Five Months After ACDF Surgery

Posted:  May 19th, 2011 by:  Scott comments:  40

It has been five months since my ACDF surgery and I’m happy to report that all is well. I have been off of the pain medication for several weeks and am back to running without restrictions on a daily basis. My pain level is actually a little better than before surgery and other than being out of shape from lack of exercise, I feel fine and normal again.

I had actually braced myself for some withdrawal from the Lortab. I thought certainly daily doses for 4 months would cause at least some dependence but to my pleasant surprise, I had no withdrawal symptoms at all. I don’t mean to frighten anyone by talking about dependence. It is perfectly normal even if you follow the dosage and scheduling prescribed by your doctor to the letter. Abuse is a whole other issue. Either way, if you think you have some addiction to the medication, talk to your doctor. He/she is there to help and there are ways he/she can help you get off the opioids while minimizing the withdrawal symptoms.

As I have mentioned before on this blog, I was an avid runner (5-6 miles per day) before my surgery on December 13, 2010. The first few times I tried to run post-surgery was about 3 months out. I could only make it about a half mile and even that left me achy and sore for a couple of days. I backed off the running and stuck to daily long, brisk walks with my dog. This helped to rebuild some muscles in my legs and gave me time to build my energy level back up.

I started running again about 4 months out (4 weeks ago). The first time out I ran 3/4 of a mile and it was tough. Every couple of days I tried again and gradually increased my distance. I went very slowly – as if I had a choice. I have worked up to running 2-3 miles 5 days a week. I am still very slow but am getting stronger every day. It feels really good to be running again.

I have been working flexibility and strength training into my daily routine as well. I have always pushed my body playing contact sports and lifting heavy weights. My normal weight is about 220-230 lbs but over the past few months I have realized that at 41 years old, I need to be a little gentler with my body. First of all, I need to be about 20-30 pounds lighter to decrease gravity’s pull on my joints and spine. I also realized that I need to take a much more balanced approach to fitness including core strength and increased flexibility.

I have spoken to a few folks who have recently had ACDF surgery who are discouraged by their level of pain, fatigue and other limitations. Every person’s recovery is different. I am just a fellow ACDF recipient and I have no idea if my recovery is typical or not. The only advice I can give you is don’t lose heart and communicate with your doctor.

My own recovery, as far as the pain went, was not too bad. Other than the problems with my neck, I was in very good physical condition on the day of my surgery. If you are preparing for ACDF surgery, I strongly recommend being as fit as you possibly can be for your surgery. PLEASE talk to your doctor first to find out what limitations you have but the more fit you are, the better surgery and recovery will go.

Even though I was in good physical condition, my recovery was very emotionally and mentally taxing. The first few weeks were not too bad but this is serious surgery and it is very draining to your body. Your recovery will take several months. It will, at times, seem to go on forever with no end in sight. The first three months were the hardest. It was difficult for me to cope with the physical limitations and the restrictions imposed by my doctor. I also experienced some depression as a result. Talking to family, friends, your doctor or even a counselor helps tremendously. Asking for help doesn’t make you weak or crazy. Major surgery is a big deal and there are emotional as well as physical demands.

Now, five months after surgery, I feel great and I’m glad I had the surgery. The strength has returned to my right hand and arm and all of my pre-surgery symptoms have improved or disappeared. I know that going forward I will need to be more careful. Full fusion takes 9-12 months so my recovery is not complete. I still am not able to return to my boot camp or any other extreme workouts or rock climbing. So, 5 months down and 7 to go.

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    • boris

      Hi Scott,

      I hope you are well, I had sent you a message the other day on the light CMS skybluecanvas. I wanted to ask you about the skycanvasblue template that you use on the site, is that something available for purchase?

      I didn't know you were going through surgery. I have a friend that did a similar surgery, but in the lower back so I guess a posterior operation. The compression of the spinal discs there and she had terrible pain in her back and can't lower her back on the way. Even now she can't get in a really low car and ended up selling her acura tl and getting a taller lexus SUV.

