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How soon after your ALIF surgery were you driving again?

I had my ALIF done on 9.11.17 fused L5 S1 so I'm a little over 3 weeks post op and I probably had some unrealistic expectations of what recovery would look like. I had the impression that I'd need 10 days of pain meds at most, would be driving after a month, that it wouldn't be any worse than a non-complicated C-section (of which I've had two).  I'm still having a whole lot of pain and have to force myself not to take the pain medication and give in only when I'm in tears and completely spent from trying to hold out. I can barely walk, and that's when using the walker. I still have the sciatic pain down my entire right leg, only now we've added the excruciating lower back pain from all this new hardware and the general pain of the surgery and we've added the incision pain as well. I feel nearly useless. I can only sit or stand for really short periods of times, walk very short distances around the house or to the car for a doctor appointment. I can do the stairs just once a day and go straight to the couch for a nap to recover. This is NOTHING like the recovery that I pictured. 

From my reading on here, it sounds like there really is no such thing as "typical recovery" and that everyone's body recovers at it's own pace. My own surgeon seems only mildly concerned, says we're not that far out yet. But I really, honestly thought that I would be driving at 4 weeks. I actually have plans made to be driving come next week and now I have to reschedule a lot of things because I won't, apparently, be driving yet and I can't say when that will be happening. Only it's clearly not happening yet.

So I was just wondering for other patients who have had this procedure done because I'm trying to get a general poll to see what the range can be...how soon was it before you were driving after your ALIF procedure? How long was it before you driving distances of maybe 2-3 hours (longer than the grocery store, like able to drive on a daytrip)? How long before you were able to control your pain without the use of prescription medication? Did you do any Physical Therapy after your procedure and if yes, how soon did you start?

Ok, that's several more questions beyond just driving, lol. But thanks if you take the time to read and answer any or all of those. I'm looking forward to getting to know you guys more from my laptop here as I learn the virtue of patience. 




  • Have you called your surgeon to report what's going on?  I think it's pretty universal that doctors don't fully inform fusion patients what to possibly expect after surgery.  For me, it was the most difficult recovery I've ever been through.  I have a suggestion for you...do not let the pain get ahead of you!  I know you want to limit pain meds, but if you let the pain get too far ahead, you'll play catch-up which is difficult at best!  You will feel better when taking the meds which may allow for you to walk more which is crucial to healing.  You must keep core muscles strong.  When your in pain, that doesn't happen to well!

    I started driving about a month post op.  Just short trips though.  Listen to your surgeon foremost and make sure he/she is fully aware of what you're going through!

    Best of luck!


    Several Epidurals, L4-S1 360 ALIF, Numerous Facet Joint Injections, RFA x2
  • memerainboltmemerainbolt IndianaPosts: 6,357

    hello kris!
    welcome to spine-health

    every surgery and recovery is different. people heal in different ways at different times. i've read in the past some people drive at 4 weeks some 8 weeks. age has a lot to do with it too.
    recovery is the hardest part because it takes patience. if you don't take your recovery serious, more than likely, you will be doing this again later on.
    while you are waiting on other members to reply, please click on the welcome link below for more information.

    welcome to spine health

    Veritas-Health Forum Moderator
    Please read my  Medical History
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  • Hi Kris

    From memory, I attempted driving about approximately 9 weeks, but only to the doctors surgery which is 5 minutes away.  I tried to progress my driving to 20 minute session a few weeks after that, but ended up with severe cramps and pain, so just stepped it back down.

    I have somebody drive me to my physio session at hospital, as that is 25 minutes or so away and had three sessions so far, and that started about 3 weeks or so after my 6 week check up.

    To me physio is the most important things to get on top of at the moment and walking daily really stops things seizing up.

    It is frustrating to not be able to do things, but I keep taking my nerve pain medication and pain relief, to allow freedom from pain, to achieve the best I can with physio, to get the muscles strong again.

    I would not be able to do half the things I do without pain relief daily and didn't expect anything different from this as I was very pushy about getting the truth about recovery.

    Unfortunately some medical professionals don't always share the longevity of healing and moving forward.  I guess in some cases it might scare people off having surgery their body is in desperate need of.

    Unfortunately I do not know the time your nerve was trapped, but this can make a huge difference to how long it takes to heal.  They are very very slow in this department, but fire off very quickly in response to being released.  We have to suffer the pain of release to stop the nerve becoming more damaged.

    However, you must inform your medical team of any new symptoms or changes that you are worried about, so they can advise you.

    I hope your pain reduces very soon and you are able to start resuming normal life in 'micro portions'.  This is all I can achieve at the moment but I make that micro achievement a positive in my head at the end of every day :-)

    Take care




    L5/S1 herniation Apr 2013
    nerve root injections Oct 2013
    L5/S1 discectomy Jan 2014
    L5/S1 nerve roo &, facet joint injections & edpidural Jan 2015
    L5/S1 revised discectomy, L4/L5 discectomy & Wallis Inswing Stabilisation L4/L5 May 1st 2015
    L4-S1 TLIF with decompression June 2017
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