Road to Recovery from Spinal Fusion Surgery

Jun 08, 2022

Spinal Fusion Surgery is the process of connecting two or more vertebrae of a spine. It is carried out to stabilize your spine or treat back issues like scoliosis. Since it’s major surgery, it has a lengthy recovery period that requires the patient to follow strict guidelines for complete rehabilitation. In what follows, we will walk you through the complete process of recovery from Spinal Fusion Surgery.

Learn about how Spinal Fusion is Carried out: All You Need to Know About Spinal Fusion

Road to Recovery from Spinal Fusion Surgery

Complete recovery from spinal fusion surgery means that the bone graft placed has fused into the spine and has become a part of it. It takes between 4 to 6 months to fully recover. The process can be divided into three stages based on the time following the surgery.

1st Stage of Recovery from Spinal Fusion Surgery

When the patient wakes up after the surgery, he/she experiences pain and drowsiness that lasts for a couple of days. You will also find it hard to sit and adjust your posture due to pain. The doctor encourages patients to walk after a couple of hours of surgery so they can see the signs of any complications.
The doctor will administer pain medication regularly to manage the pain. These medications are normally given with an injection into the arm or leg. Sometimes, patients are also given a PCA pump with which they can control the quantity of pain medication going into their bodies. Blood samples are also taken after regular intervals to make sure that the oxygen level in the blood is well-maintained. You can expect to be discharged from the hospital within 2-4 days of your surgery.

Early Mobilization

Once you are discharged from the hospital, you will be required to see a physiotherapist immediately to learn how you can perform routine activities like getting dressed, getting in and out of the bed, sleeping, sitting, etc. These activities must be performed according to the guidelines given by the physical therapist so as not to put any amount of stress on your spine while it heals.


Patients are not given anything to eat for the first 24 hours of the surgery. This period can be prolonged to 48 hours if needed. You will slowly switch from liquids to solid food when your stomach is ready.


The pain during the first few days is extremely intense and therefore the doctor will have you take high potency painkillers and sleeping pills.

2nd Stage of Recovery from Spinal Fusion Surgery

The initial period of recovery from Spinal Fusion entails the most care and precaution. A couple of weeks following your surgery, your doctor will allow you to walk without any aid but will restrict you from bending, lifting weights, and standing for a long time. For a smooth second stage of recovery from spinal fusion, you are recommended to take the following measures;

  • Keep an eye for any infection that might arise in the incision site. If you suffer from fever, increase in pack pain, and redness at the incision site, contact your doctor immediately.
  • Following two weeks of surgery, your surgeon will remove the stitches and staples. If the wound is properly healed, you will be allowed to take a full bath.
  • You can also expect to switch from opioids to relatively safe and effective painkillers like Acetaminophen.

3rd Stage of Recovery from Spinal Fusion Surgery

After 3 months of the surgery, you can safely say that the incision site is healed. Now you can engage in exercises to regain your back strength. It is important at this stage that you do not overdo anything that can put stress on your back. Go by the following guidelines for a smooth recovery from spinal fusion surgery;

  • Vigorous exercises are discouraged even after your wounds are recovered. You are advised to see a physical therapist who can teach you exercise you can perform without harming your back
  • Therapists usually put patients on a controlled and progressive exercise program that lasts 2-3 months. You will need some help in the beginning but after a couple of weeks, you can do it yourself at home.
  • Only after an MRI scan will the doctor declare you a completely recovered patient. After that, you can fully go back to a normal routine and perform all the activities just as a person with a healthy spine would do.

Which factors can affect the Rate of Recovery?

Things need to go smoothly for the recovery from Spinal Fusion Surgery. Regular checkups with the doctors help ensure that you are making progress. However, there are a few things that can impede your recovery;

  • Lack of Care
    A careful attitude ensures smooth recovery from spinal fusion surgery. The incision site needs to be cleaned carefully to avoid any infection. Similarly, putting extra pressure on the spine before it is completely recovered can slow down the recovery process.
  • Smoking
    There is extant literature available that shows a negative effect of smoking the rate of recovery from Spinal Fusion surgery.
  • Bending and Twisting
    Bending and twisting pose a great threat to the recovery process as they can displace the screws that are placed to keep the spine in place.
  • Staying Immobile
    This is one of the most common reasons for a slow rate of recovery from spinal fusion surgery. Patients are often seen to not follow the therapies prescribed to them which slows down the healing process.

Book an Appointment with Dr. Moksha Ranasinghe

Here at Southern California Brain & Spine Surgery, we provide top-quality healthcare services to patients suffering from spine and brain diseases. You can get in touch with our Neurosurgeon Dr. Moksha Ranasinghe who is a well-known spine surgeon in Los Angeles with years of experience. You can read her patients’ reviews on Yelp and Healthgrades. Book an appointment right away by filling out the contact form or calling (213) 369-4583.

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