Recovering from Surgery SACROILIAC JOINT FUSION

Follow Your SI Joint Fusion Recovery Plan

After sacroiliac joint fusion surgery, a medical team will design a recovery plan specific to a patient's needs. It's best to keep doctors informed, follow their instructions, and contact them with questions. After surgery a person's body needs time to heal to maximise the chance of a good outcome and reduce recovery time. 

What to Expect After SI Joint Fusion Surgery

Recovering from surgery takes time. How fast a person recovers depends on the type of surgery, work with a physical therapist, and the ability to move and exercise, as recommended by a surgeon. 

In most cases, immediately after surgery a medical team will continue to monitor heart and lung function. A doctor may also prescribe medication to control pain and nausea.

Before a person leaves the hospital, a doctor or nurse may:

  • Demonstrate how to care for the incision
  • Request that a back brace is worn 
  • Describe ways to slowly increase activity
  • Discuss what activities to avoid and for how long, such as repetitive bending, lifting, twisting, and athletic activities
  • Advise how to avoid vibrations, such as those you might experience when driving a car, for a period of time
  • Schedule office visits to monitor the recovery

Physical Therapy

A surgeon may refer a person to a physical therapist who will teach them exercises to improve strength and increase mobility. The goal of physical therapy is to help a person become active as soon as possible, using safe body movements that protect the spine and the sacroiliac joint. This often includes abdominal-strengthening exercises. The therapist may also teach a person different ways of standing, sitting, or lifting to avoid reinjuring their spine.


One of the biggest mistakes that patients make following SI joint fusion, or any (orthopaedic) surgery for that matter, is assuming that the “problem” is fixed immediately post-procedure. From a physical therapist perspective, this is not the case for several reasons. 

Physical Therapist Scott Rusin stands on a black mat inside a physical therapy room

Physical Therapist Scott Rusin

First of all, the SI joint and the majority of other joints in the body rely heavily on muscular balance and support to function at optimal level. The wheel on a car is a good example. If the wheel is not balanced properly or the alignment is off, a person will get less life out of the tires. Joint pain is felt sooner in joints that are not properly balanced, just like the wheel on a car. 

The human body is incredibly resilient and can tolerate years of abuse before presenting itself as pain. The physical therapist's job is to identify the imbalance and correct the problem before it turns into irreversible damage where surgery is required. If the SI joint dysfunction cannot be corrected with conservative methods, surgery becomes an option. 

If surgery is elected, the SI joint is stabilised (fused) and the patient may notice immediate pain reduction, although the muscular dysfunction remains. For example, if the SI joint dysfunction was a result of muscle shortening in the front of the hip or poor glute strength, it will now be exaggerated by the bed rest and decreased activity levels following surgery, which will cause further weakening or muscle shortening. This is where the physical therapist needs to step in to assess the mobility and stability of the area, design a treatment plan, and help get the most life out of new tires!

Scott Rusin is a licensed physical therapist, certified strength & conditioning specialist and has been practicing in the field of physical therapy since 2006. Scott has helped numerous patients rehabilitate after undergoing SI Joint Fusion surgery.

Warning Signs

A doctor should be contacted immediately if:

  • A person experiences fever
  • The incision site starts leaking blood (red streaks) or pus (a thick yellowish or greenish liquid)
  • A person experiences trouble swallowing or breathing
  • A person has trouble urinating
  • There is new or increased back or leg pain or numbness

Be Good to Yourself

Recovering from SI joint fusion surgery is an ongoing process. Recovery time is unique to each patient. The best way for a person to recover is to allow themself time to heal and follow their medical team’s instructions.