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A day in the post-op life and judging activity levels

Lala329LLala329 Posts: 283
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:36 AM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
I'm doing pretty well at 5 weeks post sacroiliac joint fusion. I'm just curious what a typical day looks like for everyone during fusion recovery. I know the SIJ protocol is similar to lumbar fusion, minus all the extended periods of walking due to potential piriformis aggravation. I guess my concern is that I know how very important it is to be up as much as tolerated, but seriously, if I can't walk more than 10-20 minutes at a time and sitting gives me wicked muscle spasms at this point (working on that in PT), there isn't a whole lot to do except stand or lay...

I'm trying to set little goals for myself, like every hour I walk 10 minutes, and I try to do a couple of sitting sessions everyday to increase my tolerance, but it still seems like I lay around a good bit. I also do my PT exercises 2x per day, and go to that a few days a week. Is this pretty typical? Is there a better way to meet activity goals? My pt guy basically said, "it is what it is, and at this point there is still surgical pain and spasm so you just have accept that laying around is part of the recovery process." I'm anxious to build back up my strength and endurance, and terrified of deconditioning, but my tolerance for activity still seems pretty low...

I know it's different for everyone, but I wish I had a better idea of what an appropriate hour-to-hour activity level is for the first few months.


  • I take exception with your basic premise. I was under the impression that SIJ fusion was quite different from vertebral fusion. It certainly is much more rare and many spinal surgeons will not even do it, for a variety of reasons.

    The only person I know who had a SI joint fusion was not allowed to put any weight on her leg for over 3 months. She was on crutches the whole time. It sounds like that is not the case with you.

    I think you are wise to rest as much as you can for the first several months. Walking is important as it helps to prevent the formation of scar tissue, among other reasons. It makes sense to walk often and shorter distances, and do not worry about pace, either. Talk smaller strides than normal. That will put less strain on your surgery.

    After my lumbar fusion, at the beginning I stayed in bed except when I needed to use the bathroom. Then I would combine the trip with my walk...and then it was back to bed. I didn't have any problems sitting, but I would limit myself to fifteen minutes in the beginning. After about eight weeks I increased the times when I was up.

    Even when you are lying down, you can continue to do easy stretches and exercises -- flexing and pointing your feet, easy pelvic tilts IF ALLOWED, things like that. It can be boring, but just think of it as being for a finite period of time...and remember that you want to do everything possible to give yourself the best chance for a successful outcome. If you do that, you'll have the rest of your life to be up and running around.

    I'm curious what you were told by your surgeon about what you can and cannot do at this point.
  • Good topic! I've been wanting to ask the same thing!
    I had lumbar lam/fusion on Aug 13 & 18. I have to wear a brace on my left leg for drop foot when I walk. And I MUST use my walker! I can't stand without it!! I can make it about 40 feet then I collapse on the bed in exhaustion! I have a hospital bed at home, so I change positions often from sitting to lying. It hurts quite a bit to sit after about 15 minutes. Sometimes sooner. I do try to do lots of leg exercises all day long.
    Can't wait to hear what others have to say.
  • You'll find that some people recover quickly. There was one on here last Spring who was back to full-time work at 3 months...but I think more common are those of us that take longer.

    You had a big surgery with some tough,unexpected complications, and it will take awhile to get your strength back.

    I can remember at first I could walk from my bed in the den to the opposite end of the house...but I had to rest before returning to bed. And I didn't have a brace on. But shortly after you're able to walk a bit more, you will start to get your strength back, and things will get easier.

    At first I just rested and walked when I got up to use the bathroom. I also remember at the beginning, by the time I took a shower, dried my hair and got dressed, I was too tired to do anything else. I would need to rest just from the effort of taking a shower.

    The important thing with fusion is to look at the big picture. Do not try to measure progress day by day or you will get depressed! Doing it weekly will give you a sense that things actually are moving forward...slow though it may be. You will find that there are specific turning points.

    I took all my prescribed pain meds for eight weeks. Then it was like a light bulb went off and I realized I didn't need them. At three months I was able to fly half-way across the country to look for a house with my son -- 5 grueling, non-stop days. Now I admit I was not the normal house buyer. Occasionally the realtor and my son would come down from the second floor and find me stretched out on the floor letting my back relax for a few minutes...but I was able to keep up and had no ill-effects from the trip.

    By six months I had regained most of my strength, although of course I was deconditioned as I waited over three years to have surgery...and could barely walk during that time.

    For now, the most important activities for you are to rest and walk, walk and rest. There aren't any awards handed out for speedy recovery. In fact, the opposite is true. Those who push too hard too fast usually end up regretting it. Be patient and take this time to be self-indulgent. You must look out for yourself and put yourself first. I can assure you, no one else will be doing it! Learn to listen to your body and respect that it needs time to heal and recover. If in a year you aren't where you want to be, then you may start to be impatient! But for now, maintain a positive attitude and relax.

    Hope you will be feeling better soon.

    xx Gwennie
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