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6 weeks post-op 2-level TLIF recovery questions.

AFGuyAAFGuy Posts: 15
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:37 AM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
I'm new to this site and have some questions about recovery in regards to range of motion. I'm about 6 weeks post-op. Had a 2-level TLIF (L4-S1) after 2 failed discectomies. Recovery is going well, no back or leg pain. I just have minor soreness once in a while. A lot of walking and physical therapy seems to be helping. I noticed after the surgery my flexibility was pretty much shot. My main concern is range of motion. How long until I see improvements in that area? Range of motion and being able to perform my duties in the military is a big concern for me. I still can't tie my shoes but seems to be getting better everyday. I just started using a bone stimulator last week to help with the fusion process, mainly because I'm a light smoker. My doctor advised me not to bend or twist, but for how long? Any advise or recommendation in regards to recovery would be greatly appreciated....yes I know, stop smoking is one advise.


  • Anyone? No advise? Anyone?
  • You are very early in your recovery. You should not be trying to bend to tie shoes or anything yet. I think the no BLT is for at least three months. You sound like you are doing well. You dont want to have to repeat the surgery and your fusion is going on right now and you want it to be solid. You need to follow your Drs recommendations. They will tell you what they expect. I want to wish you good luck! Also, walking is your best friend.
  • At six weeks, many patients have not yet begun physical therapy, so you are ahead of the game. As Robin said, any activity involving bending, twisting, reaching, pushing and pulling should be avoided for at least the first three months -- longer if there are no signs of fusion. It takes a good year for the fusion to set up and for it to be fairly strong....strong to the point where there are no restrictions in movement and activity.

    As you note, it is harder to fuse if you are a smoker.

    Try to be patient. You can do more harm than good by trying to push ahead before your body is ready.


  • You discribed exactly what my main feeling is-the stiff, very hard to bend feeling! I have posted here so many times whining about this, I feel a bit like a big baby, but for some reason, this feeling is just creepy to me, like a big vise grip squeezing me OOHHH JUST HATE IT!!! Anyway sorry to rant on your post, and hope you continue to recover.Glad you don't have much pain, me either. Don't bend. I had my first pt yesterday and he showed me how to sit and bring my foot up to my knee and stretch, helps to tie my shoes that way. Good Luck and keep in touch!
  • My DH is military and has had back issues as well, I know what is expected from you guys. He only had a microdiscectomy and was down for 9 months with it. No hardware, no fusion.

    One thing we worry most about my DH is the packs and heavy lifting. Those things are HEAVY and are NOT good on your back despite the waist straps.

    I know that I was not allowed to lift over 20 lbs for over 6 months. It was more like 9 months before I was allowed to bend or twist and a year before the 40 lb limit was allowed.

    You do NOT want to compromise your surgery. Caution is the key here. There is no going back sometimes if you re-injure.

    That said, my DH DID take it easy, did what he was told and now, 8 years later, has just returned from Iraq, tromps his unit on all the PT tests - despite his age- and only suffers muscle backaches anymore. No disc issues.
  • Thank you and Robin for the reply. Fusion is starting to take place at my 6 week mark. I guess my physical condition allowed me to start PT a little early. I'm going to talk to my therapist about my current program. She has me doing a lot of leg and back strengthening. Mainly squats, leg extensions, and lat pulldowns. May need to re-think my program since I'm still early in the recovery period.
  • Thanks for feeling my pain and frustration Rachel. I tend to bend over to tie my shoes without thinking about it. I've tried putting one foot on a knee, but my right piriformis muscle is very tight and hard to do sometimes. I guess I'll be more cautious next time when putting on my socks and shoes. I'm glad your recovery is going well!
  • Glad to hear your DH returned safely! I spent a year over there last year. A duty related injury led to this surgery. But I'm glad I did it and frustrated that my guys are in Afghanistan and I'm not there with them. But I have to take care of myself first or I'm no good to my guys or mission. I'm hoping for a quick recovery. Had hardware put in during my fusion surgery. I'm pain free and feel great with the exception of no range of motion right now. I'm guessing due to my physical condition, my surgeon is less restrictive with me. I will be returning to restricted duty in two weeks for three months. He's confident I can return to full duty in six months with no restrictions as long as the fusion continues. I'm just going to continue with therapy, follow my doctors orders, listen to my body, and don't do anything stupid.
  • Sounds like a good plan.

  • I just wanted to take a moment to Thank You and all of the Men and Women fighting for and protecting the Freedom that I try and not take for granted, I know that freedom is not free, and there are many sacrificing life and limb for it. Thank You all and May God protect you and your families untill we can all be home, Free and Safe.
  • Thank you for your service to our country. You are a true hero in my eyes.

    I am getting ready to have a the exact same surgery on November 9th. I like you, had two failed discectomies. I am very fit, and continue to prepare for surgery by swimming 5-10 laps every day and working out with light weights to keep my arms and core strong. Some days it sucks. Truth be told. But, I try to see through the nerve pain to get through the exercises thinking that the stronger I go into surgery, the better I'll come out. When I asked my doctor about flexibility loss or bending...he said, you really should be bending at the knees and hips anyway!....

    So, I am a pretty brave women....skydived, bungeed, etc...and I'm terribly scared of this surgery. Overall, was it worse than you expected or better? Anything you did that really helped you prepare?

    Thanks again for all that you do for us.
  • In my opinion, current physical condition plays a huge part. Like you, I went to PT to continue strengthening my core muscles prior to surgery. I was terrified going into this surgery. I was more afraid of the surgery than being in a combat zone. For me, the surgery wasn't as bad as I thought. The first week was a little rough. It felt like another discectomy but on a slightly larger scale...as far a pain. I would suggest continuing to work on your core muscles, flexibility (hamstrings and glute), and leg strengthening. If you have anymore questions, please don't hesitate to ask.
  • Did you have anterior or posterior approach to your fusion? Did an orthopedic perform the surgery.

    And I want to thank you for serving our wonderful USA. You are so brave -- in many ways.
  • Hi Liz...I had a posterior approach. I had an Ortho surgeon perform the surgery, but a Neorosurgeon was also in the room assisting...I guess in case the other needed a bathroom break :)
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