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What activities can we do after spinal fusion???

jellyhalljjellyhall Posts: 4,373
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:48 AM in Recovering from Surgery

My surgeon told me that I can do anything, including sports.
However, he said that after 8 weeks, and when I quizzed him for more detail; could I pick up my granddaughter?, garden?, vacuum?, iron? etc, he then became more cautious and told me to wait another 3 months and gradually introduce things.

Now I am 7 months into my recovery.
I definately don't want to upset my back again.

At 3 months, there was no sign of fusion, and I won't be x-rayed again to check until 12 months anniversary.
The disc above and below my fusion at L4/L5 are degenerated and I don't want to cause adjacent disc problems.

So what activities do you manage to do?

I want to get outside and feel active again.
I walk a couple of miles every day.
I walk around a golf course, and would like to take it up, but know that this might be too much.

I would value hearing of others success in getting back to an active life. (I am in my mid 50s so not going to become ever so active! I am also having some pain from my neck and thoracic spine! :?



  • I will be 9 weeks post ALIF fusion tomorrow. I was thinking of posting this topic. I am so glad that you did!
    Last visit (10 days ago) NS said begin to increase all ADL's. Said I can start BENDING, my husband probed him, bending how? Like this, this, or this. He was making several different bend movements, finally doc said, NO just very small slight bends.

    I think doctors (unfortunately) all to often assume we know what they mean, they see 100's of post op patients a month (at various stages), but that was MY ONLY 7 week check up I will ever have. What I mean is its so routine to them, yet so very unique to us. Which is why I LOVE SH & you, the members, who help provide experience, guidance, advise and compassion.

    I am very interested to see what our more senior post fusion members can offer us on this topic!

    Jellyhall, I pray you are fusing a nice healthy bone!

  • This will also be helpful for those of us yet to go into fusion! I have my appointment this week and will hopefully get the ball rolling (thinking positive here!).

    It was 6 months after my fracture before I was back on a horse, so I assume the same after my surgery. The thing I most want to be able to do again is clean house! I haven't been able to do that for 3 years and my husband is kind of a hoarder :(
  • I had my fusion in April of 2007, started playing golf in the Fall of 2008, and I am still playing. I live in a cold weather climate so my golf season is usually from May through October. I play 9 holes, I usually rent a cart but I have walked 9 holes with my bag on a pull cart. I will be 62 this coming January.

    Emergency surgery in March of 2006 for spinal infection of L 2 and L 3. During surgery, discovered I had Cauda Equina Syndrome. Spine became unstable after surgery and had 360 fusion with 10 pedicle screws, plates and rods in April of 2007.
  • Did you take up golf for the first time in fall 2008?
    I have heard that it is ok to start playing again, but that to learn from scratch is hard.

    Perhaps there are ways to swing the club that don't twist the spine so much and put less strain on our backs.

    Do you have to be very careful or do you just get on with it?

    I used to enjoy badminton and table tennis, but wonder about all that twisting and jumping about.

    Thanks Virginia for your good wishes for my fusion. :D
  • the same as you Jellyhall, but I wasn't too fit to start with, so I think it's a question of starting slowly and building myself up.

    I used to be very overweight and as part of my regime to help my back, I've lost over 5 stones in the last 2 years. It didn't help my back, neither did it give me lots of energy! I feel hard done by, ha!

    That's why I asked about riding a bike recently - but after everyone's comments, I've put that idea on hold.

    I believe that swimming could be the answer. I do attend hydrotherapy once a week and hopefully, when my residual back issues resolve themselves, then I will go swimming properly. Also, the weather here in the UK is starting to get really cold, so the thought of having wet hair when I finish swimming is giving me goose bumps now!

    Ha! I tried playing golf about 30 years ago but was told that I didn't have a 'natural' swing (how rude) - I don't think that'll do my back any good if I started again now at my age (53).

    As for gardening, I did actually do some gentle weeding last weekend (when nobody was at home and therefore couldn't shout at me!). Not a good idea - but I only did it for about half an hour, that's all. I was bending over just a smidge and thought if I did it really slowly my back wouldn't notice. Why do I do it to myself? Why do we all do things sometimes that we know we'll pay for later? Are we 'testing' ourselves to see if we can go further than we did say, a month ago?

    And when people say 'listen to your back' the problem is that your back sometimes doesn't shout at you until AFTER you've done it, or even perhaps the next morning and it's too late by then, ha!

