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L4/L5 fusion - post op HOW & WHEN did you get your strength back?

AnonymousUserAAnonymousUser Posts: 49,671
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:41 AM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
Had a L4/L5 fusion and disc repaired 14 weeks ago. Still fatigue very easily and have back aches and some pain in the "butt" (literally) LOL

How long post op before you could function all day at your normal routine without Pain or extreme fatigue? Any special exercises that helped you strengthen your back?

I thought by now I would be much better than I am and I'm disappointed at my lack of progress.

Age 61 female, homemaker


  • I'm sure someone will come along with more help than I can give you. But remember back surgery is a big deal and takes alot out of you. Everyone is different but it does take a lot of time and patience to get through it. I had L-2/3/4 fused 15 months ago. My dr told me the first 6 months would be bad, the 2nd half of the year I would feel and see a difference and to always let your body be your guide. If it hurts, stop, if you are tired, stop. He was right. He also told me and many here will agree that it takes 1-2 years to heal. You just had major surgery, it takes time for the nerves and everything they moved inside to heal. The best thing you can do is walk, rest, walk, rest. When your body/back tells you to rest, listen to it. I can't answer when you will get your strength and stamina back but I can tell you it takes a lot of patience and time.

    Have you had or started PT? What has your dr told you? Are you still on restrictions? Take it easy!


  • I agree completely with the above post. The recovery is a long and arduous one and you have to be very patient about it. Did PT teach you any stretches for your back? If your doctor has cleared you to do exercising, walking and the stretches mentioned on this site are excellent. Also, remember we all heal differently. Some of us will always have some pain, others become pain free.

    Best wishes,

  • You are still so early in the stage of recovery. I know its hard to be patient, but don't push things. Walking is good for you, listen to your body.

    Also, and please do not be offeneded, but the older we get the slower we heal. I'm 44 and had my 2 level fusion this past Nov. My first fusion I was 38 and I swear just those six years have made a difference in my level of energy in recovering. I guess chronic pain can do that too.

    Cut yourself some slack. Has your Dr. suggested physical therapy? Some wait for a certain amount of time to pass to make sure the fusion is taking place before prescribing it. Fusions are a long recovery process, it will get better.....Lisa
  • I had a fusion at L4/5 last winter and started feeling a little stronger around the 8-9 month mark. I still had pain if I over did it but I was able to do more.
    I am now 13 months out and I agree it takes a year or more to fully heal...I still have pains related to the surgery at times.

    Hang in there :)
  • Hi Mickie--I have had 2 lumbar fusions-one 2 years ago,and one 4 weeks ago.My first fusion was a terrible recovery,I was still using a walker at 2 months post op,and was on pain medicine for many months.This recent fusion was anterior and posterior,but I have progressed so much better!I am getting my strength back faster,and I don't think I am taking as much pain med.I think,for me,it just depends on how you fare from surgery,if you are able to gain strength---also I have a different surgeon who I feel did a much better job.I am almost 60,so I am right with you----it harder to bounce back!Also,are you getting enough rest?
  • So I imagine you'll get an enormous range of responses. Personally I was back at work and started feeling pretty normal by week 4. BUT and this is a HUGE BUT....I am 30 yrs old and have been an athlete pretty much since I was 5 :) But the key that I think that everyone will tell you, is that you have to try your very best and be patient! It is, as Marianne stated, a long and arduous recovery! It's tough not to push yourself and to not get sick of feeling weak or in pain, but you have to try to hang in there and know the best thing you can do for your back is to be patient and listen to it!

    Also, I made a PT routine for myself with the info from this link : http://www.spine-health.com/treatment/spinal-fusion/rehabilitation-following-lumbar-fusion

    ...and I still do these exercises daily, even though I am up and around, in the gym, going hiking etc. And personally I think these stretches helped tremendously. But of course, as with everything, discuss PT, exercise, etc., with your doctor beforehand. I'm just providing the link as a suggestion...something you might want to discuss with your Dr that may help!

    Best of luck and hang in there!
  • I think it may also depend on how long the patient takes pain medications. I was on them for the first eight weeks. I started to feel somewhat "normal" a month later...but my son got married six months after my fusion, and I still tired easily. I was up to exactly two dances!

    Looking way back, I do remember six weeks being a line of demarcation where compared to the first month, I felt a lot better...and then after that, the progress was slow and gradual.

    As you can see, each person has a different story.

    The important thing is to realize that your fusion will not be strong for a year. The first three months are the most important in terms of playing by all the rules...no bending, twisting, reaching up or to the side, no lifting more than 10 pounds....During the first three months it is important to keep the spine straight. The body is starting to knit together and to lay down new bone and you don't want to do anything to mess up that process.

    You should be walking several times each day. This is what promotes blood flow to the area and keeps scar tissue from attaching to the spinal nerves. Distance walked is less important than frequency. Several short walks are better than one longer walk.

    What you're going through sounds perfectly normal. Perhaps your surgeon didn't tell you how long the recovery period is....learn to be patient and eventually you will recover and feel almost back to normal.

