72 hours after 2-level ACDF--feeling really good and offering hope to others

I am a 48YO active, fit male who just had C4-6 ACDF surgery 72 hours ago. It was an urgent, quick decision because the NS said my spinal cord was badly compressed and needed immediate decompression. I learned my diagnosis on 7/15/16 and had the surgery on 7/28/16 after consultation with one NS who instilled a high degree of confidence in me without being cocky about it.

I was home from the hospital after an overnight stay and no complications. Swallowing difficult (soft foods only right now) but that was as predicted. I had prepared myself for worse pain but it is quite bearable and I did not (and do not plan to) fill the Rx for narcotics that I was given. Tylenol is working just fine as needed right now. Being upright and moving is far more comfortable than laying down and trying to find a workable sleeping position for the time being. I did not have much pain pre-op, but degenerating balance and fine motor skills issues, which seem resolved. I am literally feeling stronger/better with each hour. Basically, my restrictions in the short term are not to do anything stupid movement-wise, no driving, and to wear the brace unless I am showering or sleeping. Yesterday I walked 5 miles (broken up into 3 walks) and plan on doing the same again today. I plan on working from home within a day or two.

One week ago I was a mental basket case reading some of the fearful outcomes I read on these message boards and elsewhere online. I have two pieces of advice for anyone contemplating a similar surgery:

1) Be very aware that ANY online message board or forum for ANY medical condition is UNDER-REPRESENTED in terms of people who have good outcomes. By that I mean take everything you read with a grain of salt--the people who have good outcomes generally don't sit around posting on health forums. They are out enjoying life and recovering from successful procedures. There are PLENTY of good, positive outcomes that you don't read about because they never get written.

 2) When reading about people's personal experiences with surgeries, try to find descriptions of people whose lifestyle most closely matches yours. In retrospect, I am finding that my own post-op experiences more closely match the ones I read about from other fit, active males in middle age. Most of the others only served to scare/worry me--they were not relevant to what I was going through, and had no bearing on mentally preparing me for surgery.

Hope this helps--best of luck--use your research time online wisely and smartly! Preparation is good, but too much Dr. Google can lead to unneeded stress.



  • Congrats on your recovery!
  • Glad to hear your surgery went well. I didn't take any painkillers after ACDF either.  I'm having shoulder surgery tomorrow and that's the one I'm worried about pain.
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  • Hi Tim, I was reading your pre op posts and MRI. I'm so glad it's over and done for you. We live in same area and are blessed with great doctors and nurses.
  • Thanks Kimmy, Jogger, Spiney & Helen. Appreciate your thoughts & kindness. Sending good vibes your way for the shoulder op, Spiney.

  • Bruce EitmanBruce Eitman Akron, OH, USAPosts: 1,340

    Thanks for the update.  I am so glad that recovery is going well.  Mine went will also.

    I look forward to hearing more from you.
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  • Day 5 post-op update:

    Continue on an upward recovery arc. Days 2,3,4 I walked 5 miles daily, broken up into several walks, generally at a 15 min/mile pace at a cadence of about 130 steps/minute. Planning to back off a bit today, at least pace wise. Rain in forecast & I think I can benefit from a milder rest day.

    Trying to focus on things I can control: Exercise, diet & rest.

    Added a gentle stretching routine today, hardly at my usual level of stretching but gentle non-neck and non-bending stretches. It was blissful to make an espresso, put on some jazz, and just gently stretch this morning without a to-do list or agenda for the day. I am generally a high-strung person and will benefit from this.

    I generally eat well and am trying to get back to my usual routine of a night meal consisting of lean proteins (fish & chicken) with fresh, in-season greens. During the day I like to eat lighter and more often, largely yogurt, fruits, nuts, peanut butter and fruit juices. Swallowing is coming back but I still need sips of water with most every bite to get down something like haddock & spinach. Have not yet tried the nuts & peanut butter. Bowel movements not quite as regular as I'd like but improving. I am giving up one of my passions & vices--craft beer--to help assist with fusion. Two years ago I broke a foot while running, sat around and drank more than a few beers every night, and believe it was a chief reason for delayed union (when I stopped the fusion improved). I just ordered $60 worth of specialty teas online; that will be my new "vice" while trying to achieve fusion.

