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lumbar fusion expectations

I am 71 . 4 weeks since lumbar fusion, L3-4, L4-5. This followed (first ) SI joint fusion then  2 discectomies.

Two questions:

Still on a fair amount of pain meds , only reduced by half the dose I left hospital on. I'm not comfortable to drive on that level. Is this to be expected at this stage?

Physical Therapy... I have an appointment to start this at 6 weeks post surgery. Did not get sent for PT for the previous surgeries. I know this was more major but wondered if PT is typical follwing lumbar fusion and to what extent it is helpful.

Thanks, in advance,




  • Welcome freddieg3 we’re glad you’re here!

    You are still very early in recovery from such a big surgery, I have had 2 lumbar fusion surgeries, 3 levels total, I had PT after both surgeries, as far as pain meds. go, my surgeon told me to try my best to stay comfortable, being in pain would only delay the healing process.

    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 read the article Practical Advice for Recovering from Back Surgery on Spine-health? It offers a lot of practical tips around what to expect before, during, and after surgery. You may also want to check out the video How to Prep Your Home for Spine Surgery Recovery, which also has some great tips.

    Again, welcome to the Veritas Health Forum.


    Veritas Health Forum Moderator

  • Looking forward to having a place for my questions. 


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  • You have come to the right place, there's a whole lot of experience here and we are glad to have you.

    Take care and keep us posted


  •  Freddie PT is extremely helpful post lumbar fusion-I had L3-S1 fused in early 2018 and did PT from 6 weeks post op until Sep of this year. Key is to find a PT you can trust, and they do lots of gentle stretching each ‘workout’ and stay within the program...thinking you can do more before you’re ready just sets you back.  This is one reason I liked a monitored PT plan and not just doing it yourself at the gym.  Good luck. 

  • memerainboltmemerainbolt IndianaPosts: 4,718

    I agree, PT is very important for a good recovery. But like Joel said, do it right. After my lumbar surgery, I spent a week in rehab and that was the best thing I ever did.
    Good luck, time and patience.

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  • I am pretty much limited to the PT that my HMO sends me to so hopefully it will be a good one.

    I have had three surgeries in the last 18 months so have been quite incapacitated for a litttle while. I know everyone's situation and tolerance for pain is different. I was able to get off narcotics after 4 weeks with the SI joint fusion. Living alone, not being able to drive because of the narcotics is difficult. I was wondering what would be a reasonable expectation for getting off Norco after this type of surgery?I understand how important it is to be proactive about the pain but clearly can't drive on current dose.


  • memerainboltmemerainbolt IndianaPosts: 4,718

    It's hard to say because everyone is different with recovery time, tolerance to meds, and age. But 4 weeks is still early in recovery.
    Take care, Sandra

  • I have been incredibly lucky and made it to this point in my life without ever being sick or in the hospital for any reason. After 18 months of back surgeries I think I'm turning into a big baby. I have been able to get off drugs fairly quickly with  the other surgeries but the comments I have received are convincing me that this is indeed much more serious. So, patience...

    I do appreciate the input . I have a good surgeon with a competent staff but their focus is surgery and it is difficult to get more than the standard answers. 

    Thanks again,


  • My other concern is the apparent (according to Google) frequency of problems with adjoining segments of the spine post fusion. It makes sense, as did the potential for increased stress resulting from the first surgery which was Sacro joint fusion. I was wondering if it actually is as often a problem as it seems. I don't expect to suddenly become trouble free when I heal but I do wonder if people sometimes have a break between issues or if the standard is just one surgery after another. 

    Im at 18 months, 4 surgeries. It just seems kinda hopeless sometimes. 


  • Dr. Google will scare you to death, it has been 5 years since my fusion surgery, so far, so good.


  • jbowerjbower wisconsin Posts: 176

    Like Chip mentioned, never go off what you read on Google.  Unless you find articles published by universities as those are more trustworthy.  Give yourself time as 4 surgeries in 18 months I doubt your body has had time to fully recover from the 3 past surgeries.

  • I do indeed feel somewhat battered. The pain from the first problem, SI joint, I couldn't control with meds. I probably could have found a way to stay medicated enough with this last one, lumbar fusion, but was hoping for a less semi conscious outcome. 

    Thanks for the input 

  • 4 surgeries in 18 months takes a toll on your body, I had 2 fusion surgeries in 13 months, it took me a year to recover and I was 51

    Take care


  • At age 41, underwent 5 level fusion  (L-2 ~ S-1). As an "active" mum of 5 boys, slowing down was not an option. Whilst lumbar region stays tightly secured, only option for any torso twisting/bending need  take place in thoracic region. (not an intended function for these vertebrae). 

    Long of it, 14yrs on, the entirety of me spine, above fusion, is extremely unstable. Audible clunk when twist it in slightest. Discovered scoliosis there now. A double "S" curve formed   L-1 clear up to C-spine.  I am gobsmacked! Asking me what I do?  Surgeon stating requires more surgery. As what he does, innit? 

    Double S curve...sounds bit like a dangerous road. I believe all spine fusions are risky, quite dangerous.  But, we only get one spine and if allows us to be upright whist moving about, what else to look to? 

    Know that getting up from a spine operation feels quite like a run-over by a lorry, but it DOES heal and life is good then, innit? 

    If you must have surgery, then do it...just be certain to get up and about shortly after and do not stop moving about. ⛲

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