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L5 S1 surgery

AnonymousUserAAnonymousUser Posts: 49,670
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:37 AM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
Hi there
Only just registered here but have had 2 surgeries for cervical disc fusions, also major surgery for an Arnold Chiari Malformation with back of skull removed and backs of first 2 vertebrae. Now having surgery in 2 weeks for degenerative disc disease spinal fusion of L5 S1.
Just interested in hearing from others having or had spinal fusion. Not looking forward to not being able to sit for 6 weeks. Not able to drive for 6 weeks and being stuck at home.
How long is normal recovery - I got over my other surgeries relatively quickly but I was a bit younger then!
Look forward to heaering from anyone in similar circumstances.



  • of 2 level (L4-S1) fusion and can say so far that boredom is probably my only complaint lol I've had some issues with meds and anesthesia making me feel crappy but aside from that I feel great. I try not to think about the fact I'm stuck at home because I can't drive, etc. And I try to get lots of fresh air. The not being able to sit thing hasn't been a big deal, probably because I spend most of my time in the recliner anyway. But I am in so little pain that I'm already walking as close to a mile a day as I can, and getting out of the house to do that is the best thing right now. And while I can't drive, I've made plans with my friends and gf to ride in the back seat, so we can go walk at a park now and then.

    I can't say it's not tough, but if you prepare yourself mentally and physically, you'll be ok. Make a list of things you can and maybe need to do, like making phone calls, or finally reading that book you just haven't gotten around to, and it won't be so bad.

    Best of luck!
  • Hi
    I had this surgery in 1999, my best advice is to listen to what your Dr says, if he says do this, do it, if he says don't do this, then don't do it. My surgery helped with the constant pain that I was in. It does take time to heal, my husband made me a tuna sandwich everyday (I don't like any other kind of fish). Speak with your Dr and ask him if fish helps with the healing of a fusion.
    Good Luck
  • Wow, it seems like I keep hearing the same question lately, it seems so many of us are in the same boat at the same time (unfortunately).

    I'm scheduled for fusion of L4-S1 on Nov. 18th, already had L2-L4 fused in 2003. How is the surgery going to be done (ALIF, PLIF, etc.)?

    My first fusion was a PLIF, which was a heck of a recovery, but I don't remember having trouble sitting. For me I was constantly with a grown-up to help with my toddler, it was stifling to say the least!! However, I was fortunate to have the help.

    Check out the post-op must haves and get your home ready. This site and the people on it are very helpful. Keep us posted on how you are doing.
  • I had my 360 plif l-4/s-1 fusion 8 weeks ago and the first couple of weeks are the worst, but once you can get around comfortably and walk, do so as much as possible. This is one surgery that walking matters so much. Little walks around the yard, the house anywhere. It not only helps with the healing,it gives you something to do. I actually made little walking scheduals, made kind of a routine out of waving at the neighbors etc. When you get stronger by the day, you walk farther and faster. Sometimes you may be tempted to think that a few days on the couch to rest will do you good, but when i would take a few days off from the walking, i really felt worse, stiff, just almost like i had gone backwards in my healing- walk, walk, walk.
    Also about the sitting, I couldn't sit for about four weeks, just soooo painfull!!! but at around week 5 i figured out a way to gather all my pillows around and make a Queen chair for myself! I used my coccyx pillow on the bottom to sit on, a pillow behind me, two pillows on both sides of me to support my arms, and a foot pillow for the coffee table to prop my feet up. The coccyx pillow really made the difference. Anyway, you will get through it and be ok, I will be thinking of you. Get a basket together with books, cards, addresses, phone numbers, crosswords, remotes etc and have it with you at all times, call everyone you know every day, they will love hearing from you and it helps you pass the time.
    Take care,
  • I thought my Lumbar surgery was much easier than my neck. I was back to work within 3 weeks on a restricted 4 hours a day ( wasn't allowed to drive for much longer) but that really did help me. I think the worse thing for me was wearing the shell for about a month. I was fusing so well the doctor let me out of it early. Hopefully you will recovery quickly. I honestly felt then lumbar was easier. I am still off of work with my neck and I am 6 weeks post now.

  • Thanks to you all for getting back to me, maybe it is going to be as bad as I thought. I didn't think I would be able to do any walking for sometime but hopefully that won't be the case. I think it is going to be the boredom of being at home all day that will get to me but I've stocked up on books, soduko's etc etc so I'm sure I'll get by.
    I found when I had my cervical discs fused I was free of pain immediately, although it did hurt in the hip when they took the bone graft. I've still got a dodgy disc in my neck but it seems to holding in there.
    Will keep you posted
  • My friends hooked me up with tons of DVD's to watch and it helped pass the time. Especially the TV series where it's easy to get caught up in the next episode.

    Walking was the sanity saver for me. When I couldn't walk outside, I used the treadmill so I could walk a few times a day. Even walking down to the convenience store to get a snack was something to help break up the day.

