View Full Version : Spinal fusion recoveries

07-24-2007, 06:19 PM
In a couple of weeks, I'm going to get a spinal fusion done. I'd like to know if anybody else has needed one done. If so, how'd it turn out? Were you able to play as good as you did before your fusion? How long were you out of tennis for? Please answer asap. Thanks.

El Diablo
07-24-2007, 06:30 PM
Tennis is rough on the back, with both the up and down of running and the twisting of shot-making. You should take it easy, get the most cushioned tennis shoes you can find, and try to play on clay for briefer periods of time. Fused vertebrae place a greater load on the next vertebra (and disk) beneath, since at least one disk is no longer present to absorb some of the impact. In this way, back problems can spread to the next (and previously unaffected) disk and vertebra. My wife and two friends had this surgery, and need to play less, with periodic exacerbations not uncommon.

07-25-2007, 07:04 AM
Thanks El Diablo. What you said about the shoes makes sense. I'll be sure to look for a cushioned pair. Unfortunately, the closest clay courts are about an hour away from us, so I'll just have to stick with the hard courts. Thanks again for your advice.

07-25-2007, 04:59 PM
Why the fusion? Have you exhausted all other treatment options?

I faced the same choice and chose to take 3 years off and work on recovery. I'm not where I was, and never will be, but there are so many complications and potential failures in fusions, I decided to forgo it.

Good news is I'm back playing tennis and able to play as much as I want. Singles is an occasional luxury these days, but doubles keeps me hopping.


Serve em Up
07-26-2007, 03:51 AM
Good Luck,

I had a double fusion on my cervical discs last year. I was basically completely debilitated at the time of surgery. My dominant arm was almost paralyzed. My hand was numb, and my right shoulder felt like it was on fire.

I had the surgery done. The fire in my shoulder was gone when woke up. The numbness in my fingers took 6 months to subside. I started at the gym 4-5 dyas per week.

It has taken 10 months and I've still yet to regain all of the strength back to where it was before the discs herniated,

Now the good news.

I had the surgery Mid -August. My doctors told me I needed to take it easy without exercise for 2 weeks post surgery. I was playing tennis at 4 weeks after. Not competitively mind you, but just hitting.

I'm now almost at my 1 year anniversary of the surgery, and have started playing some competitive singles ona local ladder. I'm 45.

Best of luck to you.

I strongly suggest you hook up with a good physical therapist post surgery. They can help you get the correct strengthening exercises to spped your recovery.

07-26-2007, 04:29 AM
Like Serve em up, I had a cervical fusion about 9yrs 10months ago. Mine was pretty serious as the spinal cord was compressed. I had numbness and weakness in my arms, torso and legs. After my fusion, I felt immediate improvement but subsequently it plateaued. I still feel weakness and numbness and they can be a little frustrating at times, though still within my tolerence threshold. If only your peripheral nerves are compressed, chances are you will recover fully. For me, the first few days were bearable. The wound didnt hurt though the spine was sore. When I was told to sit up, that was when it hurt the most but that subsided in about a week. Maybe the procedure has improved over the decade 'cos unlike Serve em Up, I was in the stiff neck brace for 2 months. I then started to do cardio and light weights. I was back to tennis after about 8 months but that's 'cos I was preoccupied by other matters. Surprisingly, I was actually better after the op. The time off actually gave me the opportunity to improve my fitness and develop new perspectives of the game.

Can't speak for lumbar fusion. It probably has to withstand more stress and the procedure is probably very different too. Good luck!

07-26-2007, 05:27 PM
Hey, I saw two spine surgeons today. Both recommend an L5-S1 fusion. My case is unusual, since I'm only 13 years old. They predict I'll be back on the court in 6 months. I'm getting one more "second opinion" next week. Thanks for all your help.

07-26-2007, 06:13 PM
Hey, I saw two spine surgeons today. Both recommend an L5-S1 fusion. My case is unusual, since I'm only 13 years old. They predict I'll be back on the court in 6 months. I'm getting one more "second opinion" next week. Thanks for all your help.

Just remember, spine surgeons only get paid when they do surgery. So guess what they normally recommend? You must have private pay insurance.

13 is way too young for a spinal fusion in anyone other than a congenital defect. Get some more opinions before you do anything. Once you fuse any spinal segment, you start a process of mechanical deterioration that can never be reversed.


07-26-2007, 06:19 PM
i dont know what your problem with the back is but i would get a book called "healing back pain" before surgery...its by dr. john e sarno and you can get it on CD from amazon for 13$. it helped me a lot...i wasnt in as serious a situation as you but i think its worth a listen and talk with your parents before something as drastic as surgery at your age...

07-26-2007, 06:30 PM
Can't speak for lumbar fusion. It probably has to withstand more stress and the procedure is probably very different too. Good luck!

Over 35% of low back fusions fail. There is even a medical term for it. "Failed Back Surgery" syndrome. Lot of surgeons are making money trying to repair "failed backs".

There is substantial evidence that shows that there is very little difference in the outcomes between low back surgery and conservative, non-surgical treatments after 30-36 months.

Bottom line is once you injure your low back, you are never going to return to the way you were, surgery or no surgery. In fact surgery messes up the bio-mechanics of the spine so much, it can actually make things worse over the long run. Problem is, folks here in the States want a solution "Right Now!", regardless of whether its the best solution. When it comes to low back injuries, patience truly is a virtue.


07-27-2007, 08:06 AM
Aurdra Cohen, the NCAA woman's Champion 2007, had spine fusion after her freshman year (runner up in NCAA championship).

3 months of no tennis after surgery. Started playing tennis at 6 months. She was active doing other physical rehab. But once she is back on court, she is totally good.

So yes, you can be fully at championship level activity after a spine fusion with screw plating.

Serve em Up
07-27-2007, 09:50 AM
13 y.o is awful young for that kind of problem. Get a second opinion. If you really do have the surgery, being 13 will give you an advantage. You'll heal faster than us old farts!

Best of Luck to you!!

07-27-2007, 05:57 PM
Sorry to hear about all of your problems, but like many of the people here, I would really suggest trying an alternative method before surgery.
Just a question, but have you tried to speak with a qualified chiropractor? There are many that have taken the steps to work solely with athletes in their practice. Chiropractic has relieved many problems with the spine that have been deemed by surgeons to be "only fixed by surgery". If you decide to contact a good chiro, I'm not saying it's a miracle cure, but if it could possibly help, what's a $30 office visit?
If you need help finding a good chiro check out this website:
This school has been putting out extremely qualified chiropractors for many years.
Hope you can get back on the court soon!

07-28-2007, 09:54 AM
I had a stress fracture in my back at 15 and I'm 23 now. Never needed surgery for that, but since I'm 6'4 I have a weak back... Lots of tall people have back problems.

The most important 2 things you can do is make sure your hamstrings are flexible by stretching them and making sure to do a lot of abdominal work. The doctor told me if your abs are very strong, they help to take a lot of the load off your back.

I'm not sure what hamstrings have to do with it, but I do know that my doctor said it was important they stay as supple as possible.