It's been 16 weeks since my single-level L5/S1 fusion and everything is starting to look good.
The worst thing is still getting up in the morning, or after a long nap - definite stiffness and pain in my lower back. This usually eases up within 1-2 hours with no help from pain meds.
Besides that, I do have some minor discomfort and pain in my lower back throughout the day, but it is not too bad. Walking and doing my stretches/exercises does not seem to aggravate it very much anymore. I had pain and tingling going down my legs every day, but that has been mostly gone for the past 2 weeks. I am still taking some pain meds, but I think I'll cut back a little more and see what happens.
I still do walking and my exercises every day.
This timing is right in line with what my surgeon told me at my 3 month follow-up: I should expect more pain for the first several weeks of doing my prescribed exercises, but within a month from that appointment, I would definitely feel better (he is not having me do formal PT). It's been 3 weeks since that appointment, and I've definitely been feeling better for the past 3 days.
If I can pass on any words of wisdom they would be:
Be patient and follow your surgeon's directions to the letter. Spinal fusion is a tough surgery to recover from and it will take time. You will have periods where your recovery seems to plateau or even regress. It doesn't hurt to contact your doctor if this happens, but chances are things will get better over time.
The key seems to be not overdoing things - don't overdo your exercising, don't bend or twist until your doctor says it is okay and definitely don't lift more than the maximum weight allowed by your doctor. I know it is difficult to follow our restrictions, especially over a period of several months, but they are placed on us for a reason. Follow those instructions and there will be brighter days ahead.