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Fusion Recovery-L-5-S1 &L4-L5

sheba1964ssheba1964 Posts: 102
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:52 AM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
Hi there folks.I'm new here,& was hopeing to hear from others that have achieved a successful low back fusion & what the recovery was like for you.eg,Timeframes of progress & the levels of pain you had & for how long.
When were you able to complete certain activities like mowing lawns etc.
I have had a failed first fusion,& now my 2nd one was completed on 20/1/2011,so 10 weeks ago.
Last time it felt like the bolts were trying to push out my back when I bent any.This time it feels just the same.
I realise it's early days,but at 10 weeks,I still have this feeling ,even if I walk too far,like 2 km.
So when did your pain fade,& how much were you left with ,if any??

I look forward to hearing some success stories please.I'm freaking out thinking I will never have a decent life again.
I so miss my work,& it's been 2.5 yrs since I last was able to do my job.I also live alone & freak out I'm forced to do to much to remain independant.

Anyway thanks for listening & if you can help ,that will be Awesome.

Mike from New Zealand.


  • How disappointing and frustrating that your fusion didn't take. Hope this one will be successful.

    Do have a care with bending, lifting and twisting - it's most important that you don't do too much and wait until your surgeon says you can do more. 2 kms could be a bit too far to walk at this stage - concentrate on lots of little walks and rest, and some gentle stretching.

    I had a one level ALIF which is successful. I was fused within 6 months, but it was 12-14 months before the fusion felt really strong. Until then, I couldn't sit still or stand for longer periods. Now I'm good for a couple of hours, but I still get up and do lots of small walks as well as longer ones. I can do most things now but don't carry heavy things. I've recently been able to do some low impact aerobics at home, and have been doing Chi Kung and Tai Chi for about 6 months.

    It was 6-7 months before I felt "normal" again. The leg pain was the first to go but the back pain/ache post-surgery pain was there for quite a while. I had some physio for a couple of months but that made my pain worse and I found walking and gentle stretching was the best.

    The levels either side of the fusion aren't too good and I may need more surgery, but for now, as long as I don't overdo things, I can cope. Chi Kung helps strengthen my core and the breathing is so good, and when I do it regularly, I don't have any back pain. This sort of exercise would NOT be for you at the moment. I started doing it at 7 months out.

    I live on my own too, with two Labradors. I had friends and family help me, and I also had a domestic service once a week. I wasn't able to walk the dogs until about 7 months out, and they were very good about it.

    I'm not sure about lawn mowing - would think that would put a huge strain on your back. I love gardening and it was several months before I could do much and I'm careful not to overdo it now.

    My surgeon aims for 80% - 90% pain reduction and that's what I've achieved.

    Did you have a bone stimulator last time? Perhaps you'll need one this time??

    Please do continue to take things steadily and I can understand your frustration and I truly hope that this time you will fuse.


    XLIF L2-4 20.8.15
    ALIF L4/5 2009
    Laminectomy/discectomy L4/5 2008
  • Hey thanks heaps for your feedback.It's very encouraging to hear of others experiences that have gone before us.
    Ok,by the sounds of it,I'm being impatient & need to chill & let time take its coarse.I guess after having one failed fusion already I'm looking for all the positive signs I can find that this one is working as it should.
    No,I have never heard of a bone-stimulator.What country are you from Trish?
    I also see lots of people talking about back braces,but have never had my surgeon tell me to use one.???
    Awesome to hear of your great progress,& that you are almost pain-free.You must be over the moon about that.
    Chat more soon
    Mike the Kiwi. :)
  • Hi Mike

    I'm from Perth, Western Australia.

    I've only heard about the bone stimulator from this forum, so perhaps you could ask your surgeon about it. My surgeon didn't mention a back brace and I was fine without one, but it's worth asking him.

    Are Zyban or Citalapram anti-inflammatory drugs? I've read on this forum that anti-inflammatories can affect the fusing process.

    When is your next appointment with the surgeon?


    XLIF L2-4 20.8.15
    ALIF L4/5 2009
    Laminectomy/discectomy L4/5 2008
  • My dr had me use the bone stimulator for like 2 hours a day or more. Can't remember for sure how long. Just remember sleeping with it on and it would turn off on it's own.My dr.only uses the bone stimulator when he performes more than 1 fusion to speed up the fusion process because your body can only do so much on it's own. I'm having a single level fusion this month and he told me I didn't need my stimulator this time. He does have you wear a back brace for any fusion. I had to wear it for weeks. Mainly anytime I got up and moving around. The brace prevents you from bending or twisting.
  • The Zyban & citalapram are anti-depressants.Well the Zyban is supposed to help with kicking the smoking habit.But I found that they didnt help me much at all.Its all in the head,mind over matter.A tough challenge but achievable if you want it bad enough.Wanting to recover from this surgery has been the motivation for me.But it is still an on-going battle that i face daily.
    Life is so boring when you struggle to be able to work & be aCTIVE/
    I used to live in Rivervale many years ago.Perth is an amazing city.
    Take care Trish,& have an awesome weekend.
  • I hope things are well with you today.
    For some reason they don't seem to use back braces here after a fusion.I have met a few people in New Zealand that have had fusions,& none of them were made to use a brace after thier op's.
    This time around they used some special bone compound they had in the cupboard.Vey expensive apparently.those bone grafts they take from the hip sure do hurt for quite a while.
    It has been a easier recovery but still long & frustrating.
    But after reading on here about some peeps & what they are putting up with ,I realise there are many much worse off than I.
    My heart goes out to you all who are in pain ,in this way.I sure do admire the courage of those that suffer on a daily basis.I pray miracles find you & relief also.

