In the waiting, post surgery

I had bilateral surgery 6 days ago with Dr. Hackman. Like all of you this has been a long, awful journey. I have tried so many medications, therapies, injections, and surgeries. All with the preface it takes time to see results. In my common sense, this has to be it! But I didn’t wake up with any changes and I’m scared. Anxiety levels have been off the charts (wondering if swelling is making it worse). Feels more like panic. I’m always wondering what my next step is and I feel like I don’t have one, also scary. Does anyone have any tips or tricks in the waiting, waiting to see changes? I know that it can take time —but I’ve been told that so many times that I’m untrusting of the process.


I’m so sorry you’re feeling scared and anxious. I do think it comes with the territory… Bilateral surgery is extremely hard and especially the way Dr. Hackman goes in by the ear, for me at least pretty painful. Not sure what symptoms you were having prior, but it is a tight tight area and throw on that swelling from a somewhat invasive surgery… And it’s going to take a while for you to start seeing the positive improvements. I started having to really look at those improvements in micro levels. They were almost indistinguishable but then one day i noticed I can turn my head… which was huge and I was so grateful. But the swelling had to go down before I could do that. It’s five weeks out and I’m still a bit swollen, but definitely feel like I have a lot of healing to do.

If your anxiety is ramped up, certainly you could seek out some medication specifically nerve medication to tamp that down, as well as the nerve symptoms while you are healing. If you have not done a course of steroids, that may give you some relief as well as let you see what things look like when you aren’t swollen.

You are not alone in seeking help and putting a lot of eggs in a basket to try to get back some quality of life. Many of us have other things going on potentially because we’ve been dysfunctional for so long. For example, I am just now to the point where I can start stretching my poor, sad neck out. And that’s a simple as bending my head over and letting gravity give me a little traction. But I couldn’t do that for eight months and then prior to that I couldn’t turn my head to the left and I had a significant dysfunction on my left side. And I only had one side done.

While recovering from this, I was in awe of folks who had two sides done at the same time. That is a significant and challenging surgery that you went through. I encourage you to give yourself the grace and the time to heal and expect that it’s going to take more time and more patience than you ever wanted to put into this.

Hoping for you ))). Hold on, it gets better!


Did you have classic Eagles (nerve symptoms)? The folks who have vascular Eagles can have immediate relief… but for those with Classic or combo, imagine those nerves have been irritated (for years?) and take a long time to heal. While the offending structures have been removed, the compression from swelling in addition to the typical nerve recovery time adds a fair bit to the process.

I started noticing reduction in brain fog and increase in energy and ability to do things (home stuff, organizing cooking) … rather quickly… like in 2 weeks.

But I am taking 300 mg of gabapentin 3 times a day as well as ibuprofren. The gabapentin has been very helpful for me, but can’t wait until I don’t need it. It has it’s range of side effects and I’m typically on the rare side of the range, as well as I expect to have to reduce slowly (meeting with GP tomorrow to plan that). So I do recommend for nerve symptoms if you can tolerate the side effects. For me it causes ridiculous bloating which I’ve questioned whether that in itself made my incision sites more tender (adding bloating to swelling) … The swelling is mostly gone now and am watching what I think is trigeminal nerve irritation on surgery side … which again has gone down significantly… as well as skull base pain, which has also lessened.

Another thing to try depending on your pain, lidocaine patches have been wonderful. My jaw was very sore, so I cut the patch and put on my face on the edge of the incision. Used a piece as well on the back of my neck for skull base pain. Lidocaine would be the easiest to try.


Its hard to give the surgery time to show results. From all the feedback we have gotten, it seems like it does take awhile as Leah says. Hang in there and try to rest and give your body time to heal. You have a lot of people on here thinking of you, praying for you, and wishing u the best.


@JSwing - Pain causes anxiety plus the vagus nerve is almost always irritated by ES & thus the post op swelling will be making it even more annoyed. The vagus nerve is the control center for anxiety (among many other things) so that could help to explain your heightened anxiety. As @Leah suggested, a course of Prednisone post op has been very helpful for many of our members, including me. It’s usually a tapering dose that lasts for 10-14 days. A number of Dr. Hackman’s patients have asked for it post op. It is a powerful anti-inflammatory.