    Daily routine is very important for me. After the initial anesthesia and post op "ughness" is behind me, I make certain I structure my day to include getting up and showering, having a healthy breakfast and then coming up with some sort of rest/walk/activity/rest plan for the day. The structured routine seems to help me heal faster and have a much better daily outlook.

  • I had a PLIF 19 days ago and my recovery has been "not so bad." I was told to walk on the afternoon of my surgery to go the the bathroom. This hurt, I am not going to lie, but it definitely was uphill from the first day forward. Like some have mentioned, the first few weeks are very frustrating and filled with mini and major milestones. For example, I couldn't feed my cat until my husband came home from work the other day...this infuriated me! I thought to myself, "How can such a simple task be impossible?" Now, being in the third week, I am doing much better; still cannot bend, but I am being creative in various ways to accomplish simple tasks.

    I am not sure of the procedure you will be having, but I was able to sit for as long as I was comfortable after I got home from surgery (first week only 10-20 minutes!). I was told I could drive a week after surgery...I did not (just personal preference). I am up to sitting for about 45 minutes sometimes. I am also walking short distances around the neighborhood but at frequent intervals.

    I wish you the best in your future procedure! Take it easy and do NOT, I REPEAT, do not try to overdo things. This will definitely not help! I did this yesterday and I have no energy and more pain today.

    Take care,

  • Hi Again
    I am a little confused about the sitting after L5S1 fusion. I've spoken to Occupational Therapy today (I work as a med secretary in the hospital where I'm having my surgery - although in another dept). I've had to measure the chair that I usually sit in and the height to the seat when sat on is 16" - I'm told this must be increased to 19" and because the chair is a recliner they are not able to do this for me. I'm also told I am not allowed to use the chair in recliner mode - in fact they've told me I need to get another chair which isn't easy. They may be able to get one with me. Can anyone tell me how they managed with this. I've just tried padding out the seat of the chair with an extra cushion, folded blanket etc but it is all a bit squishy so when I sit on it it is still not the 19" plus I look like the princess and the pea!!
    Any advice welcomed.
  • I had my fusion surgery Sept. 8th. I hope this helps and makes you feel better. I 6 weeks post of now from my lumbar surgery and starting to see fusion. I could sit for 10-20 minute periods after 2 weeks. I walk about 2 city blocks a day. Yes, I do get sore in thighs and buttocks, but they say walking is the best. I'm driving after 4 weeks. I know everyone heals different, but I just wanted to give you some words of encouragement.!!Hang in there. Kevin
  • Morning y'all! I'm going Nov 10th for L5/S1 PLIF w/instrumentation. I'm not sure how it's going to go, but I see by reading on here that I'm far from the only one to have this procedure done. I know this won't be an easy recovery, but I have much family and friends that may help me, should I need it. Plus, it's a help to read on here of everyone's experiences. Thanks, and I'll be checking back in and posting a bit here and there as my surgery progresses.
  • As others have said every person, every surgery, and every doctor is different. Ask lots of questions of your surgeon so that you will be prepared. Search for gwennie17 posts. She does a fabulous job of explaining post op expectations and the reasons for them. There are several threads about ways to keep boredom at bay and the sticky post op must haves at the top of this topic really help get you prepared. It helped me tremendously. My short and sweet is: only 15 minutes sitting at a time for 6 weeks, no riding in a car for 2 weeks, could drive at 6 weeks. First few weeks were tough but fusion has started, pain levels are way down and I'm getting used to doing things differently. Good luck to you.
  • Hi Aaron, I had to respond to your "surgery novice here" subject line. I to have had many surgeries, Sinus/throat surgery, hysterectomy, gastric bypass, bladder surgery. My longest time off for any surgery was 2 weeks. I am, as of yesterday, 7 weeks post op and seriously wondering if I will be ready to go back to work after another 5 weeks, so unless you have had other back surgeries, this will be like no other.
    I had read many posts about what to expect but thought,"not me, I am a fast healer" well all I can say is I was wrong. It is a VERY slow healing process. Every one is different and my goal is not to scare you, but to be sure you are prepared for what lies ahead. You cannot rush the healing process of your spine. Family support and help will be a huge blessing, but please be prepared to be patient. You will heal, but it will take time.I will keep you in my prayes as your surgery approaches and through the process.
    Please keep us posted.
    God Bless and Keep You,
  • My dad had to raise his recliner before hip surgery. What we did was take a 2x4 and screw it to the bottom of his chair. He liked it so much we never removed it.
    I was able to sit as long as was comfortable (generally 15-20 minutes). I am a year and 4 months from my l4-s1 fusion. I have been dismissed by my surgeons and am off the pain med -most of the time. When I do something stupid, like carrying too much, I will need a muscle relaxer that night and sometimes do with Tylenol PM.
    Best of luck. I was growing bone in 1 year mark.
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