L5-S1 ALIF Surgery

Hello All, 

I am 10 weeks post ALIF surgery and my pain levels are significantly worse than pre-surgery. I am struggling to sit even 1 hour without making my pain worse. I am able to walk for 25 minutes, twice a day.

Background: Suffering from bilateral low back pain with hip pain and foot paresthesias for 10 years. I have been struggling to sit more than 4 to 6 hours day and could walk only 5 to 25 minutes. I have herniated disc that is calcified and compressing left S1 nerve. My pain is worse on right side. I tried all conservative treatments, but nothing helped. Due to pain in opposite side, surgeons were unsure about surgical outcome. Since pain did not improve all these years and I am only 37 years old, I decided to go ahead with spinal fusion surgery after recommendation by a reputed neurosurgeon.

I was doing well 10 days after surgery and I was off all medication including Tylenol. I was able to sit most of the day with short naps in between. I was walking 25 minutes, 3 times a day. I was still dealing with surgical pain and foot paresthesias but not bad. Something went wrong at 4 weeks. Pain suddenly aggravated during a walk. 6 Week x-ray did not show any issues with instrumentation. After 2 weeks of mostly rest and short walks, pain improved from acute phase but I am struggling to sit an hour. I am getting a new back pain which I did not experience before. It seems to be getting worse. Walking is okay if I limit to two 25 minute walks. I am almost pain free when lying down flat with pillow under my knees but that was the case even before surgery. I am beginning to get worried that my surgery failed.

While my abdominal incision healed well, I am still getting pain if i wear any non-elastic trousers. 

Did anyone experience similar recovery? 

Thank you!



  • LizLiz Posts: 2,041

    Welcome alifpain, we’re glad you’re here!

    While you’re waiting for a reply to your first post, please take a few moments to review the Code of Conduct and FAQ section, located under Forum Tools. There you will find important information about posting in the forum and helpful tips for new members.

    Have you seen the Spinal Fusion Health Center on Spine-health? Spinal fusion surgery comes in many forms, and you’ll find a number of doctor-authored resources here, including Types of Spinal FusionPostoperative Care for Spinal Fusion Surgery, and tips to help Maximize the Ability to Heal After Spine Fusion Surgery. It’s a great resource for anyone considering spinal fusion. I hope you find it helpful.

    Again, welcome to the Veritas Health Forum.


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  • I know 10 weeks sounds like a long time, and it is when you are the one dealing with it, but in reality when it comes to fusion surgery, it's not that long, I have had two lumbar fusion surgeries, the first one went great, went back to work at four weeks with very little pain, the second one was totally different, I went back to work part time after nine weeks, I shouldn't have, but I owned my business, I was only able to work 2-3 hours a day for six months, at that time things started getting better. PT helped a lot, the surgeon also prescribed me a steroid dose pack twice during that time to help with swelling, I used a lot of ice. You also have to remember how long you had the problem before surgery, nerves are still trying to figure things out and heal from being compressed for all those years. I was also told to limit my sitting to 20 minutes at a time for three months after surgery.

    After all that, what I am trying to say is don't give up, stay the course your surgeon has put you on. 

    Take care


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  • I am 3 years out from my fusion surgery and I had an excellent recovery. That being said, there is no way I would be able to sit for 4 hours. Sitting is my least favorite position and I have to get up and move every 30 - 45 minutes if somewhere that requires me to sit for an extended period of time. Walking is my best friend

  • Thanks Chip and urbmshr for sharing your experiences. My concern is that I am getting a new sharper back pain that I did not previously experience even 1 week after surgery. My ability to sit is reducing every week due to this new pain. I will have to wait and see what my surgeon says after my appointment in 2 weeks. How much time did it take for you for the pain to improve from pre-surgery stage.


  • Vick

    After my second surgery, it took 3 months before I noticed much difference, like you at 2 weeks I felt pretty good, it went downhill after that, at the 3 month mark I started PT, things started improving but it was still another 6 months before I felt really good, I know it's hard to deal with, but stay the course, see what the surgeon says and go from there.

    Take care and keep us posted


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  • Good to know. Thank you, Chip. I will post an update after my next appointment.

  • I had my 3 month post-ALIF (L5-S1) appointment with my surgeon. I had xray, mri and CT scan taken. My doc said images look good and everything is healing well. While my surgical pain improved a lot, my original symptoms did not get any better. I am still dealing with paresthesias in feet when I walk/sit. EMG looked normal. I also have back pain from surgery that appears to be improving. My surgeon told me there is nothing more that he can do surgically. I am hoping my symptoms will improve with time.

    Xrays did not show any bone growth. My surgeon did not seem concerned. A question for folks who underwent successful ALIF fusion. Did your xrays show bone growth at 3 months? When did your xrays show signs of bone growth? Any input will be greatly appreciated.

  • My x-rays did show some growth at 3 months, doctor said it was minimal, at the 6 month mark it was almosy fully fused

  • Thanks Chip. Did you have ALIF or PLIF? Did they use bone graft from your Iliac Crest?

  • My surgeries were posterior, they used donor bone, surgeon said he liked the donor bone because he had found that the hip surgery was harder for some patients to get over than the actual spine surgery.

    Take care and keep us posted


  • For me they used a titanium cage, filled with crushed cadaver bone and bone morphogenic protein. 

  • I have rods and screws with spacers, they also used the protein.


  • Ok. Thanks Chip.


  • Did you have any nerve damage around the incision?  Was there any referred pain from the incision?

    I had an ALIF done on L5-S1 about 7 weeks ago.  Not doing great.  Would love to hear more about how you are progressing.

  • Hi enjaneer, sorry, I just logged back after a while. I hope you are doing better now. I experienced some nerve irritation around the incision area. Incision area became numb and it extended all the way to the groin. It has been slowly getting better. I am at 4.5 months post surgery and numbness is almost gone. I still get some tingling in the incision area and occasional discomfort in abdomen when I exercise or wear any tight trousers.

  • Hello All, I just wanted to provide an update on L5-S1 ALIF surgery. I am at 4.5 months post-surgery now and my original pain is better by about 20%. I am still experiencing paresthesias and burning in feet, but slightly better than pre-surgery. Previous back pain is gone but I am getting new kind of back pain from surgery. This new pain is worse when changing positions but better once I settle down in one position. I have seen most improvement since 3 month mark once I started PT and swimming. I am still working only 20 hours per week but hoping to work more in a month or two. I still have some abdominal pain deep in the abdomen to the left of incision that comes and goes when I swim or do PT. Even though improvement is slow, I see steady improvement in pain. I hope it continues to improve.

  • memerainboltmemerainbolt IndianaPosts: 4,461


    Thank you for the update! I'm so glad to hear you you are seeing improvements, remember, time and patience. Keep up the good work.

    Take care and please keep us updated on your recovery.


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