      Keep it up Scott.

      • Scott

        Hey Boris. The theme I use on the SkyBlueCanvas site is called Blu2 and you can buy it on for $12. Cheers.

    • Delia

      Thank you for this blog. I am 4 weeks out and am feeling good some days and more days I'm not. My challenge is also what others probably see: I look good except for the neck brace and cane, I look normal). Some days I get up and go to the bathroom and wonder why can't I do "x." Then something small happens like I nod my head involuntarily and pain erupts like a volcano which in turn takes me to my bed and keeps me there for hours on end.

      This is an interesting journey. I am claiming a positive outcome for myself. I already feel relief from the symptoms that precipitated the surgery (3 level acdf). I want to do so much more because in my mind, I can. Of course, I am still taking oxycodone daily at regular intervals and am not sure what the day would look like without it at this point.

      Anywho, thank you for sharing your journey. God bless you!

    • Jennifer Morey

      I’m glad to find someone who had a positive experience – I have been absolutely pain free since the moment I woke up in the hospital (other than surgery related pains of course). It ahs been 17 weeks and I feel great. Now I just can’t wait to start exercising again!

      • Scott Lewis

        Hey, that’s great. As of today I am one month out from my second surgery and am mostly pain free. My symptoms are not 100% gone but I knew that was to be expected. And I’m ready to get back to exercising too. Continued luck with your recovery.

    • Suzanne Singh

      This is the info I am looking for!!! I had ACDF (C5-C6) on Dec 23, 2011 and feel really good.  I have been walking slow for a few weeks (I cannot sit still very long!).  I am looking for solid evidence of when I can possibly attempt the initial start to recovering my running routine.  My doc is not a running supporter so I get no solid answers there, only that I may need to look at elliptical machines to transition to! NO way!
      Thanks for the positive hope that I will run!!!

      • Scott Lewis

        Hi Suzanne. Good to hear you are feeling well and I’m glad you like the blog. I would only caution that I am not a medical professional and in no way qualified to advise you about your recovery or safe physical activities. If your doctor is biased against running, it might be a good idea to get a second opinion or even to ask a physical therapist or a sports doctor. I had to go in for a revision surgery on December 19, 2011 so I am really cautious this time around. I have followed the doctor’s instructions to the letter and do not plan to start running again for some time. Every case is different and, of course, you have to listen to your body and make your own choices, but I plan to take things slower than I normally would. A few more weeks of not running seems a smaller price to pay than risking an injury.

        Sorry, I don’t mean to be a defeatist, I’d just hate for you to push things too soon and set yourself back even more. As a lifelong runner and exercise enthusiast, I know it’s difficult to sit around and do nothing. I feel for you.

    • S. Shackelford

      I’m so glad I found this site.  You post has encouraged me.  I had 2 level C5-C7 on Dec 19, 2011 and am still tentative about what I can and can’t do.  I went for my 2nd follow-up yesterday and the doctor did not even examine me..  I’ve seen his assistants each time before and they’ve been so thorough about what I should and shouldn’t do.  I felt a little like a # after that visit.  Next time, I’m going in with questions and making him do his job. 

      Exercise wise, it seems the best thing is to start walking… alot. 

      Thank you for talking about the emotional toll.  It’s important to give ourselves some time to heal, although it can be a frustrating wait.

      I found 2 sites that have been helpful about what to expect and some exercise recommendations and I wanted to share here:

      • Scott Lewis

        December 19, 2011 is the same day I had my second surgery. :-) I’m glad you find the site helpful. My experience – both times now – is that the emotional aspects of the surgery are the least treated and most difficult. If for no other reason, the boredom of sitting around in a neck brace for 6 weeks. If you are very physically active before surgery, the limitations for the first few months after surgery can be a tough adjustment.

        As for your doctor, that’s pretty terrible. I think going in with specific questions is a good start and if it were me, I would consider saying, “Hey, I know you’re pretty busy, but I felt a little neglected last time. I need a little more communication from you”. Almost all doctors go into medicine because they care so chances are he/she will respond well.