    Good luck with whatever exercises don't give you added pain - when you find them, perhaps you'll share them with us?
    2 x Microdiscectomy 2005 / PLIFusion 2-level 2010 / revision surgery 2011 / NEVRO Senza spinal cord stimulator implanted February 2013. I WILL NOT GIVE IN / UP !!

  • I agree about the weather in the UK not making us want to go swimming, and have to travel home again with wet hair. Funny, while we were away in the summer, I swam every day in the spa pool of our hotel and loved it. Our local pool is not very warm, and it just wouldn't feel the same in water that makes me shiver!

    My back is a bit slow at telling me when I am doing too much as well! By the time it lets me know, the damage has been done. I do think that we are trying to prove to ourselves that we are moving forward in our ability to achieve. As you say 'testing' ourselves.

    Well done in losing so much weight Sue. I know how hard it is, especially when we can't be as active as we would like.

    I love gardening, and have managed to plant up pots by asking hubby to place them on the patio table. I just want to get back to doing some of the things that I enjoy again.

    The best thing I have found so far is walking. I really enjoy my daily walk, and am told that it will really help in my fusing as it will help with blood supply. I just feel like I would enjoy to do some other activities as well.

  • I was an avid golfer through most of my adult life. After my spinal infection in 2006 and my multi level 360 fusion in 2007, I never thought I'd be able to golf again. I was wrong. My surgeon pretty much told me I could just about do whatever I wanted. I wanted to golf. I started slowly, going to a driving range and taking easy swings with my irons until I built up enough courage to start hitting balls with my driver. When I started playing for real, I adapted my swing so that I didn't take a full back swing. I don't even think about it anymore, I just go out and play.

    Emergency surgery in March of 2006 for spinal infection of L 2 and L 3. During surgery, discovered I had Cauda Equina Syndrome. Spine became unstable after surgery and had 360 fusion with 10 pedicle screws, plates and rods in April of 2007.

  • Very encouraging to hear that it is possible to play golf after fusion surgery.

    It sounds like you are now able to really enjoy life again. :-)
  • L2/3/4 is in my future, so I will be watching your progression on this subject for sure! Upper lumbar *I* would think will be a tad different on bending?

    PCTF C4 - T2, Laminectomies C5, C6 & C7. Severe Palsy left arm/hand.
  • Hey Jelly!

    My back has been useless at letting me know in time too. I have learnt by trial and error, but I do think some of my problems were down to the stupid infection. I found housework (hoovering, moving the furniture, cleaning the floor and the bath etc) gave me grief until very recently. Even now I pace myself. I can walk miles now (and did walk for hours most days on my holiday!!) and swimming is fine too but i do swim crawl not breaststroke. I make myself go swimming in the morning before work then it is out of the way. I haven't really tried anything else yet to be honest. I only just started back to swimming today after 2 months off cos of the infection.

    I think the main thing is to pace yourself whatever you do. I have learnt to do only half the housework at a time rather than my usual bull at a gate approach. I have built up the distance I swim gradually and have also increased the speed, distance and steepness of my walks gradually. My logic in all has been that until I get back to "normal" fitness then if I don't ache a bit at night I am not doing enough but if I can't move for a day then I must have done too much and I try and learn and move on!

    It is really hard to get the balance right especially as some days you can do things then others you can't. Oh and don't underestimate how much your job takes out of you physically.

    Hope you are doing ok.
    Nel xx

  • It sounds like your infection has healed up! <:P

    I really hope so. I have been praying that it would. :D

    I am doing well again, after a blip in my recovery. Today I had a full abdominal ultrasound scan to try to find out what caused my visit to Emergency in the middle of the night about a month ago.

    My lumbar spine is feeling pretty good. My neck is screaming for some attention now. I had an MRI scan and am awaiting the results of that.

    I am coping much better with work now. :-)

    Did you enjoy your holiday?
  • I will wait until my post-op x-rays to figure out what's what with riding.

    I promise myself :)

    But I do hope I fuse up well and can ride again :)
  • I'm 65 and older than you, so I kept to walking and gentle stretching until I knew I'd fused. You're in a similar situation to me where the levels either side of L4-5 aren't too good.

    As you know, at 7 months, I started learning Tai Chi but even now I have to be careful with some of the moves and I don't try to bend right over.

    I'm back into gardening, but no heavy digging. I pruned all my roses (32 bushes), a couple at a time, in winter and that didn't cause any major pain. My bushes are pretty big and so it was a major job.

    I walk my dogs now, but they're mostly off lead. Not sure how I'd go if they were on lead all the time. I also play ball with them and don't have any problems with throwing or kicking the ball.


