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Life After Spinal Fusion


Life after spinal fusion

After a full or partial spinal fusion, your body will move differently... you will have less ability to twist, bend, tilt up, tilt down, etc. What are your tips for living safely and well with a spinal fusion?


With a cervical spinal fusion, you may lose the ability to turn your head fully to the left or right while driving (i.e., to check your blind spots before changing lanes). You can buy add-on (stick-on) wide-angle mirrors for your car that make it easier to check your blind spots. Cars with back-up cameras are also helpful.


A big question after spinal fusion is "How do I exercise safely without twisting, doing too much bending or reaching, etc.?" A physical therapist, medical doctor, or personal trainer can assess your needs and show you proper, safe exercise techniques. Seeing a knowledgeable therapist/trainer is essential so that you can learn proper exercise techniques that protect your joints and are safe for your heart. The following exercises (from the Professional Patient blog) were shared with a 32-year old female Marf recovering from a partial anterior and posterior spinal fusion (C2 to T1). They are exercises to regain some overall physical strength without twisting, reaching arms over the head, or bending. Consult with your doctor or physical therapist before trying any of these exercises:

Tai chi and swimming may be helpful forms of exercise for spinal fusion patients. Swimming alleviates pressure on the back (floating is a lovely experience). And backstroke, in particular, allows you to enjoy the pool without having to turn or lift your head to breathe. Tai chi is a flowing, meditative martial art that offers total-body exercise that you can do while standing up. Tai chi emphasizes holding your spine straight and erect, and turning your body by moving from your feet and hips rather than by twisting your spine. Tai chi also improves balance.

Seeing the dentist

When you visit the dentist, the doctor typically reclines you into a position in which your head is low and close to the floor and your feet are higher up. If you have a posterior fusion (especially a cervical posterior fusion), you may find this upside-down position very uncomfortable. If so, ask the dentist or hygienist to raise your head so it is level with, or above, your toes. This will alleviate the downward pressure on your spine. Dentists and hygienists can work on your mouth with you in this level position. It's less comfortable for them, but they should be willing to help make your experience a comfortable one.

Some dental offices will provide small pillows that you can place behind your head, under your knees, etc. to make your spine more comfortable. Or you can bring some yourself.

As the dentist/hygienist cleans your mouth and/or takes x-rays, you will need to turn your head side to side and possibly tilt your chin up and down. If this isn't possible for you (if you can't log-roll yourself into position), work with the dentist/hygienist to find a reasonable solution. Sometimes they can tilt or raise/lower the chair to make things work a little better.

Page last modified on August 01, 2008, at 07:51 PM EST

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