Recovery time on a lumbar fusion

Updated April 17, 2017

Lumbar fusion surgery is performed on people to relieve them from back pain or numbness, tingling and weakness in their extremities. The person who has a lumbar fusion may have a herniated disk, which is causing pressure on one or more of the spinal nerves or other vertebra problems. Total recovery from a lumbar fusion will depend on many factors, ranging from the extent of damage to your back to your personal attitude and determination.

Recovery Begins After Surgery

Your recovery begins in the hospital, immediately after surgery. Your hospital stay will normally be one to two days, and during that time, you will be monitored closely. You will be in pain right after surgery, and the nursing staff and physical therapy department will work with you to learn the best way to get out of bed and begin normal activities.

When You Go Home

Following discharge, you will more than likely require pain medicine for a period of one to four weeks. The doctor will probably advise you to use an ice pack on your back, which will help relieve some of the pain. Your body is doing a lot of healing, so do not be surprised if you feel run down when you arrive home and for the first few days. Taking short walks and gradually increasing your activities is the best approach to take for recovery. The doctor may have asked you to refrain from certain activities. Normally, you must avoid bending, lifting heavy things and twisting after a lumbar fusion.

Wean Yourself From the Pain Meds

Infection is a risk for any surgery you may have, and if you have an infection, it will probably present itself about ten days after surgery. If you begin to run a fever, have increased pain or redness at the site of the incision, contact your physician right away. You must wean yourself off your pain medicine within one to four weeks post-op. Tylenol should be sufficient after this length of time.

Take it Easy

For the first few months following a lumbar fusion, it is a good idea to avoid excessive motion and stress at the fused segments in your back. The area that was fused is becoming established, so you need to be very careful. Do not bend, twist or lift anything more than 4.54 to 6.8 Kilogram for the first few months. Your doctor may have prescribed a brace to keep your back immobilised. He will normally have you wear the brace for six weeks to three months after surgery. You should be able to resume normal activities at this point, but if your job includes physical activities, you may not be able to go back to work for up to six months.

Attitude And Recovery

Physical therapy begins immediately after surgery, but approximately three months after surgery, an aggressive exercise program is typically started. This is usually done with the guidance of a physical therapist. Your recovery is going to depend a lot on your determination. If you follow the advice of the surgeon and the physical therapist, you will find that you can get back to normal usually within six months or less.

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About the Author

Residing in Joplin, Missouri, Cheryl Gregory writes articles that touch on women and their relationships for a non-profit organization that deals with domestic violence. She majored in English and cultural literature at West Texas State University.