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Back Problems Message Board

Back Problems Board Index

Plan for more than what the surgeon tells you. Plan on the recuperation taking a good 2-3 months, feeling better at six months and at one year, the fusion will be considered solid and set. After the fusion is complete, when one exercises, the body continues to lay down more bone and the new joint ultimately becomes stronger than the original one....this does not happen within a couple months. If one is too eager to return to activity they cannot do now due to pain, etc., it often results in actually slowing down the bone creation. So learn to be patient. You cannot will yourself to heal faster or grow bone faster! Always think "Big Picture." By that I mean think what you want to be able to do in your middle and senior years in terms of activity, not what you want to do in six months. If you act very sensibly during the first 6-12 months, your odds of a successful outcome with long lasting results increases.

Some surgeons tell patients they can go back to all activity in a matter of months. Technically while true, it ignores whether it is the smart thing to do!

Be sure you have sweatpants or elastic waist pants for post surgery. You will not enjoy having anything tight around hips and waist. There is a "sticky note" near the top of the page entitled something like Post Op Must-Haves" that includes dozens of things that people found useful to have on hand after the hospital. Read through it to get an idea of what life will be like post surgery and often for several months afterward.

You will not be allowed to bend or twist at the waist and will have a lifting restriction of a gallon of milk at the beginning. You will probably be on pain medication round the clock at the beginning. A notebook by the bed or wherever you will be spending most of your time, is handy for recording when you take your medication. People often have trouble remembering what they have taken and when. This avoids mistakes.

Stock up on fiber rich foods and drinks as pain killers tend to be constipating. It is very important to drink lots of fluids.

The amount of time sitting should be limited to 15-20 minutes at a time...and some surgeons say only sit for meals. (ie, 3x per day). The rest of the time should be spend in bed, recline with lots of pillows supporting you or walking. You should plan on walking often for short distances at the beginning. The whole point of walking is to stretch out the spinal nerves. This helps to prevent scar tissue from attaching to a nerve as it is forming and filling in during the first 12 weeks after surgery. This is extremely important! At first, when you get up to use the bathroom take a couple laps around the house, or up and down a hall, etc. You don't need to go outside....just walk for a few minutes every hour or two. (You may be told but you need to walk a mile at two weeks or something like that...but that is kind of old-school thinking. There is plenty of time for that later. At the beginning it is so important to walk frequently and to not tire yourself or cause any sciatic nerve flare that giving an arbitrary distance is not the best thing to do!)

Enough for you have questions? I was first fused PLIF at L4-5 and two years later had a second surgery and am now fused L3-S1 with a little spinal reconstruction thrown in for good measure, so I have sufficient experience to try to answer some questions! But right now, I am off for acupuncture.

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