What to Expect After SI Joint Fusion: A Roadmap to Recovery

What to Expect After SI Joint Fusion: A Roadmap to Recovery

SI joint fusion is a surgical procedure that involves stabilization of the sacroiliac (SI) joint using screws, rods, or grafts. It is usually recommended to patients suffering from chronic low back pain caused by SI joint dysfunction that does not respond to conservative treatments such as physical therapy, medication, or injections.

If you are considering SI joint fusion or have already had the surgery, it is important to understand what to expect during the recovery period. Read on to discover the road to recovery after SI joint fusion.

Immediate Aftercare and Hospital Stay

The first few days after the surgery are critical for your recovery. You will be monitored in the hospital for 1-2 days to ensure that you are stable enough to go home. During this time, you will likely experience some pain, swelling, and stiffness around the surgical area. Your doctor will prescribe pain medication and perform physical exams to ensure that everything is healing as it should.

Pain Management

Pain is common after SI joint fusion surgery. Your doctor will prescribe pain medications such as opioids or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) to help manage your discomfort. You may also use ice packs or heating pads to reduce swelling and numb the pain.

Infection Prevention

Infections can occur after any surgical procedure. Your surgeon may prescribe a prophylactic antibiotic before and after the surgery to help prevent infection. It is important to keep the surgical area clean and dry, and to follow your doctor’s instructions on wound care to avoid any complications.

Mobility and Rehabilitation

After you are discharged from the hospital, you will start to focus on healing at home. This will involve a combination of rest and exercise. Your surgeon or physical therapist will give you instructions on how to move and care for yourself during the early stages of your recovery.

Movement Restrictions

You will be instructed to avoid bending, twisting, or lifting heavy objects for at least six weeks after the surgery. You will also need to avoid placing any weight on your operative leg as much as possible. It is recommended to use a curved cane or crutches to help with balance and stability, especially when walking and getting in or out of bed or a chair.

Physical Therapy

Physical therapy is an essential part of the recovery process after SI joint fusion. Your physical therapist will help you restore your strength, flexibility, and balance through gentle exercises and stretching. They will also show you how to perform exercises safely to prevent re-injury or complications. The duration of your physical therapy will depend on your individual needs and progress.

Long-Term Recovery

Long-term recovery after SI joint fusion generally takes several months to a year for full recovery. It is important to follow your surgeon’s instructions carefully during this time, and to have realistic expectations about your recovery.

Returning to Work and Normal Activities

You will need to take time off work and limit your physical activities until your surgeon approves your return. This may take several weeks to months, depending on your job and the type of activities you enjoy. It is recommended to start with light activity and gradually increase your intensity and duration as your body heals and gains strength.

Monitoring Your Healing Progress

Your surgeon will schedule follow-up appointments to monitor your healing progress and the success of the surgery. You may need to undergo imaging tests such as X-rays or MRIs to evaluate the stability and fusion of the SI joint. Your doctor will also assess your pain and mobility, and adjust your treatment plan accordingly.


SI joint fusion is a surgery that can help alleviate chronic low back pain caused by SI joint dysfunction. However, it can also involve a lengthy recovery period that requires a combination of rest, exercise, and physical therapy. By understanding what to expect after SI joint fusion and following your doctor’s instructions carefully, you can help ensure a successful and speedy recovery.

Common Questions and Answers

  • How long does it take to recover after SI joint fusion surgery?
    • The recovery period can take several months to a year for full recovery. It depends on the individual’s health, age, and the type of surgical procedure performed.
  • How can I manage pain after SI joint fusion surgery?
    • Your doctor will prescribe pain medication and suggest using ice or heat therapy. Physical therapy can also help alleviate pain and promote healing.
  • When can I return to work after SI joint fusion surgery?
    • You may need to take several weeks to months off work, depending on the type of job and activities you perform. It is recommended to wait until your surgeon approves your return.


1. Duhon BS, Cher DJ, Wine KD, Kovalsky DA, Lockstadt H, Wojcik JR. Triangular titanium implants for minimally invasive sacroiliac joint fusion: a prospective study. Global Spine J. 2016;6(3):257-269. doi:10.1055/s-0035-1571233

2. Duhon BS, Bitan F, Lockstadt H, Kovalsky D, Cher D, Hillen T, Cummings J Sr. Triangular titanium implants for minimally invasive sacroiliac joint fusion: a multicenter study with 2-year follow-up. Neurosurgery. 2016 Feb;78(2):171-80. doi: 10.1227/NEU.0000000000001034. PMID: 26551369.

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