A Stronger Neck With ACDF Surgery

People with chronic neck pain due to a degenerative or herniated disc may benefit from cervical spinal fusion surgery. One of the more popular techniques is anterior cervical discectomy and fusion (ACDF), a 2-part procedure. Patients can now receive ACDF surgery using minimally invasive techniques. The first part of the procedure involves removing part or all the damaged discs. Next, a bone graft is installed in the space between the vertebrae. Rods and screws hold the neck in place. Over time, the bones fuse to create a solid piece, alleviating pain.

mackinaw surgery center 3 Helpful Exercises After ACDF Navigating Cervical Spinal Fusion Recovery.jpg

Exercise is key to recovery

Undergoing ACDF surgery is just the start. The patient must then go through a recovery period of 6-8 weeks. During that time, the patient will receive specific exercises to strengthen the neck muscles and improve flexibility. Training is vital to recovery, as studies show that exercise reduces pain long-term and improves the quality of life. Here are 3 activities that can be helpful when applied consistently during recovery.

1. Neck extension and flexion

A great post-op exercise for ACDF patients is neck extension and flexion, which can be done seated or standing. Keep the back upright and the shoulders square. Slowly lower the head until the chin touches the chest. Hold the position to feel a stretch in the back of the neck. For flexion, move the head in the opposite direction, looking up at the ceiling. Repeat each exercise as often as a doctor or physical therapist directed. Combining these exercises gives the neck strength and flexibility.

2. Diagonal neck stretch

To improve range of motion (ROM) which can be lost due to the fused vertebrae, diagonal neck stretches are essential. Adopt a sitting or standing position with the back straight. Rotate the head upward at a 45-degree angle. Use 2-3 fingers to add tension to the neck by pressing on the chin. Next, look down and away over the opposite shoulder. Use 2-3 fingers again to press on the opposite side of the chin. Hold each position for at least 15 seconds.

3. Shoulder shrugs

The muscles in the shoulders support the neck and head. After ACDF surgery, patients must strengthen these muscles. Shoulder shrugs are one of the easiest ways to increase the size and strength of the shoulders. Always keep the back straight and shoulders square during the exercise. Slowly bring both shoulders to the ears in a shrugging motion. Hold the shoulders at the movement’s peak for a few seconds, then release. This exercise can be done with light weights to improve the intensity.

A pain-free neck

People who undergo spinal fusion surgery have a new lease on life. The damaged disc is removed, and the bones form a stronger, stable piece. However, the surgery is most successful with consistent physical therapy and exercise. Even after resuming normal activities, neck and shoulder exercises are essential to ensure the patient has a robust and pain-free neck.