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Post Fusion Surgery Exercises / Stretching

From: ff9176 - on 09/09/2011 1:06pm

I am a 39 year old female and work as a career firefighter. I am post L5-S1 fusion surgery (TLIF-Transforaminal Lumbar Interbody Fusion). My surgery was Dec. 14, 2010. This was my second surgery. I had a previous laminotomy with partial discectomy at the same level 2.5 years prior to the fusion (Feb. 12, 2008). I have also been diagnosed with Degenerative Disc Disease a few years back. Although the fusion relieved a great amount of my pain, I am still struggling with adjusting to my new hardware and how different I have to move my body to accomplish simply tasks. For instance, I cannot bend to tie my shoes, instead, I have to put my foot up some place high and in front of me so I can reach to tie. My flexibility is lacking tremendously. I used to be able to stretch and reach past my toes, now I can just hardly clear the knees. When I sit on the floor with my legs spread apart in front of me, I cannot sit unsupported. I have to put one hand behind me to hold me up and then try to lean a little toward the direction of my feet. In that position, I cannot reach past my knees. What exercises have worked for you to improve your flexibility and also core strength? I am currently working out 5 days per week. I usually do 30 minutes of low impact cardio (walking uphill at 4 mph, rotating stair stepper), and lift weights moderately for 45 minutes. After this workout is completed, I spend about 20 minutes on abs and stretching. I really want to improve my flexibility in my hamstrings, back, quads and buttocks and will not mind working hard at it. Basically, I want a somewhat decent quality of life back. Thank you for any advice and responses.

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on 09/09/2011 1:46pm

WOW! I had l5-s1 fusion surgery March 2011 and I'm no where near how well you are doing. I'm still in PT and will be for a while. Still managing some pain but its nothing like I had prior to surgery. I would recommend talking to a PT for those stretches. She has shown me many but sort of hard to explain. I honestly think the flexibility may never come back. I am not able to sit without some sort of back support though my PT has me practicing it at home to try and build up my back and the muscles. Honestly I'm concerened that this is as good as I'm gonna get and may always be limited. I think after back surgery you will always be limited and have to work around those limitations. Good luck to you!

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on 09/14/2011 6:05pm

As a Firefighter I can see why you work out as hard as you do. However given the 2 surgeries and DDD you really need to find a real sports medicine physiatrist and get to PT.

You may very well be over-exercising by not allowing enough muscle recovery time. As a woman firefighter I can only imagine the additional pressure you must have.

With the right guidance yoga may also be of value. But just like lifting weights incorrectly can do more damage than good so can yoga. Conversely, done correctly yoga could be the missing link.

Another specialist that could guide you would be a chiropractor or PT person who works with a pro sports team. I am not a big fan of chiro since it's so hard to find a good one. But as luck may have it I now have a chiropractor who used to be the team chiro for the NY Giants.

With your willpower you should really search out someone who does PT or some kind of rehab for sports pros. Google is a great resource for this. Just type PT yourzipcode or rehab pro sports youzipcode. If you need help finding one repost and I will help you. Or feel free to email me: Biobot@gmail.com. I too am fused but it's all cervical.
Best of luck. I commend you for your Type A willpower ;)

Girl Power! (really Women Power cause u rule)

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on 10/16/2011 3:38pm

Hi, yes the fusion definitely limits mobility. I had fusion L2-S1 in Jan 2011. I have been doing a combination of pool therapy and land based therapy since late April. It is such a slow process, as so much has to go right. I am doing aqua therapy once per week, and land therapy twice per week. From what I learned, tight hamstrings will limit mobility. I am assisted stretching at therapy which goes beyond what I can do on my own. Have someone help you out to push you a little further. A little pain, lots of gain. Stretch everyday. Due to the multiple levels I have fused with intrumentation, I cannot bend very far. I use a belt placed around my toes and straighten my leg while pulling the belt towards me while laying down to assist in stretching the hammies as well. Hang in there!

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on 10/16/2011 5:40pm

I also had a Transforaminal Lumber Interbody Fusion with hardware at the L5/S1 level. My surgery was performed on the 11th July this year and I am now at 14 weeks post surgery. I must say that, I am feeling absolutely wonderful and my pain levels are 90% better than they were before surgery!

I still have a little deep bony pain which is evident via various movements, however, this is due to the fact that I am still in the healing/fusion process.

Work wise, I went back to work at 12 weeks post op, though, I started part time and then returned to my full time duties a week later as all went well with my lower back.

For rehabilitation, I walk every day for approx 1 hour and I attend one hydrotherapy session per week for another 3 weeks (total 6 week program assisted by two physiotherapists). I must say that, the hydrotherapy is absolutely wonderful as it seems to gently stretch and exercise those deeper musculoskeletal areas which require stimulation.

You mentioned that you cannot bend to tie your shoes, are you able to squat down? Although I had completed 8 weeks of physiotherapy a few weeks ago, I still continue to undertake the same exercises to maintain flexibility (i.e. Hamstrings - lean foot againnst wall, keeping knee straight, lean forwards to stretch; Trunk Stability - Lying on back with knees bent, gently draw in lower tummy muscles and hold whilst lowering one leg flat on surface, rotate each leg for 10 - 20 per leg).

As all the spinal experts say, the best excercise for the spine rehabilitation is simply walking lots. Maybe try walking some more and also consider starting undertaking hydrotherapy sessions?

Take care & kind regards,

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on 02/27/2014 7:15pm

ff9176, I have just had spinal decompression and fusion L4-S1, I have been in pain most of my career of 30+ yrs as a Firefighter/PCP I left the service in 2006 and haven't worked anything fulltime scene then. I miss doing that job tremendously but had to make that decision that I could never do that job again and has torn me up. I am now 4 weeks post op and do walk around the house but don't feel right as of yet. I stopped taking the nerve pain meds (gabapentin 400mgX3/day) as I wanted to get my feeling backin my extremities. I never received any pain meds after I had left the Hosp (2 weeks ago) and will be hoping 2 months post surgery when I get to see the surgeon and ask him about how things went. I was in surgery from 10am - 9pm and the next morning the PT's came in and "told" me that I had to get out of bed and walk.... well this was a true even and I couldn't even move at that point let alone walk... little to say I was pushed way to far and logged a complaint with the PT manager and threatened legal action. Had a talk with their mgr and they left me alone to recuperate, I worked as hard as I could pushing myself to within my bounderies and not theirs as I know what my body can do. As an X-firefighter we know where we can draw the line and even then we will sacrifice our lives to save others because that is who we are. So don't despair it takes time like everything I truly hope that you get better and things improve for you..... :-)

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