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  1. #1
    Registered User metallifter13's Avatar
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    Back to the gym after a spinal fusion

    So after having my spine fused back in September; I had my 4 month check out with my surgeon at the end of January. He said I go could go back to the gym, but I'm not allowed to lift over 25lbs for any exercise right now, but its better than doing nothing right now in my opinion. I have searched the internet and haven't found any stories/blogs about people that have gone back to bodybuilding/weightlifting after any type of spinal fusion. To be honest I probably didn't search hard enough. I have created my own blog so that I can talk about what I love doing and hopefully to find other people with similar stories or situations. I'm 29 yrs old, I've been working out for 11 yrs now and I am not about to quit what I love doing.
    Since this is my first thread in the bodybuilding.com forums I can't post the link right now. If you would like the link just pm me and I'll hook you up. Also if anyone is looking for information on the type of surgery I had or just had some questions; just let me know. I look forward to hearing from you guys.
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  2. #2
    Registered User bosljeff's Avatar
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    Did you ever find anything? I too am due for a spine fusion very soon and am a little worried about getting back to bodybuilding.

    Originally Posted by metallifter13 View Post
    So after having my spine fused back in September; I had my 4 month check out with my surgeon at the end of January. He said I go could go back to the gym, but I'm not allowed to lift over 25lbs for any exercise right now, but its better than doing nothing right now in my opinion. I have searched the internet and haven't found any stories/blogs about people that have gone back to bodybuilding/weightlifting after any type of spinal fusion. To be honest I probably didn't search hard enough. I have created my own blog so that I can talk about what I love doing and hopefully to find other people with similar stories or situations. I'm 29 yrs old, I've been working out for 11 yrs now and I am not about to quit what I love doing.
    Since this is my first thread in the bodybuilding.com forums I can't post the link right now. If you would like the link just pm me and I'll hook you up. Also if anyone is looking for information on the type of surgery I had or just had some questions; just let me know. I look forward to hearing from you guys.
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  3. #3
    Registered User metallifter13's Avatar
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    The docs told me that I would never lift the amount of weight I use to. The main reason is that they don't want my screws backing out. I have been working on my lower back and core for right now. I wanted to give myself a good year off of bodybuilding; so that my chances of a total fusion are higher. My surgery was at the tail end of September and I've been feeling great. Granted I'm more sore than I ever use to be, but its a great improvement from before. They've told me to listen to my body, but every person I know including myself already do that. My best advice would be to have patient and take it slow. The first month SUCKS but it definitely gets better. If you have anymore questions just let me know and I'll hook you up.
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  4. #4
    Registered User Pluto1998's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by metallifter13 View Post
    So after having my spine fused back in September; I had my 4 month check out with my surgeon at the end of January. He said I go could go back to the gym, but I'm not allowed to lift over 25lbs for any exercise right now, but its better than doing nothing right now in my opinion. I have searched the internet and haven't found any stories/blogs about people that have gone back to bodybuilding/weightlifting after any type of spinal fusion. To be honest I probably didn't search hard enough. I have created my own blog so that I can talk about what I love doing and hopefully to find other people with similar stories or situations. I'm 29 yrs old, I've been working out for 11 yrs now and I am not about to quit what I love doing.
    Since this is my first thread in the bodybuilding.com forums I can't post the link right now. If you would like the link just pm me and I'll hook you up. Also if anyone is looking for information on the type of surgery I had or just had some questions; just let me know. I look forward to hearing from you guys.

    Wasn't disc replacement surgery an option?

    I had a friend who had multiple disc replacements in his lumber spine, due to multiple injuries from working 10+ years as tyler.

    After a greater part of the year, he is back to deadlifting over 120kg.
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  5. #5
    Registered User metallifter13's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by Pluto1998 View Post
    Wasn't disc replacement surgery an option?

    I had a friend who had multiple disc replacements in his lumber spine, due to multiple injuries from working 10+ years as tyler.

    After a greater part of the year, he is back to deadlifting over 120kg.
    I wasn't offered that option; although I did get to see one and it was pretty cool. Since I'm still in the USAF and still covered under their insurance; I don't think they would have covered that operation. I've wondered what the differences are between fusions and disc replacements.
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    Registered User Pluto1998's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by metallifter13 View Post
    I wasn't offered that option; although I did get to see one and it was pretty cool. Since I'm still in the USAF and still covered under their insurance; I don't think they would have covered that operation. I've wondered what the differences are between fusions and disc replacements.
    I have read that with spinal fusion, you will lose some mobility in your back and there is potential the for discs above and below the fussed vertebra to degrade as more pressure is placed on them.

