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L3/4 Fusion recovery

YakmikeYYakmike Posts: 7
edited 06/11/2012 - 7:34 AM in New Member Introductions
Newbie to this site. 62 YO male, very active biker,kayaker, daily workouts to try and manage the spondylolisthesis. Trying to wait until the end of the year to schedule surgery due to some biz committments. I really would like to hear from someobne on the realistic recovery patterns they experienced and how they are progressing. I am having another epidural injection to see if the pain may be abated until Jabnuary '10.
Best of luck with everyone posting here and my problem seems miniscule compared to others.


  • Hey Mike,
    I'm a 38yo male recovering from L5-S1 Posterior fusion. I know from reading these forums that there is a huge difference between peoples recovery, probably much to do with pre surgery health and activity level.
    For myself, I was quite active in the gym, mostly aerobic on the elliptical, but got somewhat out of shape in the months leading up to 6/24/09 surgery. The surgery itself, for me, was very difficult. Pain was really bad for 7 day stay in hospital. I was pretty miserable - BUT, looking back, it was well worth it and, I wonder if it has to do with hospital as I'm sure different hospitals have different levels of dedication to pain management. Anyway, It's been about 7 weeks since my surgery and I feel pretty good. I'm walking a mile/day and I'm also in the pool nearly every day. I still ache, but not all the time. I was taking 8 Norco/day for 18 months - along with two epidurals and a 3/08 diskectomy. I stopped the Norco approx. 4 weeks ago, and I'm now in the last few days of Suboxone taper. (Suboxone is highly sensitive subject on here, some very strong feelings exist, so I won't go into it too much, other than to say it seems to be working well for me)
    I have two kids and all is basically back to normal, the main limitation for me is I can't sit, upright in a desk chair, for more that 30 minutes. I'm scheduled to go back to work (looking forward to it) at the end of September for total of 12 weeks off. Hope that helps a bit, good luck with the Epidural and the eventual surgery.
  • hi and welcome to the forum! :H we are here to offer you support and answer what questions we can. you will find all kinds of spineys from active to those of us that can't get around much.. :? but we all share pain in common.. ~X( it is good you stopped by.. good luck as you look for answers to your questions. :D Jenny :)
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  • Hi,

    I'm 52, had L4/5 fusion 7/08 for spondylolisthesis. I wasn't in as good of shape as you, also have rheumatoid arthritis that makes it difficult for me to walk. I was having bouts of severe spasms, etc., went through all the conservative therapy and finally had to give in to fusion (which is the treatment of choice for spondylolisthesis). I was in the hospital for 5 days, then rehab for 1 1/2 weeks, had to use a walker until about a week after I came home, PT in my home for 2 weeks. I then used a cane. I had a lot of pain, but was well controlled on meds. I think due to my arthritis and not being well conditioned that my recovery was longer, but was told by NS that it would be about a year for full recovery. Its now over a year, and I do feel much better. I am still on chronic pain med though, but not just for my back.

    I hope you'll do well holding off until January.
    Best wishes to you,

  • I am facing spinal fusion surgery in three weeks and am pretty scared. I am 49, live alone and have gotten so much different information on what recovery is like that the more I read the more confused I become...I had one doctor tell me I would need to be admitted to some type of nursing facility after the surgery...I do not have anyone living with me, but I will have friends helping. I know it will be extremely painful post op....but when can you start doing simple things for yourself? No one has given me any time frame, for instance...when can I drive again? I have always taken care of myself and it is extremely hard to think about asking help for simple tasks. Any good news would be greatly appreciated!!! I am glad I found this forum
  • chrisone, welcome to the forum. :H check out the "Back and Neck" surgery forum for info you are looking for.. :? you will need support on a regular basis the first few weeks. you need to decide how best to handle that.. :? a nursing home may be the best choice for you... good luck and you will find many answers to your questions here... =D> follow your doctor's orders!! :D Jenny :)
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  • I appreciate your reply on the recovery process and am still very apprehensive on committing but have little choice at this point. Just the fact that you feel it was well worth the ordeal od recovery make this decision easier. Thanks again.
  • Marianne, thanks for your response about your recovery time. It certainly sounded like you had a difficult time dealing with the post op and your Arthritis kicking-in at the same time. Best of luck to you and I hopr that thinksd improve.
  • Jenny,
    When you responded to chrisone, you mentioned that support on a "regular" basis would be needed for the first several weeks. Can you tell me exactly what my limmitations may be during this time? I realize that everyone has different recovery patterns but I was curious what you were referring to with this support.
  • I am a few years shy of your age and had really bad sciatic pain for about three years before I finally agreed to fusion.