    Mike the Kiwi.
  • Hubby,66 years old, had an L4-5 fusion last June. First operation ever for him on his back. He did follow the doctor's orders to the letter and did nothing for six weeks but walk and lie. After his six month follow-up when they saw no signs of fusion yet. He started PT and was really good at doing the exercises. Hubby is an active guy and it really bothered him not to do stuff like cutting the lawn and we often had 'words' about his frustration in letting me do it.
    So now we are nine months out and just got back from Myrtle Beach where he golfed and went deep sea fishing with no negative issues with his back. From everyone's comments here and our personal experience, it is worth holding back and really following doctor's directives. We have found that to be so true.Let the grass grow for this year and tell everyone you are just 'going green.'
  • I went back to work after 12 weeks. Still at that time I was much better and was finally able to get off all the pain meds. Probably around six months later I started having to get back on some pain meds off and on but not to often. My DR did put me on Lyrica for some nerve issues and that helped alot. My L3-L4 was showing signs of DDD at the time of surgery but my discogram showed it not to be a pain maker so he left it alone. January of this year it started causing great pain and you know the story. Back to 4-5 Hydrocodone daily just to live somewhat of a life which is not pleasant. Trying to work 12 hr days and just cant deal with it any longer. Set for April 21 to go through this all over again. The discs above, all have good space so maybe this will be it for many years. Just hope my employer will hold on 1 more time. I'm sure they wonder about me after so many short term disabilities. What do you do? If they only knew how much meds we have to take to just make it into work! Be patient and you will be back to almost normal shortly.
  • Thanks for sharing your thoughts & experiences.Also ,thanks for the positive encouragement.
    I'm sure I just have to be patient & with time the pain will hopefully subside.
    I had to turn down an offer to go sea fishing today.Its way to soon to be taking those risks .But it sure does gut you,having to stay at home ,while you know your mates are out there having a ball.

    Have a good weekend people.And spoil yourselves in any way you can ,LOL
  • Hi Mike

    Could you have just gone on the boat with your mates and not fished, though if the sea was rough, it wouldn't have been advisable. If it was calm, and you could sit on the boat comfortably, you could have enjoyed some camaraderie with your mates.

    Absolutely agree - life is boring when you're young and have been active, and still need to be.

    Sounds like you've got a different bone graft this time and hopefully you'll fuse. I can't remember what they call it, but that's what they used for me.

    Rivervale isn't too far from where I live in Ferndale. You wouldn't have enjoyed our very hot and dry summer this year. We're still having temps every day 31 plus but there's hope later in the week for 28 for a couple of days.


    XLIF L2-4 20.8.15
    ALIF L4/5 2009
    Laminectomy/discectomy L4/5 2008
  • Hi Trish,
    Yeah I thought about that,but the boat is not large enough ,that you could stau out of the way.Plus I know me,I would of not been able to help myself,& would have got stuck into it.It's often not till after when you know you have done more than you should have aye ,LOL
    As for your long hot summer.Yes ,I have found it tough going this year over here.Temps have been hot this year for us too.
    Have spent much of this year lying under a fan on my bed.As I 'm only 10 weeks post op.
    Where are you up to with your case Trish??
  • Mike, I had my 5 level 360 degree fusion 4 years ago today. It took me 15 months of pain and depression before I began to recover. Today, I walk 4 miles, 5 times a week. I play golf whenever the weather lets me. I still have chronic pain but its a heckava lot better than before the surgery.I am living my life to the fullest, being 62 and retired. It was a tough road getting here. Be patient.

    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.
  • Hi there mate,& thanks for your encouragement.
    Wow,a five level 360 fusion sounds huge.The level of immobility must have been shocking.I hope you had some family around to support you thru all that.
    Sounds wonmderful that you are now able to play golf etc,go you.
    I think one of the hardest things to deal with is the aloneness & the boredom.
    But then I read about what some people have to suffer ,& I feel guilty ,as thier road sounds even worse than mine.Least I can get out now in my car & go & visit some people when I'm sick of my own company ,LOL.And that happens a lot ,I assure you ,LOL.
    Thanks again,& may your golf swing bring you much joy ,LOL.
    Mike ---NZ
  • Hi Mike

    As it's a smaller boat, and knowing you wouldn't have been able to keep out of the action, you made a good decision to stay home.

