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Could you please tell me something good about your fusion

AnonymousUserAAnonymousUser Posts: 49,899
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:26 AM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
I know this might sound silly, but I would really like to hear how a fusion has helped you because it seems as though there are a lot of negative responses to it and it just might be because people tend to write when they have a problem going on, me included, but don't write when things are going good, so I thought it would be a good idea if those of you who are past the beginning of recovery, could help us who are new in recovery, see down the road a bit through your experience.


  • Hi Kim....sure there are lots of successful fusion surgeries out there - please see the following forum:


    In my case I am now back-pain free after a laminectomy and fusion 2 years ago. It took a a lot of PT rehab, commitment to exercising and continual positive thinking, and my recovery was not without problems - I had a major hardware issue and had my hardware removed after 7 months. But, there is certainly light at the end of the tunnel for most of us.

    Biggest thing is that recovery takes longer than most of us ever imagined. I did not start feeling much better until about 9 months. At a year I was feeling really good and now at 2 years I am still feeling really good. I would never say 100% normal as I can still have sore back days if I overdo things but in my normal day to day life I have no back pain.

    I see that your surgery was a little over 2 months ago, which is still considered quite early in the recovery phase.
    Keep positive!


    ...an old timer here and ex-moderator

  • HiKim,

    It IS hard wading through all of us here, having problems and pain while you're in the healing process! Having a longer than normal surgery and recovery process I can tell you that it was hard for me to count my blessing for a long time.

    I know now that my spinal cord problems will not continue. I can still walk and don't poo my pants! I know it sounds silly but I was on the downhil slope for a long time and now have some faith that my issues will not continue to accelerate.

    So many people who start on this board stop coming when they feel better. They get on with their lives, never to be heard from again. We, the ones 2 years down the road who continue to suffer, are NOT the majority.

    Keep doing what the doc tells you and walk, walk, walk! You'll have this behind you before you know it.

  • Good Morning Kim,

    AHHhhhh, you have started an excellent topic. I will be following it closely. I have not had spinal surgery, but may need to in the future.


  • I was just talking to my husband yesterday about this very thing. All of these horror stories about failing this and failing that, it can be intimidating for those of us (including me almost four weeks out) who are so early in the process. It is a great sight for all things good or bad, a place to vent or to have someone relate so we dont feel alone in the process or progress. It seems the holidays have taken their toll on a lot of people as well as cold weather. I was going to post the same thread yesterday, but never did and now here it is posted by you. Thanks for posting and I too will be checking in on it to see how other people have done and how positive this surgery can actually be with time under the belt.
  • As Bruce said, its hard to imagine how long it takes to recover from a spinal fusion, but you do recover. I spent a year after my surgery in pain, depressed, and still having my life compromised. I thought I was one of those failed back syndrome. I was so use to being in pain prior to the surgery that I thought after the surgery I'd wake up pain free and be able to do all the things I could do prior to surgery. A spinal fusion stops you from further damaging your back but its not a "magic bullet". You still have to do the hard work to get your life back. It took me 13 months to realize this. Once I knew my spine was solid and I couldn't blame that for my life, I took control. I pushed myself, pushing through the pain until I have no pain. I walk 4 miles a day now and there is nothing I can't do.

    Emergency surgery in March of 2006 for spinal infection of L 2 and L 3. During surgery, discovered I had Cauda Equina Syndrome. Spine became unstable after surgery and had 360 fusion with 10 pedicle screws, plates and rods in April of 2007.
  • Great replies by Bruce, Dick & others re the ups/downs of recovery from a fusion. At 11 months now, things ARE better in some ways, worse/neutral in others...things come & go, flare up & abate...but as my NS said, fusion is "salvage surgery"--the last resort--and to figure 2 years for total recovery & to expect some lingering pain, etc...once I know (as Dick said) that it's safe to "push" myself (I see my NS in January) I certainly will, as I want to regain as much of my former mobility & flexibility as I can w/o doing damage, of course. So next month's x-rays MAY give me "permission" to increase my activity, etc.

    Meantime, Kim, get your rest & settle in for a long ride--do what your doc says, take your meds & other palatives & go w/ the flow of your recovery. I've had to "re-frame" a lot of my expectations & that has also helped w/ the acceptance issues. No more Yoga, but longer walks! Can't lift my granddaughter, but spend hours reading to her, playing gentle games, swimming (in the summer) etc...you learn to focus on the present, do what you can do at the moment w/in the confines of whatever your pain level is & not ruminate on the memories of what was. Just takes TIME.