    Disc replacement surgery is not a common thing in the US.
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  7. #7
    Registered User metallifter13's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by Pluto1998 View Post
    I have read that with spinal fusion, you will lose some mobility in your back and there is potential the for discs above and below the fussed vertebra to degrade as more pressure is placed on them.

    Disc replacement surgery is not a common thing in the US.
    That's what the doc told me as well; but I've never heard anything about the replacement discs.
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  8. #8
    Registered User bosljeff's Avatar
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    These are the guys doing my fusion: laspineinstitute.com/ArtificialDiscReplacement.htm and they are probably the leading guys, thank God, but artificial discs depend on the injury at hand and from what I understand, the desired strength. As a semi-younger guy with a kinda interesting job, they told me they were opting for the fusion due to its strength, as I understand it. The artificial discs have their place, just not for me.

    From an email they sent me regarding artificial discs: "Your Vertebrae are slipping too much and need to be fused back in the proper position. If we were to put an artificial disk in, it would continue to move and you would not get better but worse. This is one of the cases that a patient is a candidate for a fusion and not an artificial disk…"
    Last edited by bosljeff; 08-25-2011 at 07:52 AM.
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  9. #9
    Registered User metallifter13's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by bosljeff View Post
    These are the guys doing my fusion: laspineinstitute.com/ArtificialDiscReplacement.htm and they are probably the leading guys, thank God, but artificial discs depend on the injury at hand and from what I understand, the desired strength. As a semi-younger guy with a kinda interesting job, they told me they were opting for the fusion due to its strength, as I understand it. The artificial discs have their place, just not for me.

    From an email they sent me regarding artificial discs: "Your Vertebrae are slipping too much and need to be fused back in the proper position. If we were to put an artificial disk in, it would continue to move and you would not get better but worse. This is one of the cases that a patient is a candidate for a fusion and not an artificial disk…"
    Mine weren't slipping; L4/L5 and L5/S1 were bulging on my S1 nerve and they both were torn. They said they best way to fix it was to take out the torn discs; replace them with donor bone and then add the hardware. Sutter North Neurology won awards for 2008/2009 for spinal surgeries here in CA. Luckily I got them to do my surgery rather than some military doc. Good luck on the surgery; its definitely an experience.
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  10. #10
    Registered User bosljeff's Avatar
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    What? You don't like the Detroit assembly line feeling military surgeons give off?

    Originally Posted by metallifter13 View Post
    Mine weren't slipping; L4/L5 and L5/S1 were bulging on my S1 nerve and they both were torn. They said they best way to fix it was to take out the torn discs; replace them with donor bone and then add the hardware. Sutter North Neurology won awards for 2008/2009 for spinal surgeries here in CA. Luckily I got them to do my surgery rather than some military doc. Good luck on the surgery; its definitely an experience.
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  11. #11
    Registered User bosljeff's Avatar
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    Actually, this brings me to another question. You were in the military when you got this procedure? How did you make it to that surgeon and not a military one? I'm dealing with Tricare and all that stuff to get to who I want to go to, not who they want to send me to.

    Originally Posted by metallifter13 View Post
    Mine weren't slipping; L4/L5 and L5/S1 were bulging on my S1 nerve and they both were torn. They said they best way to fix it was to take out the torn discs; replace them with donor bone and then add the hardware. Sutter North Neurology won awards for 2008/2009 for spinal surgeries here in CA. Luckily I got them to do my surgery rather than some military doc. Good luck on the surgery; its definitely an experience.
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  12. #12
    Registered User metallifter13's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by bosljeff View Post
    What? You don't like the Detroit assembly line feeling military surgeons give off?
    Not after some poor kid went in for a ruptured spleen and came out with out with 1 leg. Long story short the military docs unknownly cut blood supply to one of his legs; they didn't catch it until it was too late, and they had to amputate. Happened at a base about a hour from mine
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  13. #13
    Registered User metallifter13's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by bosljeff View Post
    Actually, this brings me to another question. You were in the military when you got this procedure? How did you make it to that surgeon and not a military one? I'm dealing with Tricare and all that stuff to get to who I want to go to, not who they want to send me to.
    The military doc I first saw said I didn't need surgery. She just saw the bulging discs; if they would have looked a little bit closer or had a discography done; was that one of them was torn (it didn't tearthe second one till a year later). So I requested a second opinion and they referred me off base. So after going to a military doc to a sadistic pain management guy; I finally met my surgeon. It took A LOT of patience and persistence but I finally got the help I needed.
    Last edited by metallifter13; 08-25-2011 at 09:48 PM. Reason: yes i was military and still am for now. dont know for how much longer
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    Disc replacements are only intended for active patients that do not have a vertibral instability. The artificial disc (AD) replaces the deteriorated disc and preserves some of the range of motion in your spine. Depending on the location of a fusion, there may not be a range of motion issue. I had a segment that was fractured and unstable so fusion was the only option, which I chose one of the new less invasive techniques -- 360 ALIF with hardware. I can tough my toes and almost palm the floor with legs straight. More flexible than most I guess.

