Well, I am 3 weeks out from my C4/5 and C5/6 ACDF (donor bone, Atlantis plate, no collar), and I am cautiously optimistic.
The horrendous muscle spasms have passed, and are now more infrequent and more tolerable. I went into the office on Monday and Wednesday, and relax, work remotely the rest of the days. Still no driving. I do notice that even riding as a passenger jiggles things around to the point of discomfort.
I have some kind of throat/sinus thing going on -- swollen gland, irritated throat, congested ear -- ENT put me on an antibiotic, so hope that works soon.
Sleeping is still the most difficult thing. I use a soft collar and cervical pillow to help limit my movement at night, but usually have some pretty bad spasms going by about 4 or 5 am. If I get back to sleep, I feel like a truck ran over me when I do get up. Still, it is improving.
I do notice that what pain I do have is different than the pain I had before surgery. Now it is centered mostly at the base of the neck and in the shoulders\trapezius. I am hopeful that time and PT will get rid of this.
2 weeks to my 1st post-operative appointment -- and hopefully clearance to drive. If I have to be driven once more by my wife or son, I will expire from a stroke or cardiac arrest, and the neck will be a moot point.
Hi Jeff, glad to hear some things are getting better. It looks like I might go in for my surgery on the 28th of March...Still not 100% sure this is the route I want to go. Just curious, are you allowed to move your neck from side to side, and up and down? If so, how much range of motion have you lost? I am not in acute pain now, and that is what is holding me back from doing this surgery. I am so worried that the pain I will feel after this surgery will be so intense that I won't be able to take it. I am a big baby...lol I am so confused as to what to do.
I am not supposed to move it to any extremes in any direction -- left, right, up, down. Of course, I kind of test this out. ;-) Accounting for the stiffness that will go away once I get some PT and clearance to do some things, I really don't think that the limitation of motion will be significant. Probably most difficult to look back over my shoulder, but I couldn't do that well before the surgery!
I understand your reticence -- I was not in excruciating pain, but had constant spasms, numbness and weakness, and beginnings of problems with my gait. Very individual decision to have surgery or not. It has really not been that bad -- except for not driving!
Thought I'd check in to see how you're doing, and sure enough you posted a 3 week update! You might recall that I had ACDF the same day as you. Mine was 3 level c4/5/6/7 discectomy with removal of bone spurs, donor bone grafts and fusion with titanium plate.
I had my 3 week post-op appointment yesterday. Dr. had me get one x-ray the day before to bring with to the appt. It was kind of freaky seeing the plates with four of the eight "ridgy" screws clearly defined on the x-ray. When he put it up on the board it was so nice to hear him whisper "perfect" as he admired his work! I was pleasantly surprised to see that during surgery he also corrected my cervical lordosis, giving me a nice normal looking curve; if only he had trimmed a chin off the front, I'd have been really impressed!
I still have to wear the collar (CervMax) and bone stimulator 24/7 except during showers for another 3 weeks. Truthfully though, I'm used to it and feel better with the collar on than with it off. It is because of the collar though that I can only sleep on my back, which is very annoying, but I sleep pretty soundly for 6+ hours a night. I haven't had spasms since the 3rd night, but like you still have enough pain (particularly at the base of my neck) here and there to warrant pain meds. I still take flexeril and vicodin though have reduced the vicodin significantly.
I know what you mean about driving with your son & wife...for me, the ride from the hospital the day after surgery was soooo very painful, that I waited until I absolutely had to to get back in the car, so I've only been out twice and both times with my husband driving, I resorted to shutting my eyes rather than go into full panic mode.
At 6 weeks post-op, dr wants me to do physical therapy 3x week for 6 weeks, continue to wear the collar after 6 wks when doing anything strenuous, and then see him at 3 months post-op. He said that 3 weeks is too soon to determine fusion, but that the 3 month x-ray will show blurring demonstrating fusion. He was really happy with my progress which felt great.
I can't believe how good the incision looks; just a thin red line with barely any bumps. He used glue rather than stitches, but not knowing much about typical surgical practices I suppose that's standard. I'm just really happy I had this surgery and thrilled that all my arm pain and tingling is completely gone! I won't be able to tell if the strength has returned 100% to my right arm though until I'm able to lift weights again in order to compare with my left (prior to surgery I could only do 1/3 the number of repetitions with my right arm as with my left - something I first noticed on Jan 2nd and what convinced me to go ahead with surgery).
So there's my update. I think its great that you feel up to going back to work a couple of days a week and hope you continue to feel better
Debbie -- Great to see that you are doing so well! To be honest, I would probably have preferred it if my NS had prescribed a collar, as it is difficult to remember not to move your neck to extremes as things begin to feel better and I start moving around. My 1st post op appointment is in 13 days, at the 5 week mark, before which I have to have flexion/extension Xrays. Those should be a challenge, as I have been told not to flex or extend very much to date!
I am off the Vicodin, but take the Flexeril religiously. I'll be interested, to say the least, to see what my fusion status is.
Glad to hear that everyone is doing well and starting to feel better. You may still have some bumps in the road ahead, but don't let that get you discouraged if it happens.
Jeff, I didn't wear a collar, either. From posts here, I think there are probably pros and cons to both approaches - collar vs. no-collar.
Debbie, it was definitely weird seeing the screws in the xray. I believe my comment was something like, "Holy cr*p!"
Theresa, you could not possibly be a bigger baby than me. Don't let fear of surgery keep you from taking steps to getting better. (I did, and it was a mistake) The longer damage to your nerves goes on, the longer they will take to heal. There is also higher likelihood of permanent damage. Just keep doing what you've been doing - learn as much as you can about the surgery itself, pester your surgeon (or a PA or a nurse) with questions, and try to envision yourself feeling better.
Thanks ember for the well wishes and your good advice to be prepared for more bumps on the road to recovery. That's what makes this such a great community - that people are so willing to share their own experiences so others can learn from them.
Best of luck Jeff with your flexion/extension x-rays; I've not heard of those before and am looking forward to learning more about them (google to the rescue.)
I've really learned alot from this board. When I presented the x-ray prescription to the technician, she was really surprised that my dr only wanted this one x-ray, but reading through posts here suggesting concern about radiation and knowing that several x-rays were taken during the procedure, I guess that might explain it. I know I was very fortunate to have had my ACDF performed by one of the best neurosurgeons there is so I wouldn't second guess him, but it sure is nice to be able to come here and learn so much more about different experiences and instructions. I don't know what I would do without the internet - and can't imagine how we managed to get by in life before it existed!
Best wishes for continued progress and health Jeff! How long do you think it will be before your out on the golf course? My dr said to forget the idea of jet skiing this year, but maybe next summer.