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Exercise after L4-5 Fusion and decompression

I had surgery on Feb 21 and I'm still in a back brace. I have quite a bit of nerve pain in my leg/ankle/foot so walking isn't a very good option for exercise. I've gained weight since surgery, and I'm very eager to get back into the pool and start working out. I called my surgeon at 4 weeks and asked if I could swim and he almost laughed before saying NO!

I'm reluctant to call and ask again, but I've got to do something! Has anyone tried simply walking in a pool, and has that caused any problems? I don't go back to the surgeon for another 2 1/2 weeks.

I feel great, other than the leg/feet pain. Gabapentin has helped with the night symptoms. I also sit at a desk all day and have to be careful or I get lots of swelling in my ankles/feet.

Anyone out there faced similar?


  • I understand where you are coming from, but IMHO, if surgeon says no, I would go with that. Why risk it?

    If you don't mind me asking (future L4-S1, disk compression here), how was your surgery and besides this issue, how has your recovery been?
  • Hi thelastcarol, whilst I don't want to give advice on here, I thought it was worth reflecting on the differences I see on here from people who on paper appear to have undergone similar surgeries yet get wildly conflicting instructions on recovery. In my example, I underwent an L4 to S1 fusion Feb 16th 2013, which also required removal of hardware from prior spinal surgery dating back to 1997. I am in the UK, and very fortunate to have private medical coverage and able to gain access to a wide team and be seen to relatively quickly. I saw my PT 2 weeks post op, and begun PT 3 weeks post surgery, starting off with 2 sessions per week of hydrotherapy. In conjunction with this I was advised to walk, walk, walk, but avoid bending, lifting, twisting. Last week we switched things up to 1 day Land, 1 day Hydro and I am now beginning to exercise but of course in moderation using the Nintendo Wii Fit program for core strength and balance.

    Sorry to have been long winded above, but wanted to reflect on my prior weeks to give an indication as to how much activity I have been allowed to do, I am at he stage where it is normal for me to walk between 5 and 7 km daily, and most recently manage 13 km over 4+ hours walking a round of golf (only walking, no playing!). Of course it goes without saying that its not all been plain sailing, and I've had my up's and down's, but once I was prescribed Pregabalin (Lyrica) for nerve pain on getting up each day, things have been improving slowly but surely.

    Today, after my Hydro session, I managed to mow my lawn and tidy around he garden for a couple of hours, having my son intervene with any lifting / bending, but it felt for the first time in many months I actually had a productive day :-)

    I wish you all the very best in your recovery, I personally would think your surgeon would be happy for you to perform certain exercises such as walking in the pool, but swimming would be ill advised as regardless of stroke it involves body rotation and / or arched back unless you swam backstroke constantly.

  • Because you are not able to exercise you really need to watch what you are eating. I am a health coach and recovering from my 2 nd fusion surgery done 3 weeks ago. Eat everything but processed, microwaved, unhealthy foods. Fruits, veggies, smoothies, protein.......your body NEEDS the extra nutrients while healing. Lots of water too and if you can put fresh lemon in it even better! No reason why anyone should gain weight while recovering in bed.........just need to watch what goes in your body :)
    DDD 2 level ALIF L3-L5 in 2007. 4/11/13 posterior fusion w/decompression on L5-S1.
  • Hang tight, you can make it 2 more weeks... Hopefully you will be cleared to swim assuming your incision is all healed up, but I know some docs recommend snorkel/mask so you are twisting... walking in the pool could really strain your back... just hold off and I'm sure your doc will be pleased that you feel good enough to start back with life, and probably will allow many more activities.
    33yo mom of two. My surgical history...preadolescence scoliosis, kyphosis, and a hot mess.... 5 spine surgeries and lots of items added I wasn't born with (titanium, peek, surgical steel). Guess cremation is out. TSA loves me.
  • Perhaps a better question would be whether you can do hydrotherapy. Swimming is a strenuous activity and can involve quite a bit of twisting (a definite NO - NO). Hydrotherapy, on the other hand is gentle controlled exercising in a non-weight bearing environment.
  • Sw20kickerSSw20kicker Posts: 4
    edited 05/04/2013 - 10:29 AM
    Hey everyone! New to the forum but saw this post and thought I would inquire the same question. I am 11 days post op. had an ALIF at L4-L5. The radiating pain down my legs is gone but experiencing some sharp pains on both my right and left side. The dr said that is normal for the first month. I'm wondering if I am over doing it? I was told to walk for a total of 20-30 minutes a day working up to a mile in the first month. Should I be doing more or less?? Also, where is the best place to rest during the day? I have a sleep number bed and its got s movable foundation but I would like to try other areas of the house besides the bedroom. Any advice? Thanks!!
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