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New Here....what's normal after fusion



  • }:) Hi. I agree with everyone that each of us have pain differently and recover differently. I had a laminectomy first and then L4/L5 fusion (360 with all the bells and whistles). The worst experience of my life and a real hard trip back to my new normal life. I was an elite athlete before so was in pretty good shape but I could not even walk at first. I did not have a back brace and before I went to PT I walked and walked and walked. Not far at first but I gradually was able to go longer distances. I hate walking but when it became the only thing i could do it was great. I am also a swimmer and got back in the pool as soon as I got the ok from the surgeon. Being weightless is wonderful. Things deteriorated further in my spine and I ended up with L1-L5 fused 6 months after the first fusion. Again it was an awful 5 days in the hospital and the same slow recovery. At least I had been able to do PT between the surgeries so that helped. Again walking as much as I could tolerate and back in the pool as soon as I could. I was pain free for a few months (except for the bone graft site on my hpi which still hurts) and now am having SI joint issues which I understand are common, the SI joint being the articulating joint closest to the fusion. The pain is pretty bad and I can't sit. I will be having a steroid injection into the SI joint. Definitely if things are not going as you expect/hope/whatever a 2nd opinion is always valuable. We are all in unknown territory when we go into our first or even 2nd fusion and it doesn't get much easier after. Everyone reacts so differently. The more people you can talk to the more you realize there are a lot of us suffering and that there are lots of ways to deal with things. Good luck.
    L4/L5 laminectomy, L4/L5 360 fusion with instrumentation, L1 to L5 fusion, L5/S1 fusion w/ disc replacement, left and right SI joints fused.
  • welcome to these forums! i am sorry to hear you have such a bad case of cabin fever - must be hard to deal with so many restrictions.

    i would encourage you to find out what is a normal recovery expectations for your particular diagnosis and surgery - you can do a lot of that research on spine-health's articles. for example, you will learn that bone heals (ie creates a fusion) better under stress, so activity and exercise is usually encouraged a brief period after surgery to help create a good healing environment for the fusion site.

    here is an index of surgery articles if you're interested:

    kind regards,
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  • I'm looking at a three-level lumbar fusion and I'm hoping for some relief, not just more pain. Well, I suppose I could make it if I had half the pain I have now. I can't walk more than a few blocks without my leg buckling and jabs of horrible pain in my back and down my leg. This from a woman who has walked two of the Breast Cancer 3-Days! (20 miles a day for three days). I am so depressed to think I may have to spend the rest of my life like this. I truly hope you are allowed to get to PT soon and that you get better quickly once you get there.

    3 level spinal fusion, L3/4, L4/5, L5/S1, November 2008. Stiff, but I can walk.
  • PLIF means the surgeon went in from your back, and the more your spine is exposed the longer and harder recovery is. So be really careful comparing yourself to other people. There are different types of fusions and different degrees of what is preformed by the surgeon. A long scar down your spine indicates you had a traditional open fusion.
  • Felicity,
    Great words of caution that you bring up - there are a ton of different fusion types, each with its own pros and cons, and very different levels of surgeon skills and experience, all of which play a role in the chances of achieving pain reduction, and the amount of healing and recovery.
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  • Yeah, I have a nice big lower back scar :(

    He did go in through the back.

    I get discouraged because these last 3 years of back pain and 2 surgeries has ruined my life. I'm only 29
  • Don't let my experience scare you.

    I am better then before, when I couldn't get off the floor!

    If it needs to be done, then I hope you have a really nice, skilled surgeon.

    I only had the surgery as a last resort, after a failed laminectomy...and MANY flare ups.

    I just got the go ahead yesterday to go to PT, YAY!!! No more back brace either, and I'm THRILLED!!!

    I'm thinking that 3 days of warm water PT will do me good!

    Good luck to you, you can message me anytime if you want to talk about your fears and concerns

    Samantha-aka Bionicsammers :)
  • It is very difficult, for much of the time I felt exactly the same as you I was in my thirties when I had my fusion. I felt I lost everything meaningful in my life. But slowly I realised I hadn't, I started to see the world differently and I started fighting hard. I try to set myself up for success and to be realistic about expectations. It will get easier for you, think you are lucky you are recovering with a 29 yr old body that is a massive advantage over many ones. I think the surgeons do not prepare us well for what exactly recovery involves!
  • I know that three-level fusions aren't generally recommended and I'm now 54 years old. I'm single and have worked hard all my life for all I have. I'm getting so close to retirement, only a year and a half away, and I want to start enjoying my life, instead of everytime I move feeling like I've got bone grinding on bone or something down at my tail. The pain is unbearable at times and I've got 3-day pain patches plus percocet. I can't imagine what the pain would be like without the meds. I guess it is time to do the fusion. My surgeon seems really nice and I appreciate that he wants to do further xrays and scans to see exactly what he's getting into before he jumps in there. I've seen all the minimally invasive ways they can do fusions, but I suppose they do that more when they just do one level. I'm praying I don't have a huge scare, but I just want most of the pain gone.

    3 level spinal fusion, L3/4, L4/5, L5/S1, November 2008. Stiff, but I can walk.
  • I forgot to say I'm glad to hear you're out of your brace and can start PT. That has to be a big relief!


    3 level spinal fusion, L3/4, L4/5, L5/S1, November 2008. Stiff, but I can walk.
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