While pain varies a few weeks after surgery, you should expect major soreness in your back for the first several days. If the doctor uses bone from the pelvis for the bone graft, you will also feel soreness in your hip area.
Pain is managed with medication for two to four weeks and rehabilitation begins in the hospital. A physical therapist will help you get out of bed and walk safely around the hospital. The first couple of days after surgery, patients usually need a walker, and a back brace may also be used when moving.
It’s important to keep an eye on the incision. If it becomes red, tender, or if there’s drainage, alert your doctor. Some minor leg numbness or discomfort is common for a few days, but let your doctor know if it is severe or lasts more than 1 or 2 weeks.
During recovery, you will need to limit your activities. Walking will help with healing, but you’ll need to avoid heavy housework. You can use ice packs every 4 to 6 hours to help alleviate muscle soreness the first couple of weeks. You may resume driving and sexual activity 4 to 6 weeks after surgery, depending on your condition. Generally, around six weeks after surgery you can return to work, but your doctor will help you decide the best time to do that.
It typically takes about 6 months or more for the bone fusion to completely heal. Your doctor will monitor progress of the fusion healing with X-rays or a scan.
During that time, high intensity activities like running and heavy lifting will need to be avoided to make recovery as smooth as possible.