BLOG – L4-5 Spinal Fusion Surgery

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    Great video Luca and well done Lucy on achieving so much!
    T 🙂


    I am sad to read of the unsuccessful spinal fusions which some have had but like Marjorie I had a L4-5 fusion in December 2015 a the age of 80 – was out of bed same day and home on 3rd day. The pain had completely gone from back and down my leg and I was just sore and weak from the op. However, I am now post op at 10 weeks and have not been able to increase the amount o walking I can do without pain across my lower back and at night it is particularly bad. I am told that 6weeks onward is the time that the bone graft is actually fusing the two joints and do not know if this should be a painful time. Does anyone have experience of this?


    Hello, Janilou. I had a CT scan of my lumbar spine about six months after my laminectomy and spinal fusion. The report said that the grafts appear to be incorporated.I still have somenerve damage in my lower legs which the neurosurgeon referred to as “altered feeling”. Although i still have lots of things wrong with my spine they are not causing me any problems apart from my balance not being very good. I think i was one of the lucky ones who had a successful outcome, an extremely good surgeon and I had always done a lot of walking.I hope this is of some help to you.I know that sometimes people do not do so well. Best wishes,Marjorie


    Hi Janilou, sorry to heart that you are having more pain. I have had several spinal fusions, both in UK and Germany. I was always told that it takes up to 18months for the bone to fuse, so it is extremely early days for you, try not to worry too much. Perhaps you have been overdoing it a little? Be very careful- were you given some post-op instructions? Here in Germany they routinely give patients Vitamin D and sometimes Calcium, after these surgeries, and are told not to take any anti-inflammatory medication- ibuprofen etc- as it inhibits bone growth. It’s unfortunately true that as we get older we are slower to grow bone/fuse!

    It is probably your muscles and soft-tissue that are complaining right now…just be gentle on yourself – and patient, which is often the hardest part!

    I wish you all the very best…


    Hi all, I had an L4/L5 Fusion done in November 2015 and the majority of the pain has gone, I know im only 5 months in to a potential 12-18 month recovery but im wondering if anyone who has had the same operation as me is suffering with a very painful SI joint and if so whats the best advise you’ve been given to help relieve the pain.



    I am 62 and almost 4 weeks post op from minimally invasive L4/L5 lumbar fusion surgery. I have been dealing with on and off sciatica pain for a few years and recently it affected my walking getting drop foot on my right foot. As we all know the sciatica pain was horrible at its worst. I also had numbness in my toes as well. Walking was becoming more difficult and I fell a few times. It was time to do something quick as I was afraid of this becoming permanent. The longer you let nerve damage continue the worse your prognosis.

    I took an MRI plus x-rays and found an orthopedic spine surgeon that agreed that surgery was the way to go. After doing some internet research on him as well as talking to him I felt comfortable that he was the right guy. He was the director of spinal surgery at a major hospital as well as chief in his practice. All he does is treat spine issues. That was what I wanted. On top of that he took my insurance (GHI). Surgery was scheduled about 3 weeks later. I took care of all my HR paperwork and got my self ready.

    The day of surgery went well. I was in pain of course but that was to be expected. I felt like I was hit with a baseball bat in my back. With help they had me up and walking a bit later that day. It wasn’t easy and I was afraid to fall but I had a walker and the nurse there with me and did it. Day 2 I was sent home. I was still in pain but better than day 1. I have good tolerance for pain luckily. The doctor would not allow me to take the walker home as he didn’t want me to get dependant on it and walk bent forward. In time I saw that he was correct. Even though I was mostly in bed for the first few days I was able to walk to the bathroom and started walking in the house. Everyday got better and better. I knew that the first week would be the toughest and I had outside help with my sister,son and friends due to school spring break. I had to get as self dependant as I could that week because I wouldn’t have that 24/7 support after the first week. By week 2 I was good to be home alone most of the day though I was lucky to have some help and visitors. I was moving better and had less pain. I only took the percoset the first week and scaled it back everyday. After that I only took Tylenol. You have to be very careful with narcotics and only take them if really needed.

