3 Things You Need to Know About Spinal Fusion Recovery

Fusion of a segment of the spinal column is a surgical procedure in which a bone graft (or, in some cases, a synthetic bone substitute) is placed between two or more vertebrae in order to fuse them together, preventing any excessive motion that could harm the bones or the spinal nerve roots. This surgery may become necessary when a spinal abnormality, such as a herniated disc, is creating pressure on the nerves exiting the spine, resulting in severe, debilitating pain for the patient. In many cases, if the patient seeks medical attention at the onset of symptoms, a herniated disc can be treated with various non-surgical procedures. In the event that you are a candidate for a decompression and fusion surgery, there are a few things you will need to know about spinal fusion recovery. 

The length and prognosis of a full recovery after a spinal fusion, as well as the pain and risk of further complications, are factors that can vary greatly between patients. These variables depend on issues like age, weight, overall physical condition, diet, and the habits of a healthy lifestyle. Whatever the outlook for your recovery from spinal fusion may be, the physicians at Rothman Orthopaedic Institute can help you to make sure that your treatment and road to recovery are as smooth and as painless as possible.
Spinal Fusion Recovery: The Basics
1. Recovery time
Spinal fusion surgery recovery typically takes anywhere from three to six months, and this time frame includes the various types of physical therapy that each patient must undergo. Under normal circumstances, a patient’s recovery process may be expected to progress in the following way:
  • The period of rehabilitation in the hospital consists of a few days of wound care, managing pain, and learning to get in and out of bed without twisting or bending the spine in a dangerous manner. “Log rolling” is an important technique to learn in order to allow proper healing and fusion of the vertebrae during the recovery process.
  • Your recovery at home will consist of continued wound care and reintroducing various movements back into your regular routine. After approximately four weeks, a physical therapist will begin to help you as you learn some helpful stretching exercises.
  • Physical therapy will continue for about three months into your spinal fusion recovery. Over time, and at a pace that your doctor has determined to be appropriate for you, you will be able to return to the activities and sports you love as you regain your strength while allowing the spinal fusion to complete effectively.
2. Avoid strain and hazardous movements
It is recommended that you not attempt to lift heavy objects during the first few weeks of recovery. This can compromise the success of your spinal decompression and fusion surgery. Driving is permitted after a couple of weeks, but if you have an anterior cervical spinal decompression and fusion surgery, you may have to wear a neck brace, which will limit your ability to turn your head for a full view of the road. After a few months of recovery and physical therapy, patients are usually able to return to more intense physical activity and even to competitive sports. However, this varies with each patient, so talk to your surgeon about what to expect from your spinal fusion recovery in the long run.
3. Healthy diet
What you put into your body has a tremendous impact on your healing and recovery from spinal fusion. Make sure to eat foods that are rich in calcium and essential vitamins and minerals. Likewise, stay away from unhealthy foods that can negatively affect your recovery process. Avoid smoking at all costs, as nicotine can prevent your vertebrae and bone graft from fusing properly.
Rothman Orthopaedic Institute performs more than three thousand spine surgeries every year, helping patients in the Philadelphia area to live more productive and pain-free lives. For more information, please visit us here or contact us at 1-800-321-9999.

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