What is the Recovery Like for a Traditional Lumbar Fusion Surgery? (Midline Incision, Removal of Muscle, Bone Ligaments and Exposure of Nerve)

Traditional lumbar fusion surgery is a critical intervention for patients with severe spinal conditions that have not responded to less invasive treatments. This procedure can offer significant relief from severe back and leg pain, numbness, weakness, tingling and improve spinal stability if a fusion is also done at the same time. However, the journey to recovery is substantial and requires a comprehensive understanding of what to expect post-surgery. This should only be chosen when less invasive surgeries are deemed inadequate.

Dr. Johans recommends that lumbar fusion should be the very last resort to treating pain, numbness, or tingling in the legs. Patients should always seek the expert opinion of a board certified neurosurgeon to make recommendations and perform any elected surgery. This means that you can trust they will have the experience necessary on the rare occurrence of complications. You should also work with a neurosurgeon who performs the surgery in a hospital, staffed with specialty trained nurses, a certified anesthesiologist, and stocked with all the correct equipment. This will ensure you are getting the best treatment in the safest place possible.

He performs more Minuteman procedures than any other surgeon in Idaho, with fabulous results reported by previous patients. The Minuteman device is a fantastic alternative for most patients compared to fusion. If you are going to consider getting the Minuteman, you should see Dr. Johans first because:

  • He is the only surgeon in Idaho with extensive experience in traditional surgeries and the wisdom to help you choose the best treatment option, surgical or non-surgical.
  • He would not suggest this surgery be performed at a pain clinic to anyone in his family, and suggests the same for his patients.

image of a man having his back medically examined

Dr. Johans is a Diplomat and Fellow of the American Board of Neurological Surgeons, board certified in Pain Management and is a Fellow of the American College of Surgeons and the American Board of Neurological Surgeons. He began his neurosurgical career in 1988 and has been practicing in Boise since 1993. With these credentials, you can trust that Dr. Johans has the specialized knowledge and experience to provide you with an accurate diagnosis and effective treatment plan.

He is a dedicated family man who is heavily involved in his community, is involved in several hospital boards and committees and takes pride in being a faith-driven person. Dr. Johans has had a 3 level neck fusion and can discuss options from his vast personal experience.

We also work closely with other non-surgeons if necessary so that our patients can access all available resources when making decisions regarding their treatment plans. Additionally, our team is always prompt in responding to inquiries and addressing patients' concerns throughout their recovery process. Reviews on Google and Healthgrades show that many individuals who have sought treatment from Dr. Johans have found success in his treatments while feeling comfortable and supported throughout their experiences at our office.

The Immediate Post-Operative Phase of Lumbar Fusion

The recovery journey begins in the hospital, where patients typically spend two to three nights under close medical supervision. Lumbar fusion surgery is regarded for its intensity, often requiring the use of narcotics and muscle relaxants to manage postoperative pain. The initial recovery phase will cause significant discomfort, as the body starts the healing process.

Lumbar Fusion Healing Process: Bones and Muscles

One of the primary objectives post-surgery is to ensure the successful fusion of the bones across the operated spinal segments. For healthy and younger individuals, the bones may take approximately three months to grow together fully. However, the muscle pain associated with the surgery tends to persist longer, generally subsiding around the six-month mark. This extended period of discomfort can significantly impact the patient's return to normal activities and work, underscoring the importance of setting realistic expectations for the recovery timeline.

Long-Term Recovery and Rehabilitation After Lumbar Fusion

Returning to a routine life after lumbar fusion surgery is a gradual process, heavily reliant on physical therapy and consistent pain management. Rehabilitation plays a big role in strengthening the muscles around the spine, enhancing flexibility, and facilitating the overall healing process. Patients must commit to a structured physical therapy regimen, designed to incrementally restore function and minimize pain as the spine heals.

Understanding the Risks of Lumbar Fusion

It's crucial for patients to be aware of the potential risks associated with lumbar fusion surgery. These include, but are not limited to, bleeding, infection, stroke, death, nerve damage (permanent weakness and numbness), cerebrospinal fluid leak, and the possibility of an unsuccessful fusion.

Navigating the Emotional and Physical Journey

The recovery from lumbar fusion surgery is not only a physical challenge but also an emotional one. Many patients find the prolonged recovery period and the intensive rehabilitation process daunting. The decision to undergo lumbar fusion should not be made lightly and is often made with the understanding that it is a last resort, undertaken when other conservative treatments have failed and the potential benefits outweigh the significant commitment to recovery.

image of a senior man sitting on a bed and stretching his back and arms

Alternative to Lumbar Surgery

If lumbar surgery does not sound like a procedure you or a loved one are ready to endure, or do not feel is totally necessary, Dr. Johans can discuss your viability with Minuteman. This treatment offers great relief to those living with severe pain, numbness, weakness or tingling in their legs or back, but is much less invasive and has a quicker recovery time.

Minuteman Surgery for Lumbar Nerve Compression

Contact Dr. Johans for Minuteman or Lumbar Fusion in Boise

If minuteman or lumbar fusion is a procedure you're considering, Dr. Johans is here to guide you every step of the way. His commitment is to provide personalized care that aligns with your lifestyle and health objectives.

Reach out directly at (208) 327-5621 or start your journey to recovery by completing our patient questionnaire. Together, we’ll explore the best treatment options for you and your lifestyle.

Patient Questionnaire


Does Minuteman Surgery Limit My Surgical Options Later?

Degeneration of the spine is a natural part of the aging process, leading to conditions that can sig...

View More

When to Consider Surgery for Neck & Arm Pain?

If you’ve been experiencing unrelieved arm pain for six weeks or ANY numbness or weakness, it’s ti...

View More

Get to know Dr. Johans

Being a neurosurgeon requires endless hours of continuous training, work and sacrifice. The...

View More

When to see a Doctor

While 80% of neck pain will resolve on its own, there are some red flag indicators that it ...

View More

When to see Dr. Johans

As a neurosurgeon, many people do not know the appropriate time to make an appointment to come and s...

View More

What is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is a condition that can develop in your hand and wrist and is caused by the c...

View More


Recent Posts