    During week 2 I went out and and walked some. A half a block and back the first day and a block and back the second day. That was tough. I was exhausted and my legs were sore. I listened to my body and took a day off and went back to walking again after that. A little more everyday. I have continued that through the 3rd week and I am walking better and stronger everyday. I still have some back soreness and stiffness but the pre-op leg pain is gone. I still have some numbness but better than before. The foot drop is improved and getting better the more I walk. I really think that walking is the key. You have to get active. The worst thing you can do is just lay in bed zonked on pain meds. I saw the doctor after the second week and everything looked good. The stitches were removed. That helped. He gave me permission to drive but I waited another week and that worked well. I drove for the first time today just a short while and it went fine.

    So far all is going as well or better than expected. I am hoping to return to work in maybe another 3-4 weeks. I don’t know what the future will bring but so far so good. So much negative is written on some of these sites and people get so frightened to try surgery. It is definitely scary but living the way I was wasn’t an option.


    Nice to hear that you were back up on your feet so soon after your surgery, obviously the way in which the surgery was done has a big impact on the recovery. I didn’t have minimal invasion surgery so I was in hospital for a week, I suppose its only now im 6months post Op that I can say that all the lower back/buttock and leg pain has gone, I still get sciatica but its nothing like it was before the surgery. It took me 4 months to come off all the pain relief but I still take Gabapentin (Neurontin) because im getting Restless Leg Syndrome which is a nerve pain disorder, im reducing slowly so I should be off them in a few weeks. Im seeing my surgeon in July and im hoping he will check out my left Si joint as this is very sore at the moment and giving me quite a bit of pain up over my left hip/pelvis and then sciatica down to my left knee, I can cope with it but after lots of walking it does get a lot worse. Fingers crossed that its temporary and will improve as my recovery progresses.


    Yes the way surgery is done is definitely a huge factor in the speed of the recovery. I was looking for minimally invasive if it was an option. I am glad you have made some improvement and hope you continue to improve.


    It sounds like you are well on the road to recovery. I still consider myself to be young(44)but its now time to start to take better care of myself, my job is very manual with lots of bending and lifting, I work in a Ford engine plant, so things will have to change if I want to give my back the best chance of making a full recovery, my employer has been fantastic with me so far and that has had a huge positive impact on my recovery but I think a career change within the plant is necessary.


    Hi my name is Geoff and I’m 63 years old. I’ve had a problem with discs in my lower back since I was in my thirties, and it’s gradually gotten worse from mere sciatica to numbness and partial paralysis in my right leg, my thigh has lost about thirty percent of its muscle mass.
    I have always been active,cycling, running, swimming, weight training and a karate instructor, I retired from karate 15 years ago because of the back pain and chronic sciatica. PT and steroid shots seemed to help in the short term, but the pain always came back, so three years ago decided to have a laminectomy at L4/5. I was up the next day running around the ward, but over the next 18 months things deteriorated and the pain came back with a vengence. More steroid shots and PT to no avail, I waited a year and a half before I booked in to have a spinal fusion, this was done five weeks ago tomorrow.The surgeon said that the disc had completely disappeared. No wonder I had such pain,i was only able to walk for ten minutes
    The horror stories I’ve read are complete contrast to my experience. The only pain I suffered after the surgery was at the incision, and that is almost entirely gone now. I was up walking the next day, albeit slowly and with some discomfort, but now am walkig briskly around my local park for ninety minutes and I am totally pain free. My physio was impressed with not only my core strength but my overall level of strength, which she said has aided my recovery a lot.
    The spinal fusion has given me my life back, I can walk again, riding a bike was ok as my spine was bent freeing up the nerve, swimming was great as it seemed to float the bones apart and pushing weights the engorgement of the back muscles gave temporary relief, but the simple pleasure of walking had been a nightmare for me for many years.
    As you can imagine I would recommend the operation to anyone based on my own experience, a caveat on that is those who are very unfit, obese and lack good muscle strength may want to take care of those issues before surgery as those factors mitigate against a positive outcome.


    Hi Geoff, great to hear your doing so well after surgery, im 7 months post op and I had an L4/L5 fusion. Like you, im pain free again and I never thought I would be, I was 44 when I had my op and id struggled for 10 years with sciatica, buttock pain and leg numbness, it got to the point where I could barley walk and I hope I never ever feel that way again. Exercise is a big factor in our recovery, it was a struggle in the beginning but your stamina soon builds up, we just got to stick with it but its more of a lifestyle change more than anything. Keep up the good work with your recovery.


    Hi I have been diagnosed with severe multilevel degenerative facet disease from L3 to S1 with anterior slipopage of L4 on L5, Servere L3- S1 degenerative facet disease with slight spondylolisthesis at L4- L5.