        Good luck with your recovery and feel free to vent on these pages if you need to. I will be happy to answer any questions that I am able to. I don’t necessarily know any more than anyone else but I do have the benefit (can you call it that?) of experiencing two surgeries now.

    • Christopher Rice

       I am going in for my Level 1 C5-6 next week…. I am glad I found this forum, cause to be quite frank, I was worried that I was not going to be able to be as active as I am now…. I am a marathoner, a crossfit enthusiast and I am in the Army….  now I can see that “eventually” I will get back to where I want to be…

      • Scott Lewis

        Hey Christopher. I’m glad the site was helpful to you. I have never been a marathon runner but I am a runner and a lover of extreme fitness. I’m about 8 weeks out from my second surgery and am hoping to be back to something close to my normal workout routine later this year. Good luck with your surgery. Your level of fitness will be a tremendous help to you. My physical recovery was pretty smooth because I was in really good shape. Be on the watch for the mental challenge, though. I wasn’t prepared for that and it was tough. Going from being really active to being sedentary is challenging. Walk as much as your body and your doctor will let you. Again, good luck with surgery.

    • Anonymous

      thanks for the frank remarks, my surgery is still a month away thanks to the snails pace of our workers comp system. the injury happened 10 months ago. most post-surgical comments i read are negative but i have been offered no alternatives. in fact it has been 10 months of waiting for nothing to happen so the prospect of surgery is at least something. meanwhile my left arm is half the size it used to be due to the intense pain along it’s length and my right arm is usually numb.  seeing positive comments is refreshing, i’m pushing 60, expect to live as long as my 100+yr old grandparents, and would like to get right back into running my 5 mile trail behind the cabin as soon as possible after surgery.  glad i found this site, i was headed for surgery feeling that i may be a bit over-confident about my outcome.  now that i’ve read a few comments by athletic, fit, individuals that have the never give up attitude, i know that i’ll be hiking the JMT, and grand canyon again after a reasonable, graduated, recovery program

      • Scott Lewis

        swdb, I feel for you. Your situation sounds terrible. I hope your surgery gives you some relief. I can’t comment about your specific condition and I imagine everyone’s is different, but in my case, the relief was immediate. When I woke up from surgery, my neck hurt like hell from being cut open but the pain and numbness in my hand was gone and the strength had returned.

        I will admit it has been hard to stay positive. The toughest part is how long the recovery goes on (6 months) – BUT – you have been in a hellish holding pattern for a long time and the improvement will likely be worth any wait.

        I wish you the best of luck and I hope you’re out there on the trails soon enough. Just take it easy on yourself and give your body time to heal. If you’ve got another 40 years, 6-12 months is a drop in the bucket. :-)

        Good luck and please let me know how you do. Feel free to visit as much as you like. I will share anything within reason about my experience with 2 surgeries now.


    • Anonymous


      So nice to see someone doing so well after this surgery! I myself am 39 yrs old and was very active ( daily strength and cardio workouts) before injury. I had a career as a hairstylist here in Canada so I hope to get back to doing that asap.

       I  myself have an extruded c6,c7 markedly impinging my spinal cord. What disc did you have acdf on? 

       I have gone from being totally active to being completely sedentary, so I understand how that can take an emotional toll on someone. I find myself worrying about what I WON’T be able to do anymore after surgery. I am trying to get out of that way of thinking but it’s where I’m at right now. Are there many restrictions for you after you are totally fused?

      And if I may ask, did you consider disc replacement instead of acdf. I guess I’m wondering why your surgeon’s thought acdf was your best option. I am trying to decide what surgery option is best for me. Ahhhh,too many things to decide. Lol! Sorry for all the questions,I’m just in the middle of all this and its totally overwhelmimg. I am ready to get my quality of life back.sick of lying in bed all day, you know?

      I am really happy that you have made such a wonderful recovery and wish you continued good health.