    XLIF L2-4 20.8.15
    ALIF L4/5 2009
    Laminectomy/discectomy L4/5 2008
  • Hi Jelly, I am not sure that the infection has really gone, I suspect it is going to come back because it still hurts when I lean on the car seat and if I poke it! But I will wait and see what happens. At least I got to have my holiday and I really enjoyed it!

    I am glad to hear you are coping better with work and that you are on another up in your recovery. Lets hope this is a longer lasting up.

    I am sorry that you are having problems with the other levels :(

  • what can we do after a fusion ? has anyone been able to get back to gardening , as in squating down on haunches and weeding/planting?
    how long in hours /mins can you drive without pain?

    sitting /standing , how long can you do that ?

    or is a case of you are still quite limited after fusion ,as you were prior to surgery? im referring more to lumbar, and after the early recovery stage

    would be helpfull to no what others have acheived post op with their ADL"S/hobbies/sports etc.

    im thinking that lifting more than say 10lbs would be out.
  • Hi Flower

    I had to be very careful when I first started squatting down in the garden. It hurt and then I had to rest up. As my recovery progressed, I could do little bits at a time to where, after 12 months, I can do a couple of hours. However, I make sure I don't squat down for too long and get up and do lots of short walks, like carrying a container of weeds or pruning to the bin. That relieves the pressure on the spine.

    Sitting, standing and driving are all limited to around 30 minutes at a time.


    XLIF L2-4 20.8.15
    ALIF L4/5 2009
    Laminectomy/discectomy L4/5 2008
  • now that I am 2 months post surgery, I can now do light pruning on my roses, but let my husband cut the ones down low. If I want to do anything lower myself I get a stool or chair. As for pulling weeds or anything I sit and do it, I do not squat or bend.
    Driving I have no problem, but standing for long periods causes low back pain later on.
    I am starting to do light vacuuming and cleaning, but heavy stuff that requires bending over for long periods I do not do. I am still not lifting anything over the weight of a gallon of milk, because I can feel it in my back immediately if I do.

    It is really nice to be able to slowly get my life back, but slowly is the way to go, not worth rushing things.
  • Hi Jellyhall

    I too wonder what we can do after a certain pariod of time and whether there is some kind of activity chart that the Dr uses. "Oh this is week 7- ok you can do this and that. I am 5 weeks out and know it is going to be hard to go back to my job. I also work at a school; with special ed 4-5th graders. I have a great class but we have adaptive PE almost everyday. I went with a friend to her job yesterday for 4 hours. It is also my 2nd job. Just standing and walking made me so miserable last night. But is could have been the combo of the standing/walking, being up and doing that for a 4 hour stretch, the rain and cold we had yesterday. So keep me posted on what the Doc says you can do. In the meantime...Gentle Loving Hugs,

  • to hear you were able to do some pruning. that must feel good, back in the garden, sigh, i want to do that!
    yes, i cant see me be able to lift anything over about 10lbs ever, but ive lived with that for many years , so ive adapted , of sorts to that.

    thanks for your insights
  • information, it really does help to figure out what is going to be realistic.
    hey, are you from australia?
    i so love my gardening, and havnt been able to garden for a long time, so trish , youve given me hope that its possible to squat down and get into that soil :)
    ive squated down my whole life, to do gardening/cleaning/etc, and having read some posts , some folk are left with trouble doing this.

    yes, can see its still going to be ongoing matter of doing a little then rest, but if the "doing" bit gets longer, thats what im hoping for

    yes , the bending!!, seems thats allways going to be a limited thing

    Trish, how long were you able to sit/stand/drive prior to surgery?
  • i read a thread somewhere on here (sorry cant remember which section) and thier p/t had taught them a different technique to swing a golf club.

    gosh, can understand you wanting to do some diff activities , than all your walking, allthough, i would love to be able to do that

    let us no how your MRI goes

  • I have managed to do some light gardening, but nothing heavy. Earlier in the year, I got my hubby to lift the patio planters up onto our table and then I could plant them up. They looked lovely in the summer, and it felt so good that I had done it.

    Pruning is not a problem as long as I don't go down too low. Not done any digging yet!

    I really enjoy gardening, although I always used to keep going for hours until I could hardly move or it was dark! No more of that for me! Now I must learn to pace myself and do a bit at a time.

    I think you are right flower, bending is always going to be something that we have to be careful of.

    I have just learned that my daughter is expecting her second baby, so I am looking foward to being able to pick up and hold it. Her first baby was born in South America, so I missed out on seeing her as a new baby. I am feeling very excited!!!!

