Becoming Metallic

Sacroiliac (SI) fusion is a standard procedure to treat chronic sacroiliac joint pain that does not respond to treatment. This is a minimally invasive surgery with fewer complications and less recovery time. SI fusion occurs through a tiny incision in the buttock. The surgeon uses multiple metal implants, usually titanium, to stabilize and fuse the SI joint. After surgery and recovery, the patient will have permanent metal implants. Although the pain will be gone, living with metal requires additional considerations for everyday life.

Living with metal implants

Learning to live with metal implants is integral to a pain-free life. Some patients need to relearn to walk, stand, and sit without pain or discomfort. Even sleeping and exercising must be done differently to avoid any damage to the spine. A physical therapist can share some occupational therapy tips during the recovery period to help navigate basic tasks. Over time, these tasks should become more manageable. Metal implants made of titanium or stainless steel are generally comfortable. Some studies have found people with metal implants experience less discomfort than other types.

Airplane travel

Catching a flight anytime soon? Some patients express concern about safety issues with metal in the body. People are no longer required to walk with identification for implants when traveling. However, most metal implants will alert metal detectors, so inform a Transportation Security Administration (TSA) agent beforehand so a different screening can be performed.

Heading for a swim?

Swimming at the pool or beach can still be fun, even with metal implants. However, some precautions should be taken post-procedure. Use a flotation device while swimming in water waist-deep or higher. The body is slightly denser with metal implants, so swimming may take more effort. Cold water can also lead to joint pain, so keep warm between trips to the water.

Cold weather and metal implants

Joint pain can result from cold water, as well as temperature changes. Metal transfers heat and cold better than human tissue. When the temperature drops, metal absorbs heat generated by the body faster than tissue. This process can lead to a cold, stiff, and painful lower back. Applying a heating pad to the back, exercising, and adding extra layers all help.

Dental care

What does a trip to the dentist have to do with metal implants? During some procedures, bacteria can travel in the bloodstream and settle on implants. Over time, this process can lead to infections. Make sure to inform the dentist of metal implants before any procedure. The dentist may recommend antibiotics before and after the procedure to minimize the risk of infection.

Back to normal again

Sacroiliac fusion surgery has become the standard surgical treatment for various SI joint conditions causing chronic pain. The recovery time is about 3-6 months. However, the actual test comes in living with metal implants. Over time, patients will get accustomed to moving, sitting, standing, and bending with the new implant. Some flexibility is limited. However, there are also practical considerations in everyday life after surgery. Take the extra time to prepare, and everything will go smoothly.