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L5-S1/L4-L5 Fusion Recovery

wilsm79wwilsm79 Posts: 1
edited 03/16/2015 - 11:19 AM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
Hi all, first time here.

I know that there's a ton of posts regarding this topic, but I wanted to put my own 2 cents in.

I had my fusion done 4 months ago. My doctor says that the majority of healing takes place between the 4-6 month period. But what does that exactly mean besides the bone graft taking hold? How good will my mobility be?

I'm at a gym rat at heart and I'd like to know the period of time where my body will be ready to resume the gym - lifting weights and running. Any input here? Is it a year or 8 months, or whatever.

My dr said I'd be back to 80-90% of the old me when it's all said and done. What's your experience with this recovered %?

Would love your thoughts.

Thanks much



  • LizLiz Posts: 7,832
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    Liz, Spine-health Moderator

    Spinal stenosis since 1995
    Lumber decompression surgery S1 L5-L3[1996]
    Cervical stenosis, so far avoided surgery
  • Hi,
    Can't speak to actual recovery time right now but I can say what the surgeon has told my very athletic 13 year old who had spinal fusion of S1 and L5 with nerve decompression on 2/23.
    My daughter is a competitive cheerleader, rides horses competitively, and dances. You may think- cheerleader, ha. But she spent up to 15 hours a week at the gym between practice, tumbling, stretching, and conditioning. An average practice would see 120 burpees, 80 frog jumps, 50 push ups, and 50 bear crawls. Most of the girls have six packs that most guys would kill for.
    Her spine surgeon told her that at the end of three months she will be able to start conditioning with her team again. At the end of six months she would be back doing her thing 100%. He did stress that it helps that she doesn't smoke, is not overweight (all of 100lbs and 5'2"), and that she's obviously young. She is also currently doing exactly what the she has been told to post op - no bending, no twisting, and no lifting more than 5 pounds. She will follow the rules to the letter in an effort to ensure that everything takes the way it should. She has her first post op visit 4/3 and we will see how she's doing. Right now she almost off pain meds, her back does not have pain, but she continues to deal with occasional nerve pain. She has chosen to deal with the nerve pain rather than take the gabapentin which is apparently nasty and the side effects were pretty severe for her. Her neurosurgeon said her nerves were so compressed he was surprised she was walking let alone competing competitively three weeks before surgery. There is no plan for PT for her back. If she does PT, it will be for her hamstrings which were very tight before surgery.
    Talk to your surgeon. He/she should be able to give you a time line. Just don't rush it. It won't be worth it if it doesn't properly fuse and you end up needing more surgery.
  • Scott , I was back in the gym at about the 4 month mark. Granted , it was mostly cardio i.e. treadmill & elliptical as I didn't want to hinder the healing process. At 5 months, I was back to light weights with cardio. Now, at 7 months , I'm really starting to return to most of my pre opp workout routine. I say most because although I'm feeling pretty good , I'm still being somewhat careful as I don't wish to repeat surgery. As for running , my Surgeon indicated that while I could , his suggestion was to never run consistently. In his opinion , it would compromise additional lumbar levels more rapidly.
    As per my 6 month checkup, the x-ray showed that S-1 - L-5 is fused and L-5 - L-4 should be shortly. My next appointment is in June. In retrospect , I should have had surgery years ago as it would have alleviated a lot of agony. I was a fusion candidate 4 years ago however , I elected to continue conservative approaches due to anxiety surrounding spine procedures.
    I hope this helps! Wishing you and all on this forum the best regarding surgery and the healing process!
    About me, if it helps; 52 yo HWP ACTIVE Male
    Bilateral L5 spondylolysis L5 with grade I anterolisthesis L5-S1.
    Stable multilevel degenerative spondylosis contributing to mild canal
    narrowing L2-3 and L3-4.
    360 ALIF & PLIF L-4 - S-1 on 8/11/14
  • I am from the other side of the tracks, so to speak. I had a SINGLE level fusion 2 years ago, and although I started gentle workouts about 8 months after, it was with strong pain killers and a lot of rest afterwards. It has now been 2 years, and I am still on pain meds (although very weak ones), and I work out but not nearly as hard as I once did. And about once a month, my back goes totally out and I end up in bed for a day or 2, with no exercise for about 4 days, and THEN have to get another injection.
    So, my point is, you never know what the outcome of your surgery will be. Everybody's bodies are different. I hope you are on the good side.
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