      • Scott Lewis

        Hi Kris. I completely understand how you’re feeling. You responded to an older post so you might not have seen that I ended up having a second surgery December 19, 2011. I am about 13 weeks out from surgery number two. I had c5-c7 fused the first time around but the c5-c6 level didn’t fuse like it should have so we did it over again. Things seem to be progressing nicely but my doctor is exercising an abundance of caution this time around so I am restricted to light cardio (walking) and no lifting anything heavier than 10 lbs. That is only temporary, though, and the doctor says I’ll be able to return to my former lifestyle later this year. Honestly, I have my doubts about that. I don’t regret having both surgeries but it has been a challenge.

        I must admit I did not consider any other options. Perhaps I should have gotten a second opinion but this is the route I chose. As I understand it, ACDF is the most common surgery for this kind of ailment so it seems fine. In retrospect I might have seen a couple more doctors but hindsight is always 20/20. I made the best choice I knew how to with the information I had at the time.

        Good luck with your own decision and recovery. I’m sorry to hear things are so rough for you. Hopefully you will feel better once you’ve had your surgery and are well on your way to recovery.


        • Anonymous

          I am glad your second surgery is over with.
          I was wondering if your dr’s mentioned anything about permanent restrictions? I would eventually like to play soccer again,but there is sometimes falling in soccer. Lol! After you are totally fused is that something that is ok? Is a fusion strong? If I ever was to have a fall is it going to hold up after fully fused? Sorry for the questions just curious as to what your neuro has said to you as far as how strong a fusion is.

          I wish you a speedy recovery Scott.

          • Scott Lewis

             Hi islandstylist. I apologize for never replying to your comment. I completely missed it.

            My doctor hasn’t said anything about permanent restrictions. In fact, he says I should be able to resume my normal lifestyle without restrictions once the bones fully fuse. Unfortunately, I am now 14 months post-surgery and the bones still have a ways to go. I am feeling much better but still have bad days. Fortunately they are becoming more-and-more rare. That said, I had some issues with numbness and tingling in the hands this past week but I can trace every episode to sleeping in a hotel bed or falling asleep in an awkward position on the sofa.

            I don’t know your personal situation and, of course, I’m not a medical professional so not qualified to give advice, but I would be surprised if you cannot return to playing soccer.

            Good luck.

    • Anonymous

      hi, i found this link a few weeks ago before surgery and was happy to find some pro’s & con’s, and up’s and down’s in the comments. that’s life. i fell almost 11 months ago, the surgery was recommended 7 1/2 months ago and thanks to our workers comp system it was finally performed 2 days ago.  the discs between C5,6,&7 were removed, bone blocks inserted, and titanium plates screwed into place.  pretty normal procedure.  i’m 59, holding up well for the age, hike extensively with a 30 lb backpack, run half-marathons now & then, and jog the 5 miles home from work once in a while.  of course a haven’t done much of that since i was injured and i have gained 20 lbs. but i continued to work every day in an active outdoor job and maintained a positive outlook.  i came to after surgery and immediately noticed my wife smiling and the lack of pain in my left arm.  i had one instance of numbness in my right hand and  forearm that 1st evening but no extreme pain from the surgery which may have been residual effects of the general anethesia.  the first night was fitful in and outs of conciousness due to weirdly sore trapezoids and a chatterring ward-mate on a morphine induced rant.  day 1, post surgery, i met all the requirements to be released early in the A.M. and left the hospital without having any post surgery pain meds.  i spent the day e-mailing friends and relatives and walking around the back yard wondering what projects i would be able to finish in my time off.  day 2, post surgery, TODAY! slept pretty good with no need for pain meds, up early as usual and ready to go for a short walk around the block.  it seems that i am well on my way to recovery.