    Thanks for starting this thread! I, seriously, do love my fusion itself. It has straighted & strengthend my spine, allows me to walk better, stand taller & as it continues to heal, I'm sure there will be other noticeable benefits, as Dick & Bruce etc. have said. Just hang in there...you are a survivor of a miraculous procedure that 100 years ago would have been impossible. We CAN do this! :)

  • My 2-level cervical fusion was 11/17/2008 . . . cadaver bone, titanium plates and screws. I'm back to work full-time tomorrow. Haven't taken pain meds in weeks and I feel great!!! I no longer have left arm weakness and can fold clothes, and use my left arm without pain. I do not live in constant fear of another "pain flare" -- and that, of itself, ROCKS!!!!!!
  • Hi there. I personally consider my surgery a success. As you can see, I'm about two months out from a 3-lvl ACDF w/hardware (and a whopping 8 screws). I am still on pain meds and muscle relaxants, but my surgeon says the pain I have is normal and not to expect it to go away very soon. I have sharp pains in my neck and muscle spasms in my shoulder and back. I'm still wearing a soft collar and will be going through PT the end of January.

    Having said all that, I still consider my surgery a success because, although I have pain, I know it will go away in the not too distant future and I've regained the use of my left arm and no more tingling in my right arm.

    I think that things, at least for me, got harder before they'll get better, but my doc promised me he'd have me back on the golf course by April. That's 6 months out, so I'll be patient until then.

    Take care.

  • I am 9 days out and realized today that my left foot drop is totally resolved!!

  • I am 18 days post Laminectomy and PLIF with cage at L4/L5. I take one Tramadol and one Valium every 8 to 12 hours. I went to the health club Friday and walked the track for an hour. I went to the shopping mall yesterday. I think there is a tendency for people who are hurting badly to write more than people who are not. Think positive. For me: Tennis in July is my motto.
  • After my first fusion I had pain for a year and a half, no where near as bad as before though and then it went away. I had a good 5 years since then without pain unless I overdid it.

    My 17 year old daughter who just had her first surgery ever (not back) posed a similar question. I told her the people scouring the internet and posting are those with issues, continued pain, other general questions, not those that healed and are not totally recovered. They are out living!! Only a very small percentage hang around afterwards to help those coming behind them.

    Back pain is a little different as some of us expect a lifetime of issues so keep ourselves a little closer but in my daughter's case, a breast reduction, from a DD to a small C because she herninated her back and with 4 aunts and uncles diagnosed with DDD, since I just had my breast reduction (D to B) to hopefully help with future issues, we were acting proactively in her case. In her case I told her those happy with their new "girls" are off living, not hanging around a internet board since they are healed and had no problems.

    Success stories are out there!!
  • I didn't expect to see so many replies already, which is a pleasant surprised. I guess it wasn't so silly after all. It's true.....people who are feeling better don't tend to keep coming on these boards because their out living life. I'm guilty of that myself from a past surgery and a different board. Once I started feeling better, I stopped going on the board.......well, I think I'll go back to that board to possibly help someone else who's new in their recovery.
    Thanks, to those of you who have written in, hopefully there will be many more.

  • I am 6 weeks post lumbar fusion with ADR. I feel as if nothing has happened to me. I feel great, spent over 3 hours in a car yesterday and no problems. I had no back pain after riding and can't believe I went through so much pre-op. Way too many injections and pain pills, so glad I only need Lyrica for some slight nerve issue on my lower leg/foot. I am so happy I did it.
  • You are absolutely right Kim, most people who have successful fusion surgeries move on. But some of us stay, mostly to provide some balance to the overwhelmingly scary, and difficult accounts of post-fusion recovery. For me, fusion surgery allowed to lead a "normal" life once again. Prior to that, I experienced a lot of stiffness when first getting out of bed, but I attributed it to old age, But when I started having real bad sciatic type of pain after standing a minute or two, and then my foot, then my leg started getting numb, I reached out for medical help. MRI showed severe spinal stenosis and marked spondy, at that point my usually rather conservative OS told me that without surgery I may suffer irreversible damages, yet he gave a an about 85% success rate with surgery. I am happy to say that he was right. I am almost 8 months post surgery, and I am doing very well, but than I was fine from the beginning, to the point that my husband was always fighting with me because he thought I did too much too fast. I know that everybody is different, even the surgeons are different, so are the outcomes. I just wanted to be aware of the fact that many fusion surgeries have a good endings. I talked to another fusion patient of my OS, and she did equally well. The only advise I can give you, please select your surgeon with outmost care. It does not matter if you go with an OS or a NS, as long as he/she had extensive training in spinal surgery and had performed many of these successfully. Ask the doctors, the nurses, look up any info in medical reference books and in the internet.

