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Activity Levels after recovery from a fusion for younger patients (25yo, male)

CaslandCCasland Posts: 1
edited 12/26/2015 - 8:35 PM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
Hello everyone, I have been cruising the forums for a while now, but wanted to make my first post - haven’t been able to find many anecdotes or information about post-recovery activity levels for younger folks getting fusions. Looking to hear people’s thoughts on it or personal experiences.

If you don’t want to read the full schpiel, my question is this: What level of activity can a younger person (25 years old) reasonably expect to return to after a recovery from a spinal fusion of the lower back (L5-S1)?

Here are some details about my case - I am providing lots because I always appreciate seeing details when I am browsing the forums so that I can compare the case I am reading about to my own.

I am a 25 year old male in good shape (6’2”, 190 pounds), and my L5 vertebrae has three stress fractures from gymnastics (pons separated). The first surgery I had when I was 20, and it was an external reduction internal fixation of L5, but I had bone grafts which didn’t take. The surgery is normally done on people younger than I was, but the grafts had a 50-50 chance and I fell on the wrong side of the odds. Some of the the screws they put in have since broken. It is five years later and I have pretty severe sciatica in my right leg and a completely herniated disc between L5 and S1.

Specifically, the surgery I will be having in a few weeks includes:
  • Anterior Lumbar Interbody Fusion L5-S1
  • Posterior Laminectomy
  • Facetectomy L5-S1 Right
  • Posterolateral Fusion L5-S1 with Instrumentation
  • Removal of Posterior Hardware L5-S1
I have read many threads on activity levels that people return to after fusions in the lower back in this forum, but they are typically for people who are 30-40 years my senior, and typically they have been moderate at best (walking 9 holes of golf, for example).

Granted, I couldn’t walk 9 holes of golf currently so it would be an upgrade, and I know I’ll never get back to gymnastics, but I am hopeful that I can maintain a healthy physique and be able to engage in slightly more intense activity than golfing.

A few questions about post-recovery activity levels:
  • Does the expected activity level of a younger person after a fusion differ from that of someone who is older?
  • What sorts of muscle building activities (for physique) are possible after a fusion? Is weight lifting an option if using isolated exercises as opposed to compound workouts that put strain on the lower back?
  • Does anyone have experience with younger people getting fusions or have gotten one themselves at a young age? If so what did the activity levels after completing recovery look like?
Long first post I know, but thanks for your help everyone! :)


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

    Liz, Spine-health Moderator

    Spinal stenosis since 1995
    Lumber decompression surgery S1 L5-L3[1996]
    Cervical stenosis, so far avoided surgery
  • I'm older than you, but like you I was very active and had the same stress fracture at L5/S1 except I didn't know it so it didn't get treated, so fast forward about 15 years later I had a huge herniation and my pars fracture was discovered.... I had a one level fusion in early November 2015. My surgeon says I can return to running and lifting weights in a year IF I fuse. So, of course I'm pretty nervous about the fusion.
    At 6 weeks out I can already ride the spin bike at the gym and use the elliptical, and of course walking... But I do expect to get back to higher level swimming soon. (I am an endurance junkie). I think it's very possible. My surgeon explained that I would be at risk for more spine injury with these activities, but also explained that everyone is at risk for spine injury when they do these activities. I would ask your surgeon, as some do forbid certain activities- but I sure expect to be able to do more than walk and play golf... Good Luck. The ALIF procedure you are having has a high fusion success rate.
  • I am currently 54 years old. I am 6"4, weigh 100 kgs and a male. 11 years ago I fell like a bag of potatoes in my garden after my S5/L1 decided to finally gone bad. Before that I had several "rihzotomys" and even acupuncture to alleviate the pain. The best neurosurgeon in the South Africa did the emergency surgery with a posterior fusion with rods and screws. My recovery was done to the letter as I was told. If i had to walk, i walked. Rest I rest. Nothing more nothing less. My back brace went the same. I took it off as prescribed exactly as per minutes and not longer or shorter. This was done for three months. Post surgery I stayed in hospital for 6 days. Yes I had pain in hospital as I am allergic to morphine and phetadine and could not use these for my pain. Normal medication usually given for headaches etc was given to me to control my pain.

    Today I play gholf. I play squash. I exercise in a gym every day. I run 3.5 km (2.2 miles) in 18 minutes every morning. During the 11 years I twice only had a back spasm which lasted less than a day. This was not close to the surgery area in my back. I have never had any backpain ever again.

    This is merely to motivate other people with back surgery that post surgery is the most important part. The surgeon could be the best in the world and will do his/her best but it is up to you. Not always easy but with perseverance you will reap the rewards.

    Kind regards.

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