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Life After Spinal Fusion

May 03, 2024
Life After Spinal Fusion
Spinal fusion surgery is often considered the “last resort” for debilitating back or neck pain that hasn’t responded adequately to conservative treatments. Fortunately, today’s minimally invasive procedures make recovery easier than you might think.

Orthopedic surgeons may recommend spinal fusion when nonsurgical treatments fail to correct issues that affect the spine’s structural stability. This could include degenerative disc disease, spinal stenosis, or vertebral fractures.

Whenever possible, the board-certified surgeons at Integrity Spine & Orthopedics in Jacksonville and Middleburg, Florida, offer minimally invasive spine fusion. This less invasive procedure provides many benefits, from faster recovery to reduced post-surgical infection risks.

Read these insights from our team regarding spinal fusion and what to expect after the procedure.      

Understanding spinal fusion

Spinal fusion is a surgical procedure that joins two or more vertebrae in the spine. It's typically performed to stabilize the spine and reduce pain caused by conditions such as degenerative disc disease, spinal fractures, spinal stenosis, or spinal deformities like scoliosis.

During the procedure, your Integrity Spine & Orthopedics surgeon uses bone grafts, screws, and rods to essentially weld the affected vertebrae together, limiting their movement, reducing pain, and restoring spinal stability.

What to expect immediately after spinal fusion surgery

Your surgeon discusses details of the surgery and expectations for recovery before scheduling the procedure.

Generally, however, the immediate recovery period after spinal fusion surgery can vary depending on several factors, including the extent of the surgery, the individual's overall health, and adherence to post-operative guidelines.

Initially, patients may experience discomfort and restricted mobility. It's crucial to follow your surgeon's instructions regarding activity levels, lifting restrictions, and proper body mechanics to help ensure a successful recovery.

Life after spinal fusion

Recovering fully from spinal fusion can take several months, since the bones must have time to fuse fully. However, the initial six weeks are critical for the initial healing phase.

That doesn’t mean you’ll be incapacitated during that time. Instead, your surgeon provides guidelines for a rehabilitation process that typically includes:

Physical therapy

Physical therapy plays a crucial role in the recovery process after spinal fusion surgery. Under your surgeon’s supervision, a physical therapist designs a customized exercise program to help strengthen the muscles surrounding the spine, improve flexibility, and promote proper posture.

Rehabilitation may also include techniques to manage pain and enhance overall function, such as massage therapy or hydrotherapy.

Adapting to lifestyle changes

Life after spinal fusion surgery may require some lifestyle adjustments to accommodate the changes in mobility and physical capabilities. Listening to your body and avoiding activities that strain the spine is essential.

However, these modifications are typically simple and may include using ergonomic furniture, practicing proper lifting techniques, and incorporating regular breaks during physical activity to prevent injury and promote long-term spinal health.

Most people consider these relatively minor adjustments an appropriate trade-off for the painful conditions that spinal fusion addresses.

Managing pain and discomfort

While spinal fusion surgery aims to alleviate pain, some discomfort during the recovery period is expected. Communicating with your surgeon or physical therapist regarding persistent pain or new symptoms you may experience is essential.

They can provide guidance about pain management techniques, medication adjustments, or alternative therapies to help manage discomfort effectively.

Returning to daily activities

As recovery progresses, individuals may gradually resume their daily activities, including work, hobbies, and recreational pursuits. It's essential to pace yourself and avoid overexertion, especially during the initial recovery phases.

Discussing return-to-work plans with your surgeon and employer can ensure a smooth transition back to regular activities while prioritizing your spinal health. Life after spinal fusion usually includes improved spinal stability, reduced pain, and enhanced quality of life.

Take your first step toward pain-free mobility. Schedule an evaluation at Integrity Spine & Orthopedics today by calling either of our offices or requesting an appointment online.