    Best wishes,


  • Kim,

    Studies in the past several years show that spinal fusions are successful up to 95% of the time. Successful surgery does not always translate into 100% relief for patients, but those patients are still much better off than if they never had the procedure done.

    I am now 18 weeks post-op and I could tell the original pain was gone by the second week. I am still dealing with post-op issues, but am improving every day.

    Besides that, I now walk upright naturally, as opposed to leaning forward like I did for years.

    As I keep saying in my posts, the key is patience - things will get better, you just have to give it time. Maintaining a positive outlook also helps quite a bit, though this can be difficult at times.

    You've got a long recovery ahead, but I'm sure you will do fine. Good luck! :-))
  • WOW, this topic is really on a ROLL!! GREAT!!
  • Your concern is definitely normal and warranted given the circumstances. Since we all have different reasons for being on this website, we do share one common factor - pain. I had a PLIF for spondy (L5-S1)on December 4. Now, just a little over 3 weeks post op, I am starting to feel so much better. I had several bouts of sciatic pain in both legs, but it was the pain in the right hip that finally sent me to the table. That pain was gone immediately and has not surfaceds since. I do have some nerve pain in the left leg, but have been told that is normal after nerve decompression. Getting rid of the hip pain has made the surgery so worthwhile. I was tired of how it dictated what I did and for how long. I've got some healing still to do and getting back into shape, but all these are now possible with the pain being gone. Think long-term when calculating the benefits. I know that I couldn't have tolerated that pain much longer.

    Good luck to you and to other considering their options. :)
  • RangerRRanger on da rangePosts: 805
    Hey Kim,
    Great idea when you posted this new topic, this is what people need to hear.
    I had a multi-level fusion of C3 thru C6 with a lot of hardware. In a nutshell my options were if I didn't have the fusion I most likely would be in a wheelchair with a few other unmentionable problems. Now when I have slipped and fell on the ice I just get back up and laugh knowing I made the right decision for fusion. Oh yeah, due to my spinal condition I will be needing more fusions in the near future but I won't think twice about doing it again.
    Take care!
  • To paraphrase what several others have said on this thread....

    Fusion is not always a magic bullet and may not always provide miraculous results. Especially in severe cases, the fusion may not even significantly reduce current pain levels but it should stop the condition from worsening, which, in itself, is a significant reason for the surgery and benefit from such.

    Keeping a positive attitude AND being patient is extremely important in my view. At 3 weeks I was depressed after my fusion surgery and was sure that I had made a big mistake, but after finding this site and also getting a 'good telling off' from my wife I came to grips with learning patience and focusing on the long term. I changed my attitude 180 degrees and noticed an improvement in my general feeling and well being almost immediately.

    Even with my positive attitude, I was still in some pain at 12 months and was feeling that maybe I had failed back surgery syndrome. However, my surgeon insisted that he would not even consider such a case as mine as failed back surgery syndrome until 18 months to 2 years. Now at 2 years I am virtually pain free, so he was right :)

    I think that one of the big problems is that doctors don't really prepare us for just how long and arduous the recovery period can be. Many of us seem to think that we will be feeling 100% better within a few short months, but it just isn't like that for the vast majority of us - it takes much longer but eventually most of us get there.

    Finally, certainly the majority of patients leave such a forum as this once they are feeling better, and get on with their lives. Remember, there are literally hundreds of thousands of spine surgeries performed in the US alone, each year. The number of people posting here regarding failed surgeries, or with considerable ongoing pain after surgery, is really a small percentage of the total number of patients undergoing surgery - the vast majority of surgeries are successful.

    Keep positive!


    ...an old timer here and ex-moderator

  • I have to say that you are right Bruce. I am 15 months out from my first 2 level ACDF surgery and things are much better today than they were then. My second surgery was much more complex, another 2 level ACDF and a 3 level Laminectomy from c5 to c7, 4 months later. The second surgery has been more difficult to recover from, but things are moving slowly along, the doctors told me after my second surgery it would take another 12 to 18 months to start feeling improvement. I have not gotten worse, so that makes the second surgery a sucess. I know that I will never be 100 per cent again, but every day when I walk on my own, it reminds me that things would have been much worse if I had not had my surgeries done. I have also had to learn how to accept how long it may take to recover. Try to keep a good outlook on things. I am not around as much as I used to be, things are improving and getting busier in my life, but I do try to stop by when I can. Good luck and have to agree that this is a good post.

