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Recovery from ACDF SURGERY

Hi All,
I've had ACDF surgery, C4-C7, 3 weeks ago, on March 5th.
I was first diagnosed with Cervical Spondylosis and a pinched nerve at the C4-C5 level, in 2007. Till now, physiotherapy has been my best friend. Back in Dec 2014 I was hospitalized for about 12 days for the horrible nerve pain and muscle spasms that comes with bulging discs. MRIs revealed I now had 3 bulging discs, the worst being C5-C6. Was on morphine twice daily, Dexamethasone 3 times daily, neurontin 300mg 3 times daily at hospital. Continued with the neurontin 300mg after hospital, right up until surgery.
Thankfully, that pain is gone! Recovery hasn't been as bad as I thought it would be, but the sleeping isn't pleasant. After I left the hospital in Dec, my family got me one of those 'hospital' beds, where the head and foot can adjust. I was sleeping upright for about 2 months. Physiotherapy and traction helped me during this time, to get back to a somewhat normal sleeping position, just about 3 days before surgery. Now I'm back to sleeping upright, and can't find a comfortable enough position to sleep through the night.
I've gradually gone from about a 75 to 30 degrees inclined position. Still have alot of muscle pain and tightness. I've tried not to take any drugs to help me sleep tho, as I really want to be off any meds. Hopefully it will improve, as I heal. I tried a nap yesterday on my own regular bed, but was most uncomfortable and painful.

Would really like to hear from anyone else who's had ACDF and how your recovery has been.



  • dilaurodilauro ConnecticutPosts: 13,434
    surgeries for C4/C5/C6/C7 (two different times 1996,2000 and a redo of a fusion bone in 2001)

    I was sent home wearing a hard Philadelphia collar which I wore 24x7 for 6 weeks. That definitely helped with my neck stability, but it did not help with building up surrounding muscles. Many doctors today, do not use the hard collar, some soft only and some none at all.

    After 3 weeks, I was starting up physical therapy. I would say at the 9 week mark, I was pretty good. All the problems I had prior to these surgeries have been resolved.

    The only long term impact I have is in my range of motion, both left to right and up and down. I need to use an oversize rear view mirror while driving so that I can seen more

    But overall, with the different spinal and joint surgeries, I have to say the cervical ones were the easiest and quickest to recovery.
    Ron DiLauro Veritas-Health Forums Manager
    I am not a medical professional. I comment on personal experiences 
  • My doctor doesn't like braces, so thankfully none for me. I wore a soft collar for about 6 weeks in 2007, and I hated it.

    I'm so glad to hear that your cervical surgeries were the "easiest ". I was so worried about recovery. And omg, I am so lucky, after going thru the forum and reading about what others are dealing with...wow.

    Thankfully my nerve pain is gone. My activities are still restricted and light. I am anxious to start physiotherapy tho, so I can start getting back to some kind of normal. According to my doctor and therapist I do have a slightly higher range of motion and flexion than most people, so I'm hoping that it will benefit me.

    Have you had any other problems with after you redid your fusion? One of the things that scares me is that the fusion doesn't happen. I can't tell you how many times I've watched the acdf video on this site, before surgery. Its 3 disc fusions in a row, so somehow I just feel a lot more fragile now.
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  • dilaurodilauro ConnecticutPosts: 13,434
    From my experience I have found that when one part of your spine is fused, it will place more pressure on the other sections of your spine.

    My four lumbar surgeries were all done before 1986, and being a white collar working, the belief was that fusion surgery would not be needed. (today, that thinking has been totally reversed. White collar - need fusion, Blue collar may not). I developed a lot of scare tissue in my lower lumbar, so in effect it behaved as it was fused.

    In the early 1990s I started with cervical issues. So, by 2000, I had all my ACDFs complete. Now I was fused in the cervical area, and basically fused in the lumbar. That started to place stress on my thoracic area.

    In the first couple of years after 2000, I started having thoracic problems. One by one they started to give way. Now, I have 4 herniated thoracic discs. 2 are mild, 2 are moderate. But at this point, I have no intentions at lucky at surgery. Many other ways to handle that situation

    So, now, the morale of the story! Once you have a specific section of the spine fused, you need not only adhere to all the rules, limitations, restrictions for that given area, but keep in mind the other parts of your spine. You don't want to place unnecessary stress when possible.
    Ron DiLauro Veritas-Health Forums Manager
    I am not a medical professional. I comment on personal experiences 
  • Hi,
    Been a while. I've started physiotherapy, which has been going good, but slow. I'm now almost 3 months post op. Been having a lot of trouble sleeping. Only able to sleep 1 hour at a time. If I take sleep aids, like Zquil, I get 3 hours. I wake up feeling like I've been hit by a bus. My back feels sore and tight. Sometimes my neck feels weird and as if it's out of alignment. And I've been feeling that awful lumpy throat ever so often...

    Have you had any of these issues after your surgery?
    I've been feeling so frustrated lately.

  • I share your pain. I have been having horrible insomnia almost daily. I still experience the lump in my throat. My energy level hasn't quite returned yet, and my pain comes and goes. I expected to be completely pain-free by now but I find I still need to take pain medication 3 to 4 times a week. I don't have to wear a brace so I find that on days that I do too much I definitely have more pain, and my old nerve pain is flared up. I find that recovery has been a total roller coaster for me. There is no pattern of "every day gets a little better", like other surgeries I have had. With this one every day is different from the next. Some days I have a lot of pain other days I have none but there is no rhyme or reason, other than I did too much the day before. I sleep very poorly, I still feel like I have a big piece of steak stuck in my throat and I tire very easily.
    So as you can see, you are not alone. I hope you continue to feel better.
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  • Hi, Blessed Mom74,
    Hope you're doing a lot better now.
    I have not been on here a while. Been in physiotherapy, with a lot of success. I was doing really great for a few months. Then it was discovered I have a pulmonary embolism, due to some meds I was taking.
    My sleeping had improved a great deal, and so did my lumpy throat! I would feel it now and again, but not so much as before.

    I've always had back pain, and not bad, but it would always be because of my endometriosis. (Yes I have that as well, it's a very painful and debilitating disease). But now my back pain seems to be getting worse. After acdf surgery in March last year, I had the most awful pain on my spine, just between my shoulder blades. That's never stopped, but it eased to the point where I would mostly feel it if I bent my neck forward. Now, it's just there. Whether I bend my neck or not. I have pain down my entire spine, some days. Mornings are the worst. It feels like my back is broken and just so much pain, to get out of bed. My lower back is the worst, straight across my waist.
    Is this because of my surgery? Is the rest of my spine now being affected??

    Someone, anyone...
  • The user and all related content has been deleted.
  • [Deleted User][[Deleted User] Posts: 62
    edited 02/01/2016 - 6:26 AM
    The user and all related content has been deleted.
  • Hi,

    Can you please address my recent post on back pain?
    Would like to hear your views.

  • Sue 1965SSue 1965 United KingdomPosts: 115
    Hi-I had C5/6 acdf on 211215-and I too have the horrible shoulder/shoulder blade pain too..I didn't have it as bad before my op..I'm hoping that it will eventually heal itself.I have always had lower back pain anyway-and with this new pain-it hurts a lot!
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