    I'm 17 months out now and able to do most things, but I'm sure I'll always have to be careful with lifting and digging in the garden, etc. I keep away from any exercises or activities that involve twisting. It's just great to have my life back again.

    In your reply to Dick, please don't feel guilty when you read about others' struggles, and think that perhaps you shouldn't be feeling the way you do. We do have heaps of empathy for each other, and if there's any way we can help, then we do. Each person's journey is different. I'm so happy for Dick now that he can enjoy life again, even with the chronic pain that he's left with.

    Terrific that you can now drive and catch up with friends. The "four walls syndrome" that we all go through in the early stages of recovery is so depressing, and when we get the ok to drive, well that lifts the spirit. Being on my own too, I know what you mean about the loneliness, even though I've got two beautiful Labradors and lots of friends. You can only visit your friends so much without imposing on them, and yet the longing for company can be overwhelming at times. From about 8 months out, I've been able to take the dogs to the park near the Canning River each morning, and it's great to be able to meet up with other dog owners and their dogs and talk about whatever, and that's a good start to the day.

    Hang in there


    XLIF L2-4 20.8.15
    ALIF L4/5 2009
    Laminectomy/discectomy L4/5 2008
  • I think I may have missed this post untill just now.
    Sorry Trish.Thanks for the advice & encouragement.You are so right with the way you describe the stuff we have to go through,after having surgery.
    I'm post three months now,& still have a lot of pain around where the bottom posts are.Of all the other patients my surgeon has had,where he has used this type of fixture as bottom stabilizers,he has had to take them out again after the patient has fused.So that looks where I may have to journey yet!!
    So on I push to obtain my life back.At least in part so I can work again please !!!!Rant & vent ,LOL.
  • I have had 3 separate fusions in the past four years. The most recent was 4 weeks ago. I am now fused L1 to S1. The first 2 were only 6 months apart so I felt like I hadn't even recovered from the first one before I had the 2nd. I have had it all, 360, instrumentation, my own bone graft (more painful than the surgery itself!!). It took me about 3 1/2 years to really recover from the first 2 and now I am in the recovery mode again. It does get better, its just so hard to think that it will when you are in pain. I am fortunate that I build bone well and the doc has me on extra calcium. I walk a lot now (I am a former runner but running did not cause my problems, an out of control snowboarder did!!). I also swim and find that is very helpful. Its not easy but know there are a lot of us out there hoping for the best for you.


    Spinal stenosis, spondolysis, spondolythesis, L4/L5 laminectomy, L4/L5 360 fusion with instrumentation, L1 to L5 fusion with instrumentation and bone graft from hip, L1/S1 fusion with replacement disc put in, PT, accupuncture, prolotherapy, many cortisone injections, 4 rhizotomies. Currently on tramadol which barely touches the pain.
    L4/L5 laminectomy, L4/L5 360 fusion with instrumentation, L1 to L5 fusion, L5/S1 fusion w/ disc replacement, left and right SI joints fused.
  • Hi, I have had two seperate 2 level fusions. First in Dec 2008, same as yours, fused but the pain never went away. Had another one in Dec 2010. The two levels above the first. It is a long road, and I am feeling better. I was fusing at 6 weeks, and at 12 weeks am fused although not solid. I have a hard brace I wear, and am now weaning from. It helps keep you from doing things you shouldnt. It will get better for you, I hope. You are still pretty early and I know that at the 4 month mark I was feeling better, but the healing is slow, and you dont see as big of changes as you did initially. Hang in there. It will get better. NO BLT and take it easy. You have alot of healing to do from a major surgery! You are doing well. I was on 125 mcg Fentanyl patches and 30 mg oxycodone every 4 hours prior to surgery. I was down to 75 fentanyl and 15 oxycodne at 6 weeks. I am now down to 12.5 fentanyl and 10 oxycodone every 6-8 hours. Fentanyl patch was every two days. It has taken time, but it is so worth taking it slow..Trust me I know. I have been through 5 years of pain in June from torn discs and the lack of Drs diagnosing it. Getting my life back and you will too!!
  • They have been very encouraging for me.Interesting to hear your time lines,as far as med levels & pain levels,& how it all progressed.
    Your so right about it taking a long time,& it getting harder to see the improvements too,LOL.
    Oh well as they say,Press on,& be thankfull for the things we do have ,cheers again folks,& happy healing all that need it.
  • Happy healing to you Mike !! It's a LONG journey for you, but I'm sure you'll get there this time.


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