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Level 4 ACDF post surgery with cages

I am 5 weeks post surgery for a C 3/4, 4/5, 5/6, 6/7.  My surgeon says this is the least common of all his spinal surgeries only doing 4-5 a year.  I am doing well but having trouble sleeping at night.  A  3- Level patient told me to sleep on my back, no pillows, with rolled towels on either side of my head to keep from moving at night.  This has helped immensely but wake up with stiffness and pain after 3 -4 hours.   Also, was not prepared for how weak I would be for so long.  Wondering if anyone further along in this process could say how long before strength and stamina return and/or any suggestions for sleeping and pain reduction.  Thanks so much!



  • Hi dgsd12!  I am 7 1/2 months post op 4 level fusion.  The same levels that you had done.  I found that recovery has been very slow for me.  My doctor said this was a BIG surgery.  I had my surgery at Duke with a very talented neurosurgeon who does approximately 300 ACDF surgeries per year.  I went back to my office job 9 weeks after surgery and was in pain which felt like forever.  I finally started sleeping well last month.  I developed frozen shoulder which is now resolving.  I can honestly say that I am about 90%.  My best advice to you would to be patient, rest as much as you can when you are not walking.  I stopped my Percocet and flexeril at three weeks and only took extra strength Tylenol until last month.  I still use my heating pad and ice occasionally.  Don't get discouraged or depressed!  I thought I would be in pain forever, but I am now starting to feel almost normal again.  You will get better!! For sleeping I usually would take a warm shower and let the water run on my shoulders or a hot bath with Lavender Epson salt.  I would then use aromatherapy and a cup of sleepy time tea, two extra strength Tylenol and prayer and meditation.  I would also use a rolled towel under my neck between my pillow and bed.  I had a hard time sleeping on my back and would wake up on my side.  I have felt exhausted, but I took my vitamins, and used my ice packs and heat for the muscle spasms.  I know this is a lot, but it is what worked for me.  Keep a positive attitude and know that it will get better in time!  You will notice less pain each day.  I promise.  Don't sit around.  If you walk it will make you stronger and take the achiness away.  I also prayed a lot and still do!! Best of luck to you.  If I can help in any way, please let me know.  Patti 

  • Hi Patti!  I just found your response.  Thank you so much,!  Definitely improved since last post, but still struggling with pain and tingling at the top of my spine around area sometimes called "dowagers hump".    Mostly tingling, possibly nerve irritation??   Physical therapy is a huge help but it just seems like forever since I felt normal.  My doctor suggested a fluffy pillow to support both sides of my neck while sleeping and that helps me to sleep 4-5 hours without waking in pain.  I will try the lavender Epsom salts and essential oils.  I try to walk about 10,000 steps a day but really am wiped out by the end of the day when I get there.  I think my posture is likely off as I try to compensate for the pain putting more stress on muscle les How long did your tingling last?  I did not realize what a rough recovery this would be, although my doctor told me level 4s are quite rare and much more time consuming and difficult to rehab.  Thanks so much for the info and encouragement.  It is greatly appreciated.  So glad to hear you are feeling so good!


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  • I just discovered this forum and out of desperation signed up to get others experience and advice. I also had ACDF C3-7. I had almost no strength out of my hands and had numbness up through my forearms with severe tingling. I chased the problem with my Dr for almost 5 yrs until I went to another Dr and within a month my severe spinal stenosis was diagnosed and surgery followed. I got through surgery and recovery was rough, I am 4 months post op and my choking feeling is getting worse, I have problems sleeping because of this lump feeling in my throat, My surgeon says it’s normal and will go away but it’s actually much worse. Does anyone have any experience or advise on this? I can deal with the aches and pain and fatigue but this choking is driving me crazy. Thanks in advance.

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