    If anyone qualifies for an AD replacement and the Dr. approves I would go for that option, the recover is much quicker intially. Bone fusion to the ADR hardware still takes a full 2 years to completely heal but most are back to normal activities within 3 months. Some insurance does not cover ADRs. Make sure the Dr. has completed several before ending up as a Guinea Pig...
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    Need some information. I had a cervical Fusion in Nov 2012 (C1 to C7; two bone grafts- plate and screws). I am much better with minimal pain BUT if anyone out there had a successful Cervical Fusion and started lifting again please let me know how long you waited after surgery.
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    Registered User metal-lifter's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by Rockyscj View Post
    Need some information. I had a cervical Fusion in Nov 2012 (C1 to C7; two bone grafts- plate and screws). I am much better with minimal pain BUT if anyone out there had a successful Cervical Fusion and started lifting again please let me know how long you waited after surgery.
    My L4-S1 was fused and the doc said I could start doing some light lifting about 6-7 months after surgery. I should have a least waited till about a year after surgery because the pain was pretty intense at the 7 month level. I know that it depended alot on how far along the fusion was coming. You had a bunch of levels that were fused. Was the heal time any different? I get sore alot more where the fusion is after a decent workout. But I pay close attention to my pain level and back off when appropriate. Obviously your area is different from mine but just wanted to pass along my experience.
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    Originally Posted by metal-lifter View Post
    My L4-S1 was fused and the doc said I could start doing some light lifting about 6-7 months after surgery. I should have a least waited till about a year after surgery because the pain was pretty intense at the 7 month level. I know that it depended alot on how far along the fusion was coming. You had a bunch of levels that were fused. Was the heal time any different? I get sore alot more where the fusion is after a decent workout. But I pay close attention to my pain level and back off when appropriate. Obviously your area is different from mine but just wanted to pass along my experience.
    Glad to see most of you guys are being conservative. I had my L4/L5 fused with rods and screws about 7 months ago. When I could walk on my own (without a walker) I was in the gym, even though I couldn't even pick something up off the floor, I did what I could. I don't think I did anything over 10 pounds at that point. That gradually improved each week, even though the pain was still at miserable levels all the way through 4 months. Nevertheless, I was hitting 225 on bench by month 4 (used to rep 335). Benching really doesn't seem to hurt the back at all, but exercises that involve standing with dumbbells (biceps, traps, ect..) will really send a jolt of pain to your back. I seem to work through that pain even though its probably not a good idea. Just be careful while you guys are on all that pain medicine.. You will think you are doing a lot better than you actually are and can mess yourself up in the gym. This of course if you start before the year mark. Anyways, I'm still in a lot of pain, but its livable. Its well enough for me to be almost entirely off pain medicine. (Hardest part). I hear it takes about a year before ANYONE can say it was worth it. I simply had to have this surgery or I'd have been in a wheelchair in 6-8 years, although I wasn't in that much pain before the surgery. It is an absolute life changing experience.. Hardest thing I'v done in my life. After 6 months or so it really is mostly mental. If you were able to stay positive then that will be the turning point for you. Easier said than done though. Also, if you guys do get back into lifting, make sure you get your adjacent vertebrae checked out periodically. It already is taking extra pressure so lifting adds even more. Make sure you aren't damaging them. Thats my story though, felt like I had to tell it. Any questions just write me back!
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    Man, I read all the posts and I must admit I feel bad for you guys. I just had a fusion, C6-C7, (Donor bone with plate and 4 screw) on February 11,2013. I only took pain medication the day after the surgery and haven't had any since.

