Rehablitation After Cervical Spine Fusion


My wife will be having the above operation next week and I know that some of you have had it already.

What I would like to know is how long does it take to get back to normal?

How long will she have to wear a neck brace?

Should I check her into a rehabilitation center, there is a good one not 15 minutes from our house.

My worry is that I won't be able to give her everything she needs, She eats Thai Food (being Thai) and I can't cook it

I feel that if there were nurses on hand this would be useful, I don't know how much pain she will experience, it can't be any worse than

she gets now.

I thought about putting her in for a month to begin with and see how that goes. She is not keen on the idea, but I think it's for the best

Any thoughts?

Many thanks



  • Most of your questions should be discussed with her surgeon, he/she will be the best to answer them, I have had cervical fusion surgery, stayed in the hospital 1 night, was only required to wear a neck brace while riding in a car, for me getting around or eating was not a problem, a lot of this will be determined by her physical condition and age, please discuss all this with your surgeon.

    Take care and keep us posted


  • She had her spinal fusion operation last Monday and was discharged from hospital yesterday. She is very weak and has a lot of pain from the 2 operation sites but the initial pain that she had to have the op in the first place has 85-90 % gone, which is what the surgeon said

    So I am happy. Price was around 9,500 GBP  so I was happy with that, they had quoted me up to 13!!

    She has been advised to wear the neck brace for about 6 weeks and her stitches can remain in place until the surgeon gets back from America in 2 weeks, does anyone feel this is too long? Also he has said not to clean the wound until he takes the stitches out. When I saw the wounds yesterday they looked nice and clean.

    Just hope that he has done a good long term job and that the pain will never return to the levels it was before the operation


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  • It sounds like she is doing pretty good, surgeons have different opinions on the brace, some want you to wear them and some don't, she needs to follow instructions, it is not at all unusual to be very wek after a serious surgery, after my surgery the surgeon told me to walk as much as possible, start slow and build up.

    Take care and keep us posted


  • Jerome001Jerome001 Cocoa Beach, FloridaPosts: 326

    Skywalker, I've had a couple of cervical fusion surgeries (fused C2-C6) and each time I had to wear a brace for about 6 weeks; a soft brace at home and a hard plastic brace when riding in a car. Post op, my most significant issue was difficulty swallowing (which was positive as it helped me lose a few pounds) but I did not experience much wound related pain. Recovery was slow but the fusions provided significant improvement in my pre surgery cervical related pain. I agree with Chip that it sounds as though your wife is doing well with her recovery. Be patient! Good luck! Jerome

  • I spoke to soon.

    All of the pain has returned and bow 2 weeks post op she is having a lot of pain in her nerves in the back in the arms and in the feet.

    Also she is having a lot of trouble walking due to the bone they took from her hip to make the discs.

    She has seen a doctor (not the surgeon yet) who says it takes time, but how long does she have to spend in such pain?, the meds help somewhat but I look at he and want to cry, she was such a happy lively girl  now she is a shadow of the woman she was.

    Will she be able to walk and run again?

    Will she recover.? I suppose nobody can answer that

    Many thanks

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  • You are right, nobody here can answer your question of will she recover, but please give it time, 2 weeks after such a serious surgery is not a lot of time to know how well she will recover, as explained to me before and after my cervical surgery, nerves were compressed before surgery, during surgery they were decompressed, moved and stretched, right after surgery they are trying to figure out their new normal, then they start waking up and are trying to repair themselves, that's when they really start hurting, for me that stage took a couple of months. You didn't mention what medications she's taking, there are several nerve specific medications that can be very helpful with the nerve pain, if she is already taking one of them and it is not helping, talk to the doctor, she may need to change to something else.

     Spinal Fusion Surgery Recovery: 1 to 4 Weeks After

    Take care and keep us posted


  • Saw the doctor for the first time since the operation on Saturday.

    He does not understand why she is in such pain. He has never known this type of outcome for an operation like this

    We are completely in shock. He has made an appointment for us to see the Pain Management Doctor this morning, but that is not addressing the problem ,only masking it.

    I have been told on other forums that she should have a Nerve Conduction Study, I don't know what that is supposed to accomplish  does anyone have any ideas?

    What type of doctor should we seek out next , a Neurologist?

