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New here, some neck pain - compressed spinal cord and ACDF C5-C6-C7 scheduled.

KenAZKKenAZ Posts: 12
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:58 AM in Neck Pain: Cervical
Hi All
Just joined the forum, and have an ACDF scheduled 12/15.

Lately I have been freaking out about it, mostly b/c folks continually ask me about the operation, how long it's going to take to recover, etc.

I have neck and head pain most every day, but it seems to be from sitting at my computer. I have tingling in my fingers like once a week -- but the MRI I did back in April showed cord compression and 'severe' stenosis.

I have seen 3 docs (2 orthopedists and a neurosurgeon from Barrows) -- all 3 are recommending surgery....

I am fairly physically fit, but my activity level went way down after my diagnosis -- it was like the wind was pulled from my sails. I have basically stopped cycling, I walk 3 - 5 days a week (30 mins to an hour and a half)and try to get in some yoga and/or core training. Definitely far from where I would like to be...

So -- have others elected to have this surgery even without it seeming to relieve a problem? I have no idea if my neck pain will subside post surgery... and from what I am gathering most docs want to do the surgery as a preventative measure. I don't want to end up in a wheelchair...

I would love to hear the success stories as well as the not-so-successful ones. What would you have done differently?

Looking for any comfort in having this surgery, as 4 weeks is going to go by quickly.



  • You didn't mention which or how many levels ACDF you will have. On May 2 I had a 4 level and I would do the surgery again. I have had neck pain for a long time but it wasn't until I got the electrical waves down the arm and some numbness in a couple of fingers and an updated MRI. My surgeon told me that he couldn't promise me that the pain would improve but damage to the spine would not get worse.

    You are in good physical shape which is a real positive going into any surgery or recovering. Just make sure you follow doctors' orders. For me, of course right after the surgery was tough, but the drugs helped (you don't want to let the pain get too high - don't tough it out). My family said every day the could see marked progress in my recovery. After 4 weeks I was given the ok to drive. It was important to get out and walk.

    Before you leave work for your operation, could you see if you could make some changes to your work station (for example, your chair, the height of your monitor) so when you return it won't hurt any progress you've made.

    It is perfectly normal to be nervous about the surgery. If you can look around the site, you will find a lot of information about peoples' experiences and what to do to prepare for the surgery. Make sure you understand from the doctor or staff what to expect going into and coming out of surgery, how long will you be in the hospital, use of a hard collar or not, post-surgery what to expect and restrictions and for how long.

    There's a lot of information on the site about what to do before the surgery to best prepare you for after. Feel free to pm me if you have questions I can help with.


    4 level ACDF C4-C7 5-2-11, laminectomy & discectomy L4-L5 1/26/12, ALIF L4-5, L5-S1 12/10/12.
  • Thanks Karen...
    I actually did mention (in the subject line and in my sig, but not in the body) that I am having C5-C6-C7...

    I actually had an ergo eval and we played with my chair a bit - heights are all good, but you are right -- it would be smart to be sure I am totally "dialed in" before surgery.

    Thanks, I will try and scope out some info on the site, but hearing positive stories help a lot. I am not super excited about going down this road.

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  • I wish you all the best. I hope you are able to get back to being really physical and physically fit and enjoying it in the New Year!
    4 level ACDF C4-C7 5-2-11, laminectomy & discectomy L4-L5 1/26/12, ALIF L4-5, L5-S1 12/10/12.
  • HI Ken,

    first let me say welcome to spine-health. Have a look around and you will find many positive stories regarding a two level ACDF. A couple of things to change your healing progress maybe if your using your own bond. Sometimes the actually donor site is more painful than the actually surgery itself. Talk to your surgeon, about what you will be able to do post surgery. I can tell you my surgeon ordered a walking program to commence the day I returned home. Most will only spend the one night in the hospital, so you can really begin walking day two. If you don't know of a good walking program, look on google and you can find several good ones, my favorite being 10,000 steps. The one thing that is important is to maintain your core body strength.

    In the surgery forum at the top of the page is a thread on post op needs. Look through the thread and you can find things that you may or may not need post surgery. Be sure to bring a button up shirt with you to the hospital.

    I can tell you that many people have found the anticipation to the surgery sometimes worse than the actually surgery itself. Your recovery will also depend on wether you are using a brace, soft collar or nothing at all. Keep in mind while the same surgery is performed, it may being performed for many different reasons. Be sure to follow all the surgeon post surgery restrictions. I see lot of members whom come home have a false sense of security that it was not to bad only to have set backs from doing to much. On the other hand you don't want to be a couch potato either.

    Just thought I would stop by and welcome you to spine-health. If there is anything I can do don't hesitate to pm me. Take care and keep us posted on how you do. Please ask away on any question you might have, the only dumb question is the one not asked. Take care.
  • You have come to the correct place to find other people going through the same thing you are. And it always makes me happy to see people researching so that they understand their surgery.

    Like others have said, you will find stories on this site from other neck patients. Some good, some bad. My first neck surgery was C5 to T1, so similar to your area, just one level lower. I didn't necessarily have neck pain, at least not much, but my problem was down the shoulder blade area and down the left arm/hand.

    Upon waking from surgery, ALL of the shoulder blade/arm pain was gone. It was amazing. Unfortunately it wasn't long before we realized I had some complications to the surgery. I won't bore you with the details of that, but would encourage you to make sure that you have a great surgeon who has a lot of experience in working on the spine. For example, going to a run of the mill orthopedic surgeon who works on hips and broken legs and an occasional spine would not be very comforting to me. I would want someone who concentrates his skills on the spine and leaves the other stuff to someone else. Especially in the neck where there is such a small space to work and the cord can be damaged so easily. I'm not saying an orthopedic surgeon is bad; I would just urge one to make sure that the surgeon does many of the procedure he will be doing on you.

    An ACDF can be fairly quick to recover from. In fact, my surgeon had told me I would be able to return to work within 2 weeks. That didn't happen, but my sister had a one level and was back to work in that amount of time. Just be sure to follow your surgeon's instructions, and don't over do.

    I wish you the best. Keep asking questions.


    Surviving chronic pain one day at a time, praying for a reprieve because living another 40 years like this doesn't sound too fun!
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  • Yes, did my research -- saw 3 doctors - 2 Orthopedists (both spine specialists) and a Neurosurgeon. All 3 recommended surgery, only one of them was OK waiting on it.

    My plan was to go back and do "round 2" with each surgeon to get a 'gut level' comfort check. As soon as I met with my Ortho, I knew he was going to do the surgery. He does about 4 or 5 ACDFs in his practice each week. He did his residency at the NY Hospital for Special Surgery (and did ACDFs on a few NY Giants who returned to the Offensive/Defensive line the following season), and gave me about 40 minutes of his time answering every question I had.

    Surgery is scheduled for 12/15 - and I am not returning to work until 1/3/12 (minimum) -- and that's if I feel OK, if not will take another week off or just work from home.

    Getting nervous as the day approaches, and it seems that it's all I think about.

  • Hi Ken,
    I was just wondering how your surgery went, and how you are feeling? Hope you're having a great outcome.
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