    I have have 12 epidurals has not touched the pain. The pain starts at my lower back down to my ankles. Now the Dr. says I have arthritis in my neck and I am having pins and needles in the left side of my face down into my neck.

    I am told that my only option is fusion surgery since my issue is so severe. My pain is constant and debilitating. I have a full time job and on a set income being out of work or unable to take care of myself is not an option. I have read many of the posts and from what I have read about the aftermath of the surgery scares me to death. My question to all of you is has anyone found another method of coping with the pain. Like acupuncture or back muscle strengthening exercise obviously low impact? I was, before all of this which is just in the past year, a very strong woman – did all of my own maintenance in the yard and in the house built a patio last year in my yard.

    I really am open to suggestions because I must be able to function and the maybe’s of surgery just aren’t acceptable. I understand that there are no guarantees in life but there has to be another option.

    HELP!!!! Thank you for your thoughts



    Hi Mona,

    I just stumbled across this thread and will be having fusion surgery (L4/L5 and L5/S1) in 3 days. I too was concerned about the failure stories I’ve read about online and from talking to people I know. But I also heard of a lot of success stories and when I asked fellow canoers and campers (my main hobbies) via online forums I’m active in I was surprised how many had successful fusions that didn’t slow them down very much. By and large the biggest regret I’ve heard from people is that they didn’t get it done sooner. Either because of the years lost to pain or because of permanent nerve damage.

    I’ve been fighting it for a year now. I started with a chiropractor (made it worse), then physical therapy (little/no help), two injections (first helped for a few weeks and the second for a day), another chiropractor (made it worse again), acupuncture (no help), and finally a 3rd chiropractor (made it worse again).

    I’m not saying anything bad about chiropractors. I liked all 3 and don’t blame them for my pain getting worse. They all tried a different method and none of them worked. That helped convince me that I needed to get the surgery done. I got the opinion of two neurosurgeons and thankfully they agreed with each other.

    I know that if things go wrong with surgery I could end up being in more pain than I am now but I’m to the point that I can’t keep going the way I am without trying surgery. I can no longer do any of the things I enjoy. Some of them are tougher physical activities like running my sawmill, building things, and canoeing in remote locations while others are simple pleasures like taking my dog for a walk or just standing up for more than 3 minutes.

    Only you can decide what’s right for you. I hope that one way or another you’re able to get some relief. I’m extremely fortunate that before hurting my back I sold my house and bought a cheaper one that paid off my mortgage and left me a little money in the bank. Also I have an understanding boss (my father) who allows me to be flexible at work. I can’t imagine how much more stressful it would be if I was worried about my job being on the line.

    I’ve read a lot of sad stories online and while I don’t doubt what they say I also think you’re more likely to hear the bad than the good. The people with good outcomes are out living their normal lives and the people who didn’t have a good outcome are looking for others with similar experiences who might have found a solution.

    I wish you (and me) luck.


    Jan Sadler

    Thanks for your post Alan. Good luck with your operation. I hope all goes well and your recovery is swift. Let us know how you get on.
    Best wishes
    Jan at PainSupport


    I had my L4/L5 and L5/S1 fusion surgery early monday morning (this being Sunday) and so far I couldn’t be happier. I’m once again standing straight and tall with no back pain and feel human again. They performed an ALIF (operated from the front) as well as going in from the rear for further work on L4/L5 so I’ve certainly got some pain from the surgery (very sore ab muscles) but I’m in less pain now than I was before the surgery and it gets better every day.

    The day of surgery they had me up twice for a walk up and down the halls. The following morning physical therapy had be demonstrate that I could go up/down stairs, get in/out of a car, get off the toilet, and dress myself. I saw the surgeon late that morning and they told me I could leave that day if I wanted. Since we had a 2 hour drive home and I was really sleepy I elected to spend a 2nd night in the hospital and went home around noon on Wednesday.

    Since getting home I’ve been getting along well. I’m able to get around the house just fine and do everything I need to do. I try not to sit for more than 20-30 minutes before going back to lay down. And I try not to lay down for more than a couple hours without getting up for a little walk. I’m on a fairly light pain schedule (200mg Tramadol and 2000mg Tylenol) spread over 24 hours and this is working fine. I’ve got youth (40) and being thin on my side.

    This is certainly a big relief. I wish everyone else out there the best of luck with their pain problems. It’s something I couldn’t relate to until I went through it myself.


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