    I was in the gym doing cardio and really light stuff four days after surgery and only burned 3 sick days from work. It's been 10 days from the date of my surgery and I feel great! I am so anxious to get the green light to start lifting hard again, to be honest, I feel like I could now but my mind is keeping me from actually doing it as I have to remind myself I did have surgery only 10 days ago.
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    From Rockyscj: Cervical Fusion C1 thru C7

    I had my cervical fusion Nov 19 2012. 1 Apr 2013 I will be back in the gym. I will take it slow but my recovery has been positive with no setbacks.
    I am 58 and have always kept myself in great shape. I take pride in it so this will not slow me down.
    I'll let you guys know how it goes. Check out my X-rays on my profile.
    BTW I was on jump status for 17 years while in the United Sates Army; guess one really shouldn't jump out of a perfectly good airplane.

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    Inspiring stuff.

    Hope it all goes well.
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    Needing some help...

    I guess I am a success story of a L4-L5 fusion. I had my surgery on 3/4/13 and was released from the neurosurgeon on 3/21/13 with NO restrictions. He said my x-ray looked great and was very confused as to why I was seeing him that day. Needless to say, I surprised him and all of my co-workers with my progress. It's now 6 weeks post-op and I feel great. No pains meds except for Tylenol. I went out dancing with some friends Saturday night and no pain Sunday when I woke up. :-) I have to say that this was the best decision I could have made in my life besides getting married. Before surgery, I was on 2 narcotic pain killers, Neurontin and Robaxin. Going forward...I'm going to start working out again tomorrow night as I have prior arrangements for this evening. Not only do I want to get healthier, I want to improve the way my body looks. I gained a lot of weight and I know this will be an uphill climb. As my one incision hasn't completely healed yet (still have a scab), I can't use the pool YET. I'm going to do weight training and cardio. I know crunches are a no-no for the rest of my life. I can accept that because I hated them. lol Is there any pointers on exercises to not only tone my body but stretch out my calfs and hamstrings? I've always had a true hour glass body and I am very muscular for having had back problems for 8 years. Yes, 8 years. It took them that long to diagnose me with having an actual problem. I am now 31 but despite my weight, I am in great health-no diabetes, no high cholesterol, no high blood pressure. Any help is appreciated! :-)
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    Old thread but I thought I'd add my $.02.

    In 2006 I was in a car accident and I broke my neck. I had 2 surgeries done, and ultimately ended up fusing C6 C7 T1 T2 together. It took me about 3-4 months of rest and rehab to get back to pretty much normal. About a year later I started to get into lifting on a regular basis. Fast forward to today and I am in the best shape of my life, I have perfectly fine mobility, I lift 5-6 days a week, I lift heavy weight all the time, and I almost never have any type of pain or discomfort. Occasionally I get some dull soreness in my trap area (I'm pretty sure they cut through the muscle or something back there to get to the spine?). Otherwise, I am perfectly fine.

    Moral of the story...ease your way back in, listen to your body, don't push yourself if your surgery area is starting to feel stressed...and you should be ok.
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    Registered User ProffTouchDown's Avatar
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    Workout

    Originally Posted by ds41 View Post
    Old thread but I thought I'd add my $.02.

    In 2006 I was in a car accident and I broke my neck. I had 2 surgeries done, and ultimately ended up fusing C6 C7 T1 T2 together. It took me about 3-4 months of rest and rehab to get back to pretty much normal. About a year later I started to get into lifting on a regular basis. Fast forward to today and I am in the best shape of my life, I have perfectly fine mobility, I lift 5-6 days a week, I lift heavy weight all the time, and I almost never have any type of pain or discomfort. Occasionally I get some dull soreness in my trap area (I'm pretty sure they cut through the muscle or something back there to get to the spine?). Otherwise, I am perfectly fine.

    Moral of the story...ease your way back in, listen to your body, don't push yourself if your surgery area is starting to feel stressed...and you should be ok.
    Are you now able to do deadlifts, squats, crunches and overhead presses?
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    Lee Gaspari Lee Gaspari's Avatar
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    Fusion surgery october