      • Scott Lewis

        Wow, it sounds like your recovery is going fantastically. Being in good physical condition when you go in for surgery makes a big difference. When I had my first surgery (I am 13 weeks out from surgery #2), I was in probably the best shape of my life. I sailed through that surgery. The second go around I was not in bad shape but nowhere near where I was the first time. I could tell quite a difference but I still did very well. My only word of caution would be to not try to go too fast too soon. Those bones take about 6 months or so to fuse no matter what. I got a little overly ambitious after my first surgery because I felt so great. I don’t think that was the cause of my problems last summer but it didn’t help. But I don’t want to sound like I’m trying to rain on your parade. It’s great that you are doing so well and I hope your recovery continues to be as smooth. Enjoy the time off of work and thanks for sharing your story. It seems that most of the stories online are negative because usually, people only comment wheWow, it sounds like your recovery is going fantastically. Being in good physical condition when you go in for surgery makes a big difference. When I had my first surgery (I am 13 weeks out from surgery #2), I was in probably the best shape of my life. I sailed through that surgery. The second go around I was not in bad shape but nowhere near where I was the first time. I could tell quite a difference but I still did very well.

        My only word of caution would be to not try to go too fast too soon. Those bones take about 6 months or so to fuse no matter what. I got a little overly ambitious after my first surgery because I felt so great. I don’t think that was the cause of my problems last summer but it didn’t help.

        But I don’t want to sound like I’m trying to rain on your parade. It’s great that you are doing so well and I hope your recovery continues to be as smooth. Enjoy the time off of work and thanks for sharing your story. It seems that most of the stories online are negative because usually, people only comment when something goes wrong. It can give a distorted perception of the reality of this kind of surgery.n something goes wrong.

    • Anonymous

      day 3, post surgery.  ok, yeah, i over did it yesterday.  all i did was walk, but obviously i did it too often and too far for day 2.  also i think some of the trauma and bruising from surgery is dissipating, so some areas (like my neck & windpipe) that have been numb, are starting to feel sore now.  i’m going to have to find a pillow with the right support also.  lying in bed is undoubtedly the most uncomfortable aspect of this recovery phase.  still no need for pain meds so i’m going to back off on the exercise and try to let old bones heal

      • Scott Lewis

        Sorry to hear about your soreness. Yeah, those first couple of days can be deceiving because it actually takes a little while for the anesthesia and high-powered pain meds you get in the hospital to wear off. For me, the first night back at home post-surgery were the worst. The second go around, I woke up in the middle of the night to one of the worst pains I’ve ever felt. Nothing that the pain meds couldn’t take care of but definitely not pleasant. I went for a 3-4 mile walk last night with a friend and I still get sore even 13 weeks out. It sounds like you’re being smart though and it’s great that you don’t need the pain meds.

    • Anonymous

      day 4, Scott, i want to thank you for putting together this site, and responding to my comments everyday.  i know i am going to fine in a few months, and probably will be able to do all i could do a year ago as far as hiking and jogging.  my goal is to make the 2 backpacking trips i have had planned since before the injury.  that’s not until august & september.  to tell you the truth i don’t know how to pace myself because i have never pushed myself to my limits.  but i did a good job of taking it easy yesterday, feel great this morning, and have a dog rearing to go for her walk around the park (it’s a short walk) take it easy on the weights and thanks for the support

      • Scott Lewis

        I’m glad the site is helpful to folks. My friend George and I, who have both had the surgery, decided that this would be a good way to share the things we figured out that the doctors won’t tell you. It’s not that the doctors are intentionally leaving stuff out. They just aren’t really trained to play certain roles. Think of your surgeon as a mechanic. His job is to be the best he can be at repairing your spine and managing your physical recovery.

        I think it’s fantastic that your recovery is going so well. If you read the comments of other posters, you’ll see that everyone’s experience is different and yours sounds like one of the better ones. Mine has been somewhere in the middle. Some challenges but not terrible.