    Another train of thought is that it could possibly be Periphial Neuropathy.????

    Many thanks

  • L4_L5LL4_L5 Posts: 1,275
    edited 12/01/2019 - 7:41 PM

    As @challenger stated two weeks post-op is a very short period of time. She’s just a babe in the woods still. My neighbor had a fusion and it was six months before she was able to function in a way that closely resembled how she functioned prior to her surgery. 

    The neurologist I saw does nerve conduction studies.

    Good luck and keep us posted. But be assured two weeks is extremely early in the recovery process.

  • She was advised to have 6 blood tests done and I have made an appointment for her to see a Neurologist on Wednesday

    I am praying that it's nothing serious that is wrong with her, now thinking is worse than before

  • After 6 weeks she is still in a great deal of pain. The MRI came back and the neurologist said there was no brain damage, however the nerve conductivity test showed a lot of nerve damage which he says is irreversible. He transfered her to the pain doctor at the clinic but he could do nothing except recommend massage. So she had one that aleviated her pain somewhat  but the following afternoon (which is when her worst pain comes) she was once more in serious pain.

    Has anyone any experience with nerve blocks? Nobody we have see so far has mentioned them.

    Also should acupuncture now be considered

    How has this happened?

    Did the Cervical Spine Fusion fail?

    We are seeing the surgeon who performed the operation this afternoon and it would be good to be armed with some facts,

    I am aware that 5% of all fusions fail for one reason or another, just praying that my wife is not on the "failed" list.


  • Hi,

    I'm disappointed nobody seems to be able to offer me any help here.

    My wife  saw the surgeon on Saturday and he basically said that he had done his job, the x-rays showed the bones had fused and she could take the collar off, but he was very careful not to admit that he may have not done a good job

    She is in so much pain from the operation area, I suggested nerve blocking and he agreed, but as far as he is concerned he done the spinal fusion and now he is washing his hands of her....what should I do?

    Thanks in anticipation

  • As stated earlier 2-6 weeks is extremely early in fusion recovery. I think the reason more people aren’t commenting is because more time needs to pass. It’s very hard to be patient post-op, during recovery, although patience is exactly what’s needed.

    Has she seen a pain management doctor? A pain doctor can often prescribe medication such as Lyrica or Gabapentin to help with nerve pain.

    Good luck and please keep us updated.

  • memerainboltmemerainbolt IndianaPosts: 4,461


    We can only say so much. We cannot give you answers as it would be guessing. Plus, everyone is different. As L4_L5 stated, patience and pain management. In pain management, they so many options on controlling pain. Recovery can vary from patient to patient, anywhere from 2 weeks to 6 mos. 

    Please keep us posted on how she is doing.

  • Many thanks for the replies.

    She has seen a pain management doctor and has been prescribed Lyrica but she also needs opiod medication to control the pain in the afternoon onwards until bedtime. At the hospital on Saturday she did not take the Ultracet and was in a complete mess and had to have a valium injection, she was so bad because she wanted the doctor to understand how much pain she was in

    She cannot continue taking opiods, but Tylenol is just too weak...what to do?

  • Skywalker,

    Please do not be too frustrated with lack of responses.  As others have said, 6 weeks is very early in recovery.  Is the spine surgeon really dismissing her from care?  Because I think most surgeons follow their patients through to at least a year.

    Also, how can he tell that she achieved full fusion? Did he do a CT scan? My doc said xrays are not definitive to prove fusion occurred.

    I cannot second guess why a surgeon seems disinterested in getting to the bottom of why their patient is in pain or is still having issues.

    I had 3 level ACDF some 15 months ago.  For the past.4.5 months, I have had issues.  Life was mostly back to normal from 6 months to 11 months post op.   My surgeon did a CT myelogram which showed that my lowest level (C6/7) was not fused and one screw is loosening up.  He was adamant that my symptoms were not from non fusion and said I could still fuse in the coming year.  I am having a hard time and feel like we just continue to kick the can down the road instead of acknowledging the problem.  

    So, I do not have any words of wisdom other than maybe it seems like surgeon is washing his hands, but in reality he is frustrated with the outcome and just does not show that.  Or, maybe it is time to get a 2nd opinion.

  • Hi Kand,

    Thank you for your reply.

