Lumbar spine fusion is an operation used to relieve pain and disability due to spinal joint damage and possible instability. It is achieved by metalwork and bone graft being placed across the unstable or severely degenerated joint/s. Recovery from this surgery is highly dependent on pre-surgical levels of fitness and activity, and as such timeframes and outcomes post-surgery are often very variable.
Phase one - The first phase of your recovery will be focused on managing your pain and early, general mobilization to prevent excessive lower spinal stiffness developing. Circle’s expert physiotherapists will help you to safely transfer out of bed on the day of your surgery or the morning after surgery. You will be encouraged to get back to normal tasks in a gradual and sensible manner but restrictions will be placed on your ability to bend forwards, rotate and/or lift weight until six weeks post-surgery. Your physiotherapists will educate you on how best to avoid these movements and activities and provide some alternatives so you can return to independence as quickly as possible. Prolonged sitting should also be limited to one hour during this time as this can increase lower spine discomfort. Your physiotherapist will guide you through some initial, basic core stability exercises to support your lower spine and prevent excessive muscle wasting post-operatively.
Phase two - The second phase of your recovery will commence once any acute pain and stiffness from your surgery has dissipated. This is normally the case around six weeks after surgery. This phase will focus on gradually returning you to normal function and as such you will be encouraged little by little to increase your forward bending movements and increase the amount of weight you are lifting, as your strength and pain threshold allows you. Our physiotherapists will prescribe some more active rehabilitation exercises designed to increase hip mobility and increase dynamic strength in your lower spine. Although rehabilitation will progress significantly, under normal circumstances you will need to refrain from complex movements involving rotation during this phase as these movements tend to increase pressure within the lower spinal discs significantly.
Phase three - The third phase will begin when you have recovered from any acute pain associated with the surgery and recovered enough strength and flexibility in your spine to commence more vigorous, weight-bearing exercises. The exercises our physiotherapists prescribe during this phase will typically take into consideration your normal activity levels and sports played/hobbies and will aim to increase functional strength. Examples of exercises that may be prescribed are step-ups to increase your strength and balance when climbing stairs, and shallow squats to enhance your ability to go from sitting to standing.