Recovering After Spinal Fusion Surgery

You’ve undergone spinal fusion surgery, and now you’re curious about your recovery and rehab. The goal of rehab is to allow the fusion to stabilize and then to restore strength to the spinal column and your back. In an effort to explain how this process is achieved, today, we take a look at your expected rehab after a spinal fusion operation.

Spinal Fusion Rehab

All of these timelines may vary based on a number of factors, including location of the fusion, your age, the type of operation used and your body’s response to surgery. The following guide should be used as an estimate. Consult your surgeon for your specific rehab schedule.

First Few Days – After your spinal fusion, you’ll need to remain in the surgery center or hospital for a couple of days while the spinal fusion solidifies. The goal of your time in the recovery ward will be focused on helping you learn how to manage your pain and how to minimize pressure on your spine while recovering. A typical spinal fusion patient will need to remain in the hospital for 1 to 5 days after surgery.

Going Home – You’ll soon be discharged from the surgical center and be allowed to return home. This usually happens between 2-6 days after surgery. Odds are you’ll feel tired or exhausted upon returning home, but that’s because surgery takes a major toll on your body. You’ll want to shift positions and avoid sitting for extended periods. Short walks can be helpful, but don’t overdo it. Keep an eye out for signs of an infection, and manage pain with prescription medications.

1-4 Weeks After Surgery – After a week or two you’ll begin to notice your back getting stronger, but you’ll also slowly start weaning off your medications at this point, and some people say discomfort is highest during this stage. You’ll want to increase the lengths of your walks, but again be careful not to overdo it. Continue practicing proper wound care to ensure you avoid developing an infection.

1-3 Months After Spinal Fusion – Pain should be gradually decreasing at this point, but that doesn’t mean you can jump back to full activities just yet. Now is a crucial time for the lumbar fusion bone mass and the fused segments. Avoiding bending, twisting or lifting anything over 10 pounds. Patients will begin or continue working with occupational and physical therapists to learn how to safely perform everyday activities like changing, going to the bathroom and cooking, and to strengthen muscles in the area.

3 Months and Beyond – Exercise and physical therapy take the central role as part of the recovery process. These programs will focus on ramping up your workload to ensure you’re slowly and safely increasing your workload on your spine. You may be able to return to full activities around the three month mark, but if you have a strenuous or physical job, full recovery may take around six months.

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