    Yes he is basically kicking her out, no further appointments scheduled, he says the fusion is completed from looking at the x-rays.

    This morning he has passed on the medical report to me and also phoned the pain management doctor.

    Problem is we live in Thailand, Doctors are deemed Gods by the population and are never questioned, so when I do so I am not given much courtesy, I am looked upon as a trouble maker.

    We saw the original doctor that admitted her to hospital almost 3 months ago 2 days ago and he was really surprised that we went for the operation, he did not feel the disc damage waranted the operation. But I had two spinal specialists who said it did, but I now believe it's all about money! Call me cynical but I now believe that doctors here will try and sell you an operation if you need it or not to make money, The surgeons fee alone was around $4,500, now I wonder what he has said to the pain management doctor and how he will treat her if he has told him that I am a troublemaker, which I am, I just won't accept poor work for good money, she is now worse than before she had the fusion, the whole top half of her back is hard.

    Life with her is really tough and my BP has rocketed over the last month,but I am that kind of guy, I do worry a lot.

    We will see how tomorrow goes

  • rk2103rrk2103 Posts: 2
    edited 12/26/2019 - 3:56 AM

    Hi. I had my 5/6 6/7 2 level done 8 weeks ago. I think she is having the same back neck should pain as I had. It is sharp pain for almost 6 weeks. My Orthopedic says it's common and my Chinese Doctor explained, for many years your nerves and muscle has slowly collapsed and all of the sudden the disc fusion is inserted and pulling your muscles and nerves being stretched. I went for weekly Psyhsio with High Density Ultra Sound, I massage on my own twice a day with aromatherapy oil to release and relax nerves and muscles, heat pad. I was on Oxy for 1st week but didn't want to be addicted so switch to Arcoxia instead. I'm into my 8 weeks and the sharp pain is gone. Only very mild ache on my muscle. 

    Wow your surgeon fee is only $4,500? Including hospital and the fusion  inserts? My full surgery is 10x that amount!!:-( that's the price in Singapore Private Doctor and Hospital. 



  • Skywalker, I am 13 months post ACDF C6-C7 surgery and I still have some pain. Muscles, ligaments need to re-adjust, nerves need to recover and repair which is a long process.

    For myself what is helping is movement and activities, making sure I am rebuilding lost muscle in my neck, upper back as well as my shoulder, arm and forearm.

    Like most have said, she is very early in her recovery and some more patience is required. This will improve as the months go by. I was so depressed, woke up from surgery felt great, 8 weeks later once I was allowed to start slowly moving my neck, all the pain started again. Then a few weeks later, was a little less, and then less. Stay positive, listen to the doctors, do your physio, eat right and with time things get a little better.

    Happy new year

  • GSDladyGGSDlady Posts: 2
    edited 01/01/2020 - 11:16 AM

    Hi Skywalker, I'm reading this site because I also recently had ACDF (3-level, C4-7) three weeks ago, and have post op pain. My surgeon at the 2-week check up said the arm pain (which was new) should go away eventually, but he didn't give a timeframe. The arm pain has lessened alot in a week. I'm most concerned about the neck pain, as it's pretty much like the pain I had before the surgery, only more intense. That got me wondering why I went through all this.I used to be able to alleviate it by avoiding certain movements, mainly lifting my arms 90' sideways and up, but I get the post op pain even without doing any specific movements. Surgeon said may only be able to alleviate 80% of the neck pain. It's frustrating because I've known some people who had this surgery and came out with no pain and no restrictions..hard to believe.

    At this point, I am still on opiates but reduced them greatly, and Gabapentin. I would say my pain is about a 5-6. My advice would be to stick to the regimen and restrictions, and don't expect instant change. I am still avoiding all bending, stooping, reaching high, twisting, straining and not lifting more than 5 pounds. Every once in a while, I forget and lean over to pick something up, but I try to follow the restrictions. I wore the neck collar for 2 weeks, hard during the day and soft at night. Now I'm not wearing it felt like my neck was getting more sore from wearing it. I understand the purpose of the neck collar is not to fixate the neck, nor to prevent any movement, but to remind you and prevent large neck movements, like bending it forward and back to extreme, or side to side all the way.

