like twisting, pushing, pulling, bending, etc.

Should I still be resting as much as possible? I tried going for a bit of a longer walk around the grocery store a few days ago with my wife and that ended up hurting quite a bit afterwards. Any suggestions on what kind of things to do would actually be beneficial, or should I rest as much as possible unless I need to get up for necessities?

Sorry for the 1,000 questions. This isn't much like my first surgery, which was a TLIF at L5-S1...



  • JJ,

    The swelling varies from one person to the next of course. I know on my last one my "noticeable" swelling took almost a month to go down. I as given Neproxin around week 2, but found after the 3rd dose I was allergic and had to stop. The lump in my throat also seemed to go down around week 3 or 4.

    Now oddly, due to ongoing symptoms, my NS sent me for an MRI at the end of week 8 (most centers won't give an MRI under 8 weeks post op). It was interesting to see there was still a lot of swelling in there - I was told by the radiologist that was normal as some of what looked like inflammation (bright white areas) was more blood flow within the bone structure for fusion (marrow or something like that).

    I would continue walking, but keep the walks to 30 minutes or so. Try to drink a lot of fluids to stay hydrated, eat healthy, and yes, rest and heal. :) The first 6 months you really don't want to overdue, as you will pay the pain monster big time! (G)

    PCTF C4 - T2, Laminectomies C5, C6 & C7. Severe Palsy left arm/hand.
  • I had a 3-lvl ACDF and it took me about a month or so before I started to feel better. Walking is very good for you, but if you feel you've done too much, cut it down a bit for a while and work your way up again.

    Resting is imperative as is taking your medications. You're still very early out from major spine surgery and your body has a lot of healing to do.

    Try to measure your recovery in weeks, not days, as it's a long recovery, but luckily not as extensive as lumbar.

    So be patient - you should feel better little by little as the weeks go by. It's true that you shouldn't lift or bend at this point, or twist your head very much, if at all.

    It's easy to want to hurry recovery partly because our outside wound heals first and we think the inside should follow the same path, but that's not the case. You'll heal from the outside in.

    Be careful of the time that you start feeling like superman and feel like you can do things you shouldn't (like walking too long on a hard floor). That's when we set ourselves back. At two weeks, you should be resting and walking short distances then working your way up the next week and so on.

    Take care and again, try to be patient. Two weeks out is very short in recovery and you have a ways to go.

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  • Hi JJ,

    I'm 4 weeks out of ACDF. I keep having to remind myself to take it easy, because if I do too much, I pay the price with increased pain and fatigued. I limit myself to one outing (of course driven by family). I might walk behind a cart for a short grocery store trip, or ride one of the motorized carts for longer trips or stores like Target.

    I looked at my neck this morning when switching from the hard to the shower collar. I noticed my neck was still pretty swollen, but somewhat better than a couple weeks ago...progress a little at a time.

    4 level ACDF C4-C7 5-2-11, laminectomy & discectomy L4-L5 1/26/12, ALIF L4-5, L5-S1 12/10/12.
  • I'm 7 weeks out and still have mild swelling...even this far out I can overdo the whole "feel good thing" and pay the pain monster as stated above...and oh is it paid...I had to start an exercise program given to me by my Primary since I was trying to go back to what I could do before I went down this almost 18 month journey so far...I have a hard time not being able to do what I did before because I was very active and went from jogging to barely walking...gained tons of weight...ect...so I have a 12 step program:) 1st wk I started out with 2 mins stretching....3 min warm up walk...5 min brisk walk...then 3 min cool down walk...2 min stretching...
    Each week I add 2 mins to the warm up/brisk/cool down walks with 2 mins of stretching on each end...and amazingly enough it has worked so far...I'm only on wk 3 but I'm not exhausted like I was and feel good enough to continue my day after "exercising" My Primary made a good point...we spend so much time in pain we don't realize our bodies de-condition so when we feel great after surgery we just want to jump back at what we remember as our normal:( And we can't....take care...
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