    Sleep has been greatly improved last 2 nights, still not perfect (uncomfortable to find good position at first) and will sometimes awaken with post-nasal drip than gives me mild coughing & snorting. Have switched from back to side sleeping; this helps the drip but leaves me a bit shoulder-sore in a.m. I feel definitely better walking around during the day than first thing in the morning or right before bedtime at night. Feel no need to nap during day.

    The hospital called to check in and the nurse said she was astounded at my level of activity & rate of recovery, and for this I feel blessed.

    Only problem post-op that did not exist before is left shoulder weakness. As soon as I woke up from surgery, I had trouble lifting my arm and holding it out in front of me or out to the side. NS said he was not surprised--when he opened me up my compression/stenosis was so bad that he had to really move & tease the nerves into freedom. He believes they are quite irritated right now, but said I should expect this to resolve anywhere between 2 months to a year. He estimated that nerve damage like this is capable of repairing at about 1 mm/day, so however mm it is from C4-5-6 to my shoulder muscles (which are sore but not painful) that is how long he expects the healing to be.

    I am still on Tylenol (did not fill the narcotics Rx) but weaning off it gradually.

    It is excruciating to watch a hired kid walk my black lab when I feel pretty capable of doing so (per wife's orders on this one, at least for remainder of week).

    I am probably capable of working from home starting today, but not quite mentally ready for the rigors of on-deadline journalism. I have been blessed with family friends either coming by and/or communicating daily, and today my wife is back to work and I am really just looking forward to sitting on the porch and cracking into all the library books I ordered prior to the surgery.

    I hope these missives Iare inspring to others who are preparing for or going through surgery/recovery. Not as scary as I had mentally budgeted for. Sunnier days ahead!

  • God Bless You ! You are an inspiration to us all with your continued upbeat post ! I really enjoy reading them! One thing you said is no beer - Is it true that "beer" can hinder fusion ? Or was this something you felt delayed the healing process of your last injury ? Im curious because per-surgery, I stopped drinking completely for about a month to prepare my body for the upcoming surgery. I only drink socially few beers- "Coors Lite" - this is something that I would eliminate completely until my fusion is complete !

      You know summer time is here and BBQ's are on the agenda. What goes better  on a hot day than a cold beer ? What kind of teas did you but to help in your process of healing ?


  • Tim_from_BostonTTim_from_Boston BostonPosts: 22
    edited 08/02/2016 - 1:24 PM
    The "no beer" seemed to help me. Then again, I used to be a fairly heavy drinker and benefitted from cutting back regardless of trying to achieve a fusion.  I read plenty of online evidence in support of cutting out alcohol, but I don't think it is on par harm-wise with smoking tobacco (which I don't do) when you are trying to achieve a fusion. The teas I bought are more for taste than fusion help, although I found licorice root was good for my sore throat and I expect the camomile buds will benefit relaxation before bedtime. My other vice is recreationally vaporizing (not smoking) cannabis, which I am also putting on hold for the time being. Seems to be very little (and conflicting) evidence out there in terms of what vaped cannabis will do to a fusion; not worth the risk for me right now as I try to recover, so I don't mind that vice on hold.
  • Bruce EitmanBruce Eitman Akron, OH, USAPosts: 1,340
    I don't think that it is beer so much as alcohol.  I think that alcohol in excess has been shown to deter bone growth.  The verdict on moderate alcohol seems undetermined - so probably better safe than sorry while fusing.
  • Thanks Bruce ...Not that I indulge all that much but I want this fusion to be successful....just checking !

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