    I think Xrays at this early stage basically tell the surgeon if the fustion equipment is still in place. It is way too early to tell if it is a good solid fusion, because that takes a minimum of six months. Bone fusion is a very very slow process and can still be going on at 18 months. I know this from my hip replacement, which went well. I could not bend my upper body more than 90' forward of my lower body for 6 months, to allow the fusion to take place without jostling it. I do feel like I've gotten less specific directions and education from this cervical fusion than I did for my hip replacement, which is strange because it seems like a more delicate operation. Read up on ways to encourage good bone growth...nutrition is important.   There is some evidence that NSAIDS can inhibit bone growth and fusion.  I used to take alot of Advil so it's been hard to give it up.  It's good that you're being proactive and trying to find out more for your wife.

     The medical community is now so negative on prescribing pain meds, but I think there are some circumstances where it is needed, and it sounds like your wife's is one of them.

    Good luck!

    Edited for medical advice.

  • Hi guys,

    Thanks very much for your responses.

    It's good to know she is not alone in this painful recovery process, but I am sure she is getting worse not better.

    But I wish those of you that are suffering all the very best, and thank you for sharing your stories.

    We have seen pain doctors in 2 hospitals now and they have not been at all helpful, one switched her meds from 35% opiate and 65 % Codene to 100% Codene with the result of more pain, which was what I expected.

    We have one more Doctor to see a  week tomorrow and I am going to book therapy at a specialist recovery clinic next week, (it's been closed all week for the holidays). If she cannot help then we will have to go to one of the top hospitals in the world, Bymrungrad in Bangkok

    I just hope she is up to flying?

    I will keep you posted

    Happy New Year to you all


  • memerainboltmemerainbolt IndianaPosts: 4,461


    Thanks for the update on your wife. My heart goes out to both of you, I am so sorry her pain is not being controlled.
    Good luck next week and with the therapy. Please keep us posted on what you find out.


  • Hi Sandra,

    Thanks for your reply

    One thing I am grateful for is that I can buy opiate meds over the counter in some pharmacies here in Chiang Mai.

    Normally she takes just 2 Ultracet a day along with Lyrica, today she will have 3 as the pain is worse.

    I also have Tramadol which are slow release but they work well for long periods, although can leave one very spaced out.

    She had only needed to take one of these as she forgot her Ultracet on a hospital visit.

    I am loathe to give these to her on a regular basis at the moment, but she feels so bad she says the pain is going to kill her!!

    So the situation is pretty bad right now unfortunately.

  • Three and a half improvement, pain is still terrible and she has had one overdose of sleeping pills which led to her stomach being pumped.

    I have to look after her meds now.

    I am very concerned for her mental wellbeing. She is already taking head meds but they don't make her feel any better.

    Surgeon is no responding to messages any more.

    I am at my wits end

    Any words of comfort would help


  • Is it possible to see a different doctor? I know that can be a difficult task at times, but it's worth looking into


  • memerainboltmemerainbolt IndianaPosts: 4,461

    I agree with Chip. A second, or even third opinion could give you some answers.


  • I’ve heard of people with fusions who don’t feel better until about six months post op. That said I agree with Chip and Sandra that seeing a new spine doctor to get a reassessment or second opinion can’t hurt.
  • Thanks for your comments.

    I have been thinking the same thing, see another specialist

    I will update when I know more

  • I took her to my general practioner today , and she seemed to know more than the pain doctors.

    She has said she needs ultrasound, not massage or a/p at this stage plus a regimen of anti-inflamatories.

    Also a very high evening dose of Lyrica 150mg, plus 25mg morning and lunch.

    So I have her booked in for treatment tomorrow and have to see the doctor in a week

    I will keep you posted as to what the results are

    Thank you for reading...and caring

  • Hello--I am coming in mid-thread not knowing exactly your wife's (?) situation.  It sounds desparate, my thoughts are with you both.  You mentioned she takes meds for her head--is she seeing anyone for counseling?  Like a Behavioral psychologist for pain management?  I found mine to be very beneficial.  I know it's one more Dr. to add to the list, but it might be worth looking into.


  • Not at the moment Fiona

    Behavirol psychologists are a rarity in Thailand.

    Even therapists are hard to find.

    Wo betide anybody in this country that suffers from depression!!

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