  • with a single level PLIF coming up next week, I'm glued to this edition
    ...thanks everybody, for taking the time to tell your story
  • 16 days Post Op and I'm feeling great!!!!! All of my pre surgery pain is gone and most of my surgery pain is gone and I haven't even had my first Post Op doctors appointment yet! I'm off of the Vicodin and Flexeril during the day, but I'm still having a little soreness by the time I go to bed so I'm still taking one Flexeril at bedtime. I've been able to do all my exercises and I've been walking as much as I can. I personally think walking really helps a lot so I would definitely recommend it to everyone. As for going back to work I think my doctor will still keep me off of work for 6 to 8 weeks (even though I'm doing so good), mainly because of the kind of work I do (heavy manual labor).
  • I am just a bit over a month out from what turned out to be two major surgeries to fuse my spine. So far, the best and very wonderful thing is I don't have that tremendous pain which I likened to a lightning bolt or a cattle prod that would shoot down my legs whenever I moved my back just a fraction of an inch in the wrong direction. Of course, now I have horrilbe nerve pain in my legs, I can't sit, and I can't stand still for very long, so things are a bit weird no matter how you look at it, but I hope all these things are temporary. I will do my best to let you all know that I am doing wonderfully when and if that happens.


    3 level spinal fusion, L3/4, L4/5, L5/S1, November 2008. Stiff, but I can walk.
  • I am better off now than before the 4 level PLIF. I still have problems but I am NOT on pain killers.

  • Doin great....The first 2 weeks were the worst for me. My post-op pain was worse than before surgery (but I wasn't in a lot of pain to start with). It gradually got better and I went back to work and decreased my pain meds. I had a setback when I flew on a plane for several hours at about 5 weeks. My neck hurt very badly after that, but only took a couple days to get back to the way it was. At my 8 week post-op appt, my NS was very pleased with my "textbook fusion".

    A couple days after the 8 week mark, it was like someone flipped a switch and ALL pain was gone. I'm not on any pain meds and it doesn't feel like I ever had anything done to my neck. I've been plowing my driveway with my ATV and even shovelling the front steps and I feel fine. I just had 2 two-hour plane trips and my neck didn't hurt at all. It's hard to not do everything I want to do, because I feel so good, but my doc says to give the fusion another month or so and I may even be able to go skiing/snowboarding by February!!! I will definitely be rafting and horseback riding next summer.
  • This is just an awesome post. I came on the site to post my update as the past four days have been a nightmare. Seeing this at the top of the list was a gift from God. I am sitting here with tears coming down. Thank you.

  • I'm overwhelmed with the responses here. I'm so happy that I asked this question and yet so many other people are also being blessed by it. It does offer a lot of encouragement and hope which is much needed when your in such pain and just can't see the light yet.
    Thank You so much, all of you who have written in........keep it coming!
  • One more success story :)

    I'm over 5 months out from a 2-level PLIF and YES, I was so busy living life that I've been awol from the site for quite awhile now - sorry.

    I no longer have the debilitating lightning pain that would flash down my left leg. I no longer have bladder issues (hooray!)

    I do still have a numb right leg and a constant back ache - but it's just that - an ache - not the blinding flash of agony whenever I moved wrong.

    If I still have the ache at 1-2 years out, THEN I will see how I feel.

    I do know that I'll be having another level done in the next 1 to 10 years, L3 is on it's way out. And I have ongoing ankle issues with an eventual fusion in the future - not a good thing for a bad back, but that's life.

    I'm just taking everything I can get right now - enjoying the reprieve and living as best I can #:S
  • Thanks to everyone for supporting Kim by posting here with your positive stories. As you can see it has also helped may other members - this is what makes spine-health.com so great!

    Happy New Year everyone!

    Keep positive!


    ...an old timer here and ex-moderator

  • dealt with arm pain for over 3 yrs. blamed my pain on rotator cuff. found out this july arm pain was my discs in my neck. after my x-ray and mri i found out i had DDD c4-5,herniation c3-4, stenosis, 2 bone spurs, with cord compression of 50%. surprise!!! surgery nov 13 acdf level 2 c3-5 with cadaver and hardware.
    this sounds bad so far right?? after my surgery and on my 7th week, my hands and feet got sensitivity back. my legs that hurt bad and felt wobbly after a days work stopped hurting. arm pain decreased by 95%. shoulders are a little stiff but once i get to work out again should change that. im walking without pain now getting back in shape. so the minor aches i have now are nothing compared to what i was dealing with. not taking muscle relaxers and ibuprofen any more. just tylenol. so to me it is great news. still going to take it easy until next appt. so just do what doc says and let them know how you feel. just relax and recover like me!
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