  • I was told by my surgeon I was a little behind and a slow healer inspite the fact that I am an active dancer/instructor/performer..so I'm not sure why it varies person to person but it does.. ;)
  • I was just talking about fusion surgeries with my dad - who has had 3 - and he said in all honesty, it takes about 10 years to feel like your old self again. His surgeries have been quite spaced out btw.

    Anyway, I still think that at the year mark I started to feel better, but even now at 18 mo. I'm reluctant to BE my old self. To many risks for further damage to resume my former activities :(
  • :H Everyone has given you excellent advice. I'd just like to add that the extreme fatigue you are experiencing is part of the whole package of surgery, recovery, pain meds, etc.

    Don't let it be a cause of worry that you are tired all the time -- think of it as your brain's way of making you rest so that your body can heal. Lots of us on SH got a little freaked out by the fatigue but be patient, eat healthy, take your vitamins and walk and slowly you will get your strength back.

    I didn't have surgery but had severe sciatic and chronic pain -- I was zapped of energy like it had been sucked out of me by some alien (LOL!) I'm 55 by the way.

    Take care of you and try not to worry!

  • You and I are about the same time line post op(I'm 13 weeks). We are also about the same age. I'm certainly still not back to normal. I have a lot of leg pain and butt pain. At times more than pre surgery. At about 4 weeks or so I got a lot of my energy back. I wasn't taking any pain meds. My surgeon cleared me for physio at 7 weeks. I was doing simple core and stretching exercises and still am at home on my own. And I was walking a lot!! But I feel like I have gone backwards since about 4 weeks. I am taking gabapentin for the nerve pain which makes one tired. I also feel that being down about the progress contributes to the overall fatigue. But all the posts above say that we are very early in the recovery. Maybe we really are expecting too much of ourselves. All I was told by my surgeon was that I should be ok by 6 months instead of 12 months like with the full open surgery. There are so many variations in recovery posted on this site. I found it hard not comparing myself to others. Gee why am I not walking 20 miles a week at 4 weeks? I better get moving. We all want so badly to get better after years of pain. Have you been to see your surgeon post op? If so what did he say? He is your best guide as to exercises, physio etc. Keep your chin up, I know it's hard at times. We'll get there!!
  • I am sooo glad to see this post. I am 14 weeks post op l5s1 plif fusion and feel the same! I have good days, even a good week or so, then I do too much and suffer awfully for a week or two! At work it seems that I am supposed to be back to normal and people look at me funny when I say I am tired or in pain!
    Most of my pain is muscle pain but I have noticed nerve pain in my feet/buttocks when I am really tired.
    The worst bit is getting comfortable in bed. I am not really comfortable in any position so wake up and move a lot which hurts! So I am not really resting. I take the codeine at night but not in the day.
    I find that going from lying down to sitting up is really hard with the last move from 45 degrees to upright the worst. This gives me horrid pain around my lower back that feels like someone poking at a hole in my tooth. The doc says its nothing to do with the fusion but I am not so sure!
    I am banking on being better at 6 months as we are going on a walking holiday then!
  • Just a suggestion, but make sure you log roll out of bed. I still do that a year later. Be easy on yourself. I am 49 and still have pain from mine in Dec 08. It takes a long time to recover, and it sounds like you are doing well. Just try not to bend life and twist as it can still bother me.
    Good Luck, and keep your chin up. It will get better. Love, Robin
  • Thanks Robin. I am log rolling! If I don't it actually hurts less but is more difficult. It seems that pushing myself up to fully vertical is the hard bit. Last night I actually shrieked with the pain as I rolled onto my bum! If I go from lying flat and push myself up using my elbows that doesn't hurt but I find it hard to sit up like that with my legs out in front. It must be the sideways movement I think?
    I am only 33 and I suppose I thought I would get better faster. My surgeon says it is going well so I suppose it must be! I am trying to keep positve.
  • I think you are doing really well. You are back at work already. I know that you don't feel great at times but that is a huge accomplishment. Do you have a very strenuous job? I'm thinking you should be near ready for your vacation. If not quite you'll have to take it a little easier.

    Saltzworks I've read your various posts mentioning your dad. He sounds like quite the guy. 3 fusions! Wow! It's wonderful that you have him to give you encouragement. How are you doing?
  • I am definitely going to be ready for my holiday. No two ways about it! Last year's was ruined as it was the week after my disc prolapsed so I was in full on agony! This year I am going to get up those hills- it is my goal! My job isn't that strenuous, I am a teacher, but I do spend quite a bit of time on my feet. I know, I know but that is the way I teach! It is really hard to manage a class doing an experiment without walking round!
    Today I managed to swim 20 lengths in the pool up from the 8 I started with about 7 weeks ago. Before all this I used to do 64-100 soo that is my other goal. I am feeling better today again!

  • It sounds like you are doing much better now.
    Mind you don't overdo it on those hills!

    Do you work full time?

    Glad that you are having a good day today, and hope that you have lots more.

    Take care.
  • Thankfully I only work part time - teaching is so full on I couldn't manage full time at the moment! I will be careful when it gets to the holiday and will listen to my body. But it does help to have a goal. Today I also walked up a mini, gentle hill and feel quite proud of myself!
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