What Happens to My Range of Motion After Spinal Fusion?

What Happens to My Range of Motion After Spinal Fusion?

Spinal fusion surgery provides long-term pain relief for patients with chronic and recurrent back or neck pain due to injuries, degenerative conditions, and other spine problems. In fact, the number of spinal fusion surgeries has increased substantially over the years, especially among older patients.

At his practice in San Leandro, California, Kenneth I. Light, MD, uses spinal fusion surgery for patients with specific spine conditions that don’t respond to conservative treatment options. The techniques and technology he uses help ensure optimal results.

Spinal fusion basics

As the name implies, spinal fusion surgery fuses, or joins, two vertebrae together. The surgery is recommended for patients with pain caused by friction and inflammation that’s exacerbated every time you move your neck or back. 

Some of the most common causes of movement-related pain include:

During spinal fusion surgery, Dr. Light fuses the problematic vertebrae together using bone grafts, screws, pins, or plates. After surgery, most patients — including athletes — may be able to return to their regular routines within a few weeks, thanks to the advanced techniques he uses.

Spinal fusion and range of motion

The goal of spinal fusion is to immobilize the part of your spine that’s causing pain. It’s natural to wonder if that means your spinal mobility and flexibility in that one area of your spine will be affected following surgery. As to how much flexibility you might lose, the answer is: It depends.

Most spinal fusion surgeries involve fusing two vertebrae together. But if your issue is more extensive or severe, you may need to have additional pairs of vertebrae fused together. More extensive fusions are associated with a greater decrease in movement in your spine.

The area of fusion also makes a difference. For instance, in your lower back, the L4 and L5 vertebrae provide most of your range of motion. If these vertebrae are fused, you might lose a little more range of motion compared to a fusion of other vertebrae in your lower back.

Your range of motion following surgery is partly dependent on how flexible you are prior to surgery. Patients who have good flexibility before surgery typically preserve more of that range of motion after surgery compared to someone who is very stiff and inflexible before spinal fusion.

Bottom line: While some spinal fusion surgeries may result in a slight loss of movement, most patients can resume their regular activities without trouble.

Get rid of nagging spine pain

When thinking about range of motion, there’s another important factor to consider. By the time you’re a candidate for spinal fusion, there’s a good chance that the pain you’re experiencing is already limiting your movement pretty severely. 

Spinal fusion can help restore some of your range of motion by getting rid of debilitating pain that prevents you from moving. Plus, relieving your pain means you can enjoy a better overall quality of life.

Don’t let back or neck pain limit your enjoyment of life. To learn more about spinal fusion surgery and how it could help you feel better, request an appointment with Dr. Light online or over the phone today.

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