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Sleeping after neck surgery (over 2 months post-op)

Has anyone been able to sleep comfortably or pain free after neck surgery? I had C6-C7 fused with a titanium plate and screws back on October 15th. I had no neck pain before the surgery, it was done due to some arm pain and an MRI which found the disc severely pressing on my spinal cord almost severing it. After the surgery I had minimal pain and a collar for weeks. After the collar I had pain when I moved and slept for about a week but it went away. Recently the pain has come back when I sleep. My neck hurts, my shoulders and upper back. I tried no pillow, I tried an inclined pillow and just my regular pillow but every night I have pain and wake up in pain. During the day I'm fine. Anyone else have this problem and found a way to fix it or deal with it? I'm 33 and really don't want this for the rest of my life especially since I had no neck pain before the surgery!
C-6 C-7 Cervical Spinal Fusion October 15, 2012


  • I am nearly 7 weeks since my C3/4 and C4/5 ACDF.
    I am pleased with how I manage to get comfortable and sleep at night, so don't really share your problem.
    I thought I would share how I get comfortable in the hope that it might help you.

    I use a contoured neck memory foam pillow.
    I sleep on my side with a pillow between my knees (I have lumbar problems too)
    I have a very soft roll pillow that I cuddle and rest my chin on it to stop my head going down.
    I do need to turn during the night, and sometimes get up and take a walk so that I can start again and get comfortable.

    I wonder if you have started to return to your normal activities and that has affected your neck and shoulder muscles, making them painful. I hope that you will solve this problem soon. Not sleeping well is horrid.
  • Thank you for answering! I have returned to my normal daily activites. My neuro told me to go ahead and do that when I saw him at my 6 week follow up. He said to take it slow though. Maybe I'm overdoing it? Also we've had a lot of rain here so that might be doing it too. I bought a pillow with that curve in it, is that the same thing you are talking about?
    C-6 C-7 Cervical Spinal Fusion October 15, 2012
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  • FrancineSFFFrancineSF Posts: 318
    edited 12/26/2012 - 7:52 PM
    I have had a 2 level ACDF and at first slept mostly sitting up until about 3 weeks ago.
    While I am not in pain and I am still wearing a Miami J Collar, I mostly sleep well, but found in the past two nights, I must have my pillow situated differently because I do feel some burning sensations in my arms and hands - both of them - that will awaken me.

    I shift a bit and adjust the collar and then it goes away. I called my surgeon's office today to find out of there is anything i should be concerned about and when speaking with his nurse, she said 'no', that this is part of the healing. I told her I was concerned because I never had burning in my right hand and I had not had burning in my left arm/hand in 2 years when they gave me an epidural.

    Of course, there is a lot of healing going on inside and as long as they are not concerned, it is not burning to an intolerable point, but it is different.

    If it persists in the next few weeks, I will call again. I might try sleeping at an angle again rather than flat and see if that helps.

    It is frustrating to not know the formula to make it stop, but I will!!

    Perhaps call your surgeon's office and ask. Let them decide if they are concerned or if they want you to do something differently.

    good luck to you!
    10/26/2012 ACDF C3/4 C4/5 surgery
    No pain; no pain meds - thank goodness!
    04/01/2013 - 5 months + 1 week - FUSED
    Doing some physical therapy for even better range of motion

  • yes, that sounds like the shaped pillow that I use. It has one side with a higher curve than the other.
    Did you use it last night? How did you find it?
    Before I bought mine, my physio recommended that I try to roll a towel and place it under just one pillow, to see if it suited me as some people can't get on with them. That was before my fusion, but it is still the most comfortable position for me.

    I did try to sleep on my back a few days ago for a change, and wow, I woke with a horrid headache that lasted for two days. Also my left hand was very numb. I'm back to sleeping on my side again!

    I hope you will get comfortable and have a good night's sleep soon.

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