As you’ve read, patience is key w/ recovery from ES surgery even for those who’ve only had unilateral surgery. I had symptoms that took a year to fully resolve though most of mine were gone or nearly so by 6 mos. post op. When you’ve had both sides done at once, the initial recovery is much harder so the first month you may not feel a lot of positive changes, and as Leah noted based on her experience, the changes can come on gradually. Look for little changes as they will become big improvements over time.

In case you don’t have this information, sleep & rest w/ significant head elevation (~30º) for at least the first couple of weeks post op. Some people have found a U or V shaped pillow is helpful, too, to support the neck. Ice your neck frequently over the day & night (15-20 min. on & 45 min off using a thin towel or washcloth between the ice pack & your skin). Gel packs work the best because they conform to your neck shape more easily. Also, if you’re taking Rx pain meds, you will likely need a stool softener & laxative on a daily basis to keep your “plumbing” flowing freely.


Bless you for the reponses. I woke up last night with anxiety and then have cried most of the day. I know that there is still swelling. Swelling gives me hope that there can be improvement. I tried gabapentin when all this started and didn’t feel a difference, maybe I should try again, I just want to get off all these medications. I have written down literally all things that could be wrong with me and this has to be it, I just have to survive in the meantime. There has to be a reason for pain and twenty some other symptoms. I know my issue is structural, which means it can be fixed. Just so tired of the fight to get there. And I feel with anxiety like this—where it seems structural—there isn’t anything you can do.

I hope to come back and read this some day to remember how far I’ve come. I thank God for this forum and for the people who respond.


It is really hard to wait it out to see if symptoms improve, but with most surgeries there’s a period of feeling worse before you feel better, and as others have said , bilateral surgery is very tough, but at least you only have to go through this once!
It might not help, but we have had members come back on after a year saying that their pain has finally improved, so there is always hope and for you this is really early on still. And expect that healing can be up & down, so try not to panic if you do have worse days, it doesn’t mean the surgery hasn’t helped :hugs:
Praying for a successful outcome for you :pray:

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Anxiety is a beast! And it always makes things look worse at night. Do you have the opportunity to watch or listen to something mindless at night when you wake up? Or listen to a bedtime story (have ones for adults on youtube and as podcasts…) I did subscribe to Audible as well for a few months as I thought having something mostly mindless to listen to would help. One I like on Audible is a podcast called 'Nothing Much Happens" which are slow, gentle bedtime stories … where nothing much happens :hugs:

I was also waking up at night and wondering if this was going to get better … and I’m 5 weeks out and it already has. ))).

Regarding Gabapentin, I took it years ago and it did nothing for me … but I ‘think’ perhaps I didn’t have nerve pain then … OR I wasn’t taking enough. It might be worth a try again and see if it helps or let your Dr. know how poorly you are feeling and perhaps they would have another recommendation.

For me, I had to learn long ago not to trust my night time ruminations. It helped me get control of them, once I decided to let it go and look at (whatever it was) it in the morning. Know that you’ve got/need weeks for your body to heal. Try to let it do the work and give your brain a rest ))).
One day at a time :hugs:


If the anxiety is structural, meaning vagus nerve is irritated, I would send a note to Dr. Hackman and tell him how you are feeling (or your primary care… whoever can prescribe Gabapentin or the like)… No sense in suffering and you need your sleep.


I was sent home from surgery with pain meds plus a small amount of Ambien for sleep. Maybe ask for some sleep meds (temporary) to help with the nighttime anxiety and to get some rest.
Wish you the best. :heart:
I hear you, I was crying in the pre-op room. They must have thought I was nuts. I was soooo grateful to finally be getting the surgery. I didn’t think I could take the wait anymore. It had been 5-6 years of trying to find out what was going on plus there was a surgery scheduling mess up and mine got pushed out at the last minute. Very hard to deal with. We are already stressed out from literal head pressure.
:sunflower: :bouquet: :rose: