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how long after fusion and laminectomy were you able to...

ajamiesonaajamieson Posts: 65
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:39 AM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
I am having a laminectomy and 2 level lumbar fusion on December 28. I am really into athletics. How long before I can exercise again and how soon can I get back to work? I go crazy sitting around. It is seriously making me so depressed. Has anyone else been through this surgery? How long did it take for you to be able to get back to exercise and work? Thanks!


  • You won't like when I am going to say...but for your own welfare, please read it anyway! You have had a bad injury that will result in a complicated surgery. You basically have one best chance to get this right...your surgeon gets one crack at it and then you have one chance to follow his directions perfectly and to do everything you can to give yourself the very best chance of healing. When you try to push the process along because you are impatient, you run the risk of doing more harm than help. So the question is really not how quickly can you get back to exercising, etc. but when can you do it safely, without increasing the chances that you might do something to slow down the healing or even keep it from fusing? It is a subtle difference that you may not understand at this point.

    You are not having a simple procedure. It is, in fact, more complex than many. You will start walking immediately -- maybe about 12 hours after surgery. They will have you work with a PT and sometimes an occupational therapist too while still in the hospital, beginning the first day after surgery. I finished surgery at 11 p.m. and the PT was in working with me at 10 the next morning.

    Walking will be the best and most important exercise you can do for the first three months. It will be about a year until the fusion is really solid, although you can see signs of fusion as early as about three weeks. If you are having hardware, it will hold you together while you fuse, but you do not do yourself any favors by stressing it to test its limits!!

    You will get different answers as to when to return to work from each person you ask. There are so many variables. I think the earliest I recall seeing on the board was a nurse who went back at 3 weeks, which to most of us was amazing and fairly unique. Most people are advised that it will be anywhere from three to six months, depending on the job and how physical it is.

    I would think you would have a full course of physical therapy and that person and your doctor will be able to advise you as to when you are cleared for various exercises. Generally speaking, for vigourous exercise like water skiing, riding motorcycles, etc. it is safest to wait until the year mark when everyone is fairly sure the bones have fused and are strong.

    I'm sure you will get many different replies!! You just need to listen to your body and try to respect that you are going through a big surgery and it will take awhile for your body to heal well and completely.

    Good luck with your surgery ~

  • I don't know how old you are, so how quickly you spring back (or IF you spring back) will depend somewhat on that. You are having a very serious surgery. I had three levels fused and there are many of my favorite activities that I will never do again. But, I'm old. I'm 55, so not exactly a spring chicken, but sometimes I feel much too young to be in this condition.

    I started back to work about a month after surgery -- mostly, I went in to the office and brought work home to do on my laptop, lying on the couch with the laptop on my knees. I started half-time at the office at about six weeks and slowly built my way up to full time. I was back to full time at three months. I see the horse in your photo. I've been told I can never ride again. I can't even ride a bike - hitting the bumps is painful. I can walk, I can do some hiking as long as the trail is fairly level. I had my three lowest disc spaces fused, so I don't get that good side-to-side motion when I try to go uphill -- it is a bit of a struggle. Downhill isn't that bad. I've been thinking that maybe a recumbent bike might work for me, but then, there are always potholes!

    You are going to have to be satisfied with walking as your main exercise until your spine heals. You DO NOT want to mess this surgery up -- if you have to go through it a second time, you life will be it's own little special hell. S0, listen to the doc, be careful, get out there and move, but GENTLY.

    3 level spinal fusion, L3/4, L4/5, L5/S1, November 2008. Stiff, but I can walk.
  • Patience is certainly necessary in your circumstances. Gwennie's advice is right on.

    I have 2 levels of instrumentation and 3 level laminectomies. For the first 3 months all I did was walk and do simple leg strengthening exercises like ankle pumps, foot slides, sitting leg extensions, quad pumps that were part of a program my home health PT had me do to start reclaiming muscle mass that I lost due to atrophy. It was tough at first physically and mentally but got easier with (mostly) each day. I'm not a hard core athlete but I am somewhat a gym rat, so sitting around was frustrating. My surgeon had me start aqua therapy at 3 months which is awesome. It takes the load off your spine and the warm water feels great. Shortly after that I started also doing regular land therapy and getting stronger. With my surgeon's ok, I started back to the gym - at 4 months - using the eliptical machine and tread mill and doing light upper body strengthening. The weight execises have all been cleared by the therapist so that I don't stress my back. I go back to work as a teacher after the first of the year, so it will be about 5 months since my surgery. I am concerned about being on my feet for 8 hours, but know I am on the right track.

    Please be patient. It is so important that you keep the long range view in focus. This is not a sprint but a marathon. Good luck to you.

  • What kind of work do you do?

    I'm 3 weeks post PLIF, and Friday I started going to a mall to walk. The weather has been rainy so I feel safer inside, and on level ground. It was great to be out among people again, and get coffee; browse the book store. My plan is to go there about 4-5 times a week. I lifted weights, did pilates, hiked and biked before I had spinal problems, and I had no pain or sense that I had spondylolisthesis until March of this year. By the summer the symptoms were getting severe, and in October I saw my surgeon, and had the surgery on 11/23.

    I know someone who has had a 2 level PLIF, and said that swimming was a great form of exercise, once he was cleared by his surgeon to do so. I do think that was after the first 3 months though.

    Take care,


  • Great to hear that you are managing to get out to the Mall and walk about.
    How do you get there? Are you driving already?
    Keep up the good healing.
  • Thank you for the responses. I realize my expectations may be too unrealistic. I am terrified about the surgery and I usually work out my fears with exercise. If I can walk soon after surgery I'll be relieved. I like to talk, I just need to do SOMETHING. Hopefully by spring I'll be able to get more exercise.
  • SpineAZSpineAZ WiscPosts: 1,084
    Likely they'll have you walking in the hospital up and down the halls. They'll possibly advise you to walk a little at home and possibly building yourself up to more every day. Listen to your body. If it hurts, stop and rest. Gwennie said it best in that the surgeon will do his/her part but you must do yours as well.

    Surgery has a way of knocking you back. You'll be tired so sleep when you need to and let your body recover.
    2 ACDFs, 2 PCDF, 3 LIFs; Rt TKR; Rt thumb fusion ; Lt thumb arthroplasty; Ehlers Danlos 
  • Oh, never fear. You will be up and walking, whether you feel like it or not!! Even when cleared to start PT and stretching exercises, walking remains the best way to get freshly oxygenated blood to the surgical site. The disc area has very little blood supply through it, so walking is especially important. It also stretches out the spinal nerves early in the game when you will not be allowed to do other stretching. This helps to prevent scar tissue attaching to those nerves or from attaching the nerve to something else.

    If all goes well, you will be doing lots more at about the three month mark...but you do want to be careful and sensible in the beginning. Too many people think spine surgery is like any other surgery where you go in to the hospital, have the surgery, recover from the surgical process and are "good to go."

    With the kind of surgery you are having, that is just the beginning point for healing. After that point, you will still have bones that will need to mend and fuse together, and the soft tissue and muscle will all go through a readjustment period to get used to the new arrangement! It is a BIG surgery, and your body will be tired afterward.

    If you're one of those people who cannot walk past a piece of paper on the floor without bending to pick it up, recovery will drive you crazy! That's where the "grabber" comes in handy...but you do have to train yourself to avoid all these unnecessary opportunities to bend at the waist because it is so damaging and hard on the spine. You're athletic. Just school yourself to hinge at the hips and keep your back flat like a tabletop...or there is always the "golfer's bend"....

    Have you read through the stickie post at the top of this section entitled "Post-Op Must Haves" ? It will get you thinking about what you will need and/or want to have after you get home from the hospital. Some people rearrange their kitchen and frig. so things they use often are at waist height. Think about where you are likely to spend the majority of time while recovering. At first you will only be allowed to sit for fifteen minutes at a time. Where will you be the rest of the time? These are the kinds of things you want to sort out now, ahead of your surgery.

    I'm sure, being as athletic as you are, that you will recover more quickly...but it never hurts to be prepared.

  • I would seriously discuss this with your surgeon prior to your procedure. He or she best knows your condition and out comes of previous cases in similar condition as you.

    We have all had such different advice and outcomes.

    Best of Luck
  • I know I was rather shocked to not be allowed to go back to work after 3 months. And I have an easy job - or so I thought.

    The BEST thing you can do for yourself is to NOT over do things. Give yourself the gift of letting yourself heal. There is nothing worse than having a major setback all because of one simple moment when you did something you shouldn't have.

    Any questions - keep asking. It's not an easy thing to go through - but people here are wonderfully helpful and a lot have been through it all already and can give you first hand advice.
  • when we cannot do what we are used to doing,we have alot of time to think and worry!I hate the fact I will never get on the trampoline with my grandchildren again (I am 59)--doing things outside with the animals----anthing can get you down-----but you have to accept it and take plenty of time to heal!!!!You can still love on your horse,and walk outside to see him(her),but please don't be a cowgirl again too soon! this site is great to talk,so keep us posted
  • and what everyone has already said is great, and they are all very right. I just had my 10 week follow up (had a procedure similar to what you will have), and my OS was floored by how well I'm doing. Because of how bad my pain and condition was prior to surgery, he literally expected to walk in and see me laying on the table still having some pain. And when he walked in and I was sitting in the chair comfortably, and telling him that not only was I walking up to 8 miles a day, doing some basic PT exercises and stretches, and have had ZERO pain for almost 2 months, he couldn't stop smiling.

    I went back to work, a desk job, at 4 weeks. I could have been released at 2 weeks but since it's such a major surgery I decided to be smart and rest for 2 additional weeks.

    Today he told me "no restrictions aside from if it hurts don't do it", which is basically what he has said all along. But I know he knows I'm a smart and careful person when it comes to my back and he trusts my judgment and my drive to get well. And since I was an avid softball player for 25 yrs prior to my surgery, he made the point of telling me to wait until my 6 mo post surgery mark before returning to sports and vigorous exercise.

    Anyway, my real advice is to make a list of all your concerns and discuss them with your surgeon. Everyone's experiences and conditions are so different that you have to be your biggest advocate and get all of that kind of info from your surgery. And definitely be SMART and listen to his advice and adhere to your restrictions!

    Best of luck!
  • Hi...I've had a busy week, and have been driving since day 19 post op. It isn't easy, and I am super careful. I've been walking everyday, but I do end the day in a fair amount of pain. Mornings are tough, also. I'm having muscle spasms, but after being up and around for an hour I'm much better. Saw my Dr yesterday, and he is happy with my progress. We changed the muscle relaxant, and decreased the pain meds just a little. I have to rest twice a day, so that I can continue being activity throughout the day. He is allowing me to start pool therapy on Monday, which is 4 weeks post op. I will be going 3 days a week. I am very excited about getting in a steamy pool, especially with the damp, freezing weather we have had in my state. My incision looks good, and I spoke with my new physical therapist yesterday; so we are just going to take it slow and easy.

    Thanks again for asking about me; hope you are doing well, and have a wonderful holiday week!!


  • Everyone is different but it's true that you need to take this seriously. I only had a microdiscectomy to 'shave' the herniated portion of the disc out (remove the free floating fragment) and was on limitations for 2 weeks and only some lifted week 3-6. I was told on driving that if I was off pain meds, it was ok to drive. Hindsight, I wish they told me to wait at least 3 weeks to drive myself and that was on 'minimally invasive' out patient surgery. Driving yourself jostles the back and not good for healing.

    I am (or was) extremely active. It's frustrating sitting around but the way I see it is that walking is my new activity and it is healthy. It's not my running, hiking, or Kardio, or weight lifting but it's important to my health and still lets me get out.

    I'm going in for a revision in January. I am taking it very seriously b/c I am trying to avoid a fusion (at least for now) as I'm only 40.

    I think you just need to be realistic and just because 1 person is mobile at 6 weeks post op, it doesn't mean you have to beat that. This is not an race of who can do more faster, it's a race of who listens to their body and understands that focus on healing wins the long race.

    Good luck. I'm glad you can at least enjoy some of the holiday before going in. Sounds like New Year's will be quiet but you'll have some of us here to chat with.

  • It sounds like you are healing very well after your surgery. It is very encouraging for those of us who haven't had surgery (yet!) to read about. The sot so good stories are also useful to make us aware that it is not a quick fix for our back, but I certainly love the more positive stories.

    Keep healing and have a wonderful Christmas.
    Today, I am having a very good day, after a very busy day and even a Christmas party yesterday. I even managed to dance!

    Hope that all spineys have a comfortable and relaxing Christmas.
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