ACDF Surgery Recovery Week 1

Well, I’ve made it through the first week. I had taken a few days off writing for the holidays, and mostly because there wasn’t a lot of change. More sitting. More sleeping. Hopefully some healing.

Spinal stenosis is hilarious.

Taking Inventory

The other night I was in bed. The house was quiet and for the first time in days, my husband and I were taking a second to decompress. He said, “How are you really doing?”

That’s a really good question.

My response, “I feel pretty good, but I wasn’t prepared for how mentally challenging this was going to be.”

Looking back on the last week, I can assure you that at the moments I thought I was feeling better, I was not feeling better. It took a solid six days for me to clear the anesethia from surgery. Until then, I was exhausted and foggy and incredibly introverted.

Once that lifted, which was probably on Christmas Eve, I knew for sure that I was better. And that is when things started to get infinitely more difficult, mentally.

By Christmas Eve evening, I was bored. I had plenty of things to do, I was just over all of them. My brain was finally firing on all cylinders and sitting around was not working for me. I read a bit. I watched TV. I colored. None of it was satisfying. All I wanted to do, was go to bed, but I wasn’t tired–because all I do is sit around. Thankfully we had a more active day on Christmas Day so I had things to do. Then the day after Christmas Day, I was able to keep busy around the house.

It’s just so limiting. Physically, I feel so much better than before surgery, but I have so many things I can’t yet do, so it makes me feel like I’m being lazy. It’s a real mental block, especially because I’m not yet supposed to be lifting even a gallon of milk.

Surgerical Challenges

So, the minute I woke up from surgery, I knew there was an issue with my thumb. It was the sensation of numbness in very specific parts of my left thumb. At first, it felt like I had a paper cut and the nerve endings were all screwed up. As the days have gone on, it’s just gotten numb. I can’t feel it at all in certain areas. It’s a very strange sensation when water runs over it or I pick at it.

Once I got home, I noticed that it wasn’t always just my thumb. By the end of the day, My wrists felt as if carpal tunnel was taking over, and that is nothing something I had issues with before surgery. They were tingly. It was hard to grab items, especially those with any weight.

I tried icing them. I tried taking the gabapentin. I cried about it–because that’s useful.

On Christmas Eve, I realized that if I stretched my wrists backward and did some median and ulnar nerve glides, I could alleviate some of the pain. So, since then, this has improved. It’s not better–that’s for sure, but it’s better than it was five days ago. It makes it easier to type. I was definitely worried about how I was going to work this week. Oh, and while I considered that this is just surgical swelling, I can’t take anti-inflamatories right now, so there wasn’t a chance to check that theory.

I kept worrying about the wrist pain, but I had a friend who said my nerves have been compressed for a while. The doctor just opened up the super highway and now my body has to figure out all the routes again. She said there was a lot that needed to be done and I need to give my body time to figure this out. So I stopped panicking that this could be forever and figured that if the doctor can free my spinal cord from the clutches of a herniated disc, he could fix this random wrist pain.


I really haven’t needed pain medication since surgery. I did take the gabapentin for the nerve pain in my wrists but it didn’t make much of a difference. A few nights ago, I took some Robaxin because my shoulder muscles are tight from being stuck in the same position. But really, this is the least amount of medication I’ve taken in months. Whether because of that, or because of the fact that I’m not nearly as active as usual, I’m not sleeping well.

Even if I’m awake all day, I’m still up until 2-3 a.m. I’m sure a lot of this is because I can’t sleep on my stomach. The one night I slept on my back I snored so much that I got a sore throat. I just can’t get comfortable.

I’ve written about my sleep issues before. Nothing new. I sleep horribly on a regular basis. It’s very, very possible that now is the time to restart my sleep medication that I haven’t taken in a while. The pain meds were making me tired enough. Maybe now, I just need help again. I still have to figure this out. But I need to figure it out before my friend who works midnights gets to her days off because then I won’t have entertainment.


There is so much to write under the heading. I anticipated the worst going into surgery, but God truly provided the peace I had prayed for. This really needs to be its own post, and once I mentally unpack it, I think it will be. But that doesn’t mean that my anxiety has completely shut down.

I have had moments of anxiety. When I felt nauseated one evening. When I was randomly sweating (I think this is an anesethia side effect for me). But none of bad as Christmas Day. We came home from my parents and I had a headache. I’m only able to take Tylenol, which doesn’t seem to kick in very quickly for me. As I laid on the chair, just waiting for the sweet, sweet relief, I suddenly felt like the brace was the problem. If I could just take it off. If I could just move my chin. If I could just—then it started.

My ears hurt from the brace. I can’t breathe. I must have lazy lung left over from the surgery. Was that a wheeze? What if this headache is a blood clot? I think I need heat on my head. This brace is too tight.

My brain

I finally decided that the best course of action was a Xanax and bed. I woke up the next day and felt better, well, as good as you can feel in ACDF recovery.

The anxiety pops up throughout the day. We’ll just keep chugging through.