    Well, I'm up for surgery in Oct. L1,L2,L3,L4,L5. Yep that's right. Been training since the early 70's. Competed in BB since 1980 and competed in PL in the late 80's. Haven't competed in BB since 2009. Training is my love and passion and I'm afraid it may never be like it was. But doing anything will be better than what I've been through the past 4 years. I am now on disability and stranded at home. If not for my wife I would not have made it this far. My insurance had denied me the surgery for some 11 months. Damn Obama! Anyway I will persevere. You guys tell me anything I should expect and be aware of. I have a good doctor and trust him.
    I am 55 years old, weigh about 250. My best numbers were squat-600, bench 440, and dead 680. These were done in a sanctioned PL meet years ago. 1720 total. But BB was what I committed to. I have placed in over 50 shows. It's that I made a promise to myself many years ago to compete thru my 50's and 60's. I really want to keep that promise.
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    I am seven weeks post op and passed my six week post op xray and checkup. I had a two-level posterolateral gutter lumbar fusion at S1-L4 levels. Know what type of fusion you are getting so you can tailor your exercises to that. For example an interbody fusion (bone graph is between vertebrae) is different than a gutter fusion (bone graph is lateral to the vertebrae). The first few weeks I did light dumbbells (5lbs) working shoulders, arms and chest. Do single arm dumbbells to maximize the training weight while minimizing the lifting weight. First time there will be discomfort but as you increase your range of motion it gets easier and you can do more reps. For legs and back I did assisted squats and assisted pullups. Before the surgery I set my empty bar on top of the squat racks and used the empty bar as a low pull up bar. By squatting under the bar I used the pull up to assist the squat and the squat to assist the pull up. Do many reps and you can keep toned. After four weeks I added push ups (progress from wall to table to proper). Keep good form on the pull ups and there will be no overloading the spine. Bodyweight exercises also do not load the spine as long as you follow the no bending, lifting and twisting rules or BLT. Add in isometrics and light resistance bands at week 3. I now progressed to one leg squats (rear leg elevated split squat) holding a 20 lb dumbbell plus light resistance band for three sets of 10 on each leg. My surgeon told me pullups and pushups are ok now- do multiple sets as can be tolerated. I do moderately heavy curls by using a cable machine and lying on my back. This takes the pressure off the spine. You can do many different cable, dumbbell and barbell exercises while lying on your back. This protects your back and fusion and allows you to work out. After six weeks and your surgeon approves don't do too heavy, use good form, don't do more than you can do 8 reps with and let your body guide you. Invest in a rack. You can do many bodyweight exercises on the rack. One leg calf raises, use the pins to do curls, use the sliding bars to do bodyweight rows by lying down. You can do bodyweight curls by grabbing the pins set up at appropriate level and leaning back and using your bi's to get back straight. Use your imagination. Find exercises that keep your spine neutral. Lying on your back is the best way. You can use resistance bands lying down, just watch the don't snap back between your legs. If you can have the bands anchored some how that helps. The rack can help with the bands. I just started benching again and did some light reps with 200 lbs. I do leg extensions and curls with the same weight I did pre-op. In the beginning the leg curls will hurt so I stood up and used one leg with light weight and that worked. I am also doing lat pull downs, tricep extensions and rows on the cable machine. In general exercises where the load is going up (pull down lifts) should be safe. Lifting against gravity like squats and shoulder presses puts load on spine, find alternatives to barbells while rehabbing and I would continue after being healed if it works. For shoulders your options are limited. I am doing shoulder presses on the wall using bodyweight and doing one arm dumbbell presses. The resistance bands come in handy for shoulders. Working front, side and rear deltoid raises is easy because you can do them while lying down. I am new to the website so I cannot provide a link but here are some key words to google for excellent resources to help rehab and get back to training after spinal fusion. Google spine-health rehab after lumbar spinal fusion for lumbar fusion rehab exercises. I do them religiously. Another excellent reference provides safe alternative exercises to use in place of risky exercises if you have a bad back, shoulder or knee. Google YoungExercise3 and look for contraindicated exercises it is a pdf. You can get back in the gym after fusion you just have to find alternative ways to train until your fusion is fully healed. Even after it is fully healed do the alternatives because for the rest of your training days you will have a higher risk of damaging the adjacent segments in your spine.
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    Unhappy

    I had L4 and L5 fusion surgery and I knew right when I woke up i didn't feel right. Fusion surgery turned out great as far as X-Ray goes and u was released at 3 months back to work 2 years later I take 5 percocets and 3 muscle relaxers a day. My doctor said I need to remove some hardware because my muscles are grabbing it when I bend over. I am nervous because I already have issues Sometimea I get ED because of extra pressure on spine. Maybe removing it will make me feel better I do not know.

    As far as weight lifting I also would like to work out but I can not do anything that involves bending at waist or twisting. Even standing biceps cause strain and I can only lift 50 percent of weight without pain. Should I keep lifting light weights and see over time if I get cut up or shouldn I try and increase weight slowly and take a chance of hurting and messing back up again even through doctor says it's good non MRI of course
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