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Life after a fusion???

hope4leohhope4leo Posts: 200
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:34 AM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
To all of you spineys on here with the experience of lumbar fusions......What will life be like afterwards? I know everyone is different. We all heal different and so on- but will I ever be able to run again?? Will I ever get to work in my flower beds and do yard work? Those things are a part of who I was before my injury - I feel broken - and I am certainly looking forward to being sorta fixed. I know that my back will never be as God intended it to be - I realize that it will never be 100% ever again and I have truly embraced that fact!!

I am scheduled for a 2 level 360 lumbar fusion upon approval from the insurance- my NS said that it will be at least a 5 to 6 hour surgery - YIKES!!! However I do have SO much confidence in her and am comfortable that she is doing what is in the best interest of my health!

So what has your life been like after fusion??? I want to hear it all - the good - the bad and the ugly!



  • I am three weeks past my L5S1 fusion. So far it feels "heavy" in my back and the nerve in my right hip and leg is giving me fits.

    After reading here on Spine Health, I see that it takes a long time to get well from this kind of surgery.

    I had a fusion on my neck on C5-6 C6-7, on March 13th and I am still limited in my movements. But it has gotten better each month. I don't know how much I will end up loosing, but it is beter than the headaches that I was having before surgery.

    Wish you luck.

  • It varies by individual. It sounds like you have a good grip on things by saying that you know you will not be 100% again. That part is most likely correct.

    I am 2 weeks post-op. It's really hard to tell right now what my life will be like. I have gotten rid of the nerve pain, but still have lower back discomfort probably because my NS was not able to fix my spondy which I have had so long(30+ yrs). But he was able to fix/fuse the disk under L5. I too was a runner but have not run since 12/31/2008. I realize I will probably not be a long distance runner again, but I am able to ride my bike without making my back worse. I am looking forward to getting back on my bike again. Right now I am restricted, but I saw the PA today when I got my staples out and she said basically I can start riding a stationary bike whenever I feel like it. We had already decided that going out on the road this early would be foolish. As you will see from being on this board, the recovery time can be quite long. I am lucky that I was in very good physical shape before the surgery, so the recovery so far to me has not been a big deal. Trying to get the pain meds correct has been a bit of a hassle. Good luck wih your surgery. Another place I have found helpful is spineuniverse.com.
  • Well its good to know that I can possibly ride a bike- I can deal with that- I want to be active and do things again-I feel as if I am 100 yrs old! I mean - heck living to be 100 would be great - but I want to live life to fullest to be 100! ;p)

    May your recovery be a speedy one!~
  • You do not mention if you are having lumbar or cervical surgery. That makes a bit of difference.

    Unfortunately the activities you mention are some of the hardest for those of us with lumbar spinal problems. After you have fully recovered from your surgery, you should be able to return to those activities. But you may be in some discomfort afterwards. My fusion was 20 months ago and I normally do not have any back pain, but after even a brief period in the garden, I am in pain. But it goes away after a period of lying on the floor!

    The important thing is to give yourself plenty of time to heal before you start trying to re-engage in your old activities. Once fused, you can pretty much do anything you want. I have a friend who resumed kayaking after fusion. I know others who ski, etc. Running is one of those choices only you can decide. We all know that the repetitive nature of pounding your joints on the pavement is not the optimal activity for the spine, but if that is the thing that makes you happy...it will be your decision!!

    My surgeon's attitude is "do whatever you like. If it hurts, don't do it."
  • Leo,

    I had 3-level lumbar fusion on May 1, 2008, and I feel that I recovered quite well. The first year I tired faster than before, but even this is better now. I live an active life for an old gal (72 and going strong) I even resumed my exercise class, with some modifications. I gave up yoga, because there are just too many moves I don't think are good for me. As far as bending, I now do it freely, but from the waist (with back straight) or by bending my knees. In other words, you may need to adjust how you do some things, just have to be creative.

    And yes, there is life after fusion!

    Good luck,

  • i just wanted to post a short message to you....i had a one level tlif fusion and decompression and a coflex spacer placed in second level in march, i was back in casual work in may and working full time in june....by july i was riding my bike back and fore to work doing a daily total of 9 miles, its a start. i did use a stationry bike at the gym for a couple of weeks first though....my advice is expect pain, rest alot but dont ltt any of it stop you .... tc
  • I was kinda in the same boat as you are. I had a neck fusion first as well followed by an L5-S1 fusion. My story isnt one of the good ones though. I had my lumbar fusion 14 months ago and at first it did get better to the point where I hardly had pain at all, now its getting worse than it was before the surgery. Sometimes I wonder if the surgery was even worth it but of course, I can just imagine what it would have been like if I hadnt gone through with it.
    The surgeon has pretty much told me the only way they could fix me now is another surgery as one side fused the other hasnt. Weve tried everything else with no sucess so now its either surgery or drugs. Im going to a pin clinic now and they put me on morphine twice a day, percocet for breakthrough as well as lyrica for nerve damage and a muscle relaxer. The doctor at the pain clinic tells me I have a failed back.
    Everyone's different though, you might have an excellent surgery and outcome and I really wish the best for you.
    I'll keep you in my thoughts =)
  • It's hard to imagine that your ability to bend and do the things you take for granted might not be possible after fusion. I love my garden and used to spend a lot of time out there. My surgery was in March but I am yet to do any gardening. I know that I can bend from the hips, with a straight back but it means I have to use my knees to get down low. I'm hoping things improve in time.