        I would suggest just to continue to exercise caution. While you may feel great, there are certain unavoidable realities. The bones will take a minimum of about 6 months to fuse. While they are fusing, they can still move a little bit (mainly in the back). By all means enjoy your daily walks with your dog and getting outside – especially since it’s spring, and a lovely one so far at that. But be smart too. You do not want to have the surgery a second time. :-)

        But I am really glad to hear a story like this. If you read around the web about the recovery from ACDF you get the impression that it is horrible for everyone. It only appears that way, though, because most folks who have a smooth recovery don’t comment on web sites. Why? They have no reason too. People who are struggling do post because they (rightly) need reassurance that something hasn’t gone wrong. So thanks for sharing a positive story to help give a different perspective. Your story helps too because it shows folks who are struggling that every experience is different and their challenges doesn’t mean something has gone wrong.

        Continue to heal well.

    • Anonymous

      day 14, up early as ususal, but now, with the incision healed, i’m able to soak in the jacuzzi and let the morning tightness ease out of the muscles in the neck and shoulders.  i’m able to spend several hours total each day in the garden, organizing the garage, cooking, etc., and i pay attention to the signs that i’m ready for a break.  my indicators are; the trapezoids getting sore, maybe a little tingling in the right fingertips, or i just feel like holding my head up is a chore.  then i sit, catch up on e-mails, research some useless bit of trivia on the web, nap, or whatever is relaxing at the time.  using this time off work to develop a comfortable pace to heal is proving to be very theraputic, physically and mentally.

      • Scott Lewis

        Jacuzzi? Oh, your just torturing us now. :-)

        Yeah, those are the signs alright. I start to get a kind of burning sensation in my shoulders and a little tingling in the fingers as well. That’s when I know it’s time to get up and do something different from what I’m doing.

        It sounds like you’re making the most of your time off work. That’s great. Not very often you get nearly 2 months to do pretty much anything you want when you want.

    • Anonymous

      you want to laugh ……….I injured my neck during training for a Grappling tournament a year ago. I am a Jiu Jitsu practitioner  43 years old I compete and love it it……. is a passion of mine since childhood and I am afraid it is gone !  I need c6c7 fused > My life went from training 3 times a week (if you know grappling you know that it is a contact sport.. submission grappling ) to not being able to do much of anything . My biggest problem is when i sit on a couch the horrible sensation that I feel ! So I feel i do need this surgery It has onlly got worse for me and i cant do the things I love !!!!   It breaks my heart I may never fight (…..Roll….again) !! What do you guys think my surgeon said…..” I can not go back to any kind of training unless I get this done !! ! Even if i get this done I may not want to go back and it breaks my heart ! what do you think ! 

      • Scott Lewis

        I’m 42, so just a year younger than you. I am familiar with grappling. I wrestled in high school (long time ago) and am a big fan of MMA. I feel for you and hope you will be able to get back on the mat.

        A couple of things to keep in mind that may be helpful to you. First, you only need a one-level fusion. I don’t say “only” to suggest it’s not a big deal (any spinal surgery is a big deal), but one-level is a lot easier to recover from than a 2 or more level. Each additional adds to the difficulty by an order of magnitude. So you may be able to return to the sport you love if you have the surgery and do exactly as your doc says during recovery. Don’t push things and be smart. As a competitive athlete, you should know that pushing yourself too hard too soon doesn’t make you tough. The smart athlete knows when to pull back and to rest. Rest is as important to training as working out. ACDF is fairly common in the NFL. It makes sense if you think about it because those guys are slamming their bodies against each other which such force, the soft tissue is bound to get damaged. Many folks return to the NFL after a one-level fusion (and my doc tells me 2-level fusions as well). So there is a good chance you could return to competing in a year. But you know for certain if you don’t have the surgery, you won’t be returning to it.

        I think the key is to be smart during recovery.

        Good luck with your decision and I hope you’re rolling again by this time next year. The fact that you’re in great shape – as you would have to be in your sport – will help you tremendously. I was in excellent physical condition before my first surgery and the recovery was very smooth.

