While all patients are different in terms of recovery, if you have two level cervical surgery with a plate, when can you realisticly go back to a desk job?? I have had people say that even when the doctor says its ok to go back, that they are in agony after a full shift at work. The stress of working at a computer and not being able to rest like you would at home, is burdensome on the body.
Also, how long would someone need to be home with you after surgery to help you? would a week generally be enough?
I cannot speak for the rehabilitation timelines of other surgeons. My patients are in a collar for one week mainly to protect the incision and allow the muscles to “reset” to a longer neck. Surgery should restore disc height and the patient with a two level ACDF should gain 1/2 inch in height.
There is some posterior neck and shoulder pain from that gain in height. The facet capsules and retained annulus will be stretched after surgery to their predegenerative height and the stretch discomfort can be noted for anywhere from 2 days to 6 weeks. Most of the time, this is mild and tolerable. There is rarely any significant pain after surgery. Swallowing discomfort can be noted. If an iliac crest graft is used, there can be some discomfort at the graft site but surprisingly, it is rare to have significant pain at this site, even in the immediate post-operative period.
With rare exceptions, I allow my patients to go back to work at a sedentary job in one week without the collar. Some can go back to a full schedule and some choose to start back to work half-time and progress to full time in two to three weeks. I have all ACDF patients wear the collar when they sleep for six weeks.
Help at home is beneficial for one week but many patients live alone and do well by themselves if they prepare beforehand (meals, medications, etc..)