    If I can never spend time gardening again, it is a cost I can bear knowing that my back is set for life now and I am painfree. That's the main thing.

    Good luck!
  • It looks like I'm followinwg you from post to post, but it's accidental, I promise.

    May I ask - At this point do you know how much you have fused? I had L5/S1 fusion in June and I hope to be back in my garden next Spring. Did your surgeon give you any idea if you would eventually be able to return to most activities (like gardening)?

  • Hi Rusty. Matter of fact, I saw my surgeon today and he told me I could do gentle gardening but no pulling big weeds.

    Without a ct scan I don't know how far I've fused except, on my new x-rays from today, we could actually see new bone in my pelvic area and he was very pleased. But he said you can't see anything in the thoracic area on x-rays.

    I did get the ok to start kayaking again, but only in our double kayak, with my partner doing most of the work. He said to work up to paddling on my own over the next six months. He did say I wouldn't be fully fused for another six months.

    He also gave me the ok to lift up to 10 kilos, but to hold it close to my body. He made no mention of physiotherapy.

    I hope this helps some?
  • with realizing that you won't be 100% fixed. My first 2 level lumbar fusion was a success. However, it was at least one year for me to heal. I say "my first" because I am needing another 2 level fusion below my current one and a 3 level cervical fusion. I didn't have an accident, my 43 year old spine is just aging at a rapid pace (DDD). Gardening is my passion and I have had to make major concessions in this area (there is a thread on this site from some of us gardeners and how we deal with it). I think in my case once I felt better I pushed myself and went right back to heavy yardwork, gardening (stupid)and, oh yeah, had another kid, but she was worth the pain.
    Give yourself time to heal and don't rush things. You will find what you can handle. I see you had an injury, this is different than my DDD, so don't be scared of my need for multiple fusions. Good luck.
  • It's wonderful that you're starting to enjoy your old activities, even if in moderation. By the time I get back to my garden it will have been almost a year, and I expect to have fused more by then. I enjoy vegetable gardening, and there's no more rewarding feeling that picking my own fresh produce.
    Good luck, to you.

  • :H

    I'm just over two years post op and I feel just fine. When I get my lazy butt off the couch I go to the gym in the Senior Complex where I live. Working out helps me so much, like you wouldn't believe. =D> I have a "beer gut" and I don't even drink and I understand that a big gut will hurt my back and cause other health problems as well. Before my back problems I used to jog, do aerobics and do weight machines at Gold's Gym. I was told not to ever jog again or run. I'm not allow to lift more then ten pounds but I don't mind the tradeoff............... O:)
    Had PLIF in 2008 and a Laminectomy. One level fusion, L4-L5.
  • well i had 2 major back surgeries nov 06 and jan 09... after the first one i went back to work in 3 months like an idiot.. 9 months later terrible pain no- one believed me... went to pain mamage they did test and trial so much scar tissue could not inject me!! went for mri. and there wre nothing but hole and screws no- bone no evedince of any fusion at all!!

    the burning pain was terrible, finally approved a 2nd surgery. well iam 7 months post opt i cannot move when i wake up or sit to long in soooo much pain one of my cages shifted out 5mm but is stable for now have the same groine pain as before!!

    the burning pain is gone and i hope it does not come back!! hoping i donot need a 3rd surgery will not do it 1st i had an L-4 L-5 S-1

    now L-2 L-3 L-4 L-5 and S-1 10 tit screws in my back have accepted i will never be a 100 percent.i get up everyday and i walk in the pool for 45 min and then the hot tub i have numbness in sum area but i will not give up!!! i believe in the power of being positive, i would like in the near future return to work lite duty of course i am a transit worker and will never be able to return to the bus!!but i do want to return to work
  • Hi Hope,

    Everyone does heal differently and with that being said I will leave you with this thought, you might not be able to do the exact things that you once did, but in no way does that make you any less special to anyone, or any different than anyone else, the things you did some people never have and probably never will, if you are able to do them again that is great if not, it's not so bad just find another outlet, there are many other thing you can do to fill up your time, and hey if you get bored, come back and talk to us, we will keep you busy. You will always be special dont loose sight of that, we would never think any less of you.
  • I am doing really well, I no longer need my cane to drag my leg around. I was able to get back to gardening (which I love). I purchased some adaptable garden tools that put less strain on the back and arms/hands. They have a long reach, thay are light weight, and the handles are horizontal to lessen the stress. These really helped me the summer after fusion. When I garden I go down on one knee keeping my back straight, then down on all fours(still keeping my back straight).I also limit my time to a 1/2 hour once or twice a day. You'll still be able to do many of the things you enjoy, you just do them differently. Make sure you follow DR.'s orders during recovery, and when they say you're ready, start walking. Walking daily helped me to heal faster and get stronger. It will be difficult and painful in the beginning but it's the best thing for you!
    Faith M
  • Hey man Ive slowed down a little since surgery, but in June after my neighbor tilled up the garden for me. I was ready to go. I never had a garden before fusion cause I was moving too fast. I finally got a chance to slow down and its better than I expected. Im not running much any more but I am walking further than I ever have. Things change but sometimes for the better. I just thank god I am as good as I am. Sometimes slowing down is a blessing. I've learned to appreciate different things lately. Good luck
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