    • Scott Lewis

      Hi Christina,

      I’m really sorry to hear about your difficulties after surgery. Every surgery is different as is every individual case and it sounds like yours is not going as smoothly as some. All of the symptoms you describe sound like what I’ve heard from others on other web sites. I am not a medical professional, only another recipient of the surgery. The only thing I can advise you is to talk to your doctor. The recovery from ACDF can be long and slow. I have had two surgeries now and both recoveries have gone very smoothly – but they were still long. I am only 4 months out from my second surgery and just this morning woke up in pain and with my right hand numb. The bones do not even begin to fuse until about 3 months out and can take as long as 12 months to fully fuse. Even then there are no guarantees. This will require a lot of patience and mental toughness on your part.

      Also, I believe a 3-4, 4-5 is a little tougher because more movement happens higher up the cervical spine. My fusion was 5-6,6-7. Not as much movement takes place there so it was not quite as bad.

      As to your husband. I want to be very careful about what I say because I don’t know your situation, you or him. But the way he is treating you seems to lack understanding and compassion to say the least. The truth is, you are disabled. Not permanently but what else do you call someone who essentially has a broken neck? Make no mistake, that is about what you have. The doctor surgically broke your neck, put a bone graft in and plated it to fuse. The exact same way they would repair your arm or your leg if you broke it.

      The physical part of recovery can be demanding but my experience is that the emotional and mental part are the toughest. The physical pain and limitations just wear you down. I suggest talking to your doctor about your symptoms, your concerns and ask if he/she can recommend a counselor as well. This is in no way meant to say you are weak. Being able to talk to someone will help tremendously. After my surgery I did just that and it made a world of difference.

      Good luck. Take care of yourself and I hope you get better quickly.


    • Anonymous

      Scott ,you just put a smile on my face and i am feeling a bit more confident this morning that I should get this surgery. I have been surfing the internet to learn as much as i can regarding this procedure and with stories like this one “yours and others”,,,,, it really helps us out in the world that are un sure ! THANK YOU

      • Scott Lewis

        My pleasure. :-)

      • Susan

        You’ll be fine post op if you follow your surgeon’s instructions and don’t overdo it. Regardless of how many levels you are having done this is still major surgery and your body is going to need time to heal.  In my case I had very little pain with my 2 level post op-that came from muscle spasms in the back of the neck and even that was minimal. I had arthroscopic knee surgery 7 weeks after  the acdf and the pain from that was 10 times worse.  My main problem was depression from not being able to do anything and the anesthesia.

        One  more thing-you’ll notice the area under your chin on the incision side will be numb for quite some time. That’s because the nerves were cut and need time to heal. Four months post op and my chin is still numb.

        • Scott Lewis

          I second the bit about the main problem being depression from not being able to do anything. In most cases the pain from surgery is only temporary and really not that bad but the recovery seems to drag on forever. I’m about 5 months out from surgery #2 and am still limited in what I can lift. Last week was a particularly bad week (it happens sometimes).

          It takes a long time for the bones to fuse and you’re really not fully cleared until 12 months after surgery. Since this was a revision surgery, the doctor is being even more cautious and advising me not to return to running for at least 2 more months. I have just started walking about 4 miles a day at a pretty fast pace and even that leaves me a little sore.

          Trying to maintain a positive attitude is key. You’ll have bad days but just keep reminding yourself that this is only temporary and you’ll be better off than you were before surgery.

    • Anonymous

      1 month post surgery and cruising thru recovery.  my comment for scaper159 is; stay strong.  push your doctor to let you know how you can safely continue to train right up to your surgery.  i waited almost 11 months for authorization for my bi-level ACDF (5-6-7) and my muscle tone suffered but i still went into surgery with a strong neck and shoulders and i am walking with my head up in comfort.  i was also a h/s wrestler, and judo/jui jitsu student from the age of 7 to adulthood, so i know you are starting out in good shape.  by the way i’m about 16 yrs. older than you and recovering just fine.  i haven’t posted anything for a couple of weeks but thought i would do an update at the 1 month mark and wanted to give scaper159 some encouragement

