Sacroiliac Joint Fusion Recovery

Question: What are the instructions after surgery with regards to bearing weight and length of recovery from a sacroiliac joint fusion?

What are the instructions after surgery with regards to bearing weight? How long and difficult is the recovery from a SI joint fusion? I have two small children and will need to be able to pick them up and hold them. I also would like to know when I can return to work. I have a desk job, and when I can do moderate workouts and take long walks again.

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Doctor’s Response: It depends on whether your surgeon approached your sacroiliac joint laterally or posteriorly.

Your instructions after surgery, as far as bearing weight, depend on really one factor. That is whether your surgeon approached your sacroiliac joint from the lateral aspect through the buttock, or directly through a midline incision posteriorly, or directly over the sacroiliac joint.

With the posterior approach, weight-bearing is usually full and immediate right after surgery. If you have a lateral approach, then weight-bearing is usually limited for anywhere from six to twelve weeks, depending on your surgeon’s preference and experience. On average, successful sacroiliac joint fusions with the posterior approach return to work at about the three-month period. A desk job is actually the worst job because it requires sitting. With sacroiliac joint fusion, sitting is the last comfortable position that one can get back to. Frequently, what I do is I have patients discuss with their employer about raising their work station to elbow-height, so that they could stand and work, and then sit down a few minutes each hour to rest. This seems to work very well. Moderate workouts would not be allowed for at least twelve weeks, and long walks would be expected to start right after surgery; but, the requirement would be that you take short strides. Long strides tend to rotate the pelvis, so short strides are better.

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In Spine-health’s Doctor Advice section, physicians respond to frequently asked questions about back pain issues. These responses represent the opinion of one physician, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the broader medical community. The advice presented has not been peer reviewed by Spine-health’s medical advisory board.