Spinal fusion is a neurosurgical or orthopedic surgical technique that joins two or more vertebrae. Also called spondylodesis or spondylosyndesis, this procedure can be performed at any vertebrae in the spine and prevents any movement between the fused vertebrae. As the back continues to heal over the next couple of months, patients start to feel better and can do more tasks.
The most crucial period is during the one to three month period after the surgery. Here, the patient is requested to minimize the strain to the back and spine to ensure that the bone mass fusion is established successfully.
To ensure that the fusion grows together and strengthens, the patient should avoid heavy lifting, bending the spine forward, backward, or sideways. A back brace may be prescribed to immobilize the back; this helps ensure that the patient avoids unnecessary activity of the back and maintains the correct posture for the first few months after surgery. This allows for a quick recovery without any complications, while also minimizing the pain the patient experiences after surgery.
After routine check-ups, by the 6-week mark after spine fusion surgery, a patient may be cleared to attend school or work while maintaining low physical labor. Once the three-month mark is crossed, the patient should slowly start to see improvement in their spine. The pain should begin to minimize, allowing for extended motion, increased activity, and strength. Once the problem starts to subside gradually, it is good to increase activity in the body. This allows the body to regain full control and range of motion naturally. The patient can start to walk longer distances, help with light chores around the house, and start driving. The patient may also begin physical therapy after the three-month mark if the doctor deems that the spine is healing well. This allows the patient to regain full control of their body as they practice various physical therapy activities that help re-learn the full range of motion in the body. Physical therapy also teaches patients how to be aware of how they sit, stand, walk, and lie-down to ensure that they’re not causing unnecessary strain to the spine. Patients are also taught how to lift, pull, and push objects carefully and safely.
Once the patient has made a significant recovery and shows little pain and discomfort, they’re green-lit to start practicing more intense activities. A patient may take up swimming or start working on muscle strengthening exercises. Patients may begin walking routinely, which allows them to rehabilitate into their life before the surgery. Patients are advised to transition their work environment back to their workspace to ensure a successful and frictionless transition. However, if the job demands physical labor, it may take longer to follow-through the transition period.
However, not all patients have successful surgeries. For many patients, the post-surgery phase is excruciating, requiring further surgery or permanent changes to their lives. Many patients who have persistent pain undergo secondary surgery within five years of the first surgery. These surgeries are rarely as effective, and this condition is known as failed back surgery syndrome, wherewith each surgery, the rate of success drops further. Failed back surgery can be problematic as the patient can never regain their original way of life. Patients may need to seek medication to avoid pain and permanently change their routine to prevent injury chances.