    • Susan

      I had a 2 level acdf in January and I’m glad I had it done. No one knows how painful herniated discs can be unless they’ve had one.  Now the awful stabbing pain in the back of my neck is gone which is great since it was there 24/7 for most of 2011. Recovery depends on a good mental attitude. The anesthesia can cause major post op depression. Don’t overdo it-follow the surgeons post op orders to the tee. I’m now 4 months post op and have no restriction as to activity but I think you really have tio use your common sense when it comes to doing things. I don’t plan on going on any roller coasters any time in the near future. I also made the mistake of carrying too much weight the other day and my neck and arms ache more than normal.  Even though he said everything looks good I still think it’s a good idea to be careful and overdo it-the last thing I want is to have to go through surgery again because I did something that loosened the screws in my neck.

    • Anonymous

      hi thank you for posting this and all the positive things are helpful for all of us recovering from acdf surgery.  You have no idea how much relief this brought to me.  I am 9  days post op 3 level 3-6. my first few days were soooo rough.  I have read all kinds of things however was NOT prepared for the throat issues.  Not being able to swallow was scary and i choked on everything including water and everyone was frustrated with me because I kept spitting out meds because I choked much.  Im already dreading going back to work.  Im a server/manager at a small restaurant that is CRAZY busy I am very active before all of the back and neck stuff started was at the gym ALL the time with my husband.  I thought I would be further along than I am although I have walked its only a couple blocks.  and Im not up as much as I should be but Im exhausted and cry ALOT. Im 41. Anyways now I feel its normal so thanks so much

      • Scott Lewis

        Hi mrsalkire. I’m really sorry to hear you’re having a rough time. I’m glad the site has provided you with some comfort. The only (unsolicited) advice I would offer is to take it easy on yourself and don’t let other people rush you into returning to work. ACDF is major surgery. A 3-level ACDF is MAJOR surgery. It’s your health, your level of pain. Listen to your body and only do what you’re comfortable with. Talk to your doctor. He/she works for you and will side with you on issues related to your health. Good luck with your recovery. I hope the choking stuff gets better soon. I personally didn’t experience much of that but I only had a 2-level fusion and it was lower down. It doesn’t sound pleasant at all.

    • Kidd D

      I have a question about having the ACDF surgery. I’m 55 and work as a Radiology Technologist which is the type of job that requires a great deal of stamina. The main part of the job is heavy, awkward patient lifting from 30lbs to 100lbs daily. My question is this: If I have a single level ACDF, will my job eventually cause above and below the fusion another trip to the OR for more fusions?

      • Scott Lewis

        I’m afraid I’m not qualified to answer this question. You would really need at ask your orthopedist of neurosurgeon. I was restricted from lifting anything heavier than 10 lbs. for several months after my first surgery, and for even longer after my second because of the failed union. My c5-c6 level still hasn’t fully fused so I’m limited, mostly by pain, as to what I can lift.

        I’m sorry to dodge the question but I don’t want to give you bad information. Neither of us two authors on this site are medical professionals. We’ve just had the experience of having had two surgeries each.

        Sorry I can’t be more help.

    • Russ

      Scott, I had C5/6 and C6/7 done about 6 months ago. I can do most activities…..but the main source of pain that I seem to have is really bad muscle spasms that last most of the day. It seems to be localized on the left side (where most of the pain was pre-surgery) and under the base of the skull. I did about 12 sessions of PT and I go weekly to the chiropractor for trigger point massages. The ortho doctor discontinued the bone stimulation collar at 4 months because he said the XRay was nromal and I was starting to fuse. I take magnesium pills twice a day and 10 mg of Flexerill at night.
      My questions are… the spasms ever go away?
      I get pretty bummed out, like I’m going to have to live the rest of my life this way….please tell me that is not the case.

    • Tom Somers

      same thing happened to me with voice and swallowing with my first surgery… here’s the hard part… had to have another… first time was 5-6 a cdf second time … 4-5 and 6-7 but guess what I can now swallow and my voice is not raspy neither.

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