  • Yeah I'm an Aussie from the west coast. There's a few of us Aussies here.

    I'm sure in time you'll be able to get back to your garden, but you might not be able to do some of the things that you used to, or have to do them a little differently. I make a point of not squatting for too long and then walking, even if it's not taking weeds to the wheelbarrow. I just walk up and down the patio and then back to the garden. It relieves any pressure. I can do a couple of hours in the garden as long as I do lots of little walks.

    Re the sitting/standing/driving pre-op, it was less time. With sitting at work, it was very painful and I used to get up and down every few minutes. With standing, only about a minute and the same with walking - it was agony. Driving was easier - it was about a 30 minute drive to work, so that was my maximum. So post-op, even though I have restrictions, I'm sooooo much better. I'm retired now, so there's no pressure to keep going for longer periods.


    XLIF L2-4 20.8.15
    ALIF L4/5 2009
    Laminectomy/discectomy L4/5 2008
  • Hi Jelly

    I wouldn't be doing any digging until you've fused and it's strong. I'm sure your dear husband will continue to do it for you !!

    I used to have 135 roses several years ago and I spent at least 2 hours looking after them every day. I'd be lumping big bags of manure and compost and shoveling heaps of mulch regularly. I eventually had to give most of them away and now only have 32 bushes. When my last Labrador died, I dug his grave and buried him, and that's something I wouldn't be able to do again. I'm happy with the adjustments I've had to make, but life is good again.

    Congratulations to your daughter!! I'm sure you'll be able to hold him/her when the time comes, even if you have to be sitting down.

    You've got a good positive attitude and I know you'll find ways of doing most of the things you love.


    XLIF L2-4 20.8.15
    ALIF L4/5 2009
    Laminectomy/discectomy L4/5 2008
  • youve had improvement since your fusion trish.
    shame though, the driving is still 30 mins.

    wow a 135 roses, i thought i had a lot! i use to have 47, lol
    im on the east coast

    jelly, how lovely, a new baby,arriving, get plenty of holds in before bub gets too heavy :)
    i also use to spend all day in the garden, not for awhile now , of course, but hope i can do some in future.

    sue d , you did 30 mins in the garden and paid for it , i can see me doing that!! done that many a time before, very frustrating

  • I have only got six roses! You must have a big garden Trish, to have room for 135 roses.
    Here in the UK gardens tend to be much smaller.

    You are correct Trish, my lovely hubby is very helpful with the things I can't do any more. :X
    He is a real blessing to me.

    I did manage a bit of dancing last weekend! That was fun and felt very 'normal'. :D

    Can't wait to cuddle this baby. >:D<
  • about the baby, what a blessing.

    Well, I tried getting my hubby on board to help me in the garden. He invested in a chain saw a couple of years ago and it always worries me when he says "it's time to get the beast out".

    Needless to say, when I eventually went out to see what he was up to - EVERYTHING was cubist! All my bushes (with flowers still on) were cube shaped! How very rude. He couldn't understand why I was sooo ungrateful.

    I won't let him loose with the beast anymore - unless I'm there to supervise of course.
    2 x Microdiscectomy 2005 / PLIFusion 2-level 2010 / revision surgery 2011 / NEVRO Senza spinal cord stimulator implanted February 2013. I WILL NOT GIVE IN / UP !!
  • Hi Jelly

    I've got a good sized block, one of the older ones. Nowadays, the blocks are smaller and the houses take up most of the area. My front garden was all roses and people's heads used to turn when they drove by. I've got 15 bushes out the front now, and 17 out the back, and that's enough to look after.

    Good on you with the dancing - hope you'll eventually be able to do more.

    When's the baby due?


    XLIF L2-4 20.8.15
    ALIF L4/5 2009
    Laminectomy/discectomy L4/5 2008
  • What a shock to see all your bushes cube shaped. Some people prune roses with a chain saw, but I won't let anyone else do mine because I like to take my time and take out all the old canes.

    You definitely need to supervise your hubby !!


    XLIF L2-4 20.8.15
    ALIF L4/5 2009
    Laminectomy/discectomy L4/5 2008
  • I think most of our Aussie members are on the east coast. Not sure if there any other West Aussies here.

    I don't mind only being able to drive for about 30 minutes at a time because since I retired, I don't go very far. How different it was to when I first got married. My ex and I would think nothing of driving up north to Carnarvon or Geraldton on a weekend in a Morris Cooper S. We had fun!


    XLIF L2-4 20.8.15
    ALIF L4/5 2009
    Laminectomy/discectomy L4/5 2008
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