Lumbar fusion is surgery in which your surgeon fuses two vertebrae in the lumbar region -- the lower back. If you have a spinal misalignment, tumors or weakness that is causing pain or discomfort, your doctor might recommend a lumbar fusion to treat the problem. Although you might experience increased pain, numbness or tingling immediately after the surgery, those symptoms will likely go away and regular appropriate exercise will speed your recovery.
In lumber fusion, your surgeon places a bone graft between two or more vertebrae, which grows until the two bones are connected as one. The surgery might eliminate pain, numbness or tingling caused from friction between two vertebrae. Conditions doctors treat with lumber fusion include back pain from disc problems, spondylolysis fractures, tumors and scoliosis.
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Because the spine holds a lot of nerve tissue, nerve damage is a possible side effect of lumbar fusion. After surgery, some patients might experience numbness and tingling in the limbs or extremities because of nerve damage. The symptoms might subside on their own within six to 12 months as the body readjusts to the new structures formed in the surgery. If symptoms do not subside, talk to your surgeon about possible complications.
Lumbar fusion is a major surgery and it will take time and work to recover. In the first few days, you might experience pain and weakness. Perform gentle exercises and deep breathing to aid the recovery process, but do not do any bending, lifting, or twisting. Focus on exercising abdominal, hip and back muscles with gentle small movements. This will help activate and strengthen these supportive muscles and increase blood flow to the area.
During the first six weeks after surgery, limit exercise to walking, stabilization exercises and gentle stretching. For example, the bridge -- in which you lie on your back with your knees bent, feet flat on the floor and lift your hips and back off the floor up to the shoulder blades -- helps stabilize back and core muscles. After six weeks, incorporate more vigorous exercises such as swimming or using an elliptical machine. Avoid high-impact activities and contact sports such as running, football or step aerobics until your surgeon says it is OK.
Is this an emergency? If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, please see the National Library of Medicine’s list of signs you need emergency medical attention or call 911.