Life After ACDF Surgery: What To Expect

Fitness, neck pain or woman gymnast with injury after exercise, training or workout accident emergency. Hand closeup, sports athlete or back of injured girl with muscle inflammation in gymnastics Anterior cervical decompression and fusion (ACDF) surgery is a spinal procedure to relieve pressure on the spinal cord for patients experiencing pain from spinal conditions such as pinched nerves, bone spurs, or herniated discs. It is typically performed when all other non-surgical solutions are insufficient for reducing symptoms.

After your procedure, it’s vital to ensure you follow all aftercare instructions to ensure your body heals properly. Learn more about what to expect following ACDF surgery and some tips that can help you make a strong and healthy recovery.

What Restrictions Will You Have After ACDF Surgery?

Since the procedure is at the top of your spine, at the back of your neck, there are some restrictions you must adhere to to prevent straining and ensure the surgical site heals fully. These include:

Mobility of the Neck

ACDF surgery involves fusing together two or more vertebrae, which means some spine flexibility loss. For every fused vertebrae, a person loses about five to 10 percent of bending ability. However, most patients lack flexibility in the spine before their procedure due to the pain of their previous condition. This is a permanent restriction, but many patients do not notice the change.


If you have a neck collar after your procedure, you will be able to drive once it is removed. Without the collar, you likely cannot drive for about two to three weeks as you may struggle to rotate your neck fully.

Exercise & Activity

For the first two weeks after your procedure, you cannot lift more than five pounds. As you get back into exercise, start with low-impact cardio and slowly work your way back into lifting heavier weights.

Tips for Proper Recovery

As with any procedure, following your doctor’s instructions is important. These tips can also help to ensure your recovery goes smoothly:

  • Ensure you get at least seven hours of sleep and rest periodically throughout the day.
  • Once your doctor approves it, get back into physical activity slowly.
  • Eat a balanced diet.
  • Follow your physical therapy exercises.

Schedule a Consultation

Whether you have already had ACDF surgery or are considering it, you can speak with renowned New York City Spine Surgeon Dr. Todd J. Albert to learn more. Call (202) 606-1004 or request an appointment online.

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