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How important is walking after fusion?


My husband is four weeks past L5S1 TLIF. He is still on lots of pain meds which make him very sleepy/dizzy so he spends most of his days in bed. I have read and been told that walking is very important to aid fusion but he maybe walks a total of 20 minutes a day. We are going to see his surgeon and pain med doc next week but wanted to check if others had similar problems and how much walking/moving is truly needed to ensure recovery.



  • THE worst thing that he can do is lay in bed. His pain levels should be decreasing a month out from the surgery, and not needing the same amount of pain medication that he had immediately post op.. His laying in bed is most probably contributing to the pain levels since the inactivity worsens the pain, as well as loosing muscle strength and tone.
    He should be walking around the house, and possibly in and out of the house , short distances , multiple times per day. He should also be sitting and standing for short periods as well.
    He can ice and use heat, alternating to ease some of the pain, so I would talk to his surgeon and his PM doctor about the inactivity and the use of pain medications and their effects.
  • Walking is so important. The day I was discharged my surgeon said I had to walk 3 times a day, 10 minutes each time and I could increase the time as I was able to. I now walk 3 or so miles a day and feel awesome after my 2 level ALIF the end of October. The worst thing to do after any back surgery is lay around in bed all day. The only time I was in bed once I got home was to sleep. Otherwise I spent my day standing, walking, and sitting in a recliner.
    10/28/13 - ALIF, PSF, decompression at L4/L5 and L5/S1
  • Walking is very important, I had 3 opp's and I try to be out of bed by the third day if possible . Start off with small walks like Steve said and Liz . I use sticks I have poor mobility but if I don't use the muscle you lose them. I am sure his doctor will explain it all the next time you see him when see him.
  • Hi, I am 2 weeks post opp today. L1 to L5 reconstructed a long approx 12 hr surgery. If I don't walk I get stiff. OT and PT along with walking helps in the healing process I am told and seems to make sense that if you stop moving you'll stiffen up. It's all painful yes and my meds do help. I hope you are able to move if your Doc says so and you have a PT to help you along. Good luck to you.
    New MRI's Not good-Cervical-Thoracic-Brain
    DLIF 4 level lumbar fusion L1 to L5 Dec 2013...
    ACDF 2 level cervical fusion C4-5 and C5-6 Dec 2011
  • Oh my goodness
    Surgery from L1-5????
    What kind of procedures? And what were your injures if I may ask
    God bless you and may you completely heal quickly
  • after my ALIF I was unable to get out of my recliner without help and I needed help showering I am not an old man I am only 47 was 45 at the time .and was a very fit man .fusions are a massive operation and many people never recover from them .they are left in pain and they need more surgery ...the odd few have a good outcome ..my consultant is on the UKs best and very honest about fusion .he told me that the fusion would not be curative and I would still be in pain .he was correct .since the ALIF my health has got worse the pain is awful and constant .my activity is almost 0 .I CART WALK now only a few steps and my legs and feet swell like mad .if I swim my legs give up and feel like lead ...so lets not give the author of this post a hard time not everyone can be back to normal after surgery good luck to you and do as you can when you can ..I know a few that have over done there recovery and ended up back on the table needing a redo of there fusion and now they are in as much pain as I am .
    1997 laminectomy
    2007 repeat laminectomy and discectomy L4/L5
    2011 ALIF {L4/L5/S1}
    2012 ? bowel problems .still under investigation
    2014 bladder operation may 19th 2014
  • Like "Just Duckie", I too had a 5 level fusion from L! to L5. My legs were so weak from nerve damage, it took me a year before I could walk more than a few 100 feet but I kept at it. I have been walking now for 5 years anywhere from 2 to 4 miles, 5 timea week. Walking promotes healing, it helps build strength and endurance,at it gives you peace of mind.

    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.
  • sandisandi Posts: 6,343
    edited 12/26/2013 - 6:31 AM
    there is no question about it, but to say that most patients never recover is totally untrue. In fact, most patients do recover well and return to their lives. It is a long, drawn out process, and there are times of two steps forward and 5 back but, it is not following the post op instructions, laying in bed or inactivity, not walking, not attending physical therapy or other therapies, and not pushing yourself past the limitations a bit as you get out of the acute recovery period that contribute to ongoing problems.
    Human beings are made to walk upright, not to sit and do nothing. The longer the inactivity continues, is going to cause/contribute to other tissues swelling, the muscle fatigue, cramping, and spasms once you do.
    Recovery is a slow process, but it is the 10 steps that most of us take in the early recovery period, repeatedly , many times per day that finally get us to getting back on our own two feet or keep us there.
  • While walking is pretty crucial to recovery, I am sure the total time doing it varies from person to person. When I was first out of the hospital all I could do was walk with my walker a few laps around the house twice a day. I think to recover well a person has to be a little bit active, and also sit up some during the day, not sleep all day. That being said I am sure I slept more than usual during the first month after surgery. I'm just saying its possible that 20 minutes of REAL walking a day might be ok for him for now. I would ask his surgeon to be sure. Or the physical therapist.
  • I'm curious as to how much walking should be done in a day. I'm hitting anywhere from 6000 to 10,000 (3 to 5 miles) steps from waking to bedtime. I usually take 2 to 3 half hour or so walks and the rest is just daily accumulation. So when you say you walk a mile or two miles, or whatever, are you just talking about designated walks or do you mean daily accumulation?
  • In my case, I do a 2 mile walk, sometimes more, all at once. There is no right way, whether you walk your 3 miles all at once or break it into 3 one mile walks.

    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.
  • The total amount of walking is usually determined by your surgeon. Mine ( after my first fusion surgery) told me that for every hour that I was awake, I was to spend at least 10 minutes of it walking , whether it was to the bathroom or kitchen, or back and forth from my livingroom to my bedroom, it had to be 10 minutes for every hour that I was awake. I won't kid you and say it was easy those first few days, in fact, it was darn hard and at times felt simply impossible, but that was only for the first few days , then it got a bit easier.....the further away from the acute recovery period I got, I was told to increase both my time walking and distance until I got to a mile. Now I had a spinal cord injury which complicated matters, but the 10 minutes every waking hour was changed to three times a day, increasing both distance and time... that is the goal is to keep your core muscles working, to increase both endurance and tolerance to increased activity.
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