    I kept thinking in an age when they are doing heart and lung transplants, there ought to be a more sophisticated technique than fusion. I consulted with eight different specialists and was assured that for my problems, fusion remained my only option. But still I waited until it was so bad that I was driving to the mailbox at the end of our driveway to collect my mail and I could not stand to stand for more than about a minute. My world was becoming smaller and smaller. So I had surgery after doing lots of research and carefully selecting my surgeon.

    I think it is very important to check out all the possibilities before entering into surgery as it is a life-changing event. That being said, one gets to the point where, sometimes, there are no alternatives...stay the way you are or take a gamble that surgery will resolve the situation, or most of it, anyway.

    It is really difficult to say how YOU might recover. It is such an individual thing. I have found that almost all surgeons err on the side of being overly optimistic! Mine was not. Between his comments and all the knowledge I had gained from reading on various forums, I was very prepared for life after fusion.

    Since you are in such good shape, I would assume that your recovery should progress well and be faster than many. That is one danger in waiting too long, like I did.

    I'll try to give you a couple generalizations regarding post-surgery recovery.

    Most people find it helpful to have someone around for the first week or two. I think most patients manage at home quite well. I could have managed by myself if there were no other responsibilities in the house. I have two big dogs and didn't want to have to be getting up and down to let them in and out. Feeding them was difficult because I could not bend over, etc. Also I was terrified that I would get tripped or knocked over by one of them. Had it not been for them, I could have managed on my own.

    After my husband left for the office, my son would come over and sit with me. He could do some work on the computer while he looked after me. Mostly he was on dog and phone duty. He would wait on me, fix me lunch, etc. He stayed the first two weeks and showed up for the third week, but by that time, I was kind of tired of having people around, so I persuaded him that I could handle things on my own.

    It was nice to have him around, but it was not necessary. There are easy ways to manage what he did without having a person around. It was nice the first week though because you are pretty out of it if you are taking pain meds...and most of us do.

    After the first two weeks, it becomes easier...but you are still mostly resting and walking, resting and walking. A lot of recovery depends on how long you need pain meds...but regardless, in order to assure a successful fusion, there are certain things you cannot do for many months. And it is very important to follow your surgeon's instructions.

    Some surgeons have their patients wear a brace for a period of time to protect the fused area. Some start PT fairly soon in the process. Others do not.

    A few people are able to return to work at six weeks, but I think six months is more realistic for many people. Your fusion will not be strong for about a year and it can take that long or even longer for any nerve damage to heal, if you are now experiencing any sciatic-type pain....

    Hope this gives you an idea of what some people experience....it could be similar for you or it could be an entirely different experience....Unfortunately, with back surgery, nothing is predictable and there are no guarantees as to the outcome.

    They don't let you out of the hospital until you can toilet yourself, dress, move from bed to chair, to walking, to climbing stairs, if your house has them, etc. If a patient cannot do that when it is time to be released, they are usually sent to a short-term rehab facility.

    I was sent home using a walker which I used for the first couple days. I had arranged my home prior to surgery so it would be easy for me. (We can help you with tips for that at a later date.) At first, I mostly napped or slept and then I would walk when I got up to use the bathroom. Occasionally, I would sit up for no more than 15-20 minutes. (This was hard for me as I was perfectly comfortable sitting. I had to set a timer, or I would forget and sit too long at the computer!) My first "outing" was at about two weeks when I went to see the surgeon. I did not drive for the first eight weeks.

    I think it is safe to say that most patients are not moving out of the house a lot before 3 weeks. It's not a good idea to even ride in a car at this point because the motion and vibration can be bad for the cells that are trying to knit together. My doctor really stressed just walking and resting at this point.

  • Hi Gwennie,

    This was exactly the typ of info I've been searching for regarding the recovery process. I realize that everyone will be reacting quite differently and I need to plan for those first several weeks when my mobility will be very limited. My wife works and I am trying to organize my day-to-day needs in a manner that I can deal with during those first two weeks at home. The pain meds will surely put me out of action that first week. Another question is that you mentioned you could not sit erect more than 15-20 minutes. Was this a prescribed time directive or was this an individual limitation?

    Since our sons are both living in distant locals that will not be an option here. You are very lucky to have your son close enough to pitch in and give you a hand.

    I really appreciate your detailed description and wish